Q: I’d like to first start out by saying thank you so much for the informative books and columns you write.

My fiancé and I are purchasing a brand new house and although I read the bulk of your book for first-time buyers, I skipped over the section about buying a brand new home because we didn’t think it’d be something that we could afford.

Well, lo and behold we found our dream home, a 4-bedroom, 2-bath 1,900 square foot house for $183,000. When I later tried to read up on buying new construction, I noticed that you wrote if we didn’t list a buyer agent when we first looked at the home that we wouldn’t be able to go back and bring one with us.

Now I feel completely taken advantage of and I am scared! How do we gain some of our negotiating leverage and comparable sales information now that it is just me and my fiance doing all the work with no knowledge?

Please help us.

A: Here’s my first question – have you been looking for existing homes and new construction without an agent? If so, you didn’t get one of the main points I was talking about in my book: generally there is no downside to having an experienced agent working on your behalf when buying a house.

Because it doesn’t cost home buyers anything out of pocket to use a real estate agent, you’re generally much better off hiring a good one who has excellent knowledge of the local neighborhood real estate market than going it alone.

(While the seller usually pays the entire brokerage commission for the sale of the home, the market usually factors into the purchase price the amount that the seller would pay a real estate agent for the sale of the home. The current market situation has made it tougher for agents in that if the home’s value is less than the mortgage, they need to work with the lender to get the commission approved in a short sale.)

Now, onto the question about buying a new home: Have you already made an offer? Have you been back to the development? If you find an agent now to help and go back to the developer, you’d say, “Look, this is my agent and if you don’t share the commission, I won’t buy here.”

Developers are pretty badly hurt in this recession, and they generally they won’t want to lose you. So, they should try to strike a deal with them that will cover the commission paid to your agent. Then, you’ll have some assistance with putting together your offer.

If the developer says that it won’t pay a commission, then you have to weigh how much you’re going to lose by not having someone on your side to assist you in the negotiations. My sense is that you’re much better off having an experienced agent who can help you get through this. And since a willing buyer is so hard to find these days, the developer should bend over backward on this issue to help get you to the closing table.

If you wind up not having an agent work with you to close this transaction, please hire a real estate attorney to help you negotiate a fair contract and make sure you’re being protected, especially if you’re in a state that doesn’t typically use attorneys to close house deals.

So, think about protecting yourself financially first and remember this – if you don’t buy this house there will be another one that will work for you down the line.

May 21, 2009