Author Topic: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent  (Read 3022 times)

bennion.r

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My wife and I are planning on buying a house here in Austin, Texas sometime in the next 4-6 months. I want to try and make the purchase without a real estate agent, but I'm having a hard time figuring out what houses actually go for. On Zillow I can see the tax history, but when a house gets purchased, I can't find anywhere that will tell me what it actually went for. Trulia doesn't list the sell prices either as far as I can tell.

I remember an MMM post mentioning that you can hire a real estate agent to write a competitive analysis for $100. I'm a little nervous to do this because I'm afraid the agent will be offended that I don't want a real estate agent. So I have a few questions:

1 - Does anyone know how to find out what houses went for after they're sold?

2 - Is there a way to find someone to write a good competitive report for me?

3 - Should I ask them to write some reports on houses I like well before we're ready to buy?

I would love to 'get a feel for the market' so I can spot a good deal when it appears, but I'm not sure how to do that when all I can see is listing prices and tax assessments.

Thanks in advance for the advice :)

letired

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2015, 09:15:12 PM »
When I was checking stuff out, I signed up for free reports from this realtor: http://www.turnerresidential.com/ I think you can customize it a bit, but it does include final sale prices when the house finally closes. Things will be listed as 'pending' for forever sometimes.

They didn't ask for too much info, and never spammed me, and I didn't use them as my realtor.

As I'm sure you know, the real estate market is Completely Nuts in Austin. I went with the Realtor just because of how quickly things move. But I was also looking in Central, which is maybe more nuts than other areas?

Best of luck! It's quite a roller-coaster!

bennion.r

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2015, 09:19:46 PM »
Thanks! We're on the North side, around Cedar Park, where things aren't quite as nuts as central. I remember I have one other question:

If I don't go with a real estate agent, where should I find a real estate attorney to help with the paperwork?

letired

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2015, 09:28:14 PM »
Good question! I have no idea about real estate attorneys! I would start with the (metaphorical) yellow pages and ask for references. Another possibility is to ask title companies. When I bought, the title company basically handled the entire closing process, so I would expect them to be in touch with a wide range of real estate professionals, and should have some details on who is reliable.

Another Reader

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2015, 09:42:45 PM »
What is your reason for not using an agent? 

Most properties that are for sale are listed on the local MLS.  To view one of them, you will either have to have an agent or contact the listing agent.  Listing agents only represent the seller.  You can negotiate through the listing agent, but the seller will likely be obligated by contract to pay the full sales commission, independent of whether the buyer is represented.  Unlikely you can save any commission that way.  In your shoes, I would at least interview and consider using a buyer's agent.

Your other choice is to look only at FSBO properties.  Often FSBO properties are priced above market or the seller wants to sell to you at market and save all the commission.

A real estate attorney is usually unnecessary in states where title companies handle escrows and transfers. 

ETA:  Texas is a non-disclosure state, which is why you cannot find sales prices on Zillow or Trulia.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2015, 09:44:39 PM by Another Reader »

bennion.r

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2015, 09:56:39 PM »
I think there is a decent chance I can ask for a discount based on not having a real estate agent, although I realize that both the seller and their agent will have to agree to it in advance. It just seems like they would be crazy to say no. What real estate agent would turn down an offer and insist on taking the whole commission? It would be so transparently greedy I think they would be embarrassed to do that.

soupcxan

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2015, 09:52:08 AM »
Go to www.homesnap.com. It's free to register and you can see all sales prices as well as pending sales. I got an email newsletter as a result but was able to unsubscribe.

druth

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2015, 11:20:18 AM »
Redfin provides this information as well as information from the MLS, so it is much more up to date than Zillow, which shows many properties as 'for sale' when they have already sold.  That said I noticed they don't source every MLS, so they have no data in some cities.

They also have a pretty good price estimator where you can average the prices of other nearby similar houses.

bennion.r

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2015, 11:53:07 AM »
Thanks for the tip on Redfin. That does seem to have exactly the info I was looking for.

MgoSam

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2015, 01:23:08 PM »
As for finding a real estate attorney, a buddy of mine just bought a house from a friend's father. Neither of them used a Realtor or listing agent, and instead split what they would have paid between them (so my friend basically got a nicer deal on the house). They instead paid a Realtor like $600 (split between them) to handle all the paperwork and said that this worked out well for them. This might be a good route, I imagine a Realtor can do the paperwork just as well as a lawyer with less fees.

Meowmalade

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2015, 01:34:32 PM »
I think not having a buyer's agent would be good if you're looking at buying a FSBO home (so maybe you should start there), but if they've listed with a selling agent, it would benefit you more to have an experienced buyer's agent who can help you negotiate than to try to keep that 3% commission for yourself (since house prices are all negotiated, you have no idea if you'd even do better).

Also, Austin is a pretty competitive seller's market.  The sellers may simply not want to deal with someone who doesn't have a straight-forward offer.

The only time I would consider not going with an agent is when selling-- I'd pay to list on the MLS and pay a percentage to the buyer's agent.

Meowmalade

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2015, 02:00:00 PM »
Also, we did the process of doing our own research on Redfin and asking our agent to show us the homes that we were interested in.  She helped us when the old home we ended up buying turned out to need a new roof and a lot of the electric and possibly plumbing, since she could advise on what was typical/reasonable to ask them to pay for, and what to compromise on by requesting a split or to pay ourselves.

It can be really tough to tell what a house *really* looks like from the photos if you're looking at older homes.  There were so many that looked great, but when we came to look, there were sloped floors and obvious issues.  There's simply no substitute for seeing a lot of houses, and if the process takes long enough, to see what those "known" houses sell for.  Once you get comfortable, you can move fast when the right home comes along-- and you could lose that opportunity if you don't have an agent and are dallying with discussions about the commission.

Oh, just thought of something.  Look into using a Redfin buyer's agent, who will refund part of the commission.  I think they used to refund more, but at least it's something!

bennion.r

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2015, 12:57:36 PM »
I'm seriously considering the Redfin option. It sounds like a good compromise :)

Lowerbills

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Re: Need help figuring out home values in Texas without real estate agent
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2015, 02:36:49 PM »
Just out of curiosity, why do you not want to use an agent to buy?

Also, I'd ignore tax assessments for anything other than calculating property taxes.  They can vary wildly from actual market value in the Austin area.