Buying or Selling a house without a realtor

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Looking for real estate attorney to facilitate the sale of our home directly to a buyer. We found a buyer who would like to purchase our home without the typical process of putting it on the market etc. They are willing to purchase as is.

    This is appealing to us since it would save us from the costs of agent fees, fixing up home so its market ready, etc. Estimated total cost to use agent including market prep is about $150k. Would the costs of an attorney be about the same, more, or less?

    Any experiences with selling a home directly to a buyer or attorney recommendation would be appreciated. 

    We bought our house through a private sale in October 2017. We used Brett Weinstein at Realty Advocates. You don't actually need a lawyer -- they charged us a flat fee that we split with the sellers (if I remember correctly, it was $2800 each -- 5 years ago). It was super easy and painless.

    Best of luck and as someone being on the buying side, I admire you for doing a private sale -- it made it possible for us to buy a house in Berkeley!

    Sorry, this is the site for Brett's business facilitating private sales:

    In my experience, it would be substantially less. We went through a very similar process about 1.5 years ago to get our home. 

    We sold our bay area house in 2019 to a friend and used a lawyer, and it cost WAY LESS than going with a realtor. We used Greg Glaser Looks like he's charging $5,000 flat rate right now (we paid less in 2019)... He did 3-way call with the seller (us) and the buyer (our friend) to make sure we're all on the same page, we understand the process, and answered all of our questions. This was pre-covid, and Greg was already 100% remote, we never met him but the whole thing went very smoothly. 

    We used Victoria Smith in Orinda and she was great! The whole thing cost us less than $5,000. 

    We're currently using Jean Shrem to represent us in our conventional (with agent) home purchase. Jean is absolutely great. She is knowledgeable, friendly, and communicative. While we did not use her for a direct sale, her website indicates that that's actually her specialty. I highly recommend you check her out.

    Plus one for Brett Weinstein at!  He was very easy to work with and has it all lined up to be very streamlined.  Around $5k.

    Here's another recommendation for Jean Shrem. We used her for a direct, complicated sale of a Southern California income property, to the next-door neighbor.

    It all went wonderfully.  I am a licensed broker myself, and have a tendency to go down rabbit holes. Jean did not go down rabbit holes with me if she deemed them unnecessary, saving us a lot of money in the process in her billable hours.  Prior to the sale, we had to make some tricky title-transfer decisions, and she steered us in the right direction each time.

  • Hi, 

    I am getting ready to sell my house in Pinole. I know agents (listing and seller) charge a pretty fee, and if possible I would like to avoid it. Has anyone sold their property without an agent? Did you find the process to be tedious and wish you would have gone the other route and hired someone?

    Thank you in advance! 

    A friend, her husband and son are currently interested in purchasing a home in Pinole. I’ve no idea if your house is what they’re looking for but it’s worth them knowing about it. They mistakenly purchased a home in New Jersey and are currently selling it to return the the BA. 


    Yes! And it is because I am an agent that I am saying this (ie, not because I need or want work - I am very busy - but bc I promise you, with all my heart, that you will lose money if you don't work with an agent. I would be happy to talk on the phone to you and explain why and then have nothing to do with selling your home. I strongly urge you to interview 3 agents and find someone you adore, who is smart, communicative and strikes you as exceptionally straight forward.

    I work in the real estate industry, but I'm not a realtor so I see this topic from a different perspective as a industry professional. As a realtor's assistant, I would definitely get a Realtor! I remember when we bought our house, we had representation, but i thought I could save money by at least auditing the disclosures myself.  It's was a lot more work for my own house than I hoped for and I am used to the piles of paperwork! There's lots of documents you need to have up front, then there's others you have to gather as you're in escrow. it's all confusing and a PITA when you're not sure of what you're doing.

    You also need someone who is going to look at the transaction objectively and isn't emotionally attached to the home because in the end, if you have a good realtor, they'll market your home to a larger audience, negotiate with the other party to sell your home for more gains that you would have if you sold it on your own. Also, most agents put their listings on the MLS (multiple listing service which agents have membership to) which gets blasted onto all the real estate websites: Redfin, Trulia, Zillow, etc. If you decide to hire an agent, ask them how they advertise your property. Because their reach and network is worth something. And with everything else, you do get what you pay for.

    All of what i wrote sounds sales-y, but it's all things that sellers don't think of. If you really don't want to hire a realtor and already have a buyer lined up, i would at least hire a real estate attorney to handle all the paperwork. Good luck!

    When we were looking for a house, we noticed that a seller used Zillow to advertise their home 

    as "Make Us Move"  We saw the house and would have bid on it if it was the right home.  

    Nowadays w/ homes in the bay area in such high demand, you can advertise online and just

    have a realator sign the papers for you for much less.  I hired HelpUSell and negotiated a low fee of 

    1% instead of customary 3%.  I would go with someone w/ a brokerage license like Jas,

    jasdeepak [at]   Warning that greedy real estate agents will not bring their clients to your home if you 

    do not give them the conventional 3% fee.  But you won't need them if someone wants to bid

    on the house and willing to pay their agent.. it's all up to your negotiation.  We paid Jas

    1% and I did the flyer.  it turned out gorgeous.  I also staged my own home, spending the $4K

    estimate given to state my Moraga home and spent it on new furniture and all that decor

    that stagers use to make a home look like a model home.  So in short, you don't need to 

    hire a regular greedy real estate agent.  If you want someone to give you all these services,

    the only agent I would ever use again is Leslie Shafton of Dudum real estate.  She is one 

    of the organizers of the Walnut Creek Women's March, and is a wonderful human being who

    loves making our society a better place.  I worked with her also and highly recommend her.

