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Ask the Readers: Selling a house without a realtor?

Today’s question is from Holly:

We are currently trying to sell our house on our own. In this horrible housing market, we have only had one showing in a month. We would love any tips on how to sell a house on your own. We have a significant amount of money invested in our house, so we don’t want to pay the high realtor fees. We would rather invest that money in our next house. Any suggestions?

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138 Comments

  • Mary says:

    We’ve sold two homes without a realtor, really depends on the market in your neighborhood. In both cases, we gave the home a unique redo. In addition, we did our homework, went to other open houses in our neighborhood to see what others were doing in terms of make ready and price. In one case, we did a kitchen redo, in the other case we pulled up carpet and exposed the oak floors-bottom line make it look unique and price it correctly by comparing.

  • Emily says:

    The Young House Love blog had some other tips when they did a FSBO:
    http://www.younghouselove.com/2010/11/showings-a-plent/

  • Hayliegh says:

    We initally had ours for sale through a realtor….after 6 months on the market and count them…TWO SHOWINGS (you can claim incompetent realtor, but we interiewed no less than 7 before choosing 1 and we had stats and everything)…we went FSBO – the first month on our own we showed it 17 times…by the next month we had repeat showings and sold it. Used an attorney to make sure all the paperwork was on the up and up and costed us very little compared to what we were told we would have paid to the realtor via the contract when we were listed. I believe advertising is the key – we took out ads in the local paper, had fliers in the box attached to my sign out front, and had it posted for free on a FSBO site. I always asked those calling about the house which source they found it. I was friendly and very flexible with showing. And I did take down names and number and followed up with each and every one. A few tips that I lived by with all those showings – keep a place where you can quickly stash – for us it was a large chest – it stayed empty and when the call came, you toss in and sort later. Also, a can of compressed air – why? Because it’s the fastest way to dust! No joke! So Stash, dust, vacuum, and wipe down the Kitchen and Bathrooms….I had it down to a fine art of less than an hour! Oh, and one of my biggest beefs about the whole process of FSBO – Realtors – they would call and pretend to be interested and send you into all these detail and finally come clean about being a realtor and wanting you to list with them. One even made it in the door – we showed it and as she was leaving she informed us of the fact that she had no interest in it, but thought she had “a perfect client” if we would pay commission to her. Yeah right – they play dirty!! Granted that’s my experience and I’m sure someone might try to dispute my opinion, but I lived it!! And I won’t soon forget it! You can do it! Just be real and do your best! Good luck to you!!

  • Sandra Lee says:

    Personally, I loved the realtor I worked with and would never consider buying or selling without them. Best of luck to you, whatever you decide!

  • Liz says:

    We sold a house by ourselves several years ago in a down market. It took about 3 months and we had open houses often. I did all the legwork and then about a week before closing their mortgage broker wouldn’t speak to me. My husband had to call the broker’s main office and then we found out that the people weren’t going to be approved after we had been assured it would be no problem getting approval. They had a preapproval letter and all of the information that we needed. It worked out that they just needed so more time to improve their credit rating so they leased it from us and eight months later it was theirs.
    Take advantage of today’s technology, do what is needed to get it on MLS, decide if you are willing to pay a buyer’s agent’s commission, and then be prepared to have agents call you. Also be prepared for people wanting you to finance it for them.

  • Corey says:

    Hi Holly,

    We old our 3 bedroom house 4 years ago here in CT and it took us 3 days and 9 showings. We had three offers from those 9 showings and all were for asking price so we were thrilled. Now, the economy wasn’t what it is today but I do believe that my husband and I did a good job of staging and I spent very little money (if any at all). First we moved every single toy out of the main floor. The toys were either organized in the basement or our children’s bedrooms. We did this so the first impression was that any person could live there, not just a family with children. It also gave the impression that there was plenty of storage for toys without cluttering the main living space. I cleared out 1/4 of each closet to give the feeling of space and I set the tables as if company were coming. Right before a showing I put a large bowl of water with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in it and boiled it for 7 minutes in the microwave. Instant aroma! I even purchased some limes and places them in a bowl in the kitchen. The house looked amazing and we only got positive feed back. It didn’t cost us anything and the proper staging meant a quicker sale! Hope some of this helps!

  • Amy says:

    We’re selling and using a Realtor and have only had two showings in as many months, annnnnd both times the people didn’t even show up!! So don’t feel bad, it is just a bad market right now.

  • Sarah says:

    I would say to use a realtor. The realtor take the legal issues and deal with them for you. He does all your advertising and foot work. He will give you suggestions to try to sell your house. He does this for a living and has has been trained. They are insured and certified. The realtor will display your house to all the other realtors and potentional buyers in the area, state and nation which an individual will not be able to do. This is your biggest price item you have, why gamble that you will do it right.

    The price you pay for your realtor is quite small. They dont make a lot of profit off of a house. Here is why… Out of the money they get from the sale of your house (which is the only way they make any money)… They pay for all advertising themselves (which can cost a small fortune), and they pay for the insurance if something goes wrong and they pay for many other things.

    All I can say is dont gamble over a little bit of money, get a professional. But research and interview the realtors. Look for a good honest one that will tell you like it is. Big named realtors are not always the best bet.

