Q: My husband and I are currently in the market to buy a home. At this time, we don’t have a buyers’ agent.
My husband is an experienced mortgage broker and he feels like he can handle the negotiation of a contract since he also has access to a real estate attorney. Do we need a buyers’ agent or not? Thank you.
A: The question you have to ask yourself is this: What do I gain or lose by using an agent to buy a home and what do I gain or lose if I don’t use one?
Here are the reasons to use an agent: You’ll work with someone who really knows the housing stock of a particular area, and has seen the houses get listed and sold with some regularity. This individual will ideally be well-versed in the goings-on in a particular neighborhood, and will be up-to-date on information about school districts, local public works projects that have been approved but perhaps have not yet begun, and other important quality of life issues.
Ideally, your agent will be scouting out properties for you to see that meet your needs, which will save you time, and will help you figure out whether you can afford many of your “wants” in the current marketplace. Your agent will also hopefully know the listing agent, or at least have a working relationship that allows your agent to find out what’s really going on behind the scenes with the seller, that can help you formulate your negotiation strategy.
What’s the downside to using an agent to buy property? I can’t think of too many. The money to pay the agent comes from the seller, so you shouldn’t have any out-of-pocket costs. You have the agent’s fiduciary duty to get you the property for the best price possible.
What happens if you don’t use an agent? Many buyers think that they’ll get the house for less. But that isn’t often the case because sellers who are selling by owner already know that they can save 4 to 6 percent by not using an agent.
I have news for you — they’re not planning on putting that equity in your pocket. They’re planning on keeping that cash themselves.
If you come to the table without an agent, the seller won’t necessarily give you a better price and the listing agent may not have an incentive to reduce his or her commission to make the deal. If you negotiate the deal yourselves and you have a tough negotiation, some might say that you won’t have someone helping you remove the emotions from the transaction. Frequently, real estate agents are the ones that are able to make a deal happen.
Some buyers think that they can find a better deal on their own. They might be right. You’ll do the work at night, or perhaps while you’re at work. You’ll call to make the appointments, and will be more in charge. You’ll talk directly to the seller, which can be a plus or minus.
But I really think this question comes down to money. You and your spouse, like so many buyers, think you’ll get a better deal on your own. I’m not sure that’s true. I’m hoping it is true in your case. Saving that money will depend on the area in which you live, the type of home you are buying, the community you are buying in, and the number of homes available for sale in that community.
If you don’t use an agent, I’m glad you’re going to use a real estate attorney. No one should represent themselves in a major legal transaction.