    Let her know that Susan of PASE sent you.  She may donate something to our all-volunteer

    organization that works to remove pesticides in the communities and to replace them with

    safer alternative methods that work elsewhere.


  • Hi,

    I am planning to sell my 4 bed, 2 bath house in the gourmet ghetto in the Spring of 2019. I'm considering selling without an agent in order to save myself and the buyer some money (I know that sellers pay the entire 6% commission in CA, but I would price the house lower than I would otherwise if I didn't have to bear that cost.) Does anyone have experience or advice to share regarding private home sales in east bay?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    My advice: Don't.

    One reason: There are a myriad of city, county, and state regulations and laws you have to jump through and adhere to regarding disclosures, etc.. If you make an error, you could be facing a very costly lawsuit or a failed escrow.

    Another reason: Very few people can be completely objective when it comes to selling their own property. When we were house-hunting and saw a "For Sale By Owner" sign, we never bothered, because it nearly always meant dealing with someone who didn't fully know the market or the laws but who had a high degree of emotional involvement. In other words, trouble.

    You may be able to ask an agent to take a slightly lower commission since it's a hot market. But I have noticed that even in this market most agents give a lot of thought to how to position a property for a good price and a trouble-free escrow.

    My 2 cents.

    I would never sell a house without using a real estate agent. “Seller beware” is the way the laws work. The seller has so much liability if something arises in the future, or if something was not properly disclosed. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Also, buyers agents may steer their clients away from FSBO listings, so you might not get as much market exposure doing it yourself. Pay the commisssion. It’s worth it. Also, I’ve heard that many agents will list for 5%. Good luck.

    I have a feeling you would get a lot of interested based on how crazy the housing market is here. For example, I'm looking to buy a home around that time and would be interested in working with you. There are probably a lot of other people out there who feel the same. Not exactly the question you were asking but may help in your decision.


    I successfully sold my home in Cupertino a few years ago. One can now list on MLS without a realtor's license. I was planning to do that plus my own open houses until a neighbor made a bid on the place, so I didn't need to place a listing. After agreeing to the price, we then worked directly with an escrow company (which handles all the legal paperwork). I hired a real estate attorney to make sure I had all my i's dotted and t's crossed. All went smoothly, and I saved on the realtor commission. The real estate attorney that I used was very reasonable and handled my case efficiently - Jean Shrem in El Cerrito (510) 882-9992  Good luck! Elaine

    A good agent earns their keep. Most likely, you will get a much higher price is you follow their advice. If you think you understand real estate and have proven that you have a good design sense, try Redfin. Their fees are lower. 

    Last year I sold my house in Alameda without a seller's agent for well over $1M I put the house on MLS through a flat fee MLS company (I paid $99 to list the house), and offered 2% to the buyer's agent. I had a lot of traffic, and ended with a very good offer over asking price. I considered hiring a real estate attorney, but ended up not needing one as I am well versed in all things real estate, and a licensed CPA myself, and also the buyer's agent was very helpful and passed me several CAR (California Association of Realtors) forms I did not have access to. You can, however, get access to all CAR forms through interned, but it's a paid service. Overall, it was stressful, but totally doable, and I will definitely do the same next time I sell a house. My advice is not to use FSBO web sites, and put a house on MLS. I initially listed the house as FSBO and got a lot of flaky calls, and people trying to lowball me. Once the house was on MLS, I've gotten a good traffic of serious buyers, and a very good offer within 1.5 weeks. My only regret in this is that I should have countered higher, and most likely would have ended up selling for $10K more than I did. A good seller's agent would have probably helped me with that, but whether that is worth 2-2.5% of the listing price is for you to decide.

  • Hi there,

    My husband and I are in the process of buying our rental house directly from the owner and are looking for a real estate attorney to create the contract and any other legal advice for this transaction.  Please let me know if anyone has any recommendations.  We have the ARAG legal insurance, so if they are part of that network, that would be great but not necessary.



    Hi Rosi,

    I can highly recommend Attorney Jean Shrem of Shrem Law, she's in El Cerrito.  We used her to do the exact same thing when we bought our home from our landlord.  She is a real estate attorney and real estate broker - which was really fantastic.  She was able to supply all of the necessary forms and walk us through the entire process which went really pretty smoothly.  We did have a hiccup but Jean was incredibly proactive and responsive and helped us navigate it, it's clear she has tons of experience and knowledge.  She was great and I would happily use her again.  I think her website is and her phone number is 510-882-9992.  In my experience she generally responds more quickly to emails than phone calls if you don't catch her when you call but she has a bunch of information on her website as well.  She has both hourly and flat fee rates, depending upon what you're looking for, we went with the full boat because we all wanted guidance and that worked well for us.

    Good luck with your home purchase.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions & Advice

Buying a friend's home - with or without a realtor?

