FSBO vs. Realtor: Explore the Pros and Cons for Your Home Sale

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So you’ve made the decision to sell your home. Now you need to choose your selling path: FSBO vs. Realtor®. Do you take the traditional route, relying on your agent to do the heavy lifting? Or, do you list your home “for sale by owner” and dedicate your time to save on commission?

Each route comes with unique advantages and challenges — you’ll want to know what lies ahead before you embark on the home sale journey. To help you weigh your options, we spoke with a top real estate agent, Jesse Dill from Portland, Oregon, who sells 87% more single-family homes than the average area agent. Dill has close to two decades of experience working with clients and FSBO sellers and is intimately familiar with both selling processes.

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Below, we’ll compare what every stage of the selling process entails, whether you sell FSBO or hire a real estate agent (or Realtor, if your agent is an active member of the National Association of Realtors).

1. Complete pre-listing home upgrades

Before you list your home, you’ll probably want to upgrade, update, and repair some areas of your house to boost its value and marketability. But not all improvements are equal. The best home upgrades for your property depend on local factors, such as the state of the market and your home’s condition compared to the competition.


If you choose to list your home on your own, you’ll need to research which home improvements will add value and marketability. Compare your home to similar properties for sale online; what would influence a buyer to choose those homes over yours?

Dill shares that FSBO sellers often “struggle with getting their homes ready for the market correctly” and often over-renovate.


Real estate agents know exactly what features buyers are looking for in your market. Your agent will walk through your house with you and identify upgrades and improvements that are guaranteed to boost your home’s value and marketability.

You might find out, for example, that the money you were going to pour into finishing your basement isn’t necessary because none of the comps in your market have a finished basement and all sold quickly for asking price.

Agents help sellers distinguish between their personal taste and what’s best according to actual sales data. Dill provides an example of a seller who wanted to improve their bathroom with high-end tile flooring:

“It’s the pride of ownership — they want to do right by the house,” he shares. “An agent can say, ‘no, no, no, you don’t need to do that tile to upgrade that bathroom because all of the other homes in the area don’t have those types of things,’” he shares.

Agents often save sellers money in the pre-listing phase by helping them focus solely on improvements that will positively impact their profit.

2. Pinpoint a listing price

If you’ve listed a home in the past, you might recall the nerve-wracking decision of choosing a listing price. You don’t want to risk overpricing and having your home sit for too long on the market, but you also don’t want to leave money on the table.


Pricing your own home is challenging since you have years of memories wrapped up in the decision. Even for the least sentimental person, there’s an aspect of “getting what you deserve” from the deal. This subjectivity can lead to overpricing your home.

We get it: You still remember the $15,000 pool remodel bill from three summers ago. And while it’s tempting to tack it onto your listing price dollar for dollar, you’ll end up with an overpriced home that sits on the market.

Your first step to determining a listing price is to track down comparables: homes in your area similar to yours. Start by comparing basic features between your house and comps on online listing websites. Look for properties with a similar number of rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and lot size. Next, analyze more subjective qualities, such as the desirability of finishes, layout, and overall condition.

The trick is determining how much weight each of these aspects carry to help you land on a competitive listing price. While you may think your house should sell for as much as your neighbor’s, you may overvalue or undervalue your home’s qualities and end up overpricing (or in some cases underpricing) your home.


Your Realtor will harness their years of experience and intimate market knowledge to advise the best listing price. Then it’s up to you to greenlight the listing price.

Your agent will start by determining your home’s fair market value. They’ll conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA), which weighs your home’s qualitative and quantitative features against those of similar homes sold recently in your area.

Then, they’ll take into account the local market (e.g., whether prices are rising or falling) and your personal selling goals to pinpoint the best listing price. They may even employ a pricing strategy, such as underpricing, incremental price reduction, or value range marketing to encourage more offers or spark a bidding war.

3. Craft an enticing property listing

When you’re selling your home, buyers won’t magically show up at your door with offers in hand. You need to create a compelling online listing and market your home to create a buzz and inspire competitive offers. Typical marketing strategies include social media promotion, open houses, private showings, physical flyers, and local media outlet advertising.


If you sell your home FSBO, don’t cheap out on the listing photos. Unless you have a background in photography and top-grade equipment, you’ll want to hire a professional real estate photographer.

Find a photographer by googling “real estate photographers near me.” Prices vary, but expect to pay around $150 to $350 per hour.

