Princeton Real Estate - How To Buy A Home Without A Real Estate Agent

Real Estate Agent with Henderson-Sotheby's International Realty

In the turbulent Princeton real estate market there are new things happening - some (like real estate prices) could be confusing, and some - are a bit puzzling. I am talking  Princeton real estate unrepresented buyers -is it a good idea? about a phenomenon of an unrepresented buyer. This type of buyer does their research on the Internet and contacts, for the properties they want to see, respective listing agents. They do not want to be represented by the listing agent (as a dual agent) or by any buyer’s agent. They want the part of the commission that would have otherwise been paid to the buyer’s agent, to be “credited” to the seller. The net effect of which, in the buyer's mind, is that they can offer less, and thus they would save a lot of money.

Assuming that the listing broker agrees to such an arrangement, what are the implications for these buyers? Is this a strategy for saving big or big losing?

This strategy could possibly work, provided these buyers have legal representation (and their legal rights are protected)
. The question is when could it work?  The short answer: when a lot more human intelligence becomes publicly available. Here is a bit of a longer list of requirements.

The opinion on the price of the home is available from a public source. There is no such source now. Zillow, Trulia,, do not provide information on what makes one home more or less valuable then the other, or why a particular house on the same street sold for much more, or much less.

1. The opinion on the amount of the offer that will produce the positive outcome for the buyer is available from a public source.

2. The understanding of the inspection results for each property and the implications for the buyer are available from the public source.

3. The negotiation tactics for each property are available from a public source

4. The ability to deal with the unexpected issues that can arise at any point in the transaction, including closing is available from a public source.

I am concerned that you as a buyer without representation, are not an equal match to the seller, with representation. Without needed intelligence available on the Internet, or from other public source, the buyers would have to do the best they know how. I am concerned it may not be "good enough", and that the potential “savings” could easily translate into big losses - financial, emotional, or both.

There are people who choose to represent themselves in court, some who are even facing imprisonment. I am not sure how many win. I know many lose. In this country it’s illegal to practice law without a license. It’s perfectly legal, though, to put oneself in jeopardy, doing it on their behalf.

The same holds true for real estate; thankfully for the buyers - their liberty is not at stake.


One of the goals of the Princeton Real Estate Blog is to make a lot of the information, previously not available to home buyers and sellers, accessible at their own time and convenience.  Here are some articles that could be of interest.

15 Reasons you should not buy a home now ...5 reasons you should

What Did That House Sell For? January 2008

Who Else Wants Clarity About Real Estate Prices

Is Princeton Real Estate Local or Global?

Secrets To Buying A House In This Market

Secrets To Home Selling In A Bad Market

Photo by Jeremy Rich/Fancycanoe ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Please contact Faina Sechzer at 609-553-4175 with questions about real estate, homes for sale and/or listing your house to sell, and relocation assistance in Princeton, Montgomery Township, West Windsor, Hopewell, and Lawrenceville New Jersey. Referrals are accepted.
If you are moving out of the greater Princeton area, please inquire about the countrywide relocation program.

Copyright  2007 Faina Sechzer All rights reserved. This information cannot be copied, reproduced, transmitted, distributed, displayed or published.



Comments (109)

Svetlana Stolyarova
Local-n-Global Realty, Cleveland and International Real Estate Solution - Mayfield Heights, OH
Local-n-Global Realty, Broker 216-548-4663

Faina - Great post!

I am in Russia right now, and here the buyers pay commission directly to their agents (no MLS). In our American way we as the REALTORS have an advantage of  not asking the buyer to pay for our job directly (though there is no money without the buyer). I agree with Shawn Hartmann that "Representation and Compensation are two completely non-related things".

I wrote couple articles for our local newapaper (Before the Blogging Age) educating potential buyers about the value of the opportunity to hire their own representative advocating their interests in the transaction for free of direct charge. Unfortunately, some of them are "smarter" and try to negotiate on the other people's contract which is an agreemen about the commisson between the seller and her agent.

BTW what about RESPA and about paying taxes on the commission credit by savvy buyers?

