When buying a house, you have many options. You can do so the usual way, working with real estate brokers or agents. Or you can seek out "for sale by owner" (FSBO) offerings.
In theory, at least, the FSBO (pronounced "fizbo" by some) route makes a lot of sense. Real estate agents are middlemen (or middlewomen). They typically take a percentage of the sale price -- usually around 6% -- as a commission for their services. It's true that this commission is paid by the seller, not you the buyer; but, since the seller isn't paying the 6%, you might be able to negotiate a lower price on the house.
The plus side of working with an agent is that he has access to a wide variety of available properties. He's also well versed in the home-buying process and can guide you through the various legal and administrative steps and can help if problems crop up.
If you're attracted to the idea of buying a home that's for sale by owner, you'll run into a few problems. For starters, there aren't many of them. You might drive around the neighborhood of interest, looking for signs on lawns. Or, check out your local newspaper for ads. An online search is also good, but so far the sites that list these homes for sale don't always list too many in some regions. For example, at the time of this writing, I checked one major site and there were just 69 FSBO homes listed for the entire state of California and 42 for Texas.
Still, it doesn't hurt to look. As time goes by, these sites will probably showcase more and more homes. Here are some websites where you can check out available FSBO homes -- or list your own!
If you take the FSBO path, you'll still probably have to fork over some fees to various professionals, such as lawyers, to guide you through administrative formalities. But as long as you end up with a good home at a fair price, these fees will likely pale in comparison to what you'd spend taking the road more traveled.
You'll find more home-buying guidance and tips in our Buying a Home Center. Don't forget to also check out our Fool Mortgage Center, where you'll find links to several mortgage lenders offering attractive rates, as well as a bunch of information on mortgages in general and tips on what to look for. In addition, drop by our Buying or Selling a Home discussion board.
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