  • Whitney says:

    As at least one other commenter mentioned, many buyers do steer clear of FSBO signs. I know I did when looking for houses. There was nothing that could get me to contact one, no matter how nice it looked. The reasons were many, but they included; my concern that the house was priced by the buyer and not by an experienced realtor, therefor, it was likely overpriced. That the seller would not understand the many legal issues involved with selling a house. That MY realtor would end up doing all the work for the seller (and yes, if your buyer has a realtor, you will be asked to pay that realtor’s commission fee.) I was also worried that during an open house I would be walking on egg shells in front of the buyer (or worse, being tailed throughout the house by them). I’d much prefer to look at house with the sellers’ realtor present instead. Someone who does not have an emotional investment in the house.

    These, plus myriad other reasons made me avoid FSBO houses like the plague. There may be lots of buyers out there, but a good portion may feel the same as me.

    • Doretta says:

      This definitely makes a big difference on the buyer’s preferences. We sold our own home a few years ago. I would go out of my way to look for a FSBO. I wouldn’t be able to trust the realtors here any more than a FSBO. That’s why we prefer to simply hire our own attorney.

  • Sarah says:

    My parents have bought and sold 5 houses in the past 30 years and never used a realtor. They did, however, have a good real estate attorney, which I would highly recommend.
    From watching their experiences, I would say that you can definitely save money by selling yourself, and there are people who will look at FSBO houses. However, just like anything else, you need to be willing/able to put in an amount of footwork (showings, advertising, etc).

  • Sarah says:

    We’ve had our house on the market since early March. We FSBO’d for the first 2 months. We had plenty of showings, no offers. We switched to a real estate agent and have had plenty of showings and ONE offer–which fell through because the buyer’s circumstances changed.

    For us, the big issue has been price. We’ve dropped it three times since March but we’ve always had it priced just a bit too high given the competition. If we’d priced $4k less than we did in March, when there were very few other house for sale in our neighborhood, I think we would have sold it immediately. Now there are dozens of houses for sale, we’ve dropped the price a total of $23K and we’re still not getting offers. We’re now about to take it off the market and simply rent it out. If all goes well with the renters, we may just hang on to it as an investment property.

    People expect a FSBO to be a bargain since you’re saving on realtor fees. REALLY study what similar houses are going for in your neighborhood and price competitively.

  • Jenny says:

    Without having read all of the other replies, here are my thoughts:

    We live in a rural community with a terrible housing crisis. It’s not unusual to see over 4 houses for sale on any given street (regardless of the neighborhood). We just purchased a new home and sold our previous home this past December, so we had quite a mountain before us.

    As a home buyer, I will be quite frank and say that we were not interested in going with a home not represented by a realtor and/or bank. There just seemed to be too many “what if”s” associated with purchasing from a “for sale by owner”. You will lose a good chunk of the market by not going with a realtor for this reason. You will also potentially need to significantly discount your home in order to get the attention of potential buyers (enough that you could have most likely afforded the realtor).

    Our home was a tough sale. It was the nicest home in a rougher part of town. Despite this issue, our home sold within 2 weeks of being on the market, and our realtor did ALL the work. She had a team that came in to take the 360 degree pictures, which did the best job of showcasing our home.

    If you are set on selling the home yourself you will absolutely need professional quality pictures to represent your home. It is so true that the home sells before the buyers walk in if they are excited about the pictures (and they truly represent the home). Make sure your home is priced at least slightly below your “competition” homes. This will entice buyers to take a look, and possibly choose your home over a comparable one. Be willing to make a deal. If you are still carrying a mortgage, that’s money out the window each month the home doesn’t sell. Not to mention, the longer your home is on the market the more wary potential buyers are of even looking at it (i.e. “What’s wrong with that house that is hasn’t sold yet??”)

    I hope this helps, and all goes well for your family regardless of how you choose to sell!!

  • Carly says:

    Holly, hi! I’ve sold successfully w/o a Realtor twice. AND I WOULDN’T SUGGEST IT TO ANYONE. The first one was a *snap*: I put a sign out front, and THAT WEEKEND the house sold at full-price; the second, the young (not-yet-married) couple required 7 showings, several of which involved extended family of HIS, then extended family of HERS. They were rudem and intrusive, and disrupted our lives, and we were ready to tell them “this doesn’t seem to be working out – just stop coming”. They acted in ways a Realtor would never allow, ie: “but you paid $104k for the house 10 years ago, why are you asking $128 now?” DUH!! (THIS was their “Market Research”?!?)

    AND THE LEGAL SITUATIONS YOU COULD RUN INTO with certain people could ruin you. Sure, it seems easy: agree on a Price, write up a Contract, and have them take that Contract to the Bank. But a Realtor has more power and professionalism so they can’t hold you to a Contract when you could be released to sell to someone else: I had a young lady CLEARLY bank-approved on my Condo. Halfway in to Closing, she decided to pull a fast one and go to another Bank that would turn down her Loan. Then she tried to back out of the Contract by saying she wasn’t Financed (by the SECOND bank!) I wouldn’t return her $1000, and she wouldn’t sign paperwork so I could sell to someone else. She even had a Lawyer send paperwork.