April 2013

We are looking into buying a home - it's a friend's home and are wondering if (seeing as we know the sellers personally) we as the buyers need the services of a realtor. We hear different things: some people say we can easily do it without a realtor and save the money it would cost to hire one and simply pay a real estate lawyer a small hourly fee such as $400 to oversee the contract. Other people say a TRUSTED realtor is invaluable to the process and that given the amount of money it costs to buy the house, the realtor fee is negligible and completely worth it due to the expertise they bring should any un-forseeables occur with the sewer, pest, structural, inspection etc reports... ANY advice would be appreciated. Novice Home Buyers

You should absolutely get representation. You wouldn't do brain surgery on yourselves, right? Buying or selling a house is one of the largest financial transactions people make in their lifetime. In California there are A LOT of disclosures and laws. As buyers you need to know what your rights AND responsibilities are. The sellers need to know how to protect themselves as well. You didn't say how you planned to finance the deal but you should also know that most major banks will not fund a deal without someone having a real estate license. Ask your lender if having a Realtor represent you is required. It's usually a requirement because not having one is a liability issue for them. So yes, get a Realtor you trust. Realtors don't earn their commission by showing you a house you like... They earn it by making sure you know exactly what you are doing as you sign the 200+ pages of documents required on a transaction. Inspections, appraisals, disclosures... there is a lot to a real estate deal. They earn their fee by keeping you all out of court. They earn their fee by making sure the largest purchase of your lifetime is something you actually understand. Good luck! Gloria

We shopped for a home with a realtor and then found a house (without the realtor) that was for sale privately. It was a first time purchase for us so we decided to use our realtor and pay them out of pocket. Here are some things to consider: 1) if its your first purchase its' probably worth hiring one or at least a lawyer to help you navigate this. I do all sorts of things myself (like setting up our wills and trust, doing our taxes etc) but still did not feel comfortable doing this one alone the first time. 2) there was a ton of work to be done during closing and our realtor really earned their fee here. A good realtor really project manages the whole process and actually does a lot of work in this phase- I don't think we could have pulled off a 30 day close without them, even if I had known what I was doing. Usually you can only lock your interest rate for about 30 days so you have an incentive to get it done this quickly. good luck

Yes, you can buy your home without a realtor. I did. It is like selling anything else --a car or tennis racket. You agree to a price, get the paperwork done, and move on. Realtors want you to think that they are the only ones that can arrange this transaction for you. This is completely untrue. Now, that being said, there is a lot of paperwork and a lot of legalese, but to think that only a realtor can do this for you is completely false. Plus, a realtor charges a 5% commission. That sure is a chunk of cash. So, how do you do it? We used Hal at Realty Advocates and it went OK. It was not outstanding customer service. My husband has a very technical job and reads a lot of documents like that. He was able to fill in some of the gaps. You might want to try Brett there. I do not remember what it cost, but it was clearly under $5,000. Another way is to post again for a recommendation for a real estate attorney who will open escrow and see the paperwork through. Or, you might be able to find a realtor that would do it. Not as hard as you think. Do not abandon yet.

We're in escrow right now, selling our El Cerrito home to a couple we found in the ''housing'' section of this forum. We are using the service of Jean Shrem in Berkeley. She is both a real estate attorney *and* a Realtor, and her flat fee for us (buyer and seller combined) is $400. Her on-line reviews are fantastic. If we hadn't found buyers on Berkeley Parents, we would have gotten Nolo's ''For Sale by Owner in California'' book (there is a recent edition), which has a great deal of both legal and marketing wisdom. (Nolo books can be downloaded at a discount, or bought at a discount at their own store on Parker St. in Berkeley.) John B

You can definitely complete the transaction without any Realtors involved. From the buyer side your closing cost could be slightly lower but not by a large significant amount. In this case I would say if you can actually buy it for the 5-6% less than market value you got a great deal for the house you want. However if your are getting charged market value then why not get a Realtor involved because the sellers are looking at keeping the commission portion to themselves. A lot of times friends have trouble negotiating with friends because of the personal relationship aspect gets in the way. You will still want to do the normal inspections that can reveal issues with the properties. Wayne

We recently sold our home off-market, and we used the services of Realty Advocates. For a $2,200 flat fee,they will walk you through the process and take care of all the paperwork. They act as a neutral third party, representing neither buyer nor seller. This service was truly invaluable, and I cannot recommend Brett highly enough. Heather

Congratulations on having friends who will sell you their house without ''exposing it to the market'' in this current atmosphere of bidding wars!

I have been a first-time homebuyer, a home seller, and for 9 years a realtor. Naturally, I would argue that we agents add value to your home buying experience and know how to avoid trouble and heartache for the buyers and sellers. That's why our industry has lived long and continues to survive, if not prosper.

When you compare the cost of attorneys' fees with a real estate commission, it is an apples-versus-oranges proposition. Your friends are correct that there are many requirements, such as sewer lateral compliance, RECO, and the zillions of negotiable details, that come up as one or both parties start to get nervous about the sale.

Sure, an attorney can do the legal paperwork, but you would not find them hovering over the EBMUD and city inspectors discussing whether a trenchless sewer lateral repair is feasible. Realtors do things like this as part of our service to clients.

