Should You Sell Your Home By Yourself Or Use A Realtor
Jim Grapes - July 19, 2008
FSBO stands for “For Sale by Owner”. Quite a few homeowners suppose it's not big deal to sell a home on their own, the FSBO way. They assume they can net thousands of dollars more at closing than if they hire a real estate broker and pay sales commissions. Many homeowners choose to sell their home without the aid of a real estate broker and do just fine; others find out the hard way how much help a real estate broker can be and how they can actually help to net more cash at the end of the negotiations. Selling your own home can sound attractive, and it can save you thousands of dollars if you are up for it. It can also cost you thousands if you go about it the wrong way.
Here in Spokane Washington, the FSBO market cycled through many ups and downs. Most recently the seller's market that ended a couple years ago it was certainly easier to sell your home without the help of a broker. Recently however, the market has shifted into a more balanced market. Many experts say that it is now a buyer's market as the number of expired listings has shot way up along with the total number of active listings. As of last week, Spokane had over 5,300 active listings in the Spokane Association of Realtors MLS. There we also 2,711 residential sales that closed in the last six months. At the current rate of sales with this number of listings it would take over a year for them to all with no new listing being added to the MLS. With nearly 2,000 real estate agents actively marketing these homes, someone working on their own seems to be at a definite disadvantage in today's market conditions. Of course, Realtors, real estate brokers and Agents are experts in their field and expect to get paid a reasonable fee for their services.
Any homeowner who decides to take on the job of selling their own home is taking on an enormous amount of work and responsibility, but there are some potential benefits and challenges to doing it yourself.
The main motivation for someone to sell their home FSBO is to avoid paying a sales commission and keep that money themselves. Spokane Real estate brokers typically require 5%-7% of the total sale price as their fee. If your home is worth $200,000 then this fee is $10,000 to $14,000! This is money that you could possibly keep in your own accounts by selling your home yourself. Conversely, if you make a mistake by underestimating the value of your home, leave it on the market for too long, negotiate details of the transaction poorly or prepare the sales contract incorrectly, you could lose even more.
If you decide to sell your home FSBO you must analyze the potential savings and compare it the value of your time and effort it’s worth. In the process of selling your home by yourself you will necessarily invest enormous amounts of time researching legalities, technicalities in sales contracts, negotiating strategies, comparable properties and the current condition of the local real estate market. These are all things that a Realtor stays current with in the course of running their business. If you do not have the time for this, you may be better off with a real estate professional.
It is possible to market your home simply and without the assistance of a real estate professional. Posters, signs, fliers and newspaper ads can be effective marketing tools and they are available to anyone. Employing these marketing strategies will start to eat into the money you were planning to save though. When using a real estate professional, the agency will often absorb the costs of marketing.
Realtors sometimes make use of all the marketing options the FSBO sellers do but hey have access to the biggest marketing tool available and it's not available to someone selling on their own. Real estate brokers have access to the Multiple Listing Service or MLS. This is a computer database service that instantly publishes the information about available property to other all the other Realtors and agents that are corresponding members of that particular MLS. Additionally, with recent syndication agreements the information on these listing are pushed to hundreds of other web sites that offer searchable information on homes for sale around the State and even across the country and around the world
When someone sells their home FSBO they take on the all responsibilities of selling the home. These include not only for the costs of the various professionals, but the time and effort in finding and screening them for quality of service and professionalism. Realtors have an established a network of related professionals and agencies that will help you through the process. As a FSBO seller you are working from scratch.
Selling a home can be an emotional experience. After all it could be where you have lived for years and it may be the place of your most precious memories. Home buyers tend to be very critical of homes they look at to purchase. Having a potential buyer who is a stranger come into your home be very critical can be a trying experience. This is a very important aspect of being represented by a real estate professional. As an agent they represent your interest and shield the homeowner from direct confrontation in the negotiations. Realtors are expert negotiators. A real estate professional see selling a home as a business transaction, there will be low-balling, offers made that are never meant to be accepted, etc. Remember that the buying party may be a better negotiator than you, or they may be working with a negotiating real estate professional themselves.
Real estate contracts are complicated. There is a lot of legalities involved in the sale of a home. Most every state has laws protecting consumers. Some of them concern proper disclosure, lead paint, radon, inspections, and so on. Many sellers may violate state laws without ever intended to. If you are determined to sell your home without a real estate professional, have a lawyer look over any contracts involved. This is an area in which even one misplaced word can undo all of your hard work. Realtors pay for "Errors and Omissions" insurance to protect them and their clients in the case of a mistake like this. In most cases, Realtors use preprinted legal forms that have been reviewed by attorneys and have been determined not to favor one party over another.
If you have the time, patience, money and desire to sell your home by yourself, then by all means go ahead and give it a try. But be aware of what you are getting yourself into first. There is a good reason that real estate agents exist; buying and selling property is not easy. Realtors provide valuable service and earn the commissions by serving their clients well. In the end, you may decide that your time and happiness is worth more than the commissions you could save. Know yourself, research your options and choose wisely.