Selling a house is a lengthy, complex, and often emotional process. There are many decisions to be made and one of the first of these is: Should I sell privately or use a realtor? Here are a few things to consider before making the decision.
As the seller, you could be paying an average of 4% – 6% in agents’ fees, which are generally split between your agent and the buyer’s agent. That means that choosing a private sale could save you between $20,000 and $30,000 on a $500,000 house.
There’s a downside, however – buyers’ agents may be hesitant to show a house that is listed as for sale by the owner (FSBO) as they are not guaranteed a commission. You can get around this by agreeing to pay the buyers’ commission, and will still save money if you’re able to negotiate a 3% fee. It’s worth noting though, that some buyers’ agents still don’t like FSBO sales as they aren’t dealing with another industry professional, and often view private sellers as unrealistic and unreasonable.
On average, you can expect to show your house 10 – 25 times before it sells. Most people will want to put some effort into cleaning and tidying before letting strangers look through their home, so there’s a bit of effort that goes into the process even before you factor in organizing the showings, which you will have to do if you sell privately. The advantage here is that you can organize showings around your schedule, which means not having to drop everything to tidy up when the realtor calls to let you know they’re bringing something through.
On the other hand, organizing showings can be time-consuming. If you opt for a realtor, they’ll take care of the scheduling for you. You also don’t need to be home when they show the house, so you’re not limited to the times when you’re available. While it may be uncomfortable for you to have strangers in the house when you’re not at home, it does make for a more comfortable experience for the potential buyer, meaning they’re likely to spend longer taking a good look around and are more likely to remember the house after they’ve left it.
As a private seller, you have full control over the listing price. A house appraisal will generally cost between $300 and $1000 depending on the size of the house, but it’s worth doing if you’re planning to list the house yourself as it will give you a good idea of the house’s market value. You’ll also be motivated to get the highest price for your house.
A realtor, however, will be more objective. The sale is not emotional for them, which means they will price the house based on their knowledge of the current market and will recognize a fair offer when one is made. As discussed above, their fees are commission based, so they will also be motivated to get the highest price that they can, though their expectations are likely to be more realistic.
How you can advertise your house for private sale is many and varied. There are websites, newspapers, billboards, and word of mouth. You can even list on the same platform that realtors use, for a fee. How much you choose to spend, or not, is entirely up to you rather than being determined by a realtor.
On the other hand, realtors are not solely reliant on advertising. Most realtors will have built a network of contacts they can call when they have a property listed, meaning their reach is likely to be wider. They can also directly contact any buyers they know that are looking for a house just like yours.
Realtors are experts in buying and selling houses. They know the legal requirements and understand the paperwork. By using a realtor, you’ll be less likely to make a mistake that could prove to be costly.
If you do decide to sell privately, it’s a good idea to engage an experienced real estate attorney to help guide you through the process.
What’s Better For You?
While both private sales and realtors have their advantages, if you’re a first-seller then you’re probably better off using a realtor. They’re experts in the housing market and can make the process easier.
If you do opt for a private sale, be sure you do your research, especially when it comes to your state’s legal requirements.