By David Kexel
When it comes time to sell a home, your first instinct may be to ask a trusted friend for the name of a good Realtor®. While that’s a smart place to start, you may also want to explore other options, like selling your home yourself or using a discount broker. Both can potentially translate into big savings when cashing in your largest financial asset.
According to a 2015 survey by the National Association of Realtors, just 8 percent of home sales were For Sale By Owner (FSBO). That’s down from nearly 20 percent in 1981 when the NAR began tracking the number. Experts attribute this decline to an increase in regulations and the recent housing market crash, both of which made selling on your own more of a challenge. However, if you have the time, patience and determination, FSBO could be a viable option.
For Sale By Owner
The real motivation for most FSBO transactions is the opportunity for the seller to save thousands in commission fees. The typical fee structure is 6 percent of the home’s sale price, divided equally between the seller’s and buyer’s agents. According to real estate website Trulia, the median sale price of a home in Phoenix was $210,000 in December 2016. That equates to $12,600 in commission fees – ouch!
While the idea of saving nearly $13,000 in fees seems appealing, selling a home is a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you plan on selling a home to a family member or close friend, skipping the Realtor is certainly doable. You’ll just need to shell out a few hundred dollars for a real estate attorney to draw up the contracts. But selling to a complete stranger is a different story and takes a bigger commitment and more due diligence.
One of the biggest challenges for the owner is setting the right price. An experienced Realtor knows the current state of the market and can identify comparable homes – both recent sales and homes currently on the market – to help you key-in on a good listing price. If you’re going FSBO, you’ll have to do the research. While websites like Zillow and Trulia make this process easier than ever before, you’ll still lack the subtle knowledge a real estate professional can offer, like what today’s buyers are looking for in a home and what sells well in your neighborhood. A real estate agent also brings in an outside perspective. Most of us think our homes are the nicest on the block and should command top dollar. A good agent will bring you back down to reality.
Your next challenge will be marketing your property. Realtors have access to the ultimate real estate sales tool – the Multiple Listing Service. Through the MLS, real estate professionals share detailed information with each other about homes for sale in your area, making it easy to locate properties that might fit their buyer’s needs. As a private seller, you won’t have access to this powerful tool, so you’ll need to use other methods, like online listing sites, social media and word-of-mouth. Some websites, like ForSaleByOwner.com, offer various listing packages to help you generate exposure. The top-tier package will even get you on your local MLS.
When selling your home on your own, you’ll also be responsible for conducting open houses or setting time aside to show your home to prospective buyers. Does your job or lifestyle give you the flexibility to be able to show your home on weekends, during the workday or in the evenings? Do you feel comfortable interacting with complete strangers wandering through your home? If either of these are a concern for you, selling on your own could be more of a challenge than you initially thought.
Finally, once you find an interested buyer, you’ll need to negotiate the price and complete the appropriate paperwork. Most of us don’t have a lot of experience in these areas. A poor negotiation could cost you some of those profits you were hoping to retain. You’ll also need to understand the legal requirements of selling a home and what paperwork needs to be completed and filed. Any slip-ups could have legal consequences.
Discount Brokers & Services – A Happy Medium?
If selling your home solo seems too overwhelming and time-consuming, you may still be able to save on seller’s fees by using a discount broker or websites like HelpUSell and Redfin. With advancements in technology that make it easier to bring together buyers and sellers, some real estate professionals contend that selling a $1 million home is really no more costly than selling one that is less expensive.
With that in mind, Realtors and brokers are testing out a variety of new models for pricing their services. Some offer a flat-fee service rather than compensation based on commission. Others are lowering their commission rates by 1 to 1.5 percent or leaving the topic up for negotiation with their clients. Other brokers offer a la carte options, where you only pay for the services you need (e.g., MLS listing, professional photography, staging advice, etc.)
As savvy financial consumers, none of Us wants to pay more than necessary for the services we receive, especially when it comes to selling a pricey asset like our homes. While going it alone and trying FSBO may not be the right fit for you, there are other options to consider.
Do your research, interview several Realtors and take a look at discount brokerage services. There’s a good chance you’ll find one that meets your needs and helps you retain some of that precious equity you’ve worked so hard to acquire.
Is it the right time to sell your home? Use this worksheet as a guide to figure out the costs of selling your home.