A recent NY Times article talks about the huge commissions that real estate agents charge for the sale of a home in the US. With the rise of free online directories, virtual tours and boilerplate contracts, why do most buyers and sellers still accept that traditional agents charge 6% (3% each to buyer and seller agent) for showing a few people through a house? It boils down to control of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database, which keeps inexpensive agents out of the system.
Our recent move to Scotland was very enlightening in this regard. Realtors (or “Estate Agents” as they’re called here) are less common than solicitors who help with the process and negotiations but leave you to locate your home using whatever means you find convenient. In our case it was easy to locate and explore flats using the Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre. Our solicitor did all of the work and negotiations and we ended up with a great deal, paying only a fraction of the price that a full agent in the US would have collected.
Educating yourself about the process of buying a home (securing a loan, inspections/surveys, using or avoiding a realtor, etc) could save you a huge amount of money.