Ever since the “do it yourself” craze caught on (to the level that there’s actually a DIY television network), amateurs the world over have taken the liberty to attempt almost anything all on their own.
If there’s an app or viral video for something, well that’s guidance enough to become an expert in water colors or baking delicacies from scratch.
So it’s not surprising that some homeowners ask “Do I need an agent to sell my home when I could sell it myself?”
Unfortunately, you’ll see a lot of DIY fails with projects far less complicated than a home sale (just check out this top 10 list). And while it’s funny when a soufflé falls or your impressionist-inspired painting flops, you won’t be laughing when your FSBO mistakes cost you thousands of dollars and months of time you simply don’t have.
Selling your home is your agent’s day job
Trying to sell your home yourself is tricky when you’ve got a day job.
Are you prepared to field phone calls from buyers, arrange showings, keep your home show-ready, evaluate offers, make counter offers, and negotiate on your own behalf—all while juggling the demands of the regular work day?
The Must-Do list of the FSBO seller is endless.
Luckily, a real estate agent’s day job is to sell your home. While you’re busy living your life and preparing to move, your agent is doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to coordinate with buyer’s agents and fetch the highest possible price for your house.
Expert agents invest a lot of time in marketing, networking, and actively selling their listings. Just ask Kim Erwin, a top-selling agent in Corpus Christi, Texas:
“A common misconception is that an agent just goes and pounds a sign out front and you’re ready to go. I wish it were that way. Sellers don’t realize that you’ve got to get the house ready, you’ve got to market it, you’ve got to get the buyers qualified, and so much more.”
Some agents even financially invest in making sure your home shows at its very best — by paying for things like professional photographers and stagers out of their own pockets.
The amount of work it takes to sell a home on your own is probably why so few even try.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 89% of sellers enlisted the help of a real estate agent to sell their home.
Let’s get into the specifics as to why hiring an agent is in most cases the smart choice.
1. You need an agent to get your house ready to sell
You may look at your home and think it’s in fine shape. But homes sold as-is get as-is offers — no matter how good their condition.
Agents know that putting a small investment into improvements can increase your home’s value up to 35%.
Unfortunately, some FSBO sellers (who’ve watched one-to-many home improvement shows) wind up investing their money in upgrades that won’t increase the home’s value enough to cover the money spent.
“A lot of times, those upgrades aren’t what the market is looking for,” says Erwin.
Just as every home is unique, so is every real estate market.
Even if all your research tells you that some upgrades are guaranteed to increase your home’s value by a certain percentage — that may not actually be true in your area.
For example, a full kitchen remodel in a luxury home in a high-end neighborhood is likely to provide a good return on investment (ROI). But in more modest neighborhoods and lower price points, you’ll see a better ROI with smaller improvements, like repainting your cabinets and resurfacing your countertops.
An experienced, local agent with lots of active listings knows which improvements and upgrades are worth the investment to help your home sell in your neighborhood.
2. You need an agent to help you set the right list price
Savvy agents know that listing a home at the right price from the very start is one of their most important jobs. Set it too high, and buyers won’t even come look at the home, let alone make an offer.
And if you lower the list price too soon or too often after setting it, buyers and their agents will smell a bargain — and submit only lowball offers.
Unfortunately, some FSBO sellers still think they know how to price their home without help.
Erwin observes, “A lot of sellers think that they know what their home is worth. But usually an FSBO home is not priced right, and sometimes it doesn’t show right, and therefore they get even a cheaper price when it finally sells.”
Setting the right list price (so that your home will sell fast and for the most amount of money) isn’t as easy as simply pricing it the same as recently sold homes in your area.
If that were true, anyone could do it.
Your agent will analyze a number of factors to find your right list price, such as: nearby comps, days on market, upgrades, regional and local market trends, and seller concessions (closing costs, home warranties, incentives, credits for repairs, etc.).
Even if FSBO sellers are able to get their hands on all of this data, most don’t have the training to factor these variables into their list price.
3. You need an agent to act as a go-between
FSBO sellers often feel confident enough make home improvements and list price decisions without an agent’s help.
Then—mistakenly believing that prepping and pricing is the hard part—these FSBO sellers pay a listing service to get their home into the MLS, thinking that’s all they have to do to get their home sold.
Unfortunately, there’s still a lot more that needs to happen. And without an agent, you’ll have no one to guide you through the process.
“These listing companies say, ‘I’ll put it in the MLS, but you’re on your own,’” Erwin advises. “As an FSBO seller, you have to negotiate it yourself.”
When you list with an agent, they become your go-between throughout the entire home sale process.
Your agent will negotiate the initial deal and renegotiate after the inspection and appraisal—working to find concessions that won’t bite into your bottom line.
Having an agent act as your go-between isn’t just helpful during closing — you need that buffer the moment your home is listed. Otherwise, you’ll have no one to arrange showings or to put a lockbox on your home.
Instead, you’ll have to be present at every showing, and you’ll have no way to vet those buyers.
“Are you as an FSBO seller just going to open up your house and let anybody who calls up show up?” Erwin asks. “That’s why you have an agent — for privacy, protection, and to facilitate the transaction to a smooth and speedy closing.”
Buyer’s agents know that FSBO sellers are emotionally involved in the home sale. So when an FSBO seller plays hardball during negotiations, they may peg you as a difficult, inflexible seller and walk away from the deal.
When you list with an agent, you have a buffer between you and your buyer so you can avoid those emotionally charged negotiation disagreements.
Still want to DIY? Now at least you know the risks
There are plenty of online resources to assist for sale by owner (FSBO) sellers. Tools on the web can help you determine your home’s value, research nearby comps, and list your property in the MLS without the help of an agent.
But bottom line is this: If you want to sell your home on your own, you can. But if you want a smooth, quick sale that nets you the best profit — you need to hire a great real estate agent.
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