If your deal with your friends proceeds smoothly to closing, many realtors will negotiate a reduced fee (please! no lynch mobs, fellow/sister agents!) since they do not need to help you locate a property. But most agents would agree that identifying the property and getting an offer accepted is the smaller part of the transaction - it is shepherding the deal to closing where our negotiation skills and odd aspects of knowledge become essential. amelia

A real estate agent should not cost you anything as the buyer. The seller pays their agent the commission and the seller's agent shares that with the buyer's agent. If anyone is asking you for money to be your buyer's agent, they are ripping you off. I am an experienced real estate attorney and former real estate investor and I STILL would use an agent any time I buy property. There is no reason not to. Now if what you meant is the sellers are considering not using an agent, then we have a different situation. Tim

I've bought a few homes, the last one without a realtor two years ago. We had the home inspected thoroughly (pest, foundation, furnace, sewer, electrical, plumbing, etc.) and paid for those inspections. As a buyer, you wouldn't pay the realtor's fee, but by doing this on our own we were able to buy a property in a coveted area for $382 per square foot as opposed to the average selling price of $550+/sq. ft. in our area. A local title company helped us with the paperwork.

Also, $400 an hour is way too much to pay a real estate lawyer. Realty Advocates offers a for sale by owner service and charges a flat fee of $2200 which should cover all of your bases and they will do what an agent does. Double check to make sure this is accurate-it was a couple of years ago. In the homes I've purchased, I've been the one to find them anyways, so this last purchase by owner made sense to me. Sometimes I think realtors hype up and area and their clients end up overbidding in neighborhoods with low inventory. If you find someone willing to sell their home without an agent (which may be unlikely given that many homes are getting multiple offers and over asking now), offer to pay this fee. Other services such as ( give you back a percentage of the purchase price. Will never use a realtor again. anon

If you are looking for a home on the market then you need a realtor because an attorney can't get you into it for showing it to you, inspections, appraisals, etc., unless you work something out for gaining access. If you are buying real estate privately, like from a friend or landlord, then a real estate lawyer makes more sense. I've used attorney Jean Shrem in the past and she's perfect for this as she is a licensed real estate broker and a real estate lawyer. I found working with Jean to be great, she's really responsive, extremely knowledgeable, very practical and very cost effective for private sales. Prior Client

As a home buyer, there is no cost to you for the services of the realtor. What happens typically is that the sellers' realtor and the buyers' realtor split the commission, which is usually 6% of the purchase price, and that is paid by the sellers. There is no cost to you for the realtor's services. As recent first time home buyers, my husband and I would highly recommend that you get your own representation of a realtor to handle all of the negotiations. Especially since you are buying from friends. You also definitely will want to do all inspections and a good realtor can help make all of the hoop jumping go smoothly. S/he may have great experts to help. We were fortunate to have found Amy Robeson as our realtor, whose expert home inspector was phenomenal. She was an important and valuable ally in the process of home buying. K M

Totally doable and legal IF you are buying property for YOURSELF. If it's for someone ELSE, you will have to use a realtor. You can buy/sell your own property in Calif & Hawaii (I've done this in both states) AND you are pretty savvy and can follow through with forms, deadlines, etc. kchaseme

Want to purchase house without realtor involvement

March 2013

I am hoping to purchase a home in the East Bay area, and would much prefer a private sale which does not involve either a buyer's or seller's realtor. I would prefer to work with a 'facilitator' or real estate attorney. Suggestions and contact information appreciated. ethics and economy

We sold our home via an off-market transaction with Brett at Realty Advocates: For a $2,200 flat fee, they will do all the necessary paperwork. He is really fantastic, but please note that it requires that neither the seller nor the buyer has representation, so you'd have to find a seller who does not have their home listed with a realtor. Anon

I recommend Brett Weinstein, a great realtor, who also provides a $2200 flat rate service for sellers who can find their own buyers and who don't want to pay huge commissions. I advertised my house through Craigslist and held an open house myself. After just one open house a buyer sent me a great offer. I then called in Brett and he handled all the paperwork and had us both into his office to sign papers. He's very experienced and will give advice on all kinds of things--referred a good cleaner and house inspector to us for the open house and so on. Also he is just an all-round good guy and professional, friendly, and thoughtful. Check out his page for FSBO: Do It Yourselfer

We could save $45,000 by not having an agent

May 2010

My husband and I own a home in Oakland and we are moving to Lamorinda soon. We are looking at homes priced around $1.5m. My husband recently read an article on buying a home without an agent and is now very interested to do so (we would hire an attorney to represent our legal interests in this case). With commissions to the buying agent at 3%, we could potentially save $45,000 by not having an agent.

We don't need many of the services that an agent can offer as we can find our own home, we can attend our own open houses, we don't need handholding, etc. Paying someone $45,000 simply to present our offer and negotiate the deal/paperwork seems ridiculous. Has anyone gone this route and how did it work out? Alternatively, are there any agents who work on a flat fee or who work for, say, a 1% commission (that's still $15,000 in our scenario)? We're open to paying an agent or attorney a reasonable fee, but would like to get away from the traditional compensation model. Any tips and advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Just as an aside, we are planning to use an agent to sell our home in Oakland. I can see the benefit of using an agent on the sell side of the transaction more than the other way around. East Bay Mom

IMHO: Use an agent! The commission is paid by the seller, not the buyer. You won't save any money unless you convince the seller to reduce the price by half the commission - not likely. You'll probably have some trouble getting sellers' agents to look at your offer, and a good agent will get in and negotiate. Calling it ''hand-holding'' means you don't really understand what a good agent does - one of those tasks/skills is negotiating in your interests (now, *there* you'll save money).

