Should I use a Realtor to Sell My House?

Forsale By Owner vs Using a Realtor

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It’s a fair question these days, do I really need a realtor to sell my home with all of the services available to me? Technically no you don’t but my experience with both trying to sell a home on our own versus with a realtor can lend some real world experience to those who may be struggling with this decision.

The Case For Sale By Owner

Odds are the first thing your thinking of is that 6% commission you’ll owe to sell your home. When you’re talking about a $300,000 home that’s real money. One of the most popular services ForSale By Owner.com lists houses for as low as $80.95 to as much as $809 depending on your area.  Versus $18,000 for selling with a realtor that can add up easily.

By selling it yourself you’ve put yourself in place to control most aspects of the selling process.  Of course this means that it’s entirely on you to get this home sold.  Beyond listing you in the databases and a yard sign kit you’re responsible for finding prospective buyers, showing them the house and handling the house sale process.  This means you get to control when the house is available to show and you don’t have to be constantly vacating your home when the realtors are around.

Things to Look Out For with For Sale By Owner

Multiple Listing Service

I would not consider any form of service to help sell your home without a realtor that didn’t list your home with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This is the system that real estate agents will access to show their potential buyers homes. It’s also the database that feeds most any of the research tools for prospective buyers. You’ll be missing a huge portion of your target demographic by not being in that database.

Security

Security is definitely something to think about when selling your home yourself.  That will be your phone number listed.  You’ll be the one showing your home with strangers so you should take adequate precautions.  This is really a shared concern for realtor or not but one you should consider nonetheless.

Don’t Forget the Buyer’s Agent

Remember that a traditional 6% commission with a realtor pays 3% to the buyers agent.  If you don’t offer that commission there’s little incentive on the buyers agent to show their clients your home.  So just because you listed your home for $500 doesn’t mean  you won’t be paying out another sum of money for the pleasure of getting agents in your home.

The Closing Process

Many of the packages from the various services do not include help during the closing process. There is a lot that goes along with this process and having someone to help guide you through all of the steps is very helpful. You might want to hire a Real Estate Attorney or pay an agent a flat fee to help you with this process.

No Mediation

In the event that something goes wrong in the process the realtors are typically the intermediaries in this process. If you are doing it yourself you’ll have to interact directly with the buyer. I have been there and I was very thankful to have my agent in the middle of this process.

The Case for Hiring a Realtor

Selling a home is a large proposition and I can bet you would like to get the best money you can as quickly as possible. You probably are not an expert on real estate and 2 months spent online researching real estate is not a replacement for a good realtor who knows the business, the local market and the process. They will have the best information available with respect to market research so that they can recommend the best price for your home. They’ll be able to offer you tips on making your home more attractive to potential buyers. They’ll show your home for you, field all inquiries and present offers to you as they come in. In essence they remove the burden from you, with the exception of keeping your house clean. They’ll often highlight your home to agents in their office and schedule previews with groups of agents from other offices. In short they’ll be able to provide a lot of qualified leads that you might not know how to find.

Also don’t let cost be your sole determining factor.  In many cases the commission is negotiable and agents might be willing to reduce their fee to say 4% with some reduction in services or other extenuating circumstances. 

Things to Look Out For When Using a Realtor

In the end your relying on one person to represent your home. Do your research as in anything there can be unscrupulous people in any industry.

  • A referral from someone you trust will go a long way here. What’s their selling history?
  • Are they using your open house to gather potential clients or are they actively trying to sell your home.?
  • Do they have a high quality website to promote your home?  Is it a site that was created for years ago with homes that have been sold in the late 80′s?
  • Do you even like them?  If you feel slimy even being in the same room with them so will your buyers.

My Personal Experience

I have to admit my view is rather jaded because I’ve gone both routes. We originally listed our house by ourselves and had approximately two potential clients come through our home. One of them was looking for a creative lease option arrangement because they couldn’t get credit and the other turned out to be a neighbor who just wanted to see the inside of our house. The rest of those that came through the house were realtors trying to offer us their services. We had our home listed for 6 months with terrible results. Of course the housing market wasn’t exactly booming in our area at the time but still it just wasn’t being seen by clients. We even tried offering a generous commission to buyers agents but there was not much interest.

We eventually ended up listing our home with a seasoned agent who came highly recommended. He offered a lower rate for commission because he knew of our financial situation and he worked his tail off getting everyone he could through our house. Once we got an accepted offer the process was incredibly easy and he provided us a van to use for free to help us move.  After that experience I will absolutely do the same if we ever decide to move again.  The stress of selling a house can be much reduced if you let a professional take care of the details for you.    How about you what are you home selling experiences?

Be sure to check out some of the other Money Mavens take on Hiring a Realtor:

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2010/04/19 at 5:02 am
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2010/04/19 at 7:10 am

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter 2010/04/19 at 7:06 am

I think having an agent can be an invaluable tool to have, especially if it’s a rough market as we’re experiencing now. They know the tricks of the trade to help you get your home sold faster – where to list it, ability to market the home to others, etc.

