Selling A House Without A REALTOR®: Should You Do It?
Rachel Burris8-Minute Read
August 13, 2020
When you’re ready to move, it can be tempting to want to sell your house without a REALTOR® or real estate agent. After all, who wouldn’t be frustrated by the thought of having to give up a chunk of the proceeds from their sale? However, there are certain downsides involved in selling your property by yourself.
Before you make any decisions, you must have a clear understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of working with an agent. In this article, we’ll help you decide whether you should sell your home solo, and even give you tips for how you can do it successfully – if you choose to do so.
What Are FSBO Listings?
FSBO listings are properties on the market that are advertised as being “for sale by owner.” They differ from traditional market listings in that the entire transaction is completed without the assistance of a licensed real estate agent.
In reality, FSBO listings aren’t all that common. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, only 8% of homes sold in 2019 were FSBO listings. Most commonly, sellers will decide to list their homes without an agent because they don’t want to pay the commission to a listing agent.
However, smart sellers typically only follow through with a FSBO listing if they:
1. Are conducting a non-arm’s length transaction. Such transactions often occur when the buyer and seller already know each other and attempt to find terms that satisfy both parties’ interests.
2. Have a lot of previous experience handling real estate transactions.
How Do Home Sales Without REALTORS® Work?
Home sales conducted without REALTORS® or agents work very similarly to those conducted with them. However, the process of selling a FSBO home differs primarily in the listing phase.
When a seller obtains representation, the real estate agent lists the home on the local multiple listing service (MLS), where the majority of agents find available properties to send to their buyers. Unfortunately, only licensed agents have access to the MLS. Therefore, homeowners cannot list their homes on the MLS themselves.
FSBO sellers can pay specialized real estate companies a flat fee to list their homes on the MLS. However, these services usually cost a few hundred dollars and don’t include any kind of representation. As a result, most homeowners decide to list their homes for free on online listing services, like ForSaleByOwner.com.
Pros And Cons Of Selling Without A Real Estate Agent
Selling without a real estate agent is a tremendous undertaking. Before you decide to become a FSBO seller, you must make sure that you’re ready for the responsibility. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons involved, so you can decide if selling your home independently is the right decision for you.
A seller may get a greater feeling of satisfaction, knowing that they were able to sell their home without the assistance of a real estate agent. Yet, here are a couple of more specific pros behind doing so.
- FSBO sellers can save money on a real estate agent’s commission: Selling a home independently allows homeowners to avoid paying a listing agent’s commission. However, these sellers will still have to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission if the buyer is represented.
- FSBO sellers have more control over the process: FSBO sellers don’t have to worry about real estate agents’ opinions differing from their own. They have the confidence in knowing that they can dictate the terms and dedicate as much time to selling their home as they desire.
- FSBO homes can sell faster because they’re often sold through a non-arm’s length transaction: The National Association of REALTORS® reports that in 2019, 58% of FSBO homes sold in under 2 weeks. The speed of these sales was usually a result of the fact that the sellers sold their homes to individuals they already knew.
Selling a FSBO home is typically much harder and more labor-intensive on the seller, who often does not have the experience, access or connections necessary to price, market and negotiate the property. Let’s take a look at some specific drawbacks of FSBO sales.
- FSBO sellers will still have to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission: As the National Association of REALTORS® notes, 89% of 2019 home buyers used an agent when purchasing their homes. Therefore, it’s more likely than not that FSBO sellers will be forced to pay a 3% commission and be the only party that doesn’t benefit from representation.
- FSBO sellers are more likely to over- or underprice their property: Pricing property can be challenging for FSBO sellers because they don’t have experience with the market and may be clueless as to what would constitute as fair market value for their home. Overpricing can cause the home to linger on the market while underpricing will minimize their proceeds.
- FSBO listings tend to sell for less than homes sold by real estate agents: According to the National Association of REALTORS®, in 2019, the median sale price of FSBO homes was $200,000, while the median price of homes sold by agents was $280,000. Therefore, even after accounting for agents’ commissions, represented sellers still tend to make $71,600 – $63,200 more than FSBO sellers.
- It’s harder for FSBO homes to get publicity without an agent: However, FSBO sellers must find a way to get buyers and buyer’s agents to see their home either through individual showings or open houses.
- FSBO sellers are often inexperienced negotiators: Once the FSBO home receives an offer, the seller must negotiate the price and terms to ensure that they walk away satisfied. This last step again requires the FSBO seller to precisely determine what the home is worth and which types of contingent offers are safe to accept.