The other major reason to use an agent is liability. There is so much more to say - and I'm sure other BPNers will do just that, lol but, long-story short: use an agent. If you're a retail home buyer/seller, not using an agent is penny-wise/pound-foolish

Your real task to to suss out a *good* agent with whom you click. Jessica

Of course it is the home seller who pays the real estate commission. So it is your task to try to persuade a seller that they should reduce the price by $45,000 (or whatever). But if it is listed with an agent, they will have a contract. If the contract is about to expire, you could propose that you'll be back the day after it does (although I believe that common practice, and perhaps even the law, says that a seller still pays commission for some time period, if people who made contact before the expiration end up buying it). The other option is to direct your search to the FSBOs (For Sale By Owners). Craigslist, apparently the most vibrant real estate marketplace, has a separate category for that. These matters have been very much on our mind, as we prepare to sell our El Cerrito house this summer. We just bought the Nolo book, ''For Sale By Owner, in California,'' which, as usual,seems packed with very good information and advice for both buyer and seller. Finally, there are lawyers who will handle all the paperwork for a fixed or hourly fee . . . and even if they are in the $300-an-hour range, costs should be much less than almost any kind of percentage deal. John

My wife and I purchased a condo without a realtor about 6 years ago, and then just yesterday bought a home in Berkeley, this time using a realtor. The first time we felt we had overpaid and didn't really know what we were doing, so this time we decided to use one. We're very glad we did, though after going through the whole process, I now feel that I could likely do it on my own. The benefits of using our realtor were as follows:
- she knew and could give advice regarding which neighborhoods have historically held their value;
- she knows tons of contractors, inspectors and other people who are useful not just for home-buying but also afterwards for homeowning;
- she was familiar with local real estate customs and could help us tailor our offers to the best effect (e.g., providing short close of escrow, working with our lender to get him to waive a loan contingency and appraisal contingency, etc). These were things I wouldn't have known how to do or thought of;
- on a very basic level, you can't get in to see a home without a realtor except during open houses;

On the other hand, I felt a bit disappointed that our realtor couldn't give us more advice on good offer prices. The market, at least in Berkeley, has been going up, and it always seemed like a crap shoot in terms of what price to offer. There were often 5-12 bids on homes, some of which went for $130,000 over asking price (!!). There wasn't much our realtor could do for us on that front.

I suppose my advice is to use a realtor unless you've bought homes a number of times, are familiar with inspection process and local real estate, and willing to do a lot of research yourself. It is maddening that 6% of the home's price goes to realtor's. I loved our realtor, but still don't feel that she provided $18,000 worth of value--3% of the home price. That said, it's a huge investment, and I'm very glad to have had a steady advocate at my side during the process.

Best of luck. Erin

As I understand it, the seller pays all realtor's commissions. Unless things have changed since we bought our home, the seller and buyer's agent will split the commission on the home being sold. In the event that the buyer does not have an agent, the seller's agent gets to keep the entire commission. With this scenario, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't have an agent to represent your interests as the buyer. When we bought our home, our agent was an advocate for us. He worked with the seller's agent who was not familiar with this area and was pushy (which is not in our nature) on our behalf. I am not sure how you would go about saving the 3% of the commission as I am pretty sure the seller's agent has already negotiated the commission amount. Amy

Why on earth would you spend $1.5 million on a house and NOT have the resources of a real estate professional? I don't know where you got the idea that you would save any money by foregoing the use of an agent, because it is the seller who pays the entire sales commission - it's not split between the buyer and seller, as you seem to believe. Any agent working for you should get paid out of the commission the seller is charged. If you forego the broker and hire an attorney, that's when you'll be spending your own money. Sue

Note, I am a real estate attorney (although I do commercial real estate, not residential).

The buyer does NOT pay the buyer's agents commission (thus, you would not be paying your agent 45K to negotiate your paperwork, etc). 95% of the time, Buyer's commissions are paid by the Seller's agent. The way it generally works (of course, there may be exceptions) is a seller enters into a listing contract with a seller's broker. The listing contract will provide that upon a sale of the home, the seller's agent is entitled to 5-6% of the purchase price as a commission. However, the seller's agent is to split that commission with any buyer's agent. Sometimes the split is 50/50 and sometimes it differs (in the commercial context, a split of 2%/4% is typical). If the buyer does not have an agent, the seller's agent pockets the entire commission - -that is why many seller agents love unrepresented buyers, or will try to enter into a ''dual representation.''

Thus, I don't think it is correct that you would actually save 3% of the purchase price by opting to purchase without an agent.

The only time this might be the case is where you are buying a home directly from the seller (and there is no seling/listing agent). In such a case, the seller would see the buyer's commission as an additional expense (borne by the seller) and might be more flexibile on the purchase price for buyers that do not have agents. If you are interested in a home that is for sale with no listing agent, you can approach the seller and let them know you are unrepresented and would not be incurring a broker's commission. That might make you a more attractive buyer than the buyer who comes armed with a buyer's agent.

In any other situation, I don't see the benefit to a buyer in forgoing a buyer's agent. It does not save you or the seller any money. It does, however, benefit the seller's agent!

