The idea of selling your home yourself is tempting. Even if you can only cut out half of the usual 6 percent fee that real estate agents charge, you can save some serious money. Services that give you access to lots of the resources that traditional real estate agents rely on can let you do many of the same things that an agent can do. Still, selling your own home may not be as simple as it seems.
When you sell your house yourself, you typically won't get the same exposure you get when you list with an agent. Even if you use a "help you sell" service to get your house on your community's Multiple Listing System, lots of people won't look at it simply because they don't think you're serious. If fewer serious buyers look at your house, you'll have trouble selling it, and if you do sell it you might end up leaving money on the table.
You're an expert in what you'd like to get for your property, but selling your house requires a different kind of expertise. You need to be able to figure out what a buyer will pay for your property and price it there so that you can get people to tour your house, offer on it and ultimately buy it. Sometimes it's hard to look at your home through a buyer's eyes, and that is why many "For Sale by Owner" homes are overpriced.
When you're your own agent, you're legally responsible for everything you do. If you fill out the paperwork wrong, you could end up signing away your rights. You might fail to follow your state's disclosure laws. And the buyers can sue you after the sale if you don't disclose certain facts about the home. You could protect yourself from these risks by hiring an attorney, but then you would use up a big chunk of the savings from being your own agent.
Time vs. Money
When you act as your own agent, you're probably going to have to spend a lot of time to get your house sold. Instead of having a real estate professional sit at your house during nights and weekends for tours and open houses, you will. You will also have to place your own signs, design your own marketing fliers, and do all of the work of selling the property. The time that you invest to all of the work required to sell your home may be worth more to you than the money you save by not hiring a real estate agent.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.