The majority of home buyers use a realtor to help them find the perfect house. However, our recent for sale by owner (FSBO) study of 1,000 home buyers revealed that 13% of home buyers don't plan on working with an agent, and 15% who had worked with one before were unsure if they want to work with an agent again in the future.
Here are the reasons why buyers might want to buy a home without a real estate agent, the pros and cons, and the necessary steps for closing on a home so you can decide if it's the right route for you.
Can I buy a house without a realtor?
Yes! No state requires buyers to work with real estate agents. If you feel capable and comfortable taking on all the responsibilities of a buyer's agent, you can buy a house without a realtor.
However, if you're considering buying without an agent just to save money, know that typically buyers don't pay any realtor commission. And without the help of an agent, you could end up agreeing to a higher sales price.
In most real estate transactions, buyers don't pay any agent commission fees — sellers do.
The standard commission rate is 5–6% of the home's sale price, which is split between the buyer's agent and the listing agent. Some sellers might try to list their home for more to cover this cost, but buyers rarely pay for the cost of their agent out of pocket.
» LEARN: How real estate commissions work
In most cases, it's in the buyer's best interest to use a realtor. Think of a realtor as a free, professional resource who can help you find and buy your dream home. You have nothing to lose by speaking with an agent!
Clever Real Estate can connect you with top-rated local agents to discuss your housing wants and needs. When you find the right match, you'll pay nothing to work with that agent to buy your house. And as a bonus, eligible buyers can get up to 0.5% of their home's purchase price as cash back after the sale is complete.
What does a buyer's agent do?
An experienced agent can offer priceless insights into local neighborhoods, find homes that meet your needs, negotiate with sellers, and complete real estate paperwork. Agents also have professional networks with trusted local pros who can perform appraisals, inspections, and more.
A great buyer's agent can help you with the following:
- Find properties matching your taste and budget
- Book showings and house tours
- Negotiate and communicate with listing agents and sellers on your behalf
- Assess the condition of a home and estimate its worth based on nearby comps
- Recommend local pros, such as inspectors, attorneys, and moving companies
- Attend the home inspection and renegotiate the sales price if any problems are found
- Do a final walk through to make sure your contract requirements have been met
- Assist on closing day
- Help coordinate moving logistics
» MORE: What's a Buyer's Agent?
Do I need a realtor to buy a house?
Working with a realtor can make one of the biggest purchases of your life easier and less stressful, but there are a few scenarios where buying a home by yourself might be the better option. You might not need a real estate agent if:
You know the seller
If you're comfortable negotiating directly with a trusted friend or relative who's selling a home, hiring a realtor probably isn't necessary. However, you might want to hire a real estate attorney to make sure all the paperwork and forms are correct.
You've bought and sold real estate before
If you've experienced several real estate transactions or have worked as a real estate agent before, you're less likely to require a realtor's assistance.
A FSBO seller isn't offering the buyer's agent commission
Some FSBO properties are listed by people who aren't willing to pay a buyer's agent commission. If you have not already signed an agreement with a realtor and find a FSBO home you love — and feel comfortable negotiating a deal by yourself — you might not need a realtor.
Although this is a pretty rare situation, buying without an agent could save you money under these conditions. Otherwise, if the seller refuses to offer a buyer's agent commission, you'd have to cover that fee yourself.
You're buying a new construction home
Newly constructed homes can be sold directly by the builder themselves or a realtor hired by the builder. These types of homes are often thought to be move-in ready, but there can still be underlying issues.
If you decide to buy a new construction home, make sure to take a few precautions:
- Research the builder's other projects.
- Get multiple quotes from lenders — not just the lender recommended by the builder.
- Hire a home inspector.
- Have a real estate attorney read over the purchase agreement before you sign.
Pros and cons of buying a house without a realtor
Navigating the home buying process without an agent isn't right for everyone. If you're not sure if you should hire an agent, consider the pros and cons of going through the home buying process solo.
Total control over your buying experience
Can be time-consuming and unpredictable
Negotiate directly with the seller
No help with negotiations or paperwork
Free online tools make it easier to find available properties without an agent
No direct access to the MLS database or off-market properties
No expert insights or advice about the local market
No recommendations for home inspectors, appraisers, and other professionals
In a nutshell, buying without an agent gives you complete control over your purchase. You'll be able to search for homes based on your exact specifications, handle negotiations on your own terms, and only look at houses you genuinely want to buy.
