The reality is you can’t even put together the IKEA furniture in that HGTV makeover in 23 minutes. Selling a house without an agent (FSBO) is extreme DIY. It’s likely the largest transaction you will make in your entire life and the stakes are a whole lot higher than droopy Pinterest cupcakes.
Do you really want to use yourself as an experiment?
Here are 9 reasons you should hire a top real estate agent to sell your home:
1. All You Have to Do Is Follow Directions
Talking to a Realtor before you plant that sign on your lawn ensures you don’t spend time or money on stuff that’s not important. While you’re thinking “bathroom remodel,” your agent is thinking “new mailbox.”
Mynor Herrera, a top-selling Realtor in the Maryland, Virginia, and DC-areas, says the most important thing when preparing your home to sell is to make sure the walk from the curb to the front door is impressive. “People make their first impression of a house as they walk up to it, then spend the rest the time inside justifying what their initial impression was.”
If viewers walk up and see uneven cobblestones, scuffs all over the front door and dangling house numbers, they’ll get the impression the house isn’t well-maintained. Then, as they walk through they’ll see all the other places it hasn’t been maintained — missing outlet covered, banged up baseboards, dirty windows.
However, if everything on that curb-to-door walk is appealing to the eye, they’ll be more forgiving throughout the house even if those same inside things — outlets, baseboards, windows — are a matter. Oh, it looks like they forgot to put an outlet cover on. I can do that.
ROI will dictate what big house projects are worth it (check out Cost vs Value 2016), and an agent will help you determine the smaller scale stuff. They might suggest a deep carpet cleaning if your house smells like Rover, a new coat of paint if your once-white is now-yellow, or an organization lesson from Martha Stewart if your closets look like a GAP dressing room on Black Friday. A specific-to-your-home consultation is your best bet to creating a show-worthy home.
2. A Good Real Estate Agent Is Objective; You’re Not
Thanksgiving 1999: Mom forgot to put sugar in the pumpkin pie. April 2005: you waved your daughter off to prom. July 2010: a baseball broke the upstairs window and flew straight into the toilet for the win! A lot has happened in this house — from the kitchen, from the doorstep, from the baseball diamond drawn in the mud in the backyard.
Whether you’ve lived in your home for two years or 20, you undoubtedly have a highlight reel of memories, and probably some loyalty too. Who wouldn’t feel that toward something that’s kept their family warm, dry and safe for years?
While your home might feel like part of your family, it’s an inanimate object to your agent. They’re not insensitive; they understand this house is your home, but they don’t feel the same emotions toward it, and that’s a good thing. In Roger Fisher and William Ury’s famous “Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In,” their first of four negotiation principles is “separate the people from the problem.”
For maximum negotiating power, don’t mix emotions with money. An agent wants to sell your house and they’re going to be objective about improvements, pricing and bringing in the right offers.
3. You Get the Whole Enchilada
Many owners who choose to FSBO don’t do much past putting up a for-sale sign and telling their friends. Agents vary as far as what they offer. Most good agents offer staging advice and many are even willing to roll up their sleeves and help you move your furniture around.
They’ll remind you of the big things (like make sure your swimming pool is clean). They’ll nudge you about the small things (like don’t leave the dishes in the sink) and they’ll share their go-to tricks (like leave a vase of flowers on the kitchen counter).
Photography is the least expensive, most effective tool for marketing a home, yet so many listings suffer from photo faux pas. The beautiful bathroom shower photobombed by a toilet seat left up. The living room washed out by the giant flash in the mirror. A professional Realtor has a go-to photographer who will snap your house in its best light, with the best lenses from the best angles.
In addition to the staging and the pictures, you get all the marketing pomp and circumstance that comes along with real estate listings — the snappy descriptions, the agency newsletters and the not-to-be-forgotten MLS (Multiple Listing Service). Some real estate agencies, like Elizabeth Weintraub (interviewed here) put 30 percent of their commission straight toward marketing the home. Others, like Herrera’s firm, employee a marketing professional. He likes to make the experience as hands-off and pain-free for sellers as possible: “Give us the keys and we’ll tell you where to pick up the check,” he says.
4. Thinking of Selling a House Without an Agent? Remember, Price Matters
The National Association of Realtors lists pricing a house as the most difficult task for FSBO home sellers — ranking higher than both fixing up the home for sale and understanding and performing paperwork! Coincidentally, HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Report 2016 says 54 percent of sellers trip up when it comes to pricing their homes for sale.
