So many people assume they need a real estate agent. But have you ever thought, “Do I need a real estate agent to buy a house?” The short answer to that question is “no.”
While real estate agents can undoubtedly provide value and expertise, motivated buyers can handle this process themselves.
The first few houses that I bought, I used an agent. But I quickly realized I didn’t need one.
In this guide, we’ll break down what a real estate agent typically handles, and I will explain how you can buy a house without an agent.
Table of Contents
Who Needs a Real Estate Agent?
While it’s possible to buy a house without a real estate agent, some people might find an agent’s services beneficial.
These include first-time homebuyers unfamiliar with the process and buyers who don’t have the time or inclination to handle all aspects of the property purchase themselves.
People moving to a new area might also benefit from an agent’s knowledge of the local market.
Why Do People Think They Need Real Estate Agents?
Many believe they need real estate agents because of their expertise in navigating the complex world of property transactions.
Agents often possess a deep understanding of local markets, can provide access to properties not publicly listed, and can manage negotiations on the buyer’s behalf.
Real estate agents can help coordinate various elements of the sale process, like inspections and paperwork, making the process less stressful for the buyer.
Costs Associated with Using a Real Estate Agent
When buying a home, it’s important to understand the different costs associated with using a real estate agent. A buyer pays several fees and commissions.
A real estate agent is a licensed professional who helps clients buy or sell properties. They work under the supervision of a real estate brokerage and cannot operate independently.
They assist with listing properties, showing them to potential buyers, negotiating deals, and handling paperwork.
A real estate broker, on the other hand, has passed a more demanding exam and can operate independently or start their own brokerage. They perform all the tasks that an agent does but can also open their own real estate firm.
In terms of fees, real estate agents typically earn a commission of around 5-6% of the home’s sale price, split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents.
Brokers earn a commission on transactions they facilitate and may receive a portion of the commissions earned by the agents working under them if they own a brokerage.
Sometimes they also charge a flat fee separate from the agent’s commission.
Commissions That An Agent Earns By Referring You
Another potential issue is the conflict of interest that can arise when agents upsell certain services or products, like home warranties or their preferred title company.
While these services may sometimes be beneficial, they can also add unnecessary costs to the transaction.
An Agent’s Preferred Title Company: If an agent refers a buyer to their preferred title company, they may earn a referral fee. The exact amount can vary, but it’s typically a percentage of the title insurance policy’s cost.
They will often word it to you that the closing will go much smoother if you use their preferred title company. I’ve closed through many title companies. You don’t need to pay an agent to use their title company.
If you do, ask them to waive their referral amount. Just know, you do not need to use your agent’s preferred title company.
Home Warranty Plan: Agents can earn a commission when a buyer purchases a home warranty plan.
Home warranties usually cost between $300 to $600, and while they might provide peace of mind, not all buyers find them necessary or valuable. The commission on a home warranty can range from $50 to $100 per plan sold.
While these services can provide some benefits, they can also add unnecessary costs to the transaction, so it’s always important for buyers to do their own research.
What Are The Roles of A Real Estate Buyer’s Agent?
So what does a real estate agent do? I’ll explain the responsibilities of an agent and how you can do each role yourself.
Understand the Market
One of the key roles of a real estate agent is to understand the housing market. They know what’s available, which neighborhoods are on the rise, and what a fair price looks like.
To tackle this yourself, start by researching online. Websites like Zillow and Redfin provide extensive listings you can filter based on your preferences.
Check out the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s House Price Index to understand pricing trends. For neighborhood-level data, City-Data provides information on demographics, crime rates, and schools.
Finding the Right Property
Real estate agents have access to multiple listing services (MLS), which provide detailed information about properties for sale. However, many of these listings are now available to the public through websites such as Realtor.com.
When searching for properties, consider factors such as location, size, condition, and potential for appreciation.
This is an area where agents used to be needed. But the internet has allowed us buyers to do on own house hunting.