Tips For A Successful FSBO Transaction
Selling without an agent can lead to a more difficult transaction. However, the more you know about the process, the more prepared you’ll be to face the challenges. To help you with the road ahead, read these tips for a successful FSBO transaction.
Conduct Thorough Local Market Research
Before you list your home for sale, you’ll need to figure out what your house is worth. To do so, you must have an accurate understanding of both the local and national housing markets.
When pricing property, real estate agents use what is known as a comparative market analysis, which estimates value by comparing the home to similar properties that have sold recently. While you can try to determine your home’s fair market value through this method, it’s far more difficult without the experience and resources of an agent. Instead, you can pay a real estate agent to provide you with a Broker Price Opinion or appraiser to conduct an appraisal.
Since FSBO sellers don’t have access to the MLS, they must find other avenues for advertising their home. While putting a sign in your front yard may get your house some attention if you live in a popular housing development or on a busy road, most FSBO sellers have better luck listing their home online.
With over 2 million visitors a month, ForSaleByOwner.com is considered the top sale-by-owner website. ForSaleByOwner offers sellers free tools and a team of specialists, who can help you create a successful listing. For a small, one-time fee, the site also provides interested sellers with a dedicated Home Listing Coordinator, who can guide you through the process. Another benefit of working with a professional is that they can ensure you avoid common listing mistakes that make it harder to sell property.
Beyond FSBO sites, you can also use social media to get the word out about your home. These days, there is a load of creative ways you can get buyers’ attention, from Facebook Live tours to eye-catching Instagram posts. However, you should also think twice before posting. You certainly don’t want to break any fair housing laws or rub potential buyers the wrong way.
Prep Your Home’s Interior And Exterior
Prior to taking photos for your FSBO listing – and certainly, before showing your home – you must be sure to prep your home for sale. You should clean and organize every room in your house, and fix up your lawn to enhance your home’s curb appeal.
It’s also a good idea to conduct a home inspection. Having an inspector examine your house will ensure that you have a clear understanding of your home’s condition and are given the opportunity to make any necessary repairs before you sell your home. It may seem silly to put work into your home right before you sell it, but it’s important. The better the condition of your home, the higher the offers you’re likely to get.
After you’ve cleaned and made necessary repairs, walk through your home and consider it from potential buyers’ perspective. If the furniture looks old and worn down or appears too big for the space, you may want to consider staging your home. Again, the better your home looks, the easier it will be to sell.
Offer Open Houses And Private Showings
Some FSBO sellers wonder whether open houses or private showings are better for getting buyers interested in their home. The answer is that they’re both important. You want to try to get as many offers as you can as quickly as possible.
Hosting an open house on the first weekend after you’ve listed your home will get buyers to notice your property and entice many to come see it at once. On the other hand, setting up private showings will give buyers more intimate time with your home.
These individual appointments will allow you to walk buyers through your house and point out everything special about it. With fewer people in your home at that time, the showing also allows the buyers to really envision themselves living in the house, which is what really sells homes at the end of the day.
Be Ready To Negotiate With Interested Buyers
While every seller dreams of drumming up a bidding war on their home and having to choose the best of many offers, such dreams rarely become a reality. It is far more likely that you will have to be flexible and willing to negotiate with potential buyers.
When negotiating an offer, it’s essential to keep in mind that money isn’t everything. Of course, you want to get the highest price you can for your home, but you also want to ensure you get the best terms for your circumstances.
It’s useful to consider when you need to close by and what you’re willing to include in the sale ahead of time, so you’re ready to negotiate when that first offer comes in. Yet, you’re also going to want to think about what contingencies you’ll be willing to accept.
You want to make sure that the offer you choose doesn’t fall through due to the buyer’s inability to obtain financing or secure a buyer for their own home. So be sure to review the terms of each offer carefully because the more time your home sits on the market, the harder it will be to sell.
The Bottom Line
Selling a house without a REALTOR® or agent is a challenging and stressful endeavor. The majority of homeowners prefer to work with real estate agents because their experience and resources typically lead homes to garner higher prices on the market.
That being said, there are a number of tricks you can use to ensure your FSBO transaction is successful. Just be sure to thoroughly research the market, strategically advertise your property, carefully prepare your home to be shown and wisely negotiate with interested buyers.
For more information to help you prepare, check out our other articles on the home selling process.
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