Most of the time, home buyers opt to use a Realtor to help guide them through one of life’s largest financial transactions. A real estate agent’s job is to match you with a home that fits your budget and lifestyle needs, and help you navigate making an offer, negotiating, getting the home inspection, and closing on your new place.
Some buyers hesitate to use a Realtor because they don’t want to be saddled with Realtor fees. Typically, though, buyers don’t pay the commission; sellers do. The commission is 5% to 6% of the home’s purchase price and is split between the listing agent and buyer’s agent. Oftentimes, sellers build this fee into the price, which means you might pay more for the house.
Do you need a Realtor to buy a house? No. Still, going it alone can be risky. Before making your decision, consider the pros and cons of buying a house without a Realtor.
Reasons to buy a house with a Realtor’s help
Real estate agents are professionals who advocate for your interests. In most cases, sellers have an agent working for them so you want someone on your side who has your back in negotiations and can help you understand the complex lingo in contracts, for example.
Laurie Blank, a licensed Realtor with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, says that unless you’ve been through the process of buying property before, it’s a better idea to go with a Realtor than not.
“There are too many legal loopholes and fancy terms that can get overwhelming and confusing for someone who’s not well-versed in the real estate business,” Blank says. “It seems too risky, considering real estate agents are there on a daily basis to help people make decisions, using their experience and continuing-education requirements.”
Here’s what you’ll have to do yourself if you buy a house without a Realtor:
Find homes that match your budget and needs. Property search sites give you a sampling of what’s available, but you’ll have to research whether asking prices are justified based on comparable home sales in the area.
Dig up facts on a neighborhood, including ones that a seller might not disclose that could be important to you.
Negotiate an offer, including the price and other clauses and contingencies in the purchase agreement.
Navigate the home inspection, and negotiate repairs or credits with the seller.
Decipher paperwork that could be filled with complex jargon and terms you don’t understand.
Request and review seller disclosures. You have to research what to ask for or what sellers in your state are required to disclose.
Buyer horror stories
A Realtor evaluates prices of homes on the market and those sold in recent months — comparable sales (or “comps” in real estate speak) — to determine whether a seller’s asking price is in line with market data. Otherwise, you could end up overpaying for a home.
You also could wind up with a home that has serious issues, requiring repairs without help from the seller because you didn’t have an inspection contingency in place or, worse yet, skipped the inspection altogether.
“I’ve heard stories where buyers worked out terms for a contract and found multiple, serious problems after they moved into the home,” Blank says. She adds that legal jargon in the contract left those buyers with no recourse to get their money back or require the seller to pay for repairs.
Mark B. Huntley, a former real estate lawyer who now runs a personal-finance blog in San Diego, says he worked with a buyer who purchased a home without an agent and relied on his own inspection to justify why he wanted to forgo contingencies. That didn’t end well for the buyer, Huntley says.
“Turns out, the house was riddled with termites, and the buyer had no legal way to get out of the contract, so he lost his $5,000 deposit,” Huntley says.
Reasons to buy without a Realtor
Buying a home without a real estate agent might make sense if you have a strong handle on how the process works and confidence in your ability to navigate the deal on your own. Here are some common reasons for buying a house without a Realtor:
You’re purchasing a home from a trusted friend or family member.
You have a specific home you want to buy and have a good idea of its value.
You’ve hired an experienced real estate attorney to walk you through the paperwork and offer advice.
You’ve purchased multiple properties and understand the process.
The seller isn’t willing to pay the commission for a buyer’s agent, and you don’t want to pay it, either.
Buying a house involves a lot of moving parts, so you’ll want to ensure that you have all the details down. Using a Realtor can save you time and possible headaches down the road. If you do decide to buy without a Realtor, consider hiring a real estate lawyer to review the offer and purchase agreement.