Mar 13, 2008 10:34 AM
Faina Sechzer
Henderson-Sotheby's International Realty - Princeton, NJ
Real Estate Expert - Princeton, Montgomery ,Hopewell, NJ

Christy - I assumed in my post that the buyer would have legal representation. That would still leave a lot of issues not covered without real estate agent representation.

Brian -that is the opinion of most agents on this thread. 

Mar 13, 2008 11:26 AM
Faina Sechzer
Henderson-Sotheby's International Realty - Princeton, NJ
Real Estate Expert - Princeton, Montgomery ,Hopewell, NJ

Svetlana - I used the word "credit" to the seller in quotes, because that's not exactly how such a transactions would have been structured. It would have had the effect of the credit, not a real credit, so there would have been no affect on RESPA or taxes for the listing agent. The seller would have been charged a lesser commission, then what is stated in the Listing contract. I don't know if this description makes it clearer. 

Nice to hear from you all the way from Russia. 

Mar 13, 2008 11:34 AM
Pam Winterbauer
Pam Winterbauer Real Estate - San Ramon, CA
"Providing Blue Ribbon Service"
Another great post.
Mar 13, 2008 04:35 PM
Bob & Carolin Benjamin
Benjamin Realty LLC - Gold Canyon, AZ
East Phoenix Arizona Homes
Some buyers do not "get it", but what is interesting is to talk to someone who was not represented and had a difficult time, now there are the true believers. They never again will be without an agent.
Mar 13, 2008 04:56 PM
Jessica Talley
Century 21 Hometown Realtors - Seneca, SC

I can completly relate....several months ago I had a buyer call on one of my listings. After meeting him at  to let him in (you know he can't do THAT himself) and spending all this time answering all his questions he informs me he is going to submit an offer....GREAT....HIMSELF....GREAT. Just a wee bit irritated at this point (missing my daughters ball game) we start negotiations (he wasn't prepared at all). Long story contract....buyer moves on....buyer calls me two weeks later (guess none of his "offers" on multiple houses were working out for him) and asked ME to represent HIM on his next offer. I turn sellers down often but this was the first buyer I actually chuckled at after I informed him "you can do it on your own, you don't need me". 

Again, thanks for the post! It's so very true!

Mar 13, 2008 05:07 PM
Jessica Talley
Century 21 Hometown Realtors - Seneca, SC
BTW..before any starts fussing...his next offer was not on my listing or any within my office. (I know my duties to my sellers).
Mar 13, 2008 05:40 PM
Shawn Hartmann
RE/MAX RESULTS - Roseville, MN

 Great comments Jeremy & Jessica Talley

Its all about expectations. Listing agents......

Always ask the buyer: Why do you want to rep yourself? Have you done this before? Then say no, you do not negotiate your commissions thats already ben negotiated with the seller. The buyer gets to negotiate hi best offer with the seller.

Check out Chad Goldwassers ( The 7 point buyers lead conversion technique will help you to eliminate all these non-repped buyers upfront.   

Mar 14, 2008 01:26 AM
Michael (Mike) Elliott
Nottingham Real Estate Group - Hamilton, NJ

Faina you make great points. I always like to see the consumer have choices, especially if they understand what they're getting into. Btw, I'm in Hamilton, nice to meet you!

Mar 14, 2008 09:26 AM
Christine Thierry
CrossCountry Mortgage - Sagaponack, NY

I'm a FSBO seller currently, and the buyer's agent and mortgage company think they can bully a woman around.  They miss deadlines, play games, I feel like a babysitter for them.  

It's not easy.  Sometimes I wish I had an agent because it's emotional when the games start.  But I think of all the money I'm saving, and then I kick butt and straighten them out!!!  You need to be tough at times, to get the deal done and stand up to professionals who think you don't know what you are doing so they can walk all over you.  And you need to be able to read contracts.  It's worth it if you can handle it.  not all agents are as capable as an informed FSBO person.     


Mar 15, 2008 08:16 AM
Joe Hayden Real Estate Team
RE/MAX Properties East - Louisville, KY
Your Louisville Real Estate Experts!

MHO is the buyer needs competent, professional representation far more than the seller, if there was a choice to be had...

