Yes you can! That’s heresy for a real estate agent to admit, but it’s true. I’ve done it myself and owners do it all the time.
I regularly meet people trying to sell their homes by themselves. I hope to get their listing, of course. And of course, most people would prefer to keep the real estate commission for themselves. I understand completely.
When should you consider selling your home yourself?
You will do best in a hot, sellers’ market. If things are tough, even professional agents who work at it full time have difficulty. (There are not enough houses on the market now!)
How desirable is your property? If you have the perfect house in the best location then yes, you will have the best chance. The professional agent will still say, “Yes, but will you be getting the most possible?” If your property is unusual in any way the potential pool of buyers is smaller.
Do you really think you know enough about how to do it? It’s not brain surgery, but it’s not totally automatic, either. Is the transaction ordinary, standard, and simple? If not, you will need help. The real estate agent already has this experience as well as a team of experts to call on.
Can you deal with prospective buyers? You will be showing the house yourself. Can you remain unemotional if someone comes to look at your house and then makes an off-handed remark that you don’t like? You have lived there for years and you are probably proud of your home. Can you handle a prospective buyer’s unintentional criticism? An agent can remain unemotional. When listed with an agent it is customary for the owner to leave the house while the agent shows it.
Does your schedule and situation allow it? Will you still be available locally after you put your place on the market? Then you could still show the house and be available to close the transaction. If you are out of town it will be next to impossible to sell the place yourself. If you have been transferred across the county by your employer, congratulations! They think enough of you to move you to a better opportunity. You are moving on and don’t need to worry any more about your old house. Employers in this situation will often help with their employees’ home sales, usually by listing them with a real estate agent.
What Owners Do Wrong:
- Inadequate marketing: One ad is not enough. Start with Zillow and Craigslist. Nowadays home buyers start their searches on line and these are the two best sites. Most listings, including both FSBO’s (For Sale By Owner) and MLS (Multiple Listing Service) listings are on these two sites. MLS listing information gets distributed automatically to many other sites as well, but these two get most of the house hunters’ mouse clicks.
- Being unavailable: If you have an ad, you need to include a telephone number and answer it when it rings! Yes, you are going to get a lot of calls besides the one you need. You also must be able to show the house at the buyer’s convenience. They will want to visit your house at their convenience.
- Expecting people to just make an offer: Your property will have to be exceptional to motivate buyers to even come look. With an agent they know that they can visit and look at the house quickly or as thoroughly as they wish. A buyer might walk into your home, spot what he thinks is a deal-breaker and then immediately go on to the next one. An agent can counsel the prospective buyer to make a more thought-out decision and can ask the prospective buyer to consider making an offer. Guys, how many times has a girl asked you to dance? I know, these days are different, but someone has to take the initiative. That’s what an agent will do. You, as the seller, may have to ask the buyer to buy!
- The amount that you “need” to get out of the sale is irrelevant to the prospective buyer: Real estate agents price properties as part of their jobs, in order to market a house and also to counsel buyers who are considering a particular property. In addition to seeing listings and prices all day every day, agents have access to all sales price records for use in comparisons. It is the buyer who puts the value on the property, not what you need.
- Inadequate preparation: CLEAN! The cleaner your place is, the more money you will get out of it. How about improvements? In general, you will probably not get back one hundred percent of the cost of most remodeling projects. Repairs are another story. You must repair everything back to perfect working order. Fix leaky roofs and sticking doors, maybe even some new carpet if your old stuff is really bad. Most improvements, however, will not pay for themselves.
- Sellers will often say, or include in their ad, something to the effect of “We will consider offers from agents who bring buyers.” The trouble with this idea is that agents are probably going to miss your ad altogether, or not bother. Since the vast majority of all property is sold by agents associated with the MLS, most agents don’t bother to search the other places. Buyers might, but they will either have to arrange to visit the house themselves or ask their agent to help them, which is awkward.
Here is What I Suggest:
- Study up! The forms are available. Do you have a lawyer or other professional consultant that you can call on? A few hours of a lawyer’s fees will still be much less than a full real estate commission.
- Be ready if someone actually does want to buy. Do you have the forms? Are you ready to take the transaction to escrow? Your buyer may know nothing so you will have to shepherd the transaction through to closing. This is what real estate agents do as part of their job.
- Use Zillow — It’s the best website for searching, certainly better than the real estate companies’ websites. They accept FSBO listings. Real estate agents use it, too. The information is the same as what is on the MLS, just formatted differently. Zillow has a few added features, such as pricing estimates, which are worth about what you pay for them.
- Do more than just place an ad on Zillow. You should put up a yard sign and yes, you will have to take a chance that someone will come to your door. An agent will have pre-screened potential buyers and only show your home by appointment according to your instructions and schedule. There are many other ways agents market a listing in addition to the huge advantage to being listed on the Multiple Listing Service. Direct mail the neighbors, hold an open house, put up an attractive yard sign with contact information, and word of mouth. Sometimes sellers still put ads in the newspaper, even in this day and age.
- Many agents will be happy to provide you with their price estimate for your property, for free. They are hoping that in the likely event that you don’t sell it yourself you will turn it over to a friendly agent who has helped them. Even if you sell it without me, I believe that I will have earned your goodwill and you might consider me in the future or refer me to someone else.
- You must keep the place clean and ready to show at all times. I believe that many buyers can “see through” obvious flaws, especially if they are looking for a bargain or a fixer-upper. Others buyers are easily swayed by the superficial and cosmetic.
- Staging a home that is for sale is the practice of artfully placing furnishings in order to increase the desirability of the house. There is a cost for this service if you have it done by a staging company. By putting newer or more attractive furnishings than the owner may have can make an ordinary home look like the ones in Sunset Magazine.
- Most people’s homes are cluttered or at least have more furniture and pictures on the wall than a proper interior decorator would prefer, so agents often advise sellers to clear out a lot of their stuff before showing the house.
- If you are selling your own home, and if you do not want to pay for staging, you can stage it yourself with your own furnishings. Remove most of your stuff but just leave enough to “give the idea” of what the fully occupied house should look like. If you must live in the house while it is for sale, you can still remove a lot of your stuff; you are moving out anyway, right? The best presentation will bring the best price.
- Finally, call me. I will be happy to give you my suggestions. I will come to your house and talk to you, without cost or obligation. (OK, I admit, I still hope to get the listing. Persistence is one of the attributes I have as a real estate agent.)
- An agent cannot guarantee that he or she can sell the house for at least six percent more than an owner would get by selling the house themselves, but it is highly likely that they can.
You are on your own
Naturally, real estate agents will tell you all kinds of stories, none of which will be encouraging.
If you are selling yourself and an agent brings a potential buyer, that agent represents the buyer and will cost you nothing unless you agree to list it with that agent. You don’t have to. The buyer’s agent will still help make sure the transaction proceeds. That agent still must be fair and honest, but that agent is looking out for the other party in the transaction, not you.
If it is true that real estate agents get the seller more than the owners would by selling themselves, is it six percent more? You will look long and hard for those statistics.
There is work involved in selling a house, probably worth about what you would pay a real estate agent.