I own my house free and clear of any debt. How can I sell it without using a real estate agent? If I sell it on my own and the buyer has a real estate agent, will they still get the same commission of 6 percent?
Most buyers out there start their search for a home using the Internet. One of the most important things you can do when trying to sell your home is to make sure your prospective buyers can find your home online.
Years ago, real estate brokers had a lock on the distribution of information for homes. Back in the day, real estate brokers had huge books the size of phone books that came out weekly or monthly with the listing of all properties in a certain area. Those books were proprietary to the real estate brokers and not shared with the public. If you were looking for a home, you could drive around neighborhoods looking for signs to see whether homes were being sold or you could talk to a real estate agent and get a list from them.
Now you can simply go online and view the homes that are available for sale in your area from quite a number of sites. Most of the information will be the same from site to site, coming as it does from real estate companies’ listings. In some cases, homeowners selling without real estate agents can list their homes on some of the sites, but that information may not make it into the sites that are used by Realtors.
When you list a home for sale with a real estate broker, you expect them to place the home on their multiple listing service (MSL) immediately. Once a home is on the MLS, other Web sites out there pick up that information.
So the real question is whether you can get your listing out there on the MLS and the Web (among other necessary tasks) without the assistance of a real estate agent. There is no easy answer. If you are willing to put the time and effort into selling your home, you certainly can try. When a seller sells his own home, it’s called a “for sale by owner” or FSBO. FSBOs in some situations can backfire and hurt a seller.
Whether your home is free of debt is not really relevant to whether and how you should market and sell your home.
Let’s walk through some of the issues you will face in a FSBO. The first challenge is to market your property properly. That includes getting your home listed in a MLS. If you are lucky enough to live in a development or neighborhood where the demand for homes is so high that all you have to do is put out a sign and sell your home, you may not need to do too much. But for the vast majority of homeowners, much more is necessary to market a home.
To get your home listed in an MLS, you will probably have to engage the services of a discount broker. That broker will charge a fixed fee for listing your home on the MLS for a certain time. You will also need to list your home on sites that cater to FSBO sellers, including Zillow and several others. Once you’ve done that, you will probably want to put up a good-looking sign on your property to give notice to the neighborhood and others that may drive by that your home is for sale.
You will have to make sure you have the ability to show the home at times that will be convenient to potential buyers. In addition, you may get calls from real estate agents requesting times to show your home. You’ll need to decide whether you’re willing to cooperate with those real estate brokers and their clients. If you are willing to work with them, you’ll have to decide what you are willing to pay them.
As you noted in your question, many real estate agents work off a 6 percent commission, which is usually shared between the buyer’s and the seller’s brokers. The commission amount can vary. In hard-to-sell situations, we’ve seen commissions higher than 6 percent, and in quick-moving markets or higher priced homes we’ve seen commissions as low as 4 percent.
Given that difference, you’ll have to determine what most real estate agents receive for commissions on homes like yours. If the commission is 6 percent, you might consider giving the broker that brings you a buyer 3 percent or so.
As you can see, if you have to show the home, market it, pay to list it and handle other aspects of the sale, including paying 3 percent to a broker that brings you a buyer and handling all information distributions required by law, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the time and expense to handle the transaction yourself.
Some sellers decide the savings are worth it. However, we have heard from readers that many try to sell on their own for a while, find it quite trying and give up and list their home with a real estate agent. Somewhere around 88 percent of homes are sold with real estate agents, according to the National Association of Realtors. So some people have success selling on their own.
If you choose to go that route, we’d encourage you to do your homework. You should understand the real estate market in your area, what your home is worth and what you need to do to list your home for sale. You also need to think about how your home shows and what things you should do to improve the appearance.
It’s important to know where your potential buyers might be and use your resources effectively to market to them. You should also know who the better and busier real estate agents are in your area and market your home to them. Finally, know what paperwork and documentation you need to have handy for your showings and to sell your home.
We hope that helps. Tell us how things work out.
Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In!” If you have questions, you can call her radio show toll-free (800-972-8255) any Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST. Contact Ilyce through her Web site, www.thinkglink.com.