Buying a home and moving in is a big step for many families. You want to be sure that you’re choosing the right property, moving through the home buying process correctly, and taking care of everything related to your new home, from filing all the right paperwork to correctly reviewing the reports from your home inspection. Most people rely on a real estate agent to help them find the ideal property. Sometimes, however, people choose not to work with a realtor on the home buying process. In this guide, we’ll walk through how to buy a house without a realtor.
Follow These 13 Steps to Buy a House Without a Realtor
- Get preapproved for a mortgage
- Create a picture of your ideal property
- Research the neighborhood you’re considering
- Hire a real estate lawyer
- Find your new home
- Get the seller disclosures
- Research the market
- Make an offer
- Schedule a home inspection
- Formally apply for your mortgage loan
- Choose a title company
- Finalize negotiations
- Closing Day!
Why Would You Want to Buy a House Without a Realtor?
Many people, especially experienced homeowners, often feel as though they can handle the home buying process without additional help from a realtor. Instead of hiring a buyer’s agent to guide them through the process, they decide to take it on themselves. You might choose to buy a house without a realtor if:
- You’ve been through the home buying process before and feel confident about your ability to access and handle everything you need.
- You want to save money on the purchase price of a home. (Often, foregoing a buyer’s agent can save you as much as 6% on the purchase price of your home.)
- You want to work within your own goals and deadlines rather than being subjected to the real estate agent’s specific goals.
- You want to do your own due diligence at every step of the buying process rather than relying on someone else to do it for you.
- You’ve already chosen the home you want to purchase. Perhaps you are buying from a friend or family member, or you’ve chosen a home that is for sale by owner. So you just need to handle the paperwork.
Today, information about most properties is readily available online, where you can easily access it. Many homebuyers find that they can do the research and find the perfect home on their own — without needing to go through a real estate agent.
When Should You Use a Real Estate Agent to Purchase a Home?
If you’re a first-time homebuyer, working with a real estate agent can help ensure that you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s throughout the home buying process. Deciding to buy a house without a realtor can be stressful if you’ve never seen the process.
Real estate agents can listen to what you really want in your home, from the dream elements you would love to have to the must-have elements of your home, and sort through available properties to find the one that fits your needs. They can also help recommend a home inspector, help you find a mortgage lender, and make sure that all your paperwork gets filed correctly with the city. You should work with a real estate agent if:
- You don’t have time to do your due diligence on a property on your own.
- You’re not sure about the home buying process or feel that you may need guidance as you move through it.
- You need a fast closing date or have other specific restrictions regarding your home purchase.
- You want help finding the perfect home.
What Is the Difference Between a Seller’s Agent and a Buyer’s Agent?
The difference between a seller’s agent and a buyer’s agent is who they work for. The buyer’s agent works for the buyer: that is, you. The seller’s agent, on the other hand, works for the seller: the person selling their home. Each agent will focus on the needs of their client.
For example, your buyer’s agent may focus on getting you the best price for your home, making sure there are no unforeseen problems with the home inspection, and adding the closing costs to the seller’s costs, not yours. The seller’s agent, on the other hand, will prefer to get the highest price possible for the home, avoid any unnecessary repairs before your move-in day, or ensure that the closing date is convenient for the current homeowners.
If you’re selling one property and buying another, you may choose to use the same real estate agent for both purposes. However, you should not use the same agent that the current homeowners are using to sell the property. It could lead to a conflict of interest and your needs not being taken into consideration.
How Do You Buy a House Without a Realtor?
Are you ready to start the home buying process? Follow these steps to buy a house without a realtor.
1. Get preapproved for a mortgage
You may want to talk to more than one lender to discover who can offer you the best pre-approval on your mortgage if you’re trying to buy a house without a realtor. The lender will:
- Take a look at your credit score
- Evaluate your debt-to-income ratio
- Give you a general idea of how much they can approve you for when you buy your home
A pre-approval is not the same as actual approval for your mortgage. The actual loan will be based not only on your credit score, your current income, and your debts but also on the value of the home and what improvements will need to be made for it. The pre-approval, however, will tell you how much house you can get approved to buy, which can help you keep an eye on homes in your budget.
Pro tip for anyone who wants to buy a house without a realtor:
Make sure you put together your own budget concerning how much house you can afford. In addition to the mortgage itself, you should also take into consideration homeowner’s insurance, the cost of maintenance, any HOA fees, and the potential cost of energy and water bills for your home.