Next, list your home online on FSBO-friendly listing websites. You can use a flat-fee MLS listing service to get your listing on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). The MLS will auto-syndicate your property details to the major online listing sites, so it reaches as many buyers as possible.

Dill highly recommends getting your listing on the MLS. FSBO sellers who rely solely on social media and FSBO-only listing platforms often fail to generate enough exposure for their homes to receive competitive offers.

He adds that sometimes FSBO sellers feel they need to reduce if they aren’t getting any bites, when in reality, they may just not have reached a wide enough audience.


Your agent will spearhead hiring a professional photographer and writing a compelling listing description. They’ll then post the listing on the MLS at the best possible hour for exposure. For example, Dill publishes his new listings on Thursdays because that’s when his local MLS has the highest traffic. Your agent will also email your listing to the buyer’s agents in their network and share the listing on their brokerage’s social media channels.

Once the listing is live, your agent will handle all communications on your behalf. They’ll promptly respond to calls and emails throughout the day and arrange showings to get buyers in the door.

4. Complete the home inspection and appraisal

A home inspection is a thorough analysis of your home and lot, inside and outside, in which an inspector checks the safety and condition of the home.

An appraisal reviews the property’s condition and features to determine its fair market value or worth.


After the home inspection, your buyer may request extensive repairs (or repair credits) based on the home inspection findings. As a FSBO seller, you’ll need to negotiate with the buyer’s agent to leverage the best deal possible without losing your buyer in the process. If the buyer is working with an agent, you’ll be up against a seasoned pro who has years of experience spinning terms in their client’s favor.

Before responding to repair requests, Dill advises sellers to remove themselves one degree and ask: “What is it going to take to get through this transaction in a reasonable way?” It’s sometimes worth conceding to repairs to close the sale.

When it comes to the appraisal, Dill advises FSBO sellers to stay out of the appraiser’s way rather than be at home trying to influence their decisions. “It’s a big turn off,” he adds. “They are very data-driven. They appreciate a list of some of the updates, but if a seller is present during the appraisal, the seller may try to oversell the property.”


Dill himself chose to sell his home with a real estate agent (even though he is one) to bring objectivity to the process, especially during the post-inspection negotiations. A real estate agent navigates negotiations based on how much leverage the seller and buyer ultimately have in the deal.

For instance, in a seller’s market, a seller may be able to refuse repairs if there’s a line of backup buyers ready to purchase their home. On the other hand, in a buyer’s market where offers are few and far between, the seller usually has less leverage since they’re more motivated to reach an agreement with the current buyer to close the sale.

During the appraisal process, your agent will prepare paperwork to deliver to the appraiser to help justify the home’s value to ensure the home appraises and the buyer’s loan is approved. Dill always provides the appraiser with three to five comps, along with those comps’ sale contracts and addendums.

5. Close the sale

One of the most difficult challenges for any seller is navigating the piles of paperwork that accompany a home sale, including the mortgage statements, appraisal, proof of insurance, and sale contract.


As a FSBO seller, you’ll single-handedly manage all of the documents required to sell a home. You must sign and file documents on time to prevent closing delays and cancellations.

“A lot of times, sellers don’t have certain documents signed that are required,” Dill comments, sharing that the closing is often the most difficult phase for FSBO sellers.

You’ll also need to educate yourself on the local real estate laws, such as mandated disclosures. If you accidentally break the law or overstep the contract, your buyer can cancel the sale or even sue you for damages. Ideally, you should hire a real estate attorney to assist you with closing — some states even require an attorney to be present at the closing.


Real estate agents have years of experience closing sales. They’ve studied local real estate laws, and are legally protected with errors and omissions insurance. If you partner with an agent, they’ll walk you through the closing process and help you understand the documents you’re required to sign.

FSBO vs. Realtor: Choose the best path for your needs

While going FSBO and hiring a real estate agent each come with pros and cons, ultimately, there’s a reason why 89% of sellers use a real estate agent.

Selling FSBO takes significantly more time and effort. Without a professional to guide you, there’s more room for error at each step of the home sale process. Misprice your home or blunder repair negotiations, and you’ll chip away at your profit.

And after all of the extra work, you’re statistically likely to net less money selling FSBO than if you hired an agent — even if you account for commission. Research shows that last year, FSBO homes sold for a median price of $310,000; homes sold by real estate agents sold for a median price of $405,000.

HomeLight can connect you to a top agent in your area who’s the best fit for your selling needs.

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