For Buyers: Remember that you don't pay your Realtor any money. Commissions are paid by the seller. Great Realtors (like us) use due diligence to make sure that their buyer or seller is protected to the fullest extent of the law. No one wants to spend $500,000 for their dream home and then another $250,000 just to repair problems that the seller didn't disclose. Great Realtors also have a checklist of items to inspect and disclosures to get. They should communicate these items clearly to you. Your local Realtor should be able to recommend the best home inspection, pest inspection, etc companies.
For Sellers: Realtors also use standardized contracts crafted by decades of experience and California law. These contracts protect both the buyer and the seller in a transaction, ensuring that important details are disclosed and that buyers / sellers are protected. If someone promises to buy your house and they don't, you are compensated for it. Without a Realtor, if a deal falls through you have to start over and you'll have many more months of mortgage to pay. Realtors also use their own money and time to market your home, often meeting dozens and DOZENS of potential buyers. If you can afford to own a home, then your time is much better spent earning more money and relaxing or hanging out with your family / friends.
Do not trust an agent who cannot explain every item on the contracts they give you. They do not yet have the experience to protect you.
Remember that all licensed agents have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. We will keep you safe and fight for your interests.
REALTORS will negotiate with you. Attorneys will not..=(
If everything goes well, then, you hit a home run.
However, if something goes wrong after close of escrow, it will cost you more money with legal fees than the little commission that you paid to professional Realtor.
Think about this - if you have a $1.5 million tax/legal question, would you attempt to deal with it without the help of a CPA/attorney? The commission cost is so little compared to the risk you will be taking in your own hand. There is a lot more involved in a transaction then it meets the eyes.
I have a client who will not do any real estate transaction without a Realtor. He brought a property directly from the owner. Both parties ended up in court and the case is still pending after 2+ years since COE.
Best of luck.
However, the fact that you are here - on a Q&A site moderated by Realtors - asking Realtors if/how you can, shows that you don't know how, so I would contact a real estate agent to help you.
Hope that helps!
Or you can hire a Realtor to do all of this for you, investigate values, work with & negotiate on your behalf with a homeowner, door knock, write letters if necessary & find you your dream home. Not all Realtors are the same, we all work differently. You think you're going to save $50K on commission, I might negotiate a sale price $60K less than you could on your own. I have been involved in more real estate transaction than you will in your lifetime. As a professional I can handle this process for you.
Shoot me an email directly if you'd like to talk about this some more, I don't look back on this same Trulia posting for answers after mine.
Emily S. Knell
Realtor Since 1996
Realty One Group