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Should You Do It Yourself or Find An Agent

Right At Home Daily: Finding It: House-Hunting
By Lisa Skolnik for Right at Home Daily

There's nothing that says you can't buy a home on your own. It's easy to do, from strolling the streets looking for "for sale" signs, to searching for online listings.

If it's that easy, do you really need to hire an agent?

Probably. Although you may feel you can do it yourself, a good real estate agent brings more to the table than transportation between showings.

You may think you know what you want or need in your next home, but a good agent will ask the right questions and raise issues that may focus or change your requirements. Agents may also have insider information about a neighborhood, such as the caliber of its schools, health care facilities and community services.

Best of all, agents can easily access the local multiple listing service (MLS), which lists detailed information about most homes for sale in an area and allows agents to sort through listings based on price, location and physical characteristics. At any time, an agent can log onto the MLS and look at new listings that have just come on the market.

Since agents work with the other real estate professionals you need, including mortgage lenders, home inspectors, and pest inspectors, they can help you find the people you need to build your home-buying team.

Agents are especially helpful when it comes time to make an offer and negotiate with the seller. Since they have access to information about other properties, they can tell you about the prices of similar properties (an important bargaining tool) and help you evaluate the price/quality ratio of your choice to determine the correct first offer price.

Agents will also prepare the sales agreement, represent your offer favorably and help you handle counter-offers.

Once an offer is accepted, agents can guide you through the rest of the process, from getting the loan and arranging inspections to handling the closing and arranging a move. Some agents even have lists of professionals and workmen you can hire to improve or remodel your new property.

The best reason to work with an agent when you're buying a home is that it costs you nothing. Traditionally, the buyer's agent's commission is paid for by the seller.

Agents make the search for the right property easier, faster and more reliable with their knowledge of an area and detailed information about properties that you can't access through the MLS.

Agents can help you negotiate the complicated financial aspects of buying a home, including assessing and analyzing finances, estimating all ownership costs, educating you about financing, and helping you secure a lender.

Agents can help you negotiate the deal by providing you with the information you need to make all offers. They should also prepare the paperwork for the transaction.

When an offer is accepted, they can help expedite the rest of the process, from getting your loan to moving in.

Finally, you can choose to use a buyer's agent, who represents the buyer but who may, from time to time, also represent the seller in the same transaction, or an exclusive buyer's agent, who will never represent a seller.

Visit our forum to have all your home-buying questions answered.