2. Create a picture of your ideal property
Once you know how much house you can afford, take the time to consider your ideal property. If you’re married, sit down with your spouse and discuss your must-haves, your wants, and the things you definitely don’t want in your new home. Consider questions like:
- How big a house do you want? How many bedrooms? What about bathrooms?
- Is there a specific neighborhood you want to live in? A specific area of town where you don’t want to live?
- Do the schools matter to you?
- Are there features you do and do not want in your new home, including features like a swimming pool or a fireplace?
- How much are you willing to spend on your new home? Evaluate monthly mortgage payments as well as interest rates and how much you will spend on that property over time.
- How much storage do you need in your home? Consider your current possessions as well as potential family growth. Remember, the average family outgrows their current living space within about 1-2 years, so it’s important to consider your storage needs ahead of time.
- How do you want to organize your home?
Have a solid idea of what you’re looking for in a house upfront. By discussing this with your spouse ahead of time, you can increase the odds that you’ll focus on houses that are a good fit for both of you. This will also make it easier to find and buy a house without a realtor.
3. Research the neighborhood you’re considering
If you have a specific neighborhood in mind, take the time to research the neighborhood. You’ll want to know factors like:
- What transportation is available in the neighborhood? Can you walk to convenient locations? What about bus routes?
- What is the local school district like? If you have kids or want to have them in the future, you may want to carefully consider the local school district before choosing a home.
- Is the neighborhood part of an HOA?
- What is the noise level like? Is the neighborhood near train tracks or an airport?
- How much traffic moves through the neighborhood on a regular basis?
Finally, you’ll want to know what the neighbors are like. Check out local publications or social media groups. Take a walk through the neighborhood and get to know the general climate of the neighborhood. Do people often come outside? Do they seem to socialize with one another? Are you approached for conversations? A walk through the area can also give you a better idea of the general age range and other demographics of the current residents. For example, if you have young children, you might be more reluctant to move into an area full of elderly individuals.
4. Hire a real estate lawyer for legal insight as you buy a house without a realtor
Some states do not require you to use a real estate attorney to buy a house. If you’re going it alone, however, a real estate lawyer can provide a number of advantages to the home buying process. A real estate attorney can:
- Prepare and review documents related to the purchase agreement.
- Check for liens on the home during a title search.
- Attend closing and make sure that it is legal and binding.
- Write a title insurance policy.
- Handle the transfer of funds when you buy the property.
- Resolve any title disputes regarding the property.
- Offer legal advice throughout the process.
If you want to buy a house without a realtor, working with an experienced real estate lawyer is the best way to ensure that you do not miss any legal issues that could complicate your home purchase or, worse, lead you to lose money down the road.
Look for a real estate lawyer who has experience with your local area and who, therefore, understands local regulations and requirements and can provide corresponding legal advice. Often, a real estate lawyer will work for a flat fee, especially since you will need to use them relatively little throughout the home buying process.
5. Find your new home
Once you know what you’re looking for in a property, the neighborhood where you want to live, pre-approval for a loan, and a real estate attorney on your side, it’s time to start looking for your new home. Prepare for the house hunting process to take time! Remember, you want to be in this house for a long time, so you want to be sure that you make the right purchase.
Check local listings. Look for homes put up for sale by owner. You may want to take a walk around the neighborhood and take a look at real estate signs in the yards. Visit open houses, especially if you’re considering a new build or have your eye on a specific property. Check out sites like Zillow for more information.
When you find a property you’re interested in, you’ll need to contact the home sellers. If the property is for sale by owner, you’ll contact the seller directly. If the home is listed through a real estate agency, on the other hand, you’ll want to contact the agency to view the property. You may need to explain that you’re wanting to buy a house without a realtor.
Next, walk through the home. Take a look at each room and the available storage. When you talk to the home seller or the seller’s agent, keep in mind that their goal is to sell the house. You may have a great conversation with the seller and feel, after leaving, that it could be the ideal property for you. But neither the seller nor their agent has your best interests at heart. A good real estate agent knows how to convince you that you’re looking at a great property, even if it has flaws that could convince you otherwise.
Pro tip for how to buy a house without a realtor:
When you find a home that you believe is right for you, have a friend or family member who is not emotionally invested in the property take a look at it. Discuss your must-have list with that individual, then invite them to walk through the property with you. Someone who is not emotionally connected to the property can often help you spot potential problems that could make your property less than ideal.
