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Buy direct to save $$, but with risks

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If a house has a "for sale by owner" sign, it could mean a bargain. Most likely, real estate agents are not yet involved, which means both parties can save on commission costs which can normally add up to 5-6% to the cost. Check newspapers and online to find homes for sale by their owners, and drive around your neighborhoods of interest to see if you might get lucky and see a for sale sign. On the other hand, independent sellers tend to be overly optimistic about how much they can get for their house. Check comparative sales ("comps") in the area to get an idea of a fair price. Try Zillow.com, Trulia.com or consider getting your own agent. You might benefit from the advice and negotiation skills of a buyer's agent, whose cost might be covered by the seller (laws differ from state to state). Agents are skilled in facilitating transactions, guiding on a fair price, and dealing with any issues that arise, so the extra cost might be worthwhile if it means making sure you get your dream home.

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