Do You Really Need an Agent? How “For Sale by Owner” Can Cost You
There are countless questions you may be asking yourself when selling your home. How do I get the best price? Is now the right time? What’s happening in the market? Where do I start?
Another question that many potential sellers often ask themselves is “do I really need a real estate agent?” After all, you can save money on commission by doing it yourself. And how hard can it be?
The answer may surprise you. Selling your home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make in your life. It’s a complex process, one that requires the experience and expertise of someone who knows your local market inside and out. As a legal transaction, it also requires someone familiar with the regulatory requirements to make it legally sound.
From pricing to marketing to negotiations, real estate agents are highly skilled at the steps that go into selling a home. They know how to price your home, how and where to market it, and how to find the perfect buyer. Yes, agents earn a commission on every sale, but it’s money well spent. In most cases, sellers get that money back many times over. Following are some of the reasons why you should avoid For Sale by Owner (FSBO) and instead hire a professional to help you sell your home.
Real estate agents are professionals who possess a vast knowledge of local market conditions gained through years of training, certifications, and working with clients. For FSBO sellers, the complexities of the home selling process can easily illuminate a lack of experience and leave them feeling unsure of how to continue. Even worse, situations may arise where proceeding incorrectly could jeopardize the transaction. This lack of expertise could lead to incorrectly pricing your home, which will attract the wrong buyers and cost you money in the long run.
An accurately priced home requires market knowledge and an objective approach to the home’s value, which can be tough for homeowners. The more time an overpriced home spends on the market, the more likely the price will have to be lowered. A home with a lowered price that has been on the market for some time is less appealing to buyers than an accurately priced new listing. An underpriced home could leave significant money on the table for the seller.
A common motivating factor for wanting to sell without an agent is that, in the case of a successful sale, the seller avoids paying commission. However, what that commission ultimately pays for is a vast skill set that is specifically trained to get you the most money for your home. Agents are well-versed on local market conditions. They compare other listings as well as homes that have already sold. They’re aware of market trends and what buyers are looking for.
Finding the right buyer is another benefit of working with an agent. A seller can have dozens of lookie-loos and nosy neighbors viewing their home, but what they want is a handful of serious buyers. They know what questions to ask and what to look for to weed out those who are not serious or unqualified, thus putting the focus on those who are.
Sure, you can post your home for sale on Craigslist, Zillow or Redfin, but what type of buyer are you attracting? Agents are connected to a network of potential buyers and industry professionals and are skilled at pairing the right buyer with the right home. They also have the marketing know-how for appealing to them and any others in your market. To attempt to approach this same level of visibility while selling on your own means incurring additional expenses such as ad placement, signage, hiring a photographer, and more.
Selling your home is an emotional process. Perhaps you’ve raised your children there, or you’ve spent hours of work updating or restoring the home. To you, your home is perfect. Most homeowners are emotionally connected to their home, and that can often lead to emotionally-driven decisions. Your choice of paint color may not appeal to everyone, and rather than be offended at low-ball offers, your agent can help you manage them professionally.
On a similar note, an agent can help prevent sellers from disclosing too much personal information that can negatively impact a sale. For example, say a seller is in the midst of a contentious divorce. If the seller’s agent knows this, he or she may know the seller is willing to accept a lower offer just to get rid of the property as soon as possible. An agent serves as a go-between to keep you in check.
There’s no nice way to say it: selling your home without an agent isn’t viewed as professional. Buyer’s agents don’t want to hand-hold a layperson through the process, and sellers are often seen as difficult to work with. In fact, some agents will avoid showing FSBO homes to their clients because they’ve had negative experiences in the past. It can also make potential buyers uncomfortable to work directly with a seller, as they don’t want to hurt their feelings by criticizing the home. It can also be extremely uncomfortable for buyers to tour the home with the seller lingering about, and potential buyers tend to rush through viewings to avoid the awkwardness.
Selling a home takes up a great deal of time. Owners can expect to stage the home, host showings and tours, answer phone calls from buyers, interview home inspectors, and coordinate open houses, all while gathering data on the local market—and that’s all before any negotiations or paperwork. It’s like having another job that you may simply not have time for, whereas a real estate agent’s job is to dedicate their time, energy, and experience to the successful sale of your home. Have a full time job? Unless you have the flexibility to skip out on meetings and clock out early, it will be a struggle to go at it on your own.
Unless you’re an expert, it’s often best to leave negotiations to the professionals. Agents are skilled negotiators, and the back-and-forth that goes into home selling and buying requires the expertise of those who have done it before. FSBO sellers are typically less amenable to the “give” part of the give-and-take, which can easily kill a sale. Going up against an experienced negotiator typically means the experienced party wins — affecting your bottom line. Agents know what items should be deal breakers and what aren’t, and can inform you of the pros and cons of each.
When an offer comes through, FSBO sellers must dive into the extensive documentation required for the mortgage, title transfer, and any other legalese involved in the transaction. In doing so, they put themselves at risk. Even if they’ve sold a number of times, laws and regulatory requirements change frequently and it can be challenging to keep up with the changes.
All these factors make selling FSBO a risky proposition. Mistakes in the selling process can lead to both financial and legal implications, but part of a real estate agent’s expertise is knowing how and when these dangers can arise and navigating them properly. Although some may want to cut out the “middle man,” in reality, an agent is an equal teammate who has your back from start to finish.
Post courtesy, in part, of Windermere Real Estate