An increasing number of homes are sold directly by owners, without the assistance of an agent. While specific figures are not available, self-selling accounts for at least 10 percent of all home sales nationally and perhaps twice that figure in certain areas.

Shoppers should certainly consider houses for sale by owner. The central issue, after all, is the desirability of a given property and not its method of marketing.

A well-prepared seller should know if the present mortgage is assumable and, if so, under what terms. While a purchaser has the right to consider any source of financing, it would be helpful if the seller could provide current information on the local mortgage market.

Does the owner have a contract form? if not, why not use your own? Different forms offer varying levels of protection for both parties.No matter how clear a form may appear, it makes sense to have it reviewed by an attorney before you sign.

Should the price of a home be reduced because a broker is not involved?Certainly many people in the real estate industry make this argument. But the reality is that all properties have a basic market value that exists regardless of who is selling the property. Other factors are more important.

How long has the home been on the market? What are the needs of the seller? Is the owner a good negotiator? Does the owner have reasonable expectations? What are your alternatives?

Dealing directly with an owner allows you to ask specific questions and get immediate feedback. Will the owner take back a small second trust? If you pay a certain price will the owner pay the first $1,500 of the settlement costs? If the house is offered at $97,000 would the owner accept $92,000?

A seller can describe when various components of the house were bought or repaired. The seller is also a good source of information about the neighborhood and its people and can speak with an understanding that an agent can rarely duplicate.

While self-sellers are not found in the multiple listings they can be located in the classified ads, via signs, word-of-mouth and specialized listing services such as that offered by the Joint Armed Forces Housing Referral Offices, found at most military installations here.

Self-selling represents a legitimate alternative in the marketplace. Buyers should be alert to such properties; after all, why arbitrarily eliminate any portion of the housing market? Hundreds of thousands of purchasers worked with self-sellers last year and as a result are homeowners today.