Sherry Stern's excellent article on the house that got away was a wonderful example of personal journalism at its very best. My fiancee (who was subjected to hearing most of the piece read out loud) and I found the story wonderfully therapeutic since we had just gone through a similar horrifying escapade on the Westside.
One additional lesson for prospective buyers: Ask UP FRONT if all rooms are permitted and built to code. Only after we had agreed upon a purchase price and had entered escrow did the sellers disclose that the family room and the kitchen extensions on our 3,500-square-foot prospective home were not to code or permit.
Stern correctly advises not to get emotionally attached, but once a price is agreed upon and the escrow has commenced, it is virtually guaranteed that the buyer is emotionally vested. We never would have purchased a house with such glaring problems and the bank never would have appraised the home at the agreed-upon price. Banks typically do not include non-permitted rooms in the overall square footage.
Finally, with or without a broker, expect to have to do everything yourself. Even the best broker does not have the same financial or emotional investment as the buyer.