Many homebuyers begin their search without an agent. It’s typical to test the waters, by thumbing through some real estate magazines or other media publications and perhaps visiting an open house or two as a warm up to really looking for a house. Further to this, we are living in a do-it-yourself society so there is a tendency amongst everyone to think they can buy a house without an agent, but can you? Should you?
Do we really need to use a Real Estate Agent?”
The answer is no, you can do it on your own. There is no law that prevents you, as an individual, from buying property without professional real estate assistance. You can search for homes, arrange showings, and even negotiate on your own. The real question is “do you want to do it on our own?”
Many first-time homebuyers that have never worked with a Realtor before fear that they will have to pay a commission. In almost all situations, this is not the case. The commission for the sale of a home is paid for by the seller, not the buyer.
Three “No Realtor” Options
If you do decide that you don’t want to work with a Realtor, your choice of houses available to buy will be severely limited.
Buy New Construction
You can buy a brand new home or condo and deal with the builder’s salespeople. Builder’s salespeople do not have to be licensed Realtors though more and more builders are hiring Realtors as their representatives (mostly so that they can advertise their new homes on the MLS). There is a high likelihood that if you buy from a builder or developer you will be dealing with a real estate agent.
The only other homes that you can buy without any Agent assistance are those that are “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO). These make up about 5% of the market (and only 1% or the overall sales). These home owners are selling without a Realtor so that they can maximize their income from the sale. You should have lots of room to negotiate price but be cautious and make sure your interests and rights are protected.
Be a customer (not a client)
Of course I’ve heard from potential homebuyers from time to time that their plan is to find their own house and negotiate directly with the Agent for the sellers (the listing agent). The idea is that they will negotiate his commission down and save money. This means the buyers are doing all the work: checking advertisements and calling Listing Agents directly or visiting Open Houses. Essentially, they should be gathering information and educating themselves by doing all the legwork and asking all the right questions.
Many agents will be very happy to double-end their listing; instead of getting their split of 2.5% they can get a split of 4%. In fact, many Realtors negotiate this upfront with their sellers and this means that the home seller is on board and is saving money, but not necessarily the home buyer. Actually as a homebuyer you are putting yourself in a position of having no representation if you refuse to become a client of a Realtor. With no representation, it’s buyer beware. You may or may not save money, but I truly hope you know what you’re doing because you can only blame yourself if you make a mistake.
It’s important to remember that the home seller and the Agent have known each other a lot longer than either has known you and since the seller is paying the Realtor, it’s not hard to figure out where the Realtor’s loyalty lies. There is after all more to the transaction than just money.
As a final thought, FSBO selling franchises argue that buyers are paying the full cost of commission. That’s bunk. If you went to your local appliance store and bought a new refrigerator, you wouldn’t expect to pay a commission to the salesperson. The same applies when you buy a house. It is the seller of the item (in this case a house) that is responsible for paying to have it sold. If the FSBO franchise’s argument was valid, private sellers would price their home 5% below market value to accommodate the commission issue.
To sum up, you can buy a house without an agent, but you shouldn’t. You don’t cut your own hair or make your own clothes, why would you do something as important as buying a house on your own?
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