A buyer’s agent schedules a variety of activities during the home-buying process. Here are the most common:
1. Property Showings: The agent schedules appointments to show homes that match your criteria. This involves communicating with the seller’s agent or the sellers to arrange suitable times. In the past, I just reach out to the seller’s agent to walk me through.
2. Home Inspections: Once a property is under contract, the agent will schedule a home inspection. A professional thoroughly examines the property to identify any potential issues, such as structural problems, plumbing or electrical issues, etc. The agent rarely schedules this. They usually just stay on top of you to.
3. Appraisals: An appraisal is needed for mortgage approval. The agent coordinates with an appraiser, who assesses the home’s value based on its condition and comparable homes in the area. The mortgage broker usually handles this.
4. Walk-throughs: Before closing, the agent schedules a final walk-through. This is your chance to ensure the property’s condition hasn’t changed since last seen and that agreed-upon repairs have been made. Once again, when I don’t use a buyer’s agent, I just ask the seller’s agent to walk me through.
5. Closing Meeting: The agent sets up the closing meeting where all parties come together to sign documents, exchange keys, and finalize the sale. The title company usually handles coordinating this.
While scheduling these activities might seem straightforward, it can be time-consuming and requires good coordination and communication skills. Each step has its own timeline that needs to be adhered to for the transaction to go smoothly.
For example, inspections and appraisals must be done within a certain timeframe after the contract is signed. If you do not use an agent, just delegate these things to your title company, mortgage broker or bank.
Negotiating the Purchase Price
Negotiating is another critical role that real estate agents play. They use their market knowledge and experience to haggle with sellers on your behalf.
To negotiate effectively without an agent, start by doing your homework. Know the comparable sales in the area, the property’s condition, and how long it’s been on the market.
All these factors can give you leverage in negotiations. Don’t be afraid to make a lower offer or ask for concessions, such as repairs or covering closing costs.
Handling Paperwork and Legalities
Real estate transactions involve a significant amount of paperwork, including the purchase agreement, disclosures, inspection reports, and more. A real estate agent typically handles these documents, ensuring they’re correctly filled out and submitted on time.
Without an agent, you’ll be responsible for managing this paperwork yourself. It may be beneficial to hire a real estate attorney to help ensure all legal requirements are met and your interests are protected.
Closing the Sale
Closing involves finalizing the mortgage with your lender, conducting a final property walkthrough, signing paperwork, and transferring funds. Real estate agents coordinate these activities and ensure that everything goes smoothly.
But they aren’t doing anything that the title company and mortgage broker aren’t already doing.
To handle closing yourself, stay organized and proactive. Keep a checklist of tasks and deadlines, promptly respond to requests from your lender, and schedule your final walkthrough.
On closing day, bring all necessary documents, a form of identification, and a cashier’s check or wire transfer for the closing costs.
Alternatives to Hiring a Buyer’s Agent
Navigating the real estate market can be complex, but I’ve found ways to do it successfully without employing a buyer’s agent. Here are three methods I’ve used and my experiences with them:
In several instances, I’ve used dual agency, where the seller’s agent represents both the buyer and the seller. The simplicity of this arrangement has often been advantageous.
With only one agent involved, communication and negotiations can be more streamlined. Furthermore, there’s potential for savings, as sometimes the commission can be negotiated lower since the same agent handles both sides of the deal.
I have usually negotiated a dual agent’s commission down 2%
Dual agency also comes with its challenges. There can be a conflict of interest because it can be difficult for an agent to represent both the buyer’s and seller’s interests equally.
Also, as a buyer, I didn’t always receive the full advocacy and representation that a dedicated buyer’s agent would provide.
Direct Negotiation with Seller
There have also been occasions when I’ve chosen to go directly to the seller, bypassing agents altogether.
This approach has significant advantages, including no commission fees in the sale price. Dealing directly with the seller also allowed for more open communication and potentially smoother negotiations.
