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Do you really need a real estate agent to buy a home?

A good real estate agent can help you through the aspects of the home-buying process that you may be unsure about.
A good real estate agent can help you through the aspects of the home-buying process that you may be unsure about.
©iStockphoto/sjlocke

In a tight economy, the jury is out on whether a real estate agent is really necessary when you're selling a house. But it's definitely something to consider -- even the executive of a top for-sale-by-owner Web site advocates working with a real estate agent when you buy.

"If the buyer has an agent, that helps," says Steve Udelson, CEO of Owners.com. "If you end up paying 3 percent, so what?" While you'll pay for the agent's services, it may be well worth the cost.

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In Udelson's company model, sellers can pay several hundred dollars to have their homes listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the master list of homes for sale that reaches virtually every real estate Web site. The company also sells yard signs, professional photo packages and the services of real estate brokers to review paperwork. But in many cases, Udelson says, a buyer's agent can keep the deal on track.

Read on to see how else a real estate agent might be able to help you through the buying process.

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Real estate agents, at their best, are troubleshooters. If they have experience, they can anticipate a host of problems that can sink a deal.

Elizabeth Mendenhall, the 2011 vice president of committees for the National Association of Realtors, says that it's important to have an agent available in any transaction, even if one of the parties has no representation. "When that happens, it's even more important that one of the parties is working with a real estate agent," she says. This ensures that at least someone involved in the deal in knowledgeable and experienced.

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Agents save time at the beginning of the purchase simply because they know not only the square footage, but also the floor plans and color schemes of the homes on the market. They can save deals at the end of the process by identifying which repairs are necessary and which ones aren't. They also make sure the title is clear and the house can be sold, and that the bank is up to speed on the financing before escrow closes.

With all these benefits, hiring a real estate agent to help you purchase a home just might be worth the expense.

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Sources

  • Cummings, Jack. "The Real Estate Investor's Answer Book: Moneymaking Solutions to ALL Your Real Estate Questions." McGraw-Hill Professional. 2006.
  • Mendenhall, Elizabeth. Vice President of Committees. National Association of Realtors. Personal interview. Jan. 3, 2011.
  • Richmond, Peter. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying a Home." Alpha Publishing. 2010.
  • Udelson, Steve. CEO. Owners.com. Personal interview. Jan. 4, 2011.

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