Since the “golden time” for a home listing is within its first week, and after just four weeks it’s past its prime, pricing a home correctly from the get-go is uber critical. List it too high and nobody stops to look. List it too low and people ask what’s wrong with it. The window is narrow and the stakes are high.
A Realtor will perform a comparative market analysis on your home before they list. Combined with their knowledge of the area and the market, as well as how objectively they’re approaching it all, they’ll help you find the sweet spot.
The price at which you choose to list your home is not something you should arrive at willy-nilly. Pricing a home for sale is both an art and a science, a gift and a skill. If you do it wrong, you’re going to mess this whole home sale thing up.
5. Budget Talk is Expensive
When you choose to list FSBO you give off a vibe. It says “I’m looking to save money on commission.” The vibe attracts buyers who are also looking to save money. All this budget talk seems like it should result in a major money-saving fest (or at least a pretty rockin’ extreme coupon-ing party) but it does not.
In 2015, the typical FSBO home sold for $185,000 compared to $240,000 for agent-assisted homes, according to the National Association of Realtors. If those who’d sold their homes themselves saved both the buyer and seller commission on a $185,000 sale, they would still net less than if they’d used an agent and sold for $240,000.
Basically, budget talk is expensive — $55,000 and a whole-lot-of-legwork expensive.
6. Exposure is Everything
If you’re working with a real estate agent, your listing is on MLS. It’s on all the major online real estate sites (because that’s where most buyers start their search). It’s in agency newsletters and most importantly it’s being talked about — because chatter about your property is king.
In addition to listings, your agent is also advertising it, inside and outside their network. Whether your agent has a $1,000 or a $10,000 marketing budget, they’re putting your house out there. Realtor Magazine offers several ways an agent may use that advertising space.
They only get paid if they’re moving inventory, so a house sitting on the market doesn’t help anybody. If you chose to list your own home, no one is talking about it except for you and the sign on your lawn.
7. You Get to Go to Dinner Instead
If you’re selling FSBO, you are responsible for all the viewings. Some of these house hunters will have a buying agent, other’s won’t. For those who don’t, you will have to play tour guide. If a couple who works nights and weekends wants to see your house mid-day while you’re normally at the office, you’ll have to choose between accommodating their request or foregoing that potential buyer.
If you have a selling agent, the timing doesn’t matter. All the bend-over-backward accommodation falls in their lap. It doesn’t matter if the buyer has an agent or not. It doesn’t matter if you have appointments after work. Your only job during this time is don’t show up at your house. Go have dinner with your family. Go see a movie during a Sunday open house.
8. Realtors Offer You Their Spidey Senses
Good real estate agents have a mighty mashup of education and experience. They’re both street smart and book smart.
Owners who are trying their hand at FSBO sometimes dig their own grave by giving up too much information. “I’ve already purchased a new home, so I need to sell this one.” Herrera cites this example — why would you give buyers this information they can use against you?
Selling a home requires you to avoid a lot of landmines, tiptoe around conversations that would give the buyer too much power (above), be careful about liabilities and make specific deadlines.
Not only do agents have the smarts to do these things, they also have Spidey senses. They can tell when buyers aren’t serious or don’t have their financing act together. They can spot those landmines from a mile away and help you avoid the common, often-funny but sometimes-tragic blunders that come along with home sales. They can steer your clear of red flags you wouldn’t know to look out for on your own.
9. Real Estate Agents Are Closers
Say you’ve decided to go this process without an agent. You staged, listed and found a buyer all on your own. Though it seems like the process is coming to an end, the paperwork has only just begun.
In a world where you can sue McDonalds for spilling hot coffee on yourself, it seems preparing all the legal forms you need to sell a house isn’t something you want to be on the hook for (right!?) Hiring an agent alleviates the risk and legal liability. Closing a sale, regardless of if you have an agent, requires a title company or settlement agent. Agents know these contracts better than you do and trust their contacts they have to help.
HomeLight has found that across all transactions, the top 5 percent of agents have shown they can negotiate a 9 percent higher selling price than the average. Good agents are closers and they let their track records speak for them.
FSBO isn’t a light decision. It’s not like putting shiplap up on your bedroom walls on a long weekend or trying to fix your bathroom sink with a YouTube video and a wrench. FSBO can be a flop that costs you ten of thousands of dollars and a lawsuit… and for what?
Use an agent to sell your home — better yet use one of the best real estate agents in your neighborhood — you’ll get more for your house, better peace of mind and an advocate.
Article Image Source: (Andy Dean Photography/ Shutterstock)