    Well, I wrote the Lawyer back, explaining her underhandedness (the details she DIDN’T tell them), and kept my $1000. By then, I’d lost MONTHS of time, and the Ads I’d paid for, and feared the expense of a frivolous Lawsuit around every corner.

    PAY THE REALTOR.

  • B says:

    I think it is potenital risk. A co-worker of mine was heavily sued after selling his own home. The accusation made were seemingly small, nothing big. It was small steps missing, my co-worker had a realtor friend who had helped them as well as internet searches. He totally thought he did everything correct. Now, he is losing his brand new house and in huge financial trouble due to the law suite.

  • Tonya says:

    If you do use a realtor be sure to find a motivated one. When my parents sold a small rental property a few years ago the realtor they signed on with was far too busy marketing his bigger clients with larger commissions to put much effort into their little house. They wished they had signed with another local agent who sells many smaller houses instead of a few large ones. It did sell before their contract with the realtor ended but it was to a relative through my parents word of mouth so he other than closing the deal he did very little to sell the house. Using a realtor will save you some frustration but if you don’t get a motivated one you end up with a different kind of frustration.

  • Megan says:

    I did not read all the posts but we sold ours without a full time realtor from listing to close in 3.5 months in a horrible market in Atlanta 2 summers ago.

    We updated paint, mulch, etc, borrowed all the staging books from the library I could find and followed them to a T. We signed up with a flat fee realtor, so $600 for the listing and lock box. On MLS, I did my own fliers and marketing. Open houses, craigslist, other website listings. We finally took the price off the flier and someone called to ask about it. They did not have a realtor so were able to use the flat fee folks as a part of our contract. We paid a total approx $2000 (including the initial $600) of commissions on a $230K sale. So about 1% instead of 6%.

    We showed the house to the couple that called but had no other showings besides them.

  • sarah says:

    If you don’t use a realtor make sure you price your home competitively. When we were looking for a house I gave up looking at for sale by owener listings because many were overpriced–I think many sellers are so discouraged by today’s market prices and don’t want to believe realtors when they give an honest estimate of their home’s worth. Our neighbor’s originally tried to sell the home themselves, and finally listed with an agent after not selling in over a year. Now the market has gotten even worse and they are finally using a realtor and trying to sell at a much lower price. Now they will get less for the home and pay a commision. I can’t help but think that if they had gone with a good realtor from the beginning that they would have made a lot more $ even with the commission.

  • Kristina says:

    The “for sale by owner” website has lots of step by step help for sellers if you choose to pay the money for that website. You can also pay yourself to list your home on FMLS, and possibly on your state MLS as well. You can pay for a private appraisal so that you’re not completely shocked if the number comes in lower than expected once you’re under contract. Price competitively from day 1! Staging and cleaning are important, but no one will come and look if your price isn’t right. Good luck to you!

  • We’re currently in the same boat right now and at first we decided to try selling on our own but after researching it and discovering that MLS listings are usually where people turn to first when searching to buy a home, we decided to go with a realtor for that advantage. It can be a lot of money upfront that we did not have. At least with a realtor, you don’t pay if you don’t sell. But if you don’t mind having it on the market and having to be on top of it all the time yourself, I say try it out for six months and list it with a realtor if it doesn’t sell.

    • Whitney says:

      This is an excellent point and I think you were the first to address it. Signing with a realtor costs you nothing until your house sells. Going the FSBO route means many of your costs are upfront, plus you may still need a realtor in the end.

  • Lauren says:

    Val has some great ideas. We used CraigsList, Zillow.com, Forsale.com and YouTube and Facebook. Good Luck!

  • Katie says:

    We’ve done it with and without a realtor successfully so here’s my completely unbiased opinion: Without a realtor the market really has to be good and use every avenue for exposure: local newspaper, flyers on bulletin boards, local websites and do a few open houses with signs all through town. If you live in a small town, the open houses work well because the people who see it will tell others who may be interested. Make sure your house is completely de-cluttered and de-personalized (family pics off the walls, etc) and the rooms are neutral. Example: If your daughters bedroom his highly girly, try to neutralize it to appeal to a wider audience. Curb appeal is what draws their interest so make sure it looks really good from the street. Keeping toys out of the yard, grasss mowed, etc. We sold 2 ourselves and basically could do so because we weren’t in a hurry. The third we gave ourselves 6 months and got basically no traffic (one showing a month is not good traffic) so we switched to a realtor. It took her 6 months (but this was 2 years ago when market was bad) and it got alot of showings in that time and did sell. You really have to weigh how motivated you are and how much you are paying out in mortgage/expenses/etc. Realtors definitely take the hassle factor out, give you more peace of mind legally and give your home alot more exposure.
    .

  • Ann says:

    I would suggest using a Realtor unless you are up on all of the legal disclosures. Selling a house is one thing but getting it to closing is another. Things to think about.
    Who will be doing the title search to make sure that the deed is clean?
    Who will be providing the title insurance?
    Who will be setting up inspections?
    Who will be drafting the deed?
    Who will be setting up the actual closing.
    Who will be handling the bank transactions?
    who will be helping the buyer secure financing?
    Who will be working on fixing the problems that come up on every transaction before the closing. Every closing has some problems.
    Who will be writing up the offer to purchase in a legal manner to protect you?
    This is just a small list of closing issues not to mention all of the work that goes into getting a qualified buyer in the first place.