6. Get the seller disclosures
If you’ve found a property that you’re interested in, ask for seller disclosures. Legally, homeowners must disclose any problems with the property if asked directly. In most states, they must provide you with information about:
- Lead paint
- Damage done by bug infestations
- Damage to the heating and air unit
- Mold and water damage
- Foundation damage
Home sellers must honestly answer questions about the property when asked, though sellers cannot disclose information they do not know about the property. Since you’re trying to buy a house without a realtor, you’ll need to take care of asking for that information directly.
Review the seller disclosures carefully. Make sure you fully understand everything wrong with the property. Remember, issues like foundation or water damage can be incredibly costly to fix, and lead paint, asbestos, and radon can all prove dangerous to your overall health. Consider having an outside party look over the seller disclosures so you can be sure you’re making the right decision about the property.
7. Research the market
Before you make an offer on a property, you need to understand the market. What are comparable homes going for in the area? Don’t just check the amount they’re listed for. Instead, take the time to consider how much homes are actually selling for in the area you’re considering. If possible, look for comparable homes that have sold within the last 30 days.
8. Make an offer
Once you’ve thoroughly reviewed the home, the market, and the sellers’ disclosures, it’s time to make an offer. When making an offer, consider the asking price for the home, the home’s condition, and the market, as well as how much you’ve been pre-approved for. Ideally, you should not make an offer that meets the pre-approval amount. Instead, stay below budget on your new home.
If you’re wanting to buy a house without a realtor, you’ll need to create an offer letter yourself. Your offer letter should include:
- The home’s full address
- Your name, your spouse’s name (if applicable), and the name of anyone else buying the property with you
- The amount of your offer
- Any contingencies you’re requesting as you purchase the home. For example, you might state that the offer is contingent on your mortgage being formally approved, or on the home passing a home inspection. Consult your real estate lawyer to learn more about what contingencies you should include in your offer letter.
- Seller concessions you need in order to purchase the home, including elements like the seller paying closing costs or taking care of specific repairs before you move into the home
- What you want included in the purchase of the home, including appliances or any furniture that you want to purchase along with the house
- Your proposed closing date
- Your proposed move-in date
- The deadline by which the home sellers must respond to your offer
Pro tip for how to buy a house without a realtor:
Consider having your real estate lawyer review your offer letter before sending it to make sure that you’ve covered all the details.
9. Schedule a home inspection
A home inspector will go through the home and evaluate any potential problems, including both those problems included in the sellers’ disclosures and any problems that the sellers might not have known about before putting the home on the market. The home inspection will cover all the important details of the home, from the foundation to the roof, and let you know about any unexpected damage.
In some cases, the home inspection may reveal unexpected problems: moisture damage, bug damage, or even a roof that will need to be replaced within the next couple of years. If the home inspection does reveal a problem, you have several options.
- Ask for a discount on the home price to cover any repairs that need to be done.
- Request direct reimbursement for the cost of those repairs.
- Ask the seller to take care of the repairs before you purchase the home.
- Choose not to move forward with the home purchase.
In many cases, sellers who are eager to close will help take care of those repairs. If you need to move in quickly, on the other hand, you may want to ask for a discount or reimbursement and take care of those repairs on your own.
10. Formally apply for your mortgage loan
The formal mortgage application will secure your financing and ensure that you’re prepared to purchase your home. When you apply, you’ll need to include the sale price of your home, how much you intend to put down as a down payment, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or have purchased a house in the past, the results of the inspection, and any other relevant information. Keep in mind that it can take time to have your mortgage formally approved.
11. Choose a title company
To protect yourself while buying your home, you’ll need a title company to conduct a search on the title and make sure that it’s clean. This step is essential whether you’re trying to buy a house without a realtor or if you have one. Consult your real estate attorney for information about the title companies in your local area.
12. Finalize the negotiations
Once you have conducted your home inspection, you may need to conduct fresh negotiations with the home sellers. You’ll also need to sign off on any contingencies and show that you have reached an agreement concerning any issues you might have with the home.
13. Closing Day!
When closing day arrives, you will fill out all the paperwork and purchase your home. Do a final walk-through to make sure that the seller has taken care of everything they agreed to take care of and that they have moved any possessions out of the house if your move-in day and closing day are similar. If your move-in day is different from your closing date, you may want to finalize any arrangements and make sure that the sellers are ready to be off the property in time. Congratulations — you’ve finished the process to buy a house without a realtor!
Finding the right property can be a long process, especially if you’re acting as your own agent. However, it’s also incredibly satisfying when the big day arrives and you’re finally ready to purchase your new home. If you choose to buy a house without a realtor, you’ll need to conduct a great deal of research and make sure that you understand the home buying process as well as possible before embarking on this journey. But you can do it on your own.
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