If you’re selling your home, you should expect a list of expenses. The commission you pay the seller's agent is usually one of the biggest, around 6% of your home's selling price. This pays for the valuable work your seller's agent, also known as a listing agent, does for you: preparing the home, marketing it, showing it to potential buyers and helping you through the selling process.
Some owners try to save money by not working with an agent and listing their homes "for sale by owner." But FSBOs, as they’re known in the trade, require time, effort and real estate know-how. FSBOs also incur their own expenses, ones that people who hire listing agents don't have to pay.
For most homeowners, it pays to hire a listing agent. Here’s why:
Getting the price right
An experienced real estate agent can help price your home, in part by reviewing recent selling prices for comparable nearby homes. Without an agent, you’d need to research the market and find these “comps” on your own.
A seller's agent can also list your home in a local Multiple Listing Service database, where buyers and their agents can find it. If you’re selling on your own, you can pay a listing agent a one-time fee for this service. It would be much less than a 6% commission, but you'd still be paying for a service a listing agent would normally provide.
Negotiations and savvy
Listing agents can help you negotiate with potential buyers and respond to multiple offers. Once you accept an offer, he or she will also help manage the scheduling of appraisals, inspections and related tasks before the deal closes.
Some sellers decide to go to FSBO route, then hire listing agents when their properties don't attract buyers. But if your goal is to sell your house fast, you might be better off starting with a pro who can quickly draw traffic to your home.
Even if you don't think speed is a factor, potential buyers might offer lower-than-desired prices if your house has been on the market for a while. They might also make lower offers if they know you aren’t paying a seller’s commission.
Commissions are negotiable
Listing agents don’t always charge 6% of the purchase price. You might be able to negotiate a lower commission or find an agent who charges a flat rate for his or her services.
It’s also worth noting that listing agents don’t pocket the entire commission; they split it with the buyer's agent. If you plan to sell your home yourself, you might attract more buyers if you offer to pay their agent's share of any commissions. But this means that in addition to paying for an MLS listing and handling the sale process yourself, you’ll pay a buyer’s agent about 3% of the sale price. So selling your own home might not be as big a savings as you expected.
Should you ever try to DIY?
Hiring a seller’s agent is best in most cases, but there are some times when selling your own home is a good choice:
You’re in a seller’s market: If you’re in a hot area, it might be easy to sell your home. But you’ll still need to review and negotiate offer letters. Even if you don’t work with an agent, consider hiring an attorney to help you through the closing process.
You already have a buyer: If someone has already contacted you about purchasing your home, it's possible to put together a private sale without a real estate agent — but it’s still a good idea to research selling prices for nearby homes and get legal advice before agreeing to a deal.
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