Buying a Home: Hire a Real Estate Agent or Go It Alone?

For sale signs along residential street

Credit: Tom Caswell (caswell_tom on Flickr) CC by 2.0 with Attribution

Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Agent when Buying a House

You’re in the market for a new home and wondering what is the best way to start your search. Many questions begin to arise as you begin this exciting milestone in your life, and chances are you’re probably wondering whether you should go at it alone or if you should work with a real estate agent.

Purchasing a house without a real estate agent is possible, but unless you are well-versed in the ins and outs of making real estate purchases, sprinkled with some legal expertise, you’re probably better off working with a professional. For instance, if you are not familiar with contractual law or what to look for in terms of a house’s flaws, don’t go it alone. Especially if you are a first-time buyer.

Investing in a home is a big deal, and many stresses or bumps along the journey are likely to occur. When you purchase a home, it is more complicated than other large purchases because there are several variables involved before the purchase/contract can be completed. Working with a real estate agent to guide you can help alleviate many of the issues which inevitably arise because a good one will be well-trained and is typically familiar with the region he or she is selling in. Agents are also able to pick up on potential issues and know how to effectively troubleshoot and problem-solve the ones which do arise.

Before you decide to go at it alone, it is a good idea to think about the process and all the details and determine whether or not you are up for the challenges that await you if you are considering going at it alone.

House Hunting and Bidding Process

Agents have huge, continually updated databases of homes, and they also have information which may not necessarily be listed on the Internet, such as how long the home has been on the market, and all previous sale prices. It’s helpful to know these things because it points out whether or not the house has had difficulty selling or how anxious the seller is to sell (i.e. if they’ve reduced their price several times). If you do it alone, you’ll have to work harder to find out this information and, additionally, you might be limited on your choices.

Agents are skilled at effectively bartering and helping you construct counter-offers and get the most fair and accurate buy. They can easily pull up comparative sales in order to help you determine what a fair market price is and this helps solidify and decide upon your offer. You don’t want to overpay, but you don’t want to undercut the seller either, plus if it’s “the house” of your dreams, you might be outbid by a more eager buyer. Having a good pulse on the market works to your benefit, and if you have the time and understanding, it is possible to do this portion of buying alone.

Looking at Homes

Anyone can tour a home, but an experienced real estate broker will guide you to notice not-so-obvious flaws and discrepancies you may not have seen otherwise. We looked at a number of houses we loved, but as we toured each one, our agent was constantly pointing out flaws and/or strong points that weren’t as obvious. In all honesty, some of these things we more than likely would not have noticed until after the home inspection if not for our agent (like the light green mold in one home that blended nicely in the ceiling paint she pointed out).

This would have totally wasted our time in our search if we had to start over, or worse, buying the house and finding out about its problems after it was too late. After literally looking at dozens, we were better able to determine what did and didn’t want in a house thanks to learning the ropes from our agent’s expertise.


Are you a strong negotiator and assertive in ensuring you get exactly what is being offered for a fair price? Are there problems with the house which aren’t covered by the home inspection that you want fixed? If negotiating isn’t your strong point, an agent who works on your behalf will effectively negotiate the best deal for you.

Homes in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia

Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Residential homes in Northern Virginia


Your mortgage company will be sending an appraiser over to evaluate the property. If the property is deemed to be lower in value than your bid, you may have issues with the mortgage, especially in a market where homes are being foreclosed and/or going for lower amounts. Having gone through this process, we found our home came in significantly lower than the asking price and it impacted our ability to finance. Our agent easily navigated us through the problems on our future home and we negotiated a lower price!

Title Search and Home Inspections

An agent will more than likely make the title search and home inspection arrangements and ensure all goes smoothly. Again, this is probably something you can do on your own, but you’ll have to know how to go about hiring and remembering all the details. Many people prefer to let someone else coordinate and oversee these details to make sure all has been done in order and in its entirety. This is especially true for house-seekers moving to a new area where it is hard to assess which contractors are reliable. A good real estate agent can help ensure you hire well-known businesses with solid reputations.

Contractual Law

Again, unless you are a wiz at understanding legalese, it might be in your best interest to hire someone to assist. If not an agent, you’ll want an attorney to look over your contracts (which will cost you). A good real estate agent will work hard to ensure every detail of the contractual agreement is followed to the letter.

When purchasing a house, your real estate agent does the bulk of the leg work for you. This doesn’t mean you won’t have to do a lot of paperwork, but he or she can make things a lot easier on you. Since the seller pays the commission fees anyway, there is really nothing on the buyer’s end to lose. Looking at it from that perspective, the way I see it, there is not much of a downside to working with a professional real estate broker and it sure saves a lot of headaches along the way as you look to buy your home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *