Do You Need to Work With a Real Estate Agent?

Real estate agent giving a family keys to their new house
Photo: Bernd Vogel / Getty Images

Real estate agents are either despised or loved, depending on how successful they are at serving their clients. Some people don't understand what agents do—and they wonder whether they can't do for themselves while saving money.

The truth is that some buyers and sellers could manage very well on their own. An A-rated agent can bring added value to a transaction, but for some consumers, it's not necessary. Those who prioritize a quick transaction and the ease of representing themselves may prefer to go without an agent, but many will find that it's more work than they want to handle. This decision depends on your circumstances, along with how much time and money you have to spend on buying or selling your home.

Key Takeaways

  • It's possible to buy or sell a home without the help of a real estate agent if you do your homework and know what you need to cover.
  • Despite the cost of hiring an agent, they can often net you more money on a sale by applying their expertise.
  • Seller's agents help you with everything from marketing your home and selecting a price to dealing with buyer offers.
  • Buyer's agents help you evaluate comps, review disclosures, craft an appropriate offer, and more.

Can You Make More Money Without an Agent?

As a seller, you can find your own buyer. But an agent may be able to help you net more on your bottom line. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the difference can be 40% or more. Much depends on the real estate market, your location, and other factors.

In a seller's market, almost anybody can put up a for-sale sign and attract offers. That's because eager buyers are busily waving earnest money deposits in the air. In this situation, be prepared to handle multiple offers. You should also be prepared to handle a possible lawsuit, extract money from a buyer, get through a home inspection, and close a deal. In buyer's markets, there are fewer buyers, which makes an agent's services even more valuable.


According to NAR, almost 90% of buyers purchase a home through a real estate agent. You might lose access to many of these buyers if you decide to sell your home on your own.

The Benefits of a Seller's Agent

Unless you routinely attend every open house in your neighborhood, you may not possess intimate information about the interior of your neighbors' homes nor know why some sold for higher prices than others. Experienced agents have this knowledge and use it to position your home to sell at the highest possible price.

Top listing agents sell homes every day. Services most listing agents offer to sellers include:

  • Marketing materials and proven selling systems
  • Professional virtual tours and photography
  • Wide internet exposure
  • Promotion at company meetings and multiple listings service (MLS) meetings
  • Networking with fellow real estate agents
  • Price guidance according to market data and recent sales
  • Home stager, inspector, and repair contractor referrals
  • Buyer feedback and private showings
  • Confirmation of potential buyer qualifications
  • Counteroffer and negotiation expertise, especially with multiple offers
  • Guidance to get past the home inspection without making repairs
  • Suggestions for dealing with low appraisals

Benefits of a Buyer's Agent

Done correctly, a buyer's agent's job is to put the buyer's interests ahead of the agent's. This means they must disclose all material facts, keep the buyer's information confidential, provide them with sufficient information to purchase a home, and expertly negotiate on their behalf.

There are several services you can expect to receive from a buyer's agent that you might not be able to obtain on your own. Apart from hearing about listings before homes are available to the public, agents can:

  • Provide comparable sales from the tax rolls
  • Provide sales data from MLS based on map searches
  • Pull property profiles reflecting sales history, property data, demographics, and neighborhood services
  • Obtain a copy of the home's historical documents
  • Run reports on the listing agent's list-price to sales-price ratios
  • Calculate annual facts and trends about an area
  • Suggest pricing strategy
  • Prepare a strong offer that presents the buyer in the best light based on market demands and agent interaction/networking
  • Review documents for loopholes and obtain disclosures
  • Provide a buffer between you and the seller's agent

Know What You're Getting Into

If you feel competent that you can handle a sale or purchase on your own, then you may choose to work without an agent. But you might always wonder whether you paid too much or accepted too low of a price.

Working with a real estate agent can bring a lot of peace of mind during a major transaction, whether you are buying or selling. And it can ultimately leave you with more cash in the bank. If you're thinking about going it alone, make sure you thoroughly understand the work an agent does—and what you need to cover if you're representing yourself.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Association of Realtors. "Highlights From the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers." Accessed March 30, 2020.

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