I recently had a listing who was trying to sell only three years after buying.  They overpaid the market by at least $10,000 then, and just could not come to grips with why the math didn't work out when they tried to sell.  P.T. Barnum knew...

Mar 15, 2008 08:52 AM
Shawn Hartmann
RE/MAX RESULTS - Roseville, MN

Awesome Job Mrs. FSBO. Congrats to you. You may be experiencing what appears to be game playing by a buyers agent and lender, My guess is that they have no ill intention, may just be incompetent.

Problem with this industry is not buyer and sellers or Good agents. Its incompetent agents that muck things up.

I get expired listing (sellers) call me to list. I always ask the seller first.. "how did you pick your previous agent?" One answer I have never ever ever ever ever ever heard is "we studied hard and interivewed with 5 agents, and then picked who we thought best for the job". Most people work off referrals or friend/family. Its tough out there, but the good agents are still selling homes.  NAd getting great feedback from their clients.

Buyer Beware! 

Mar 15, 2008 09:30 AM
Larry Brewer - Benchmark Realty llc
Benchmark Realty LLc - Nashville, TN

Some people always think they know how to get it done. They usually end up on the short end of every deal, and trying to blame someone else.

Mar 16, 2008 03:46 PM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County
Interesting post with some interesting comments. Any buyer who wants to represent themselves, well all I can say is...let the games begin!
Mar 17, 2008 02:06 AM
Marc Baysek
Iron Horse Properties, LLC - Rockingham, NC
Iron Horse Properties
The unrepresented buyer may as well have a bullseye in their back!!  great reading
Mar 17, 2008 07:45 AM
Jan Wood
None - Gallatin, TN
Faina:  This is just a fabulous post.   Buyers don't realize the importance of being represented when buying a home.  Like someone else said, they just don't get it.  
Mar 29, 2008 04:26 AM
Jacki & Jerry Shafer
The Shafer Real Estate Team, Keller Williams Louisville East - Crestwood, KY
The Shafer Team, Call 502-643-SOLD

Faina:  You've obviously struck a nerve with all the comments you've garnered from such a post.  I respectfully disagree with you.  A home is worth what it's worth, and you are worth your commission.  A typical commission is fair to all parties concerned.  We earn every dime of our commission and we shouldn't be so quick to roll over and give it up, thinking we're doing our clients a service.  As someone else pointed out, there truly IS no such thing as giving no representation.  Unless you only communicate through an attorney they have chosen to represent them, you WILL be talking with them, and you WILL get yourself sucked into a lawsuit.  Everybody - be careful out there!


Apr 01, 2008 07:00 AM
Faina Sechzer
Henderson-Sotheby's International Realty - Princeton, NJ
Real Estate Expert - Princeton, Montgomery ,Hopewell, NJ

Jacki & Jerry - thank you very much for weighing in on the topic. This is what makes the conversation interesting. I considered giving my client -the seller every possible opportunity to sell their home. If it came from a person, being represented by an attorney without an agent, I was willing to do it. I wouldn't say, "I rolled over". I did what was in my client's best interest. Like you suggested, it would not be a decision every agent would make.

I agree that if if an agent is not sufficiently versed in the issues of agency representation, they can get into problems dealing with "unrepresented" customer. Acting as a dual agent doesn't make one immune to problems. An agent still needs knowledge of dual representation, or they could have to as many problems, if not more, as with unrepresented customer. 

I agree, these are issues that agents need to be very careful and knowledgeable about. It's always best to consult one's broker before engaging in such transactions.

Apr 02, 2008 08:20 AM
James Simmons
RE/MAX Greater Princeton - West Windsor, NJ

Hi Faina,

I agree you can make whatever business decisions you feel work best for you. I also feel my listing contract is with the seller and if the home sells during the listing period, I'm due the commission stated in the listing. But this is still very interesting. Thanks for bringing this up for our consideration though.

Jun 23, 2008 08:11 AM

I real estate agent is a high grade moron who carries keys, and open the front door for you.  If they had four more I.Q. points they could make candles for us.

Sep 23, 2008 09:32 PM