Selling a home entails four major functions that are usually performed by a real estate agent. If we take the mystery out of those functions, they start looking as if we can do them without an agent. And you can!
1. Pricing your property
The first thing that an agent will do for you is help price your property. You don’t want to offer your home for sale at double its market value because it just won’t sell. Likewise, you don’t want to offer your home for sale at half its market value because you would just be cheating yourself of that price difference. If the market is such that your house in your neighborhood in your city is worth about $200,000 then you want to sell it for that. If you have made additions to the house that might make it worth more, then you want to add those items to it. The real estate agent has a lot of that data at their fingertips through their subscriptions and through their knowledge of the marketplace.
You can do this pricing yourself as long as you don’t let your ego get the better of common sense. You can find out what homes are selling for by cruising your neighborhood and checking out homes for sale to see what they are priced at. You can check to see what they sold for by visiting your tax authorities. Most municipalities and counties require that all deed transfers be recorded as a matter of public record. You can access that data through the internet if your municipality offers it, or you can go look it up in person where the internet is not used. Just make sure you are pricing your 3 bedroom 2 bath house with other 3 bedroom 2 bath houses rather than a 2 bedroom or 5 bedroom house.
2. Marketing your property
Marketing real estate is a sort of catch-all word for advertising the home as being for sale and then showing the property to prospective buyers through appointments or open-houses. The most important and probably most costly marketing activity is advertising the house. There is one real estate agent around here that states in their commercials that they spend between $1,000 and $1,500 per HOUSE while claiming that many agents only spend less than $500 per month for all of the houses that they list.
You can perform all 3 of these marketing functions. Who would be better to show a home or to have an open-house than the resident of the home — just do not let your ego get in the way and react defensively to reasonable buying questions. The advertising should be fairly simple as well. You are just as qualified to create want-ads for your local and regional papers and classified magazines as long as you model your ads after the ones that you will be competing for attention with. There are some advertising sites that require that all of their advertisers be real estate agents. You might try circumventing that restriction by offering a real estate agent a small fee to list your property on those restricted sites. The worse they can do is say “No” and a different agent might be more cooperative.
3. Contract exchange and negotiation.
Real estate agents act as intermediaries between the seller and the buyer. They take a contract proposal from the prospective buyer or their agent and present it to the seller. This goes on with price changes or with feature additions and removals until both the seller and the buyer agree on the selling price and property conditions.
There should be no question that you can do this yourself as the seller. After all, the agent would have to come to you anyway to get your approval and signature. Once again, this is where you need to put your ego and pride to the side. At this stage, all of your advertising and pricing work has come to fruition and you have a buyer negotiating with you. The worse thing you could do is to react defensively. You just participate in a give and take during the process as if it were for someone else.
4. Preparing the final paperwork and closing the sale
The real estate agent is usually the one to give all of the closing information to the title company and lawyers so that the deed to the property can be transferred from the seller to the buyer with no problems. This is when checks are transferred and mortgages paid off. It is also when the commission check is given to the real estate broker for dispersal to his agent.
You can do these things also. You are the one that has handled the paperwork up to now. You are the one that is ready for your mortgage to be paid off. You are the one ready to receive a check for the difference between what you owe on the mortgage and the selling price of the house. Most of this information is put on the HUD-1 form by the title company. In fact the major role of the agent here is to hold your hand and collect the commission check. Again, these tasks can be handled with a minimum of activity on your part. Any legal requirements can be farmed out to a lawyer for a much smaller fee than the agent’s commission.
Pricing, marketing, negotiating, and closing are all functions that are required to sell a property. They are all tasks normally handled by a real estate agent. They are also tasks that you can do yourself at a cost far less than 5% of the selling price of your house.