When we listed our home we were fortunate enough to have my mother-in-law selling it for us since she’s an agent – and good at what she does. In the end she didn’t charge us her commission and we saved a ton of money..

If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a good agent in the family, it will cost you a pretty penny, but in many cases it may mean the difference between selling and not selling.

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paul 2010/04/19 at 8:55 am

100% agree Peter. Nice to have a realtor in the family.

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Len Penzo 2010/04/19 at 9:24 am

I’m glad to hear about your good experience with a realtor, Paul. Just curious, did you maintain your original asking price when you changed over from FSBO to the realtor?

All the best,

Len
Len Penzo dot Com

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paul 2010/04/19 at 10:15 am

No actually we bumped up the price to accommodate the fee change. The entire reason we were doing it FSBO in the first place was to try and actually make some money off our home which had not appreciated considerably since my 0% down purchase 2 years before. Yes this was FiscalGeek in the free wheeling financially negligent days. Not that you can now but please never buy a home with 0% down. Long story short we ended up selling it for a loss and had to come to closing with some cash. Not a situation I would recommend to anyone but we were desperate to move. At that time I commuted 200 miles a day to work and for our family’s sake we needed to be closer.

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Budgeting in the Fun Stuff 2010/04/19 at 9:53 am

We haven’t sold a house yet, but we will use a real estate agent when we do. We will also probably use a real estate agent again when we buy as well. Even though I personally didn’t like our agent, she was VERY good at her job.

She worked very hard and put in a lot of hours to help us find what we wanted…a house for less than $130,000 that was built recently and was in move-in condition. It was hard and required her to go outside her usual comfort zone and into the foreclosure market, but she got it accomplished, handled all the paperwork and scheduling, and even bought us a 1 year home warranty herself at the end. That was a little too nice since I knew she was only making a 1% commission since her agency took the other 2%.

Thanks to her and my parents who actually found our home by accident (they were driving around the neighborhood of the home we were looking at and came across our current house), we were able to buy a 3 bedroom home built in 2004 for $114,000 in 2007 before the market crashed.

Yep, I’d use a real estate agent to sell our home too. I’d even probably use her since she’s an alpha personality that will get the job done. I just have to watch my mouth while she’s at it…pushy people annoy me, but I guess her job does require a slightly “pushy” personality…

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paul 2010/04/19 at 10:29 am

BitFS there certainly is a fine line between pushy and caustic. One of the nice parts about the recent recession is those realtors who are still in business are the serious go getters. It makes it much easier to choose between somebody who got their license last week and someone who is still busting it despite foreclosure mania 2010.

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Mike @ Green Panda 2010/04/19 at 5:43 pm

I actually think that realtors are usefull when you are the buyer and useless when you are the seller. They charge too much for putting your house on a website and filling paperwork (that’s a secretary work, isn’t? 5%-6% comission for such work is pretty expensive).

When you think about it, documents to fill are pretty straight forward. So I really wonder why you need someone to do such tasks?

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paul 2010/04/20 at 8:39 am

If your real estate agent is just doing that then I agree it’s a complete waste of money but I’d also fire that real estate agent as soon as possible. The realtor is your dedicated sales person for your house not a paper pusher. You and I must have had drastically different experiences in our real estate transactions Mike because I would hire mine back in a heartbeat and I’ve recommended him to most of my friends in that area.

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Brandon Schmid 2010/04/23 at 12:49 pm

I think you are crazy not to use a realtor”¦..just crazy!

I guess the key thing is to have a great real estate agent, which I am very thankful that I do have. I could not imagine doing anything related to real estate without him, including investing.

It all comes down to the person and if you have a good agent then they are worth their weight in gold.

Cheers!

Brandon

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Malachi Home Solutions 2010/08/21 at 1:28 pm

Need to Sell Fast!! We Are CASH $$$ Buyers and Close Quickly

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Earl 2010/10/24 at 4:10 pm

I would try selling on the internet. Try http://www.realvacancys.com. This website seems like you would have luck getting some potential buyers. Good luck on your sell.