Finally, you generally do not need a real estate attorney to close a residential purchase (although it is common to use attorneys in New York). It might help to have an attorney walk you through the purchase agreement, but its not typical (at least in my opinion). KK

You may want to consider using a service such as Redfin ( We just used them to buy a house in Oakland and were very pleased with the whole process. In brief, they are sort of a low-service real estate firm and in return you get half of the commission they earn back as a refund (in our case, we are receiving a refund check for about $14,000 from them on our around $900,000 house). One reason we were glad to have some sort of agent is that there were many Sundays when we were busy and couldn't make it out to open houses... but, we were able to set up home tours with the Redfin agent for other days of the week. We also thought they gave good advice on pricing as we were making some offers that in the end allowed us to get a lower price for the house we bought. There is a lot more information on their website about how the whole thing works! Good luck. Happy with Redfin

I saw your question regarding purchasing without an agent. I am a Realtor but am willing to give you an honest answer.

When you are purchasing a house and it is listed on the MLS, the commission of the transaction is already negotiated on the listing agreement with the listing agent. If you purchase the property without an agent, then the listing agent will be writing the offer for you and get both the listing and selling side of the commission. Even money that comes back to you from the transaction

From my experience, in the Lamorinda area, there are not many for sale by owner (FSBO's) properties. I also know friends that have bought FSBO's and they did not necessarily get a great deal with a seller that marked up the property to market value and tries to pocket the commission themselves.

I am currently working with a client looking in Lamorinda who is also a real estate broker that prefers to stay an arms length away from the transaction. I am able to help keep them focused on their criteria and not let their own emotions get too carried away in their purchase. I am also about to list their property and I worked out a compensation plan with them.


Typically the seller pays for both the seller's agent commission and the buyer's agent commission, so you may not actually save the money unless the seller agrees to rebate the expected commission amount upon sale.

I am a lawyer and my husband is an experienced real estate investor and we have also tried to purchase without an agent at various times with no luck. We simply would prefer to do it ourselves because its easier then using a 3rd party, but the problem we have found is that without an agent, seller's generally wont consider our offer, even if it is the highest and best offer.

Most residential real estate sales use the forms produced by the California Association of Realtor's (CAR). Even though I can write as good a quality purchase contract as the CAR form and I write purchase contracts for my firm, I have found that the other side usually does not feel comfortable deviating from a form which looks at all different from what they have used in the past. In my experience, either the seller's agent requires us to use a CAR form or never consider our offer. Only licensed real estate brokers and agents can use the CAR form, not attorneys, so hiring an attorney who is not a broker will not help you get the CAR forms. Also, another problem you might face is getting entrance to a house to view it. Sure some properties have open houses as you mentioned, but other properties which you see on the MLS only allow viewing with a lock-box key or you may not be able to make it to the open house before offers are accepted. Only licensed real estate agents can get access to the lock box, so we have found that without an agent we can not get into the property before the deadline to submit an offer.

I have seen sales go through without agents where the parties already know each other and know the property, such as a tenant buying a house from a landlord or a sale of property between family members and friends.

If you have unlimited time to make the purchase, then you may want to try it on your own and see how it goes. If your in a time crunch, you may find the process of purchasing without an agent frustrating.

Good luck. Anon

For Buying You could use a group like RedFin / Ziprealty. They return a chunk of the transaction income to the buyer. I think there is a Challenge in that the seller sets the percentage and then gives a portion of that to the buyer's agent. I don't think the buyer can get that portion if you don't have an agent. (Unless the buyer has a full RE broker's license or a RE salesperson's license that is signed up with a broker)

Alternative idea: when you find a property you like, you could ask the selling agent to represent you as well in the transaction (then the agent gets double or the full 6%), and ask if she/he would be willing to work out a deal. ie. If the purchase price would have been $1,000,000. 3% would ahve been $30,000, 6% would be $60k. They could take the normal $30k, and then split the other $30k between agent, seller, buyer.

Or - you could find a way to directly solicit properties before they get to MLS.

For Selling You might consider trying to sell on Craigslist or other. My husband & I did for a condo we owned. We were willing to share the lack of agent fee with the buyer; I think it went 2/3 in favor of buyer; 1/3 in favor of seller. We wanted a quick sale. It was probably easier for us to set a FMV, because there were other similar units in the condo complex. May not always be feasible. We used Steve Kesten, We did the majority of the transaction work, but he helped a lot on the paperwork side. Or there are organizations that will post your house on the MLS for a significantly smaller fee than 6% Redfin might have a deal for selling, too. Or check Ziprealty. agree teh transaction fees are out of wack with the value provided

Buying our first house without a realtor

Feb 2007

My partner and I are getting ready to buy our first home. We are thinking of not using a buyer's agent but want to weigh out the +/- of doing it alone. We'd love feedback/suggestions from other first time buyers who purchased without an agent. Thanks! too risky???

Why would you want to buy your home without a Realtor? The seller pays the commission, not the buyer. You should get a good realtor. She will help you through a process that can be complex and sometimes intimidating. If you want a recommendation on a GREAT person for a first-time buyer, contact Janet Kaplan of Windemere Real Estate on Colusa in Berkeley. Her phone is 809-1719 and her email is realjk [at] I can't say enough good things about how helpful she would be for you! anon

My wife and I bought our first house two years ago. We didn't go through an agent, but we did use a Real Estate attorney, who worked on the behalf of both seller and buyer. We split the $1500 fee with the seller. It was a good experience; we didn't have to worry about anything. We haven't had any regrets regarding the deal in any way.