  • Erin says:

    If you don’t have to sell (i.e., if you are happy to stay in your current home if you can’t get the offer you want), then maybe try to sell on your own. But having purchased three homes, I personally would never buy a for-sale-by-owner home unless I knew the owners and had complete confidence in them–and even then, maybe not, LOL! A house is the largest purchase many people will ever make, and as such, it is important to protect that investment. Remember, if you don’t get your asking price, you owe your realtor nothing. And as I said, if you don’t absolutely have to sell, you can take into consideration the realtor’s commission when pricing your house (and maybe even negotiate the realtor’s commission). Of course, I would not recommend this if you need to sell quickly. We did the opposite–pricing our house on the low end of other comparable homes at the beginning of the housing crisis, and we ended up getting a bit more than asking price. Good luck!

  • September says:

    We bought our first house from a “for sale by owner”; overall it was a great experience for us–particularly since we paid about 15% under market. The sellers were very nice people who just didn’t have a very accurate idea of what things were actually worth, and without getting the input from a professional they were at a disadvantage during negotiations.

    For most people a home is one of the largest financial investments they’ll make in their lifetime, and I can’t imagine taking that step (either buying or selling) without the help of a professional. That’s not to say that all realtors are good–there’s a lot out there who are just listing and waiting, but the right realtor can make all the difference in every step of the process. We just old a house in a NYC suburb and even with buying in a high market (2003) and selling during a recession we made about 150% on our initial investment and cleared enough that we were able to pay cash for our new home and still have a significant amount of money to invest.

    When it came to selling, we spent money to make money…virtually the entire house was repainted (using colors recommended by our stager), hardwood floors refinished, house/roof powerwashed, unfinished portion of basement cleared out and painted. On the recommendation of our realtor we also hired a stager and allowed her carte blanche to set up our home for the listing. In all we spent around 20K getting the house ready to sell, but it sold to the first couple who walked through for 26K more than list price, so we consider it money well spent.

  • Suzanne says:

    I think it totally depends on the market where you are. If you are in a sellers market (and there are a few of them out there) then you can list it yourself. For sure you need to get it on MLS at a minimum.

    But also look at what is available in your area in the price range you plan to list your house at. Be objective, is your house better or worse than some of these homes? And if it’s the same, does it stand out in any way? If it just sort of looks like the other homes for sale, you probably either need a realtor or a much lower price to get traffic to your house.

    Remember, your house is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it, not what you want to get out of it.

  • Jennifer says:

    Another option would be to add “brokers protected” or “brokers welcome” This will tell the Realtors you are willing to pay them something. Be sure to put all the terms in a contract before the showing.

    Realtors have the buyers and that’s what you need!

    Suzanne is exactly right, “your house is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it”. Also, a Realtor, if they’re good, will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear!

  • Megan says:

    We sold our home in Arizona last year, where the real estate market is still tanking. I so wish we would have dropped the price early on and started lower. We ended up waiting, moving to another state, having an offer but the appraisal came in so much lower that the buyer walked….it was so frustrating. I just wish we would have started lower. We loved our house and really thought it was worth more. Really, you will sell it faster if you price it just a little below what houses are going for in your area. It is hard because everyone thinks their home is special but bite the bullet and think about your price

  • Tiffany T says:

    We sold our house in DFW, TX in 2008, just as the market was turning. After contemplating using a realtor or doing it ourselves, we went with a flat-fee realtor that did all the “hard” stuff (i.e., stuff we didn’t want to screw up like paperwork). After doing our own research and price comparisons in the area, we came up with a selling price (just slightly below what others were going for, but left room for negotiating), keeping in mind that it did us no good to price too high since we’d have to pay a mortgage for each month it didn’t sell. We wrote the MLS ad, took the pictures, they posted it. They directed all buyer-realtors directly to us to schedule home viewings and we had the option to either be home or not (in which case we took a walk around the block since I am SAHM). When a buyer wanted to make an offer (after only 3 weeks on the market), they walked us through the process, step by step. They explained what we needed to do, what we needed to get from the buyer, why it was necessary, etc. They ran all the checks, gave us the outcome and then let us make the decision. Even during negotiating, we were able to talk to our “realtor” like he was a friend (and btw, we were dealing with the flat-fee business owner himself in most cases) and ask his opinion and what other sellers have done. We could counter-offer, he’d relay the information and then give us an update later for the next move. Other than the viewing of the house and her final walk-through before signing the papers, we never dealed directly with the buyer, which was important to me (since I didn’t want the buyer to know I had no idea what I was doing!) We also had minimal contact with the buyer’s realtor, which was a plus!

    We thoroughly cleaned and de-cluttered our house before even putting it on the market, since we knew how important it was to grab potential buyers as soon as they walk in the door, and make them emotionally want the house – so they could envision living there themselves. Even with a newborn, we kept the house in a 10-minute clean state, so that we could quickly clean the house within 10 minutes if a buyer was on their way.

    If I’m able to (and Crystal please delete if necessary), I’d highly recommend John Prell with Creekview Realty if you’re in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area. I literally cannot say enough positive things about our experience. If we could, we’d sell houses every day with him!

