Can my real estate agent help me buy an unlisted property or a For Sale By Owner?

Can My Agent Show Me A Home Which Is Not Listed, Like A For Sale By Owner Home (fsbo)?Q: Can my agent help me buy an unlisted property or a FSBO?

A: Yes. This includes houses that are “for sale by owner” and houses that aren’t even for sale yet.


A few years ago, I took some sales training that said, “If everyone is doing it, do something else”. That little nugget of gold has served me well. Other realtors spend BIG money advertising their suit-wearing professional selves in glossy magazines, big smiling head shots on the sides of busses and postcard carpet bombing neighbourhood mailboxes. I don’t do that.

I blog.

It’s permission marketing. I like that. I don’t get in people’s face. They find me, just like now. You’re reading this. Thanks for reading. My goal in blogging is to demonstrate knowledge and ability so that potential clients will choose me to represent them.


Golden nugget

There is an expression in real estate that most Realtors I know try to follow: “List to last”. Successful real estate agents are listing agents. With listings come, sales, power, money, fame and buyers. Buyer’s agents are, by contrast, low-key soccer moms, part timers and newbees.

I disagree. Homebuyers, I like. They are the focus of my business. They are a blank slate. They need my help. And, sometimes buyers are also sellers.


The “hot sheet”

Every morning, over coffee I check the “hot sheet”. I review all of the properties that have been listed on the MLS in the past two days. (I check the past two days so I don’t miss anything). I also subscribe to the For Sale by Owner feeds. When a new house comes up for sale, I want to know about it before my client. Part of demonstrating my knowledge and ability is to inform my clients of changes in the market before they find out on their own.


For sale by owner sellers

I’ve noticed that one of the For Sale by Owner company’s clients tend to be more militant (against Realtors) than the other. The company itself is militant against real estate agents in it’s advertising, so it’s not wonder – like attracts like. I actually wrote a post last year discussing the difference between the two biggest For Sale By Owner (FSBO) companies and quickly got a threatening letter from their lawyer.

That aside, my experience is that home sellers using the marketing material and expertise of one of the FSBO brokerages are always willing to work with a buyer’s agent. I actually had one private home seller say, “Thank God you’re here. We have no idea what we’re doing.”

I liked that.


Your agent’s approach

Like a wild animal, it’s best to approach unlisted homeowners directly and cautiously. Stay calm. You have to nurture them.

Your agent should approach the For Sale By Owner and ask for permission to show the property. Some brokerages instruct their agents to get something signed protecting them and their commissions before showing. I think this just confuses and scares the home seller. However, my second question when approaching a private home seller is, “Are you paying a commission to an agent that brings a buyer?” My third question is, “How much?”. The direct approach. We don’t want any wishy-washy answers here.


What is the seller is unwilling to cooperate with a buyer’s agent?

Some sellers, especially in the first few weeks think they can save the entire commission.


Read: you will not save $18,000 when you list your house privately.


If the sellers are unwilling to deal with an agent, your buyer has three choices.

1) Advise them to move on. At any given time, there are hundreds of houses on the market. If the seller is stubborn now, they’ll likely be hard to negotiate with and your buyer (without representation) will probably pay too much and maybe even give up some of his rights

2) Negotiate with the buyer to pay a realtor commission. Personally, I find this distasteful. Although under “Buyer Agency” agreements, commissions are guaranteed, it seems like asking a lot to have the buyer pay commission.  That’s not the way the real estate game is set up.

3) Cut ‘em loose. If the buyer has to have that house, don’t stand in their way.



Most private home sellers are willing to pay your agent a commission. It should be discussed and agreed upon before an offer is considered and is in no way related to your offering price.


The next step

If my client likes the property, it’s best to send the seller an email. The email is just to get what was discussed on paper. We don’t want any misunderstandings.


What if the buyer finds the house on their own?

Some agents sign buyer’s up and say, “When you find a house you like, give me a call.” This is not really in the spirit of buyer representation. An agent working with a buyer is suppose to educate and advise. He is suppose to be connected to the process.

If you’re not working closely with your agent then I would advise:

1) don’t sign anything with him

2) discuss what will happen if you find a FSBO

3) get a better agent.


There is a chance that you will find a house before your agent does. A good agent has lead you along the learning curve to confidently identifying and buying a home. If that’s the case, pay him for his help.


What do buyer’s agents do?

Buyer’s agents work for the buyers, not the sellers.

Buyer’s agents:

Keep the buyer’s information confidential

Provide comparable sales information

Council on offering price

Negotiate on a buyer’s behalf

Understand neighbourhood influences

Prepare documents

Move the process forward





What about if I’ve just been looking around on my own, should I get buyer’s agent just to help with the paperwork?

Yes. One of the 365 Rules about Real Estate is “Do not deal directly with the listing agent”.

Three things:

1) The seller is the one paying him. His strongest alliance is going to be to his seller.

2) He has known the seller a lot longer than he’s known you.

3) Many real estate agents negotiate with the home seller ahead of time the issue of “what happens if he introduces the buyer?” and knock 1% off the commission. You might have a lot more room to negotiate using your own realtor, especially considering access to comparables used to justify your offering price.


There is some good advice (and bad) advice on this link.




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1 Comment

  1. says: Gillian V Gayfer

    Hi Keith
    Interesting articles.
    I understand your comment about not liking to ask a buyer to pay in a FSBO situation however as a Broker in Bruce County I may have to do exactly that. A Realtor is offering only $500 in commission to cooperating brokerage on listings in the 700 to 900 range. My client wants one of those properties. Puts me in the position of not getting paid or asking them to pay it. Never come across this in 15 years of selling.

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