Owning a home is one of the biggest investments most people ever make. When it’s time to sell your property, the standard practice is to find a real estate agent.
After the sale, your agent and the buyer’s agent will share about 7% of the sale price as their commission, which amounts to a hefty portion of your equity being lost to the real estate agents.
After buying and selling multiple properties, I eventually realized that I was paying the real estate agents too much money for something I could handle myself. I discovered how to sell a property while retaining significantly more equity than if I had hired an agent.
What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?
A real estate agent essentially does four things for his or her commission:
- Lists your house with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
- Markets your house though fliers, advertisements, and a web site.
- Facilitates showings of your house and possibly hosts open house events.
- Acts as an intermediary when entering negotiations and accompanies you to the closing.
After working with Realtors on several occasions, I decided to try selling a home on my own. Here are the steps to follow if you decide to forego using a real estate agent to sell your home:
How to Be Your Own Real Estate Agent Selling Your Home
1. Price Your Home to Sell
Before you list the property on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or anywhere else, make sure you’ve priced the home competitively. Use the Internet to get an idea of selling prices for comparable homes in your neighborhood, and then price your house accordingly.
It’s easy to get hung up on this step and, especially if you’ve lived in your home for some time, you may feel compelled to overprice the home. Don’t fall into that trap. Remember, the goal of this process is to sell your home, so make sure the asking price is realistic.
2. Obtain a Flat Fee Listing on the MLS
The MLS is the most comprehensive list of real estate for sale in the U.S. It is available to Realtors, and in some areas, prospective buyers can also search for homes using the MLS. There are services that allow you to list your property on the MLS for a few hundred dollars. Search for “Flat Fee MLS” online to find similar services in your area.
3. Market Your Property
In addition to listing the home on the MLS, advertise by putting up “for sale” signs, creating brochures, putting ads on Craigslist, and building a web site to market the property. FSBO.com offers home-selling packages for homeowners that begin at $69.95. The marketing packages include items like brochures and yard signs. There will be some costs involved in advertising the sale of your home, but they will be a fraction of an agent’s commission. The real cost is the amount of time and energy you will need to put into selling your home.
4. Hold an Open House
You can also hold an open house to advertise the sale of your home. Advertise for the open house by posting signs in your neighborhood. Have some light refreshments available and set out brochures about the home that visitors can take with them as they leave.
5. Know Your Property’s Selling Points
When writing your ad copy for websites or brochures, make sure to include basic information about the house, including the price, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, lot size, location, and of course the specific details that make the house special to potential buyers.
Take a look at other listings on Craigslist, Realtors’ websites, and Yahoo! Real Estate to get a sense of what sort of details sellers and agents are including in their listings. You’ll quickly find out that features like granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and oversized windows entice buyers. Determine what’s special about your home and highlight those features in your marketing efforts.
6. Prepare to Show Your House
You will have to prepare your house for showings and open house events. Deep-clean the house, including scrubbing the kitchen counters and the appliances, shampooing the carpets, cleaning the linoleum, and stashing your keepsakes in a closet (i.e. house spring cleaning tips and checklist). The final result should be a home that’s squeaky clean and stripped bare of most personal items.
7. Show Your House
You will have to place a key in a lock box and answer calls from other agents or buyers. If you are at home during the day, you can show the house yourself. Otherwise, you will have to verify the identity of the agent before giving out your lock box combination.
Another option is to find an a la carte real estate agent who will perform this function for a fee without asking you for a commission on the sale price of the house. After an agent shows your house, be sure to call to follow up on the showing. Some agents will share the buyer’s feedback with the homeowner, if they feel it won’t compromise their clients’ confidentiality.
8. Perform Your Own Negotiations
Real estate negotiations take the form of a contract that is submitted to the seller. The seller can accept the offer, or revise the contract and submit it to the buyer. The process continues until both parties sign a contract.
In most states, there is a standard contract for real estate purchases. If you are not familiar with the contract, you should have it reviewed by an attorney. Or, you can find a real estate agent that will perform this function with you for a flat fee. Having gone through this process before, I was able to consult with family members who were real estate agents and attorneys, and then negotiate with the other party to sell my home.
Agents like to close deals quickly so they can get their commission, even if you don’t ultimately receive the price you want for your home. They may even inadvertently relay your negotiating position to the buyer. If you are a distressed seller, that is the last thing you would ever want an enthusiastic buyer to learn. Doing your own negotiating ensures that you do not give away important indications of your financial strengths and weaknesses.
9. Comply with All Laws in Your Area
It’s critical that you comply with the laws in your area related to selling homes. Some laws are universal and will apply to the sale of your home no matter where you live. The Fair Housing Act stipulates that sellers cannot discriminate against buyers for reasons including race, religion, and sex. Contracts and agreements found online can help get you started on the selling process, but remember, those forms aren’t specific to your unique situation. It’s best to have a real estate attorney review all documents and contracts related to the sale of your home.
Selling a home is not for everyone. Many people will not have the time or the patience to deal with the process. And for some, if the listing price is low enough, the potential savings might not be worth the time and effort necessary to sell the house without a realtor. Whatever the case, if you are planning to list your home, at least consider the great savings you could enjoy by selling the house on your own. If you know just a little about real estate, and you can put forth the effort to do a good job, you can save a tremendous amount of money by selling your own property.
Have you been through the process of selling your own home? What are your best tips for selling a home without an agent?