    One thing to consider is that advertising is one aspect of selling your house – getting the word out. Use any and every means necessary, but bear in mind that only people who are interested will actually come and look, so don’t get disappointed if you only get one or two views. Not many people can afford a home right now so you won’t get many calls. Second, you have to make your home an emotional factor. We know that we should remove our emotions when we’re buying a house or a car, but the table is turned when you’re selling. You NEED to create that emotion in a potential buyer – make them want YOUR house !

  • April says:

    We just put our house on the market yesterday using Assist-to-Sell. Just yesterday they started a program where you can pay an up front fee of either $495 or $995 and they do all the work *except* 1-you have to show your own home (they make appointments, you just have to be home and show it), 2-it costs an another $500 at closing for them to do the paperwork IF you find your own buyer OR 3% if they find you a buyer OR 3% to a third party realtor. It makes a lot of sense if you have the $500/$1000 to pay and all you want is a nice sign, nice flyers, nice website postings, and a professional to help. If you choose to upgrade to their full service, it is only $2995 & 3% and that is due at closing and you are credited the amount you paid. They are nationwide, so you should call them and ask about it. It’s basically a for-sale-by-owner with fancier signs and way way way more marketing opportunities.

    • sherri says:

      Geeze, that sounds close to being as expensive as a realtor…but I guess it depends on the amount you are selling your home for.

  • Andrea Q says:

    It is very disappointing to find out that your home isn’t worth what you think it is and that the improvements you’ve made don’t make up for the failing market. My personal feeling is to stay where you are unless you absolutely have to move.

    Experts have been saying that we’re close to the bottom of the market for close to two years now, but no one really knows when things will start to turn around. There are many homes in my area that have lost more than a third of their value in the last 24 months (I live in the Northeast, so that’s typically more than $100,000).

  • Ruth says:

    I don’t know if you will use a realtor or not, but INTERVIEW, INTERVIEW, INTERVIEW any perspective realtors if you do. Email them a list of questions or concerns and see how each of them respond. You will be able to pick out which one will work with you. My husband emailed 5-7 realtors and only one responded to his questions, and guess which one we used? We just bought a home in the early winter, and I am so glad we used a realtor. It helped lessen the STRESS of having to deal with legal matters. Plus, she knew the answers to the legal questions, she knew who to call for help and who to use who wasn’t shady in the town. This is especially true if you are working with a potential buyer from out of town.

    Also, just wanted to add, that laws vary by state, so check out your state laws dealing with the specifics with attorneys and realtors. Some states have stricter laws than others dealing with buying and selling a home.

  • sarah says:

    We just sold and bought houses in the last 2 mths. For me I would want a realtor. I have two toddlers and just keeping the house show ready was hard enough for me. It was nice to leave the house ready and have someone else deal with meeting for the showings. When we interviewed realtors she told us that she didn’t do open houses but only showings for buyers with realtors, she said those were the serious buyers. She did get our house “sold” in two weeks(under contract for sale) She was great at vetting the offers we received, doing leg work i would have never had done(confirm financing for the buyers and such) Then she spent all weekend showing us houses, 12 in one weekend. Once we found the house she helped with the inspections, reports, and lawyers. With a traveling husband and two toddlers I could have never done the move without her. She was worth her comission and then some in my eyes.

    If you are going to FSBO plan on having a full time job to get the house sold.

    • Beth says:

      Ah, this was SO our experience!! I also had two toddlers, a traveling husband, and was pregnant at the time. It was MORE than worth it to have a realtor. 🙂 It is at the very least a part-time job even WITH a realtor if you do your homework and seek to be informed…without a realtor, well, that makes me exhausted just thinking about it. 🙂

      Also, just something from a buyer’s perspective (as my husband and I are in the process of searching for a home and it is the 3rd time we have done so as his job has relocated us numerous times)….this is not to tell you what you should do- just to give a little insight as to what is in OUR heads 🙂 and what we’ve found in our past experience of selling our past homes.

      I have to say, in response to the “let your buyers know you are not paying their realtor fees” thought that someone mentioned earlier….that is exactly why my husband and I primarily do NOT look at FSBO houses or such and prefer to look at homes that are being shown through a realtor. It makes no difference to us on the buying end as typically people WILL pay closing costs if they have a realtor and it is often assumed that they will (we did when we sold our home and assumed that would be worked in at the get-go and negotiated it and kept that in our heads at the very beginning) so for ease of transition and headache (and making sure everything is legit and taken care of) we absolutely want a realtor and are looking at places that are going through a realtor as some FSBO’s won’t even work with realtors, which is a waste of our time (something we have very little of!). So because of that, we typically don’t even bother with FSBO.

      We just made sure to price appropriately and competitively when we sold. We were not in extreme debt and were in a position to take our time, so that affected our buying potential. Our last home was extremely hard to sell because of various issues and the fact that we had to first list it in the winter because of relocation, and we most definitely needed a realtor from the beginning- because of that and also the fact that we moved out of state in the middle of trying to sell it and weren’t able to attend to a lot of things that the realtor did for us. It was well worth the money as it was a headache the way it was and we had plenty of other stress in our lives without adding to it. There were many times in the process I was extremely thankful for our realtor, as the “I’ll handle it” attitude was a huge blessing. We had a lot of issues with our first serious buyers that the realtor was able to muddle through and give sound advice to us regarding, but we wouldn’t have had the wisdom at the time to deal with, no matter how well-researched we felt we were. We’re so busy right now, I love the fact that our realtor is taking care of everything, and all he has to do is send us the paperwork and we can review it and fax it back. An incredible blessing that is more than worth the fees for us.

