Do You Need a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your House?
The lowdown on selling your house yourself -- without the help of a real estate agent.
If you sell your home yourself, without the assistance of a real estate agent, you can save a bundle on commissions. However, make sure you know what you are getting into before you take on this task. Learn about what the process entails, whether it is a good idea for your situation, and where to get help if you do decide to go it alone.
Are Real Estate Agents Required?
No law requires you to hire a real estate agent when you sell a house. Some states, however, particularly in the eastern half of the country, require a real estate attorney to handle the transfer documents and closing. Check with your state department of real estate to find out whether an attorney is required in your state.
For Sale By Owner
Selling a house without an agent is called a FSBO (pronounced "fizzbo") -- For Sale By Owner. Although it can be a fine way to save on commission fees, those who try it usually develop some appreciation for how agents earn their commission. If you want to go it alone, be sure you have the time, energy, and ability to handle all the details -- from setting a realistic price to negotiating offers and closing the deal.
Before you dive in, you should also evaluate the market and your schedule. FSBOs are usually more feasible in sellers' markets where there's more competition for homes, or when you're not in a hurry to sell.
What You Need to Know
To sell your house by yourself, you must learn the legal rules that govern real estate transfers in your state, such as who must sign the papers, who can conduct the actual transaction, and what to do if and when "encumbrances" arise that slow down the transfer of ownership.
You also must find out if there are any state-mandated disclosures as to the physical condition of your house.
How to List Your Home for Sale
Get help from FSBO websites. If you're interested in going it on your own, check out sites such as www.owners.com, the largest national FSBO website. To find local FSBOs, see www.fsboguide.com.
List your home on the MLS. For maximum exposure, you can list your house on the MLS, which many real estate agents use to advertise available properties. There are several options for getting your house listed on the MLS:
The Middle Ground Approach
You might consider doing most of the work yourself -- such as showing the house -- and using a real estate agent to help with such crucial tasks as:
Negotiate a lower commission. If so, you may be able to negotiate a reduction off of the typical 5% to 6% commission agents charge, or you may be able to find a real estate agent who charges by the hour for specified services, such as reviewing the sales contract.
Use a discount broker. "Discount" real estate services are available from franchise operations such as Help-U-Sell (www.helpusell.com) as well as other independent real estate companies and individual brokers.
Hiring a Real Estate Agent
If you decide you don't want to sell on your own or use a real estate agent for limited services, you can hire one to provide the traditional services, including listing your home for sale, showing it to prospective buyers, and negotiating on your behalf. Keep in mind that you don't have to decide this right away -- if you have time, you can try selling on your own first, then choose an agent if that doesn't seem to be working.
For advice on hiring a real estate agent, see Should I Hire a Real Estate Agent or Lawyer When Buying a House?
Copyright 2009 Nolo