“Do I still need a Realtor to buy a home?”

If you’re ready to start touring houses, this is a reasonable (and important) question to ask. Hiring an agent comes with a list of benefits, but there are cases in which it may be wise to go it alone. It could save you time, money, and some hassle. On the flip side, 88% of buyers in 2017 have used a real estate agent, so forgoing one is clearly not for everyone. So, what should you do?

Here’s your first step: Examine the decision even closer, and weigh our pros and cons of buying a house without a Realtor®.

Pros of doing it yourself:

You have the potential to save. This is the biggest reason why buyers chose to go solo. For some savvy buyers, the savings may be all the convincing they need. Typically, the cost of a real estate agent is 5% to 6% of the sale price, either paid by the seller or an even split between both parties. By not using a real estate agent, you may be able to negotiate for a lower sale price since there would be only one real estate agent involved (assuming that the sellers hired an agent to list their home).   

You’ll be eliminating the middleman. Removing the real estate agent from the homebuying process is appealing when you want to work with the seller directly. No dealing with the relaying of messages or waiting for callbacks. You essentially become your own agent. Meaning, you take complete control of communication with the seller, and make sure your thoughts are heard, needs are met, and offers are crystal clear.

You have the upper hand if there’s a direct connection. Looking to buy your family member’s house? Putting down an offer on your neighbor’s property? This is what we mean by a direct connection. In these cases, you don’t need a Realtor to find listings, nor are they as necessary for negotiating the home’s price and conditions, because you already have a relationship with the seller.

This becomes even more beneficial to you when the house is deemed “for sale by owner,” which is when a home is sold without an agent. On top of the established comfortability between you and the seller, your negotiations are (hopefully) less rigid, and easy in nature.

Bottom line: If you chose to forgo a real estate agent, you need to demonstrate to the seller you mean business, which makes getting preapproved for a mortgage even more important. 

Cons of doing it yourself:

You can’t match the knowledge of a Realtor. Sure, you can memorize all the homebuying and mortgage terms in the book, but a Realtor is trained to speak the language and educate you on the process. Who would you turn to if you have a pressing question in a stressful situation? Plus, buying a home requires a lot of documentation, forms, and reports, and a Realtor will help you manage the paperwork, while avoiding delays and costly missteps along the way.

You only have access to so much information. Real estate sites and home buying apps have taken the internet by storm. You can find up-to-date listings any time you want. It’s amazing. And yet, you still aren’t privy to all the homes for sale in a given neighborhood whereas a Realtor has access to all the listings, most notably in the MLS real estate portal. They also have the know-how to find those hidden gems for sale, and may get advance notice on properties before they hit the market.

Looking to buy a house without a Realtor in a town you’re unfamiliar with? Good luck learning all the ins and outs of the new area. On the other hand, there’s no one more well-informed of a given area and its subtleties than a local Realtor.

Information about a home is anyone’s guess. When viewing a house without a Realtor, it’s solely up to you to determine the physical property and the “nuts and bolts” of the house are in good standing (before the home inspection process, of course). Are you confident in your ability to assess the house with the same attention to detail of a Realtor? Consider this, from Realtor.com:

[A Realtor] can tell you about the perils of polybutylene piping (a plumbing material that’s prone to bursting), or the concerns with FRT plywood (a roofing material that can spontaneously combust in higher temperatures, like those in attics). Your Realtor can go beyond the aesthetics and tell you important details about homes you’re considering.”

Not only that, but the home’s history, too. They can help you get a home’s Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange report, or CLUE. This report gives dates of claims, cause of loss, amount paid, and more. This report can provide comfort or apprehension for a buyer.  

Negotiating isn’t a walk in the park. In a lot of ways, negotiating is an art form, especially for something as significant as a home. You may think you have the negotiation skills necessary to woo a seller into accepting your offer, but don't count on it. Most sellers aren’t naïve, and will probably have an agent right next to them.

Realtors are seasoned negotiators, and will lead the charge in making sure you get the best deal based on the many factors that influence the home’s value. Your inexperience or emotions could get the best of you if you don’t have a Realtor at the negotiating table. 

And there you have it.

Make sure you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of buying a house without a Realtor before you move forward. What may seem like the right decision for one buyer may not be for your situation.

And then there’s the closing table. Curious about the process? So are a lot of homebuyers. Check out the answers to the Top 6 Questions Homebuyers Have About Closing

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