You might think buying or selling on your own will save money,
but it could be more costly in the long run.
A real-estate agent's full-time job is to act as a liaison between buyers and sellers. This means that he or she will have easy access to all other properties listed by other agents and will know what needs to be done to get a deal together. For example, if you are looking to buy a home, a real-estate agent will track down homes that meet your criteria, get in touch with sellers' agents and make appointments for you to view the homes. If you are buying on your own, you will have to play this telephone tag yourself. This may be especially difficult if you're shopping for homes that are for sale by owner. What's your home worth? Similarly, if you are looking to sell your home yourself, you will have to solicit calls from interested parties, answer questions and make appointments. Keep in mind that potential buyers are likely to move on if you tend to be busy or don't respond quickly enough. Alternatively, you may find yourself making an appointment and rushing home, only to find that no one shows up.
Many people don't like the idea of doing a real-estate deal through an agent and think that direct negotiation between buyers and sellers is more transparent and allows the parties to look after their own interests better. This is probably true — assuming that both the buyer and seller are reasonable people who are able to get along. Unfortunately, this isn't always an easy relationship.
If you decide to buy or sell a home, the offer-to-purchase contract is there to protect you and ensure that you are able to back out of the deal if certain conditions aren't met. For example, if you plan to buy a home with a mortgage but you fail to make financing one of the conditions of the sale — and you aren't approved for the mortgage — you can lose your deposit on the home and could even be sued by the seller for failing to fulfill your end of the contract. (Keep in mind that the details of any contract may vary based on state law.)
Well, OK, actually they can. But because they are licensed professionals, there are more repercussions if they do than for a private buyer or seller. If you are working with a licensed real-estate agent under an agency agreement, such as a conventional, full-service commission agreement in which the agent agrees to represent you, your agent will be bound by law to a fiduciary relationship. In other words, the agent is bound by law to act in his clients' best interest, not his own.
Many people eschew using a real-estate agent in order to save money, but keep in mind that it is unlikely that both the buyer and seller will reap the benefits of not having to pay commissions. For example, if you are selling your home on your own, you will price it based on the sale prices of other comparable properties in your area. Many of these properties will be sold with the help of an agent. This means that the seller gets to keep the percentage of the home's sale price that might otherwise be paid to the real-estate agent. However, buyers who are looking to purchase a home sold by owners may also believe they can save some money on the home by not having an agent involved. They might even expect it and make an offer accordingly. However, unless buyer and seller agree to split the savings, they can't both save the commission.