Question: Under what circumstances would you recommend buying a property without a buyer’s agent? I don’t see the clear value of the Redfin / Zillow era, and from my experience I’m not sure a real estate agent will be as hardworking and diligent as I would be. [doing the research]. Plus, having several thousand dollars in additional purchasing power is obviously a huge plus for me.
Do you have any advice for people who object to using a buying agent?
A: In our columns, we have talked about the effect that the Internet has had on the real estate industry. For the most part, the information you get about real estate properties has improved dramatically over the years. Just 30 years ago, almost all information about properties for sale was kept in black and white list books printed on newsprint by local estate agent associations, updated every two weeks. And you couldn’t see those listings without working with a real estate agent who is a member of this association of real estate agents.
The real estate industry has come a long way.
Today, you can get information about homes from many different online sources. Online, you can find specific property tax information and hyperlocal crime statistics, view information about school districts and individual schools, get information about flood-prone areas, and view most property from the air and to the ground using one of the many online resources. You can also measure lot size, determine a home’s price history, and even compare what a handful of websites think a particular property might be worth. (And, of course, you can check out the online rating for individual brokers and their businesses.)
With all of this information, a resourceful buyer might not need a real estate agent to help them buy a home. But you still can’t get the full picture of a property without the inside knowledge of a great real estate agent. Some first-time homebuyers will benefit greatly from the expertise that a good real estate agent can provide to assess the different options available to them when buying a home, and especially if they are buying a first-time home.
You seem to feel like you have a good idea of what you want and how much you can spend. If you don’t think you’ll benefit from the guidance, knowledge, and experience that a good real estate agent could bring to the table, and if you’re comfortable finding a property on your own, you may want to move from a real estate agent. .
Remember, however, that a mistake in this area could cost you thousands of dollars.
Suppose you find a property listed with a real estate company. And let’s say the seller is ready to receive an offer from you, an unrepresented buyer (not everyone will). You might think you could go in and negotiate a buy price, then try to get the listing broker to pay half the commission. Well, you will quickly find out that listing agents won’t give much, if anything.
Their listing agreement with the seller requires the seller to pay them a commission (say, 4% to 6% of the sale price), which they are required to share with the buyer’s agent – if there is any. has one. If you are not represented, the listing agent may not be required to contribute some of this money to make the case work. (They might or might not.)
We appreciate that you took the initiative to do the necessary work to find the right home. But finding the right home is only the first part of the process. Then you have to negotiate the right price and the right conditions for the house.
Here’s the catch: Buyers who buy without an agent may be overpaying, as they may not have essential information about the property or the selling price of similar homes in the neighborhood in real time. Sellers who sell themselves may also be content with a price lower than the actual market price simply because they don’t know what kinds of offers (or bidding wars) the local market is generating.
If you want to buy a house on your own and are ready to get as much information as you can about the property, neighborhood, school district, upcoming changes to the neighborhood, the sale price of other homes similar and other information essential for a positive result, go for it.
But in a booming market, going it alone can seem daunting. If you keep losing deals or find homes selling so quickly that you don’t have time to bid, consider hiring an agent to help you make your biggest purchase yet.
One final point: Exclusive buying agents ask you to pay for their services. They try to negotiate a lower purchase price to cover this amount. Agents who represent buyers and sellers receive a share of the commission paid by the seller. While this is ultimately funded by you, since you are paying for the house, going it alone may not reduce your purchasing power.
Good luck and please let us know how things are going.
Contact Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin through their website, BestMoneyMoves.com.