Think You Can Buy a Home Without a Real Estate Agent? You Can—but Here’s Why You Might Botch the Job

by Garcia Chris
11 minutes read
Think You Can Buy a Home Without a Real Estate Agent? You Can—but Here’s Why You Might Botch the Job

Americans can buy almost anything they want on their own with ease. All it takes is a few taps on a keyboard to add to cart.

Yet there is still one purchase that’s so important and complex that a buyer should not go it alone: buying a home.

In 2023, about 89% of homebuyers purchased their home using a real estate agent or broker, according to the National Association of Realtors®. And while a minority might choose to buy property without professional help, doing so can be a risky move for many reasons.

Let’s face it: Buying a home is not like buying a blender. It will likely be the biggest purchase of your life. The entire homebuying process can take months, and if you aren’t careful, a whole lot can go wrong, costing you thousands of dollars—or even causing your dream home to slip through your fingers.

With so much at stake, is this really the time to muddle through this complex landscape solo? Or might it make sense to have a trusted professional by your side?

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“Homebuyers are often spending more money than they ever have to purchase what is for many not only their most valuable financial asset, but also the place where they’ll spend most of their time,” says® Chief Economist Danielle Hale.

“It is a big decision that is comprised of many smaller decisions that require specialized knowledge or research and a keen awareness of the trade-offs,” adds Hale. “It’s no surprise, then, that U.S. homebuyers widely use agents, and 9 out of 10 homebuyers say they would use a buyer’s agent again.”

Plus, consider the pitfalls that homebuyers face in countries where buyer’s agents aren’t commonly used, says Damian Eales, CEO of in an op-ed written for the Wall Street Journal.

“In Australia, where I grew up, homebuyers typically work directly with listing agents, who have a fiduciary duty only to the sellers. In some Australian territories and states, if a buyer looks at a home on a flood plain or in a region prone to bush fires, the seller’s agent isn’t necessarily obligated to tell him about the risks.”

To help highlight how a real estate agent can help homebuyers succeed in today’s highly competitive market, here are eight things these professionals handle that will make you thank your lucky stars they’ve got your back.

They can help you find a home you can afford

The first step to success as a homebuyer is shopping for homes within your financial reach. Yet coming up with the right homebuying budget isn’t straightforward, and that’s where a real estate agent can help.

You might not realize the cost of a home is more than simply the price on the listing. There is a larger holistic number that includes closing costs, mortgage interest, taxes, insurance, utilities, yard maintenance, repairs, and homeowners association fees.

Agents will also help you prioritize your wants versus needs. You might need three bedrooms, but you simply want a Jacuzzi (as we all do).

Real estate agents, who’ve seen countless real estate transactions, know what really matters and can impart this objective perspective on a highly emotional purchase.

“Besides who we marry, purchasing a home is one of the biggest decisions that we make in our lives,” adds Sam Fitz-Simon, real estate agent with Compass in Danville, CA. “When buyers are searching for a home, consulting with a professional who sees homes every day is pivotal.”

They know how each home compares with the market as a whole

While anyone can swoon over real estate listings online, real estate agents can put these homes in the context of the surrounding market. That’s because they know how many homes are currently for sale for a given area, how many days it takes for them to sell, and if these properties are selling for over or under the asking price. This knowledge will help you identify if a property is overpriced, for instance, or a true bargain just waiting for a savvy buyer.

“Buyers need an agent to share insights on pricing trends with comps,” says Fitz-Simon.

Once you spot listings you want to tour in person, your agent will take care of scheduling showings for you. Better news: They will be with you as you tour the house and will be able to point out the things you might not notice. Mildew smell? Could be a hidden mold problem. Crack in the basement wall? Might be a foundation issue.

They know where the money is—and how to get it

As you are searching for a home, you will also need to get your finances in order. What does that mean exactly? Your agent will help you track down the long list of paperwork, from pay stubs to a credit report, that you need to get mortgage pre-approval.

Then, they will help you find a lender. Since agents work with banks for a living, they will likely have several trusted sources to recommend.

Your agent might also have valuable insight into what type of loan you may be eligible for, from a VA loan to an FHA loan and beyond.

Can’t quite swing the 20% down payment you’re always hearing about? An agent will let you know you’re not alone and that you might be eligible for a down payment assistance program.

“Various professionals, from teachers to firefighters to the military to medical staff, are often not aware of all of the grants, loans, down payment, and other programs available to them based on their profession, particularly if they are first-time buyers,” says Lee Davenport, a real estate coach, author, and former Re/Max managing broker. “It’s been amazing to help homeowners of various careers by sharing our database of programs along with our preferred lenders who service those programs well.”

They are real estate detectives

Property disclosures do not pop up next to a listing of a cute Craftsman. Yet, they tell the history of a property, from the good to the bad to the downright ugly. And agents know how to read between the lines.

Though property disclosures are required in each state, what’s disclosed varies by area. An agent can help investigate to find out if a potential home has suffered flood damage, a pest infestation, a death, or other sordid scenarios.

They know how to make an offer and negotiate

There is an art to making an offer that takes computing a specific amount of data.

Besides the listing price of a home, a real estate agent considers the price of comps in the area and how long it takes a home to sell.

Knowledge of market conditions is vital to making an offer where you don’t overpay, you don’t lowball and annoy the sellers, and you make the offer that’s just right—including how much money you can put down and when you want to close.

If the home you adore gets multiple offers, agents know how to play this game, too—and they know that properties don’t always simply go to the highest offer.

For instance, a seller might want a longer closing time, or to skip doing any repairs that may arise during a home inspection. Your agent will know how to use these to your advantage while also protecting you in the long run.

They understand real estate paperwork

You love paperwork, right? Not so much? Luckily, a real estate agent’s job is to handle documents, coordinate signatures, and get the signed paperwork to the right parties, while ensuring it all gets done right.

An agent will also help you understand common contract contingencies and the importance of including protective clauses in your offer. The agent can also help you order the home appraisal and a title search.

They do everything on closing day

If you make it to closing day, that means you and your agent have cleared many hurdles. They can also help you cross the finish line.

Above all else, the closing is about lots (and lots) of paperwork and the final exchange of money. You will be writing a ton of checks on the closing day that your agent can help you keep track of, the biggies being for closing costs, a title search, and transfer taxes.

Once you sign more documents than you thought possible, you will get the keys to your home. At this point, you might be a bit sad to part ways with the person who helped you make your dream of owning a home a reality.

“Real estate, despite all of the fantastic tech, is still a people business,” says Davenport.

And while it might be tempting to take a real estate agent’s role in the homebuying process for granted, you might regret it.

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“Before the 1990s, few people in the U.S. used a buyer’s agent,” Eales noted in the Journal. “Yet homebuyers began to demand representation, especially low-income and first-time buyers who needed help navigating the process. Consumer-rights advocates championed this development.”

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