Be Your Own Agent: Tip-of-the-Day #244


This post is not about bashing real estate agents or their general worth, but it is about what you can do in terms of buying and selling a house - without one!

Here's the background. My ex and I bought a condominium together fourteen years ago. And, despite our "togetherness", my name never made it to title. Flash forward all these years, we've long since broken up, I'm still living in the condo, we're still friendly but he's living in Korea. He's finally ready to get this thing off his books and stop paying California taxes. We decide he'll sell it to me (for what we bought it for in '98 given I've been paying the darn thing down ever since). Well, since I'm already living in the "home of my dreams" and we've already agreed to terms, the only thing left to do was...hire a real estate agent! WRONG. Here's how I saved us $30,000 (typically agents get 6% commission on real estate transactions).
  1. Find yourself a lender. I went to and with a few pieces of information found myself with some viable lenders to choose from. (Be prepared to divulge every financial detail about yourself in the process and expect the loan to get funded within 4 - 6 weeks. The more buttoned up you are, the more seamless the process.) 
  2. I visited and found a generic form for "real estate purchase contract." I filled in the important details and then (because it was my first time and I didn't want to screw this up) I floated it by a real estate attorney. That attorney was the only bugger in my plan because he charged $350/hr only to confirm that in fact my plan was sound and my contract was legit. Sigh.
  3. Find a title company near where you live/work and have them open escrow for you. That's basically money held by a third-party on behalf of transacting parties. Gotta do it - but the title company will handle all of the logistics for you.
  4. Make sure you have the down payment all ready to go (liquidate any brokerage accounts that you're planning to use, etc.) and when the time comes to fork it over, you'll need to either wire the funds or get a cashier's check made out to your title company.
  5. Sign all the papers (and in my case, I had to make an appointment at the U.S. Consulate in Korea so my ex could get several documents notarized).

I have a. never bought or sold a property before on my own, b. had no idea what to expect. But, I knew that whatever was in store for me simply couldn't be THAT difficult and I knew I could do it. I. Knew. I. Could. Do. It.

I seriously recommend trying this yourself if you're ever in a position to. Imagine all the things you can do with that extra thirty grand!