On the flip side, this method requires a deep understanding of the real estate market to negotiate effectively and ensure a fair deal.
It also meant increased responsiresponsibility,s accountable for all aspects of the transaction, from arranging inspections to handling paperwork.
Using a Transaction Agent
Finally, in certain instances, I’ve employed a transaction agent to manage the administrative details of the deal.
This decision provided me with administrative support, as the transaction agent handled all the paperwork and bureaucratic aspects of the transaction, significantly reducing my workload.
They are usually paid a flat fee per transaction rather than a commission based on the sale price.
The cost of their services can vary widely depending on the region and complexity of the transaction but typically ranges from $300 to $500 per transaction. Or more often 1% of the sale amount.
Some transaction agents may charge more for additional services or handling particularly complex transactions. Discussing fees upfront is always a good idea to understand what services are included and avoid any surprises at closing.
Plus, transaction agents don’t represent either party, unlike traditional agents, which eliminates potential bias.
Using a transaction agent also has its limitations. They won’t advocate for my interests like a dedicated buyer’s agent would.
And while they managed the paperwork, I still needed to navigate negotiations and other aspects of the buying process myself.
For Sale by Owner (FSBO)
Seek out houses in a For Sale by Owner (FSBO) arrangement. In FSBO the homeowner sells their property without a broker or real estate agent. This option can save on commission fees, but it requires a significant amount of effort.
I bought three houses from FSBO sellers. I used a transaction agent. The other two two, seller and I just handled.
Online Real Estate Platforms
Online platforms like Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com have revolutionized how we buy and sell homes.
These sites provide comprehensive listings and detailed information about each property, allowing you to conduct your search and even connect directly with sellers from the comfort of your home.
You can’t buy a home on these sites but can find them.
Real Estate Attorney
If you’re comfortable finding a property on your own but need help with the legalities and paperwork, consider hiring a real estate attorney.
They can ensure all documents are correctly completed, handle the closing process, and provide legal advice throughout the transaction.
Discount brokers offer similar services to traditional real estate agents but at a lower cost.
While they may not provide the same level of hands-on support, they can handle essential tasks such as listing your property on the MLS, helping with paperwork, and offering some level of consultation.
Real Estate Auctions
Real estate auctions can be a quick way to sell a property. However, this option is typically best suited for sellers who own their properties outright, as auction prices can be unpredictable and may not cover any outstanding mortgage balance.
I tried to buy a house at a real estate auction a long time ago. I was in my early 20s. There were clearly a few guys that controlled the auction. I won the bid, but they had the auctioneer overturn it because I didn’t have cash, I only had a check.
Then as a show of power, they handed the auctioneer a check. I decided auctions weren’t for me. That wasn’t a club I wanted to fight or be a part of. But I imagine that has since changed.
What About a Seller’s Agent, Do You Need An Agent To Sell A House
You do not need an agent to sell a house. While I don’t feel a need to hire a buyer’s agent, I usually do use a seller’s agent. I tend to use a discount broker.
When selling a house it’s usually quite a headache to deal with all the people’s wasting your time fishing. It tends to be as-is low ball offers. I’d rather have the agent deal with selling a home.
Plus they can take better pictures and market it on the internet than I can.
Conclusion: You Do Not Need A Real Estate Agent
While real estate agents offer valuable services, they’re not the only option for buying or selling a home. Depending on your circumstances, comfort level, and the effort you’re willing to put into the process, one of these alternatives might be a better fit for you.
While using a real estate agent can certainly make the home buying process easier, it’s by no means a necessity.
With careful research, thorough preparation, and perhaps a bit of expert advice along the way, you can successfully navigate the path to homeownership on your own.
I’ve bought many houses without an agent. Most of them were when I was in my mid-20s. You can do it. Just follow the guidance in this post, and if you aren’t comfortable, use an agent!