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Sam 2011/03/02 at 10:32 am

I have been experiencing some sort of “organized resistance” to selling my home by the local realtor cartel. I moved from a northern state to Kentucky several years ago. I bought a fixer upper ,which is now worth more than twice what i paid for it. For the last 3 years i have repeatedly tried to sell my home. In each instance, the realtors seem unwilling to “market” my home in any way that would alow it to be sold.
Examples: One agent said she could’nt figure out how to list the 5 acres with my property on the listing.This continued for 70 days (without having the 5 acres listed) and the realtor supposedly unable to figure it out ,even though she listed other listings before and after my listing that did indeed contain the acreage. I have basically gone through about 7 different real estate agencies in the area (a very rural community) all with the same results. They don’t list it properly, or emit important information. They will put it on sites like realtordotcom and make it almost imposible to locate on the site, ie: it wont show up if you look at the surrounding areas while searching the community next to this one, or it will not show if you do an advanced search and put in 5 acers or more (even though its on 5 acres). These things have happened repeatedly with every realtor and they are always passive /agressive about it and act as if it is just an error,yet they can’t ever fix it . One realtor even asked what my property taxes were ,I said they were rather low because the home had never been reassessed since i bought it and it was in bad shape ,but now is totally updated, within 4 days of her asking this question ,i recieve a letter from the PVA stating that my tax assessment had increased the value of my home by over $10,000 .In a market where houses are losing value. This happened 3 years after buying the property,and was the only time it had been assessed, coincidence? No ,she personally knew the person at the PVA who changed it .It was’nt even done at the proper time of year for assessments. What can I do ,or where can i go for help? Thanks….

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Kathy Nonhof 2011/03/14 at 10:16 pm

Wow…..I am a Realtor. I have never seen such short sighted people. I am highly skilled at what I do. If you think for a minute that i get to keep 6% or even 3% you are sorely misinformed. My broker takes automatically 1/2 of the commission if is an in house sale. If another broker sells the property they get 3%. The house then splits the other 3% with me. Now I am down to 1.5. Automatically 35% is given to the government for taxes. Now let’s remember, I am an independent contractor, so therefore I get to pay social security twice. I am my own employer and employee (and I will never see a dime of it :-) ). I work 7 days a week easily. nights and weekends. Want to walk a mile in my moccasins? In this market, houses stay on the market longer, which means more expensive advertising for a longer period. Let’s not forget that advertising comes out of my 1.5%. I am not complaining because I have a job. I worked all last year and made 10% of what I made the year before, and I didn’t work any less hours. Let’s remember that there is good and bad in all fields, plumbers, mailmen, doctors and the list goes on. If you want to whine and knock Realtors, go ahead, but how about just not using them and leave it at that. I am not knocking your profession. By the way, how much do you make writing a column? How hard is that?
Do you go into freezing houses in the middle of winter that has not been shoveled, or sit at open houses where just last week a lady Realtor was murdered as she sat there like a sitting duck? I would be careful who you criticize and think carefully before tearing them down.

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Sam 2011/03/26 at 10:19 pm

Kathy,
What in my comment makes me “short sighted”?
I have stated a situation in which my Realtors refuse to properly do there job.
I know exactly how much the realtor makes ,thats why I have listed my home with an “8 %” commission not 6 %. Look, we all have to go through “stuff” in our lives.
Stating how much less you made this year than last ,really does’nt explain the behavor I have listed by my realtors.
Instead of just Defending, “The Realtors Code”, how about some constuctive assistance? No wonder why you make 10% of what you used too. You could attack the market, and be a winner and out sell the competition by going that extra yard. You know, “Doing your Job the best you can”, remember when thats how it was done? But you seem to just whiner ,because you don’t make enough money to justify a total committment to your choosen profession.
What if you go to a Doctor and he decides he does’nt want to give his best effort because “you’re not from Here”, and you don’t “fit in”. Do you think it would be ok, because he has a hard job and works long hours? If he treats you that way maybe you should just stop seeing doctors, right? Why would you defend behavor that is clearly “Unethical”?
It tells alot about your character. Thanks for your helpful comment….

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Sundaybell 2011/06/27 at 2:24 pm

Hiring a seasoned realtor in your area is the way to go. The FSBO model is attractive when they market to the consumers that you save all the commissions. But in reality, they should come clean and let the general public really know what’s being spent behind the scenes. For example, here are just a few questions I would like to find the answers to:
1 – How many of your properties sell by paying a real estate agent to show their homes?
2 – Time and marketing is money. So how many hours do your private sellers invest to get their homes sold and how much extra marketing money do they spend?
3 – How much money is spent by your customers that end up not selling?
4 – Comparing both Realtor sold properties to FSBO sales in the area, how much more revenue was really generated after summing up the above incurred expenses by your clients?

In a nutshell, you won’t see these answers being looked into because you’ll find that the savings are slim to none, to negative. Having a professional take care of your sale at a competitive commission rate is the best strategy there is.

Sundaybell

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Tim 2011/10/18 at 10:22 am

I would go to http://www.sundaybell.com. I just read through all their material in the classroom section and they have tapped into a market that lets consumers negotiate services and commission online…with zero sales pressure which I for one can’t stand. worth a look imo!

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fsbo 2013/08/01 at 9:46 am

You’d be crazy to sell with a real estate agent … if you’re capable yourself. The savings are just too massive to pass up. I reviewed this extensively and had a great experience with http://www.mycondolisting.ca. I’m laughing all the way to the bank.

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