I am the wife of a realtor and I can tell you that there's absolutely no reason to buy a house without one. You don't pay for them: they get paid part of the commission that the seller's agent negotiates.

And a good agent not only gives you access to homes at times when there aren't open houses, or at times that are convienent for you, but they protect your interests, help you negotiate the contract and in general take care of all of the legal, contractual and paperwork issues involved with buying a house. An agent can help you find financing that works for you since there are so many ways to finance a house (assuming you don't have a wad of cash to plunk down and buy it outright).

An agent can also help you with recommendations for services once you've purchased your place: plumbers, gardeners, handymen and the like. And a good agent is there after the fact to help with things that arise after you move in. Real Estate agents are (or should be) service-oriented, and not just out to make a buck.

You need to find an agent you're comfortable with, one who understands your wants, needs and limitations. You need to find someone who is willing to work with you and with whom you can be honest.

Not every agent out there is a sleaze ball who is going to push you into something you will feel buyer's remorse about. I can say that my husband isn't that way, and neither was the agent who helped us buy our first house before my husband changed careers.

Ultimately, if you don't use an agent you are at a disadvantage in the negotiation aspects, as well as seeing everything that is available, and are opening youself up to having the deal collapse and your deposit disappear because of any number of things that may go awry once escrow has begun.

My husband's website is and check out his testimonal page for other people's perspectives too.

Good luck and don't go it alone! Claire

You have absolutely nothing to lose by using a realtor. All realtors involved in a transaction are paid by the seller from the proceeds of the sale. It would be in your best interest to call a few realtors and at least talk to them about this. There is so much that goes into buying a home (inspections, loans, negotiations, etc), and you don't want to regret it later on. A few reccomendations: Mark and Katie Lederer at Red Oak Realty on Solano Avenue Anita Thede and Heidi Abramson at Northbrae Realty Good luck! former buyer

Not sure why you'd want to go without a buyer's agent. The seller is the one who pays their fees (you pay nothing), plus, they will teach you a lot about the process and protect your interests. buyer's agent fan

I think the post about hiring a real estate attorney is a great idea. I personally think NOT using a real estate agent, even as a buyer, is the way to go. There are so many inherent conflicts of interest in the whole process. We used one that didn't disclose a very personal relationship with the inspector they recommended and the inspector didn't reveal that he had been the same inspector on the same house for previous verbal reports (we knew about one prior written) and the whole thing left me queasy. Also, the advice real estate agents give you about what a house is worth is suspect since they have an invested interest in the particular price because of the commission and also in the overall market sustaining at current levels. A lawyer may not be able to find you an inspector but you can find a good one yourself and a lawyer will only being looking out for your interests and not ''networking'' their interests the way I think real estate agents do (with mortgage brokers, contractors, inspectors, etc.). And the Sellers will be happy to save paying your broker 2.5%. The sellers will certainly be able to do the math and ''add'' that savings to your offer if they're weighing others. Good luck!

There is a very good reason for buying your first house without the traditional realtor, and that is because it's possible to get all the perks of having professional representation by qualified realtors through an online service such as while getting the added financial advantage of getting a rebate of 75% of whatever commission is paid to BuySide by the seller. BuySide is something everyone buying their first house (and needing some extra cash) should know about, because the savings will add up to thousands of dollars. You can also surf the BuySide web site to see all the listings the real estate agency have access to, and you can call the agents to get answers to your questions, and get whatever level of hand-holding you might need. While I have not yet had the pleasure of dealing with BuySide, my best friend swears by them, and I heartily recommend that you at least check it out. Cynthia

Considering For Sale by Owner (FSBO)

Nov 2005

Hi - We are considering selling our N Berkeley home in order to move into a larger home. Because it is such a financial reach for us to purchase a bigger house, we are considering a ''for sale by owner,'' and would have to move very quickly. We know this is risky, and have read the posts in this newsletter archive, but are wondering: what experiences with FSBO do any of you have, particularly recently given the fact that the market seems to be at a tipping point? Would you only do FSBO if you knew of very interested buyers, or are there ways to advertise and market your home to minimize big risks? Thank you for advice! Anonymous

Hi there! I am a local Realtor and saw your questions about selling on your own and thought I might suggest a few things too!

While this may be shocking to hear, I think that anyone who wants to sell their home on their own should give it a try. But it isn't for everyone. Buying and selling a home can be one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through, even if you have an agent! If you are a great negotiator, willing to spend some time on the weekends to hold open houses, willing to take a bunch of phone calls throughout the day, and comfortable with strangers commenting on your house while you are there, you could be successful at selling your home.

My biggest suggestion in this changing market for people who are wanting to sell on their own is to retain a lawyer-not only to help with the obnoxious amounts of paperwork, but protect your interests in case of a lawsuit. For the past 8 years it has been easy for a house to sell- even a house under a freeway without any windows would sell for top dollar and in no time at all! In the past month alone houses have begun to fall out of contract more frequently and buyers are starting to make demands on the sellers. The contract is a legally binding document so if you don't retain a lawyer, make sure you understand the paperwork- there is a ton, especially in Berkeley! I REALLY can't emphasize this enough!