      Some people think they can negotiate a cheaper price if they look at FSBO, but in all honesty, our experience has been the opposite- we have seen many, many, overpriced FSBO homes (and initially I looked into a LOT as I was curious), and I didn’t like not being able to evaluate based on MLS or realtor websites the trend from when that home was first listed on the market and how much it’s dropped, when it’s dropped, etc. Also, it was quite inconvenient as when you’re with a realtor, you can drive around and if you see a home you’re interested in, they can immediately make a call and get a code to get you in the house to view while you’re in the area if it’s vacant (we had NUMEROUS people do that with our home while we were selling it, and while inconvenient to show that impromptu, the more people we allowed to see the home, the bigger pool of possibilities- so having a key code on our door via the realtor allowed us to show it MUCH, MUCH more often as it wasn’t always convenient for us to show it). It is most definitely a buyer’s market right now (exactly why we are planning on purchasing now if and when we find the right thing, we are currently renting) and if YOU won’t pay realtor’s fees, there will be someone who probably will, and I would prefer to go with them.

      So I guess I would say, if you are selling without a realtor, I wouldn’t necessarily go into it with the assumption that you will NOT pay the buyer’s realtor’s fees. That is limiting your buying pool. Sure, it may work for some, but you may be the ones that it doesn’t work for. 🙂 Once in a blue moon, we’ll look at a FSBO home if we happen to be in the neighborhood, but there are many things that turn up “red flags” in our opinion and cause us to write them off immediately when corresponding to them and one of those things is what you mentioned, about not paying realtor’s fees. Unless we are 100% certain we are getting an INCREDIBLE price on the home, then why would we want to add another several thousand at very least on top of our already assumed price range? On top of that, a lot of people are just nervous about negotiating without a realtor, for good reason as there is a ton of research that goes into it.

      On another note, we also preferred to primarily look at homes that our realtor sent through a specific website for realtors in our local area- we preferred the pictures as opposed to realtor, trulia, FSBO,etc. as it was consistently given in the same format and it was typically much more thorough. We tend to just study those and add those to our spreadsheet of interest as it can be extremely overwhelming to monitor all of the different websites and realtor.com (although seemingly one of the most thorough) doesn’t always have as many pictures as our particular realtor’s website. Also, we have been really thankful for the experience of the realtor, as we did not initially know the area very well, even though we have now rented here for quite some time in order to get to know the area, and the realtor was focused on this area for the past 30 years, so she was able to add a lot of insight into school districts, various issues and zoning, builders with good repuations, etc., which is important to us. Typically there are a LOT more pictures via the realtor, more information on the layout of the home, etc., that saves us a lot of time.

      Just my thoughts from someone currently looking to purchase. You need to do what you feel is the right decision, and for you, that may be selling without a realtor! 🙂 I hope it goes well and good luck with whatever you do! =)

      • Andrea Q says:

        Beth, we had a couple of bad experiences with Realtors “prescreening” homes for us (and only sending the ones they preferred through their system). It pays to check Trulia/Zillow/MLS, etc every week or so, just to check if the Realtor might have missed something.

        • Beth says:

          Good thought….ours is sent through certain type of city-wide system where we have set up the “screening” ourselves and have access to change our qualifications at any point via passwords and accessing the site, etc. We log on regularly to the site and confirm our qualifications are what we are still interested in and working correctly. Therefore, WE are the ones screening and can adjust it at any point as we have access to it online and are in charge of it. We initially spent a LOT of time also checking zillow, trulia, mls, etc., but found we were just doubling our efforts and all of the potentials were already on our spreadsheets. As we are the ones determining our qualifications and continually checking it to make sure nothing has been changed, there isn’t really any reason for concern in that area I suppose. We are also getting listings from a variety of realtors (3 separate listings sent to our emails) as we have investigated building, renting from a variety of realtors, etc., throughout this process, so I feel like we’re pretty informed. We’ve been investigating for a LONG time and my husband is, well, shall we say, slightly OCD and analytical, which is really helpful in this process, haha! 🙂 In addition to that, our primary realtor is a close Christian friend of ours who loves our family dearly, so it’s not really a concern for us, but I can see how it would be if you didn’t know your realtor well. All of our realtors we know very well. (I know it sounds weird that we have several but we are only purchasing through one, our friend, but have a lot of connections through the sale of our home in a different area, possible leasing options, and potentially building at some point as some realtors are also project managers for the construction companies we are looking into, so they are aware that we are not purchasing through them, but using them for the interim time and are completely fine with that- we’ve been super upfront). Thanks for the thought, though! 🙂 That is probably wise as a general rule!!! I’m sorry you had a bad experience. 🙁

  • Autumn says:

    I would agree with the House Staging. I’ve researched it and it makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen most people continue to drop their asking price since the home is sitting on the market too long with no takers. In my area alone I’ve seeen a ton of homes drop over $80,000 because they are so desperate and want out from underneath the loan. For as little as $500 (more of course if you desire) you can add some dramatic touches to the house with a professional house stager and sell your home much quicker for the asking price. The buyer needs to be able to vision the home with them living in it and unfortunately most buyers cannot without some simple touches making the home more warm and inviting, and spacious. If you research a little you can find someone in your area that does this and they show with a small investment in your home you can actually add a higher resell value to set off the cost of this staging. Something to think about. Our just research yourself on how to improve it yourself but I think the stagers in our area are definitely worth the small investment as opposed to dropping the selling price. Most realtors out here even hire them to sell their properties quicker.

