Ready to Sell: Do We Really Need a Real Estate Agent?

So, you’re ready to sell your house. Like many sellers, you’re wondering if you really need a real estate agent, and it’s tempting to cut out the middleman and keep that commission for yourself. And that may be the right option for you. Or you might find that a licensed real estate agent makes the process go more smoothly and that taking time out from your own job would be more costly than you think.

Before you decide, ask yourself these questions.

Am I knowledgeable about the market?

Sure, you can get an appraisal of your home, but will you know how accurate it is? If you price your home too low, and it sells immediately, you’ll wonder if you could have made more. Too high? It may take too long to sell, leading potential buyers to wonder what’s wrong with it.

Do I have time to stage and show my home, and field phone calls from agents and potential buyers?

If you have flexible hours at the office, or if you work at home, this could work for you. Remember that there are times when an agent or potential buyer will call and want to see the house right then. It’s okay to say no, of course, but if you have to say no on a regular basis, you may miss out on some offers.

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Can I approach the sale of my home with as little emotion as possible?

You may have lived in your home for a while, and built great memories there. Maybe you renovated the kitchen and paid extra for lime green countertops because you loved them so much. But potential buyers will look at your home through their own eyes, and they may have a different vision. Will you take it personally when someone says, “What the heck? These counters are hideous. We’ll definitely have to change those,” and rolls their eyes, or can you smile and say, “I realize they aren’t for everyone” in a truly pleasant tone and laugh at yourself, so the potential buyer doesn’t get defensive? Can you hear a lowball offer without getting offended or angry? It’s okay to turn down a low offer, but you should be able to do it without emotion. An agent can often act as a buffer, someone between you and the buyer, so neither of you takes things personally.

Do I have the ability to market my home?

If you aren’t a professional photographer, hire one to take pictures. (Your real estate agent should do the same.) You’ll need to know how to get your home on the web, and what other steps you should take to make sure your listing reaches the right buyers.

Do I have the ability to negotiate a sale?

It’s possible, likely in some markets, that you’ll get offers below the asking price on your home. You will need to be savvy in negotiating a final price. At closing, you’ll have either an escrow agent, closing attorney, or title company representative (depending on local laws), but you will need to have made sure your buyer is qualified before you reach that stage.

If you do decide to use an agent, interview more than one, unless you’re sure who you want to use. Ask them what their marketing plans are, how they plan to handle it if someone approaches you without a buyer’s agent. (Some seller’s agents will forgo commission in that case, but most will not because that leaves them with no pay for their work.) Find out what extras you’ll pay for, like staging and photography, and what the agent will cover. Make sure your agent has the experience to sell a property like yours.

You may even want to try to sell your home by owner for a few weeks, then select an agent if it’s proving to be more difficult than you thought. If you go that route, try not to overprice it or keep it on the market too long, which can put off potential buyers. In the end, ask yourself if you have the time, knowledge, and degree of objectivity you’ll need to sell your home. And if you do, go for it!