One aspect of my business is holding open houses for people who are selling on their own. This service is not intended to ultimately list your house; it is intended to bring you a qualified (meaning lender-approved) buyer...if you would like some more information about this, feel free to contact me. Just be sure to do your research. There are a lot of great books out there.

I hope this is helpful for you!

Best of luck! Krista Miller

Moving to Washington; want to sell our house FSBO

Feb 2004

We have decided to move to WA and will be selling our house in East Oakland in early May. We are going to try and sell it For Sale By Owner (FSBO). This is overwhelming to us so I would like to solicit for some advice from those of you who have been there and done that. The website lists a few opinions but mostly from people who already had a buyer and that is not us.
1. How did you handle the open house? Where you there? etc.
2. Did you get your house listed on a MLS list and how did you do it with without having an realtor?
3. How did you determine the selling price?
4. Did you have it set up to run credit checks on prospective buyers?
5. Did you purchse the forms from the Real Estate Board yourself or does the buyer have to go get these?
6. Did you select the Title company or did you let the buyer?
7. Did you have it inspected beforehand so that the paperwork was available for prospective buyers?
8. How do we set it up to accept offers? Do we get a fax machine, courier service, etc?
9. Where you scared the whole time that you would mess up on some part of the paperwork and the new buyers would come after you? If so, when does that go away?

Thanks so much for any help out there.

I didn't see the original post but I believe someone was asking for advice for ''for sale by owner.'' Essentially, this is what we did, but we also used a realtor for a small fee to do all the paperwork, escrow filings, etc. He (Hal) was amazing! The total fee was $2,200 which we split between the buyer and the seller. It saved us from a lot of legal headaches. The company is Realty Advocates located in Oakland. You can see their website at They also do low commision advertised sales as well (I believe for 1 or 2%). Good Luck. Karen

Didyou consult with a realtor when you sold FSBO?

April 2003

I have seen this issue on the Parents' web site from 2002, however the posts don't really address my question. We were wondering if anyone who has sold their house ''without a realtor'' could recommend their realtor that they consulted with. Also, what was their hourly fee or cost? The posts on the web site are from people who already had a buyer lined up. We don't have a buyer for our house; we are thinking of selling next year. Is it difficult to find a buyer on your own? Is there a way to post on the MLS without being a realtor? Is the MLS the best way to advertise? We'd like to do as much as we can on our own as we tend to do this with all other things if possible (install our own floor tiles, fix the sprinkler pipes ourselves, restain the cabinets ourselves, change out the light fixtures and do our own small electrical fixes, etc) Anon

I'm sorry I don't have a recommendation for a Realtor for you. I am writing to give you my thoughts on this issue as an attorney. There are so many forms and disclosures that are required now for selling a home that I would recommend against selling without a Realtor, unless you REALLY know what you're doing. I have purchased property without a Realtor, but personally, I would use one if I were selling. Also, a good Realtor can often get you more money than you would be able to get on your own, which can more than offset the cost of their commission. Please call me if you would like to discuss this further. Amy

We have a buyer for our house - should we use a realtor?

Feb 2002

I and my sisters will be selling a house that the renter is interested in buying. There was a post by Michele about buying such a house, and it appears she did use a realtor as a consultant to help to some degree. I would appreciate any advice/experiences on whether we should use a realtor or not, and if not, who can we use for help? Do people negotiate a smaller percentage fee for this kind of thing? This is a small house in West Marin, and I don't think the market is as hot there as it has been here. Susan

We sold our North Oakland house about 2 years ago without realtor and it was as easy as pie. Like you, our neighbor wanted to buy our house, it was a really hot market, and both parties were committed to the process without a realtor. (We didn't want to stage our house (the latest requirement) and we knew we would need a flexible rent-back period while we searched for another house in an extremely competitive market.)

We bought a copy of the NOLO Press book, Buying and Selling a House in California, read the necessary chapters and used the forms included with the book. We figured out how to price our house by doing comps of selling prices in our neighborhood, and included a little padding should we need to hire a lawyer, or back out of the deal. We added language for the rent-back period as a separate, attached document. We hired a lawyer named John Hayes to look at the paperwork, which ended up taking about an hour of his time. The whole thing cost about $125.00 total--no staging, no open houses, no fees to a realtor (who you don't need if you already have an interested buyer), and the satisfaction of doing the transaction ourselves. The Nolo Press books are at most public libraries, and at the Nolo Press Store on Parker Street. Good luck! Claire

I bought my first house without a realtor. The seller lower the price about 4% since they wouldn't be paying a commission and we hired a realtor (she charged by the hour) to help us write the contract. We both felt better know that we were in compliance with all of the legal requirements, and the realtor was impartial and fair to both sides. - KsK.

Hi, We bought our house from a family friend without using the typical services of a realtor. Our friend had the house appraised and we agreed on the terms, the amount and scheduled and paid for an inspection ourselves. We then used Realty Advocates on Alcatraz for our paperwork. They take a smaller percenage than a typical realtor and made the paperwork very easy. I read some books on doing it w/o a realtor at all and this seemed a little more complicated but not impossible. Since this was our first home, we decided to have a little guidance and used the books to help us ask the right questions. We split the cost of the realtor with the friend we bought the house from. Good luck. ( 428-0757 anonymous