  • Mrs. Amelia says:

    What other job do you not get paid one thing unless you perform and many times even if you do? Not one penny. My husband is a Realtor/Broker and my two oldest daughters are Realtors, we’re a homeschool family as well. Trust me, I cannot tell you how many times my husband and daughters have worked hours and hours for customers only not to be paid a penny. A Realtor is many times a counselor and minister as well if coming from a Christian perspective which I also think is very important. Please give consideration to your local Realtor, that “fee” is their livelyhood, their expertise and time is invaluable.

  • Amy says:

    In the area we live, it would be foolish to hire a realtor. Homes sell themselves because of the fantastic school district we are in. We have bought and sold 4 homes in the last 3 years (fixed them up and sold) and never used a realtor. We think realtors are a dying breed, honestly. With online listings, flat fee MLS services, etc etc. there’s no need to use one. The sales contract (paperwork) is extremely easy and is public for anyone to print online in each state. When you make it to the title company to close on the sale, they look over the paperwork anyway to be sure nothing was missed- so it’s never a problem. Hiring a realtor in an already desireable area is just not smart. I wouldn’t be able to stomach handing over 3-6% to a person who can do just about as mush as I can.

  • Teri says:

    My husband and I currently have our house on the market. We thought briefly about selling it ourselves, but opted to use a Realtor. The commission is 6%. We are glad that we are using her. She has gone above and beyond to help us. We figured up by the time we payed for adverstisng(with money that we didn’t have), scheduled appointments, for showing the house, hiring our attorney to look at any paperwork that we may have at closing, we would end up paying the same price. Now the worry of all of that is gone, and the Realtor can take care of all of that for us. Head ache, good bye!

  • Kim says:

    I find that people are under a misconception about what Realtors make. They generally do not get 6% of the listing price. In a typical situation, there are two separate agents – so the buyer’s agent gets 3% and the seller’s agent gets 3%. Of that 3%, the Realtor and his or her broker have a split – this can be varying strutures depending upon both the agent and the company he or she is with. For example, it could be a 50/50% split, a 40/60% split, or even as high as a 10/90% split (in this case, usually the Realtor is paying a monthly fee, say $1,000/month, to the real estate company for such a high retention percentage, i.e. to keep 90% of the 3%), then there are also fees – franchise fees, errors and omissions insurance, etc. So, say for example a house is $200,000. 6% is $12,000. Each Realtor earns 3% of that, so $6,000 each. Of that, say that the Realtor and his or her company have a 40/60% so the Realtor gets 60% of $6,000 or $3,600, then there are the other fee deductions mentioned (plus local, state and national dues, MLS dues, key and lockbox dues and fees, signs, flyers, etc). If the house is only $100,000, then using the same factors, a Realtor will get $1800 before fees. I think many people think, “oh, my Realtor is making 6% of $200,000 so $12,000! What does he or she do for $12,000?!?” Well, it’s not the case — that $12,000 before fees is really only $3,600 using the factors above. Sometimes even a Realtor puts in tons and tons of hours and then the seller decides to pull the listing and the Reatlor has made nothing (sometimes there may be a “penalty fee” for pulling the listing but it is usually nominal in relation to what the Realtor would have made selling the house, if the Realtor even charges the penalty fee).

  • Meredith says:

    Haven’t read any of the posts above but we sware by 1% realty. It’s a company that you only pay them 1% comission to sell your house and additional 1 or 3% to the buyers realtor (you decide how much) but has all the services of a full broker (i.e will get you on the MLS listings,etc.) Genius idea in my opinion! Think the website is http://www.onepercentusa or something like that…

  • maya says:

    We have a duplex we rent out so it is a different thing, but we have to advertise it similarly. We have a craigs list ad that links to a simple blog I made. I have mulitple pictures and details on the blog. It offers more than a craigs list can and we can also give the blog address out for potential renters (or buyers in your case) here is the link if you want to see what it loos like… http://andrewsrental.wordpress.com/

    Some other places to advertise: any miltary bases, large companies that you know employees (my sister works at one and they have an online classfied page for their company), universities

  • Marie says:

    We just listed our home with a Realtor and in 48 hours we’ve had 6 showings and 2 offers so far (waiting for more in the morning!). We wanted our home sold quick so we could make a move on another one we like, and it looks like a quick sale is imminent. Totally worth the commision to us! I guess listing by owner depends on how much time you have to sell and how much of the details you have time to deal with.