On the other hand, complete control also means complete responsibility. You won't have the reliable expertise or insights an agent can provide. You'll have to find local pros, coordinate your closing details, and handle all the paperwork on your own.
Does it sound like buying without a realtor isn't worth the hassle? Try Clever!
Steps for buying a home without a realtor
1. Figure out your budget and get preapproved for a mortgage
A good rule of thumb is to look for homes that cost no more than five times your gross household income. So, if you earn $100,000 per year, the maximum shouldn't exceed $500,000.
Keep your other debts and monthly payments in mind to make sure your budget won't be strained with a mortgage. Once you have an estimated budget in mind, review which types of loans you qualify for and get quotes from multiple lenders before applying for a mortgage.
Get Pre-approved Today!
Get matched with a lender who can tell you how much house you can afford. To get started, where do you plan on buying?
2. Research the neighborhoods you're interested in and review recent sales
Look at local schools, crime statistics, property development trends, and other factors that could impact your decision to move there.
You might want to dig into local property tax rates to factor those into your budget as well.
3. Set up tours to view homes you like
When you find a home that interests you, you can call the listing agent directly or attend an upcoming open house.
If the home is listed for sale on a site like Zillow, you can also schedule a tour through the website. An agent will show you around the property, but may also try to pressure you into working with them.
4. When you like a home, ask for the seller’s disclosure
In a caveat emptor or "buyer beware" state, if the seller isn't required to disclose something, they probably won't. Caveat emptor states include:
Even in buyer beware states, sellers are required to answer direct questions about the home's condition honestly. You may want to prepare a list of questions for the seller about why they're selling, what the neighborhood is like, any past issues they've had with the home, or other relevant details that could make or break the sale.
5. Make an offer
When you submit an offer, be sure to include any contingencies.
Contingencies in real estate are certain requirements that need to be met before the deal closes. For example, a buyer could add a contingency clause about certain repairs that need to be made before they purchase the house.
Common contingencies include mortgage, title, home inspection, homeowners insurance, and appraisal contingencies.
» LEARN: The different types of contingencies, explained
At this stage, you might want to think about hiring a real estate attorney to review your documents before submitting the offer.
6. Hire a home inspector and get an appraisal
If you included inspection and appraisal contingencies in your offer, you'll have time to renegotiate or walk away from the sale altogether after these steps have been completed. If an inspection reveals serious problems or an appraisal comes back too low, you'll be able to use this information to bargain with the seller or listing agent.
A home inspection simply reveals any structural defects or problems with a property. An appraisal takes the property's condition, location, and market trends into account to estimate its fair market value.
Although most lenders only require an appraisal, getting an inspection often uncovers at least a few areas that could need repair. After the appraisal comes back and the inspection has been completed, you can negotiate any repairs you'd like the seller to make or request a lower price.
It's also worth noting that a low appraisal might cause your lender to deny your mortgage unless you can personally cover the difference between the appraised value and the listed sales price. You could try to ask the seller to lower the sales price to the appraised value, but this is unlikely in a strong seller's market.
7. Close on your home
On closing day, you should do a final walk-through before signing all the required documents, making the down payment, and paying any remaining closing costs.
When you buy with a realtor, they can help ensure that your closing costs are combined with your mortgage fees so you won't have to pay anything out of pocket. If you choose to buy without an agent, make sure you fully understand what you'll be expected to pay on closing day.
Your state may require you to hire a real estate attorney to certify the title, draft or review the deed, and/or attend the closing process. States that require an attorney for at least one part of the closing process include:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Real estate attorney requirements vary by state, so make sure you research the laws for your area.
Is buying without a realtor worth it?
For most buyers, working with a real estate agent is a win-win. Buyers save time finding homes they love and get expert advice during each step of the home buying process. Sellers are the ones responsible for paying the agent's commission fee, so you can work with a buyer's agent at no cost to you.
If you want to work with a local pro, find one for free with Clever while earning cash back! Clever can connect you with one with a top-performing agent in your area with just a phone call or a few clicks. And when your sale is complete, you can get up to 0.5% Clever Cash Back to spend however you want.
No state requires buyers to work with a real estate agent. However, working with one can save you time and give you helpful advice at no cost to you.
In most cases, no. Some FSBO sellers might be willing to reduce the sales price since they won't have to pay for a buyer's agent commission, but this isn't guaranteed.