  • Heather says:

    We sold our house using forsalebyowner.com and saved a considerable amount of money. It only took us 3 months (the average is 6 months). I’m not even certain listing our house on that web site is what sold our house. I would suggest using good sturdy signage in front of your house to advertise, have an open house every other week, and make sure to stage your house well. Watching shows on TLC and HG-TV can give you an idea of how to do it if you are uncertain. Best of luck, and don’t give up! You CAN do it and avoid paying the realtor a 3-6% commission.

  • Tammy says:

    I heard that putting fresh flowers in vases, fresh fruit in bowls on tables, having the scent of homemade cookies baking in the oven all when people are viewing/walking through your house (these things help I am told). I hope that helps. God bless.

  • Ilene says:

    There is a distinct advantage in having that “disinterested third party” involved. A potential buyer may not be honest in telling you their objections, while they will talk to the realtor. The realtor is the mediator and can be the voice of reason to get things worked out.

    Safety issues: The realtor will be better able to get enough information on the buyers so no one will be at risk.

    Money: Regardless of your asking price, a buyer will still cut the price because “After all, you’re not paying a realtor’s fee”. You will still need an attorney to protect your rights and be sure your contract is legal.

    A realtor knows the best ways to market a house. Particularly if you’ve only had one showing, you may not be advertising properly (another out-of-your-pocket cost). A realtor has access to advertising that you don’t. If you can’t get the word out properly, you have a much smaller market to draw a buyer.

  • Gwen says:

    Hi-

    I haven’t read all of the other posts but I did want to offer one tip. When we sold our house by owner we spent very little. We decided to try FSBO first and then if it didn’t sell go with a realtor. We were on a street that was not busy but there were 6 houses for sale that had to go by us to get to them. We sold in less than a month.
    The best tip I was given was to save the attorney’s fees and have the Title Company write the contract. After we settled on a price with the buyer, the title company did the rest. This was a fee you have to pay anyway and it was not any extra for them to do the contract as well as the title.

  • Beth Zehner says:

    We have always used For Sale By Owner with a local realty group. Some will offer that option. Our local one is called HouseHunters. Our house was listed with the others, plus all the advertising (for a steal of what it would cost me for all of that). They also will assess and assist you with advise on improvements or things you can do to get a better sale. The one we have where I live, gets 1% of the sale. We have always felt it was the best bang for the buck. We’ve actually talked about selling (but are still unsure) and the Realtor came out to our home anyway to give us pointers of things we should invest in for a return and projects that wouldn’t be worth it. He was a huge help.

  • Linda says:

    Holly,
    It seems to me, that there are two major considerations: 1-What is the market like in your area? 2-How big of a hurry are you in? If the market is good in your area, and you have plenty of time, you may not need a realtor. If your market is poor or, you are in a hurry to sell, an agent is a big help.
    Another factor to think about is if you have previous experience selling a home (with or without an agent), you may be aware of the time and effort you will need to put into selling your home yourselves. If this is the first time you’ve ever sold a home, you will probably be in for a surprise at how much time effort you must spend to sell it yourself.
    We just sold a home in the Seattle area, which is supposed to be doing fairly well compared to the rest of the country. We were in a hurry to sell as we had already purchased our new home, and we sold in two weeks after listing. Even in this area we NEVER could have done that ourselves, even though I’ve sold 3 other homes in the past (all using agents).
    We had our agent go through our house months before listing to get an idea of all the things we needed to do, and those things we could leave alone, to prepare our 25 year old house for sale. Once we had completed those things, she helped us determine a fair market price. She is a certified stager, so she helped us stage the house as well. By this time, we were into our new house, and she handled all the correspondence and coordinating with other realters to get feed-back so we could address issues we may not have thought of before. We also didn’t have to worry about being there to let prospective buyers in. We asked about open-houses, and she said that in her 15 years as an agent, she only sold one house through an open house. She said that agent open houses were a good idea, and as it was, an agent that had previewed the house brought her client in later, and he gave us our offer.

  • Kimberli says:

    I wish you the best of luck with selling your home. Unfortunately I know a lot of people that have not had luck with selling their homes with a Realtor either. The economy is just that bad right now. In fact, my Grandma tried to sell her extra condo and couldn’t so my Uncle moved in and is paying her rent for it while they await the economy to recover. It sounds like this option won’t work for you because you want to take the money directly out of this house and put it directly into another. Renting out is the only thing I’ve been seeing people do, my mom barely sold her house in time. I guess if you just sit tight and wait long enough that luck will eventually turn in your favor. Good luck again.

  • Wendy says:

    As an agent, I can always see both sides of this issue. But let me say, PLEASE please please be careful when selling FSBO. There are a lot of crooked, underhanded, criminal folks out there just looking for an opportunity to get inside your home. You would not believe the kinds of calls we receive every day from unqualified or even pathologically nutty people. There are cases every year of agents being attacked or even murdered by so-called clients.

    On the business end, contracts vary widely from state to state, and there are vast considerations to be understood. There just aren’t “handshake” contracts anymore in this litigious society.

    To sell FSBO, be prepared to be an agent, a decorator or home stager, a landscaper, a title officer, an attorney, a mortgage lender, a sign maker, an internet expert, a photographer, a surveyor, a home inspector, a negotiator, a psychologist and a private investigator!

    No one really “wants” to pay agent commissions, but I’m betting when you are ready to purchase, you’ll want to have the guidance of an agent to help you negotiate and navigate your purchase!

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