Before she signed with a listing agent, Todd Jones’ neighbor tried to sell her home herself. Jones is a real estate broker, ranked in the top 4% of Los Angeles sellers’ agents, so he knows firsthand the hard work that goes into selling a home. After he spotted the For Sale by Owner sign across the street from his children’s school, Jones knocked on the door to check in.
“She was so exhausted, she was so sick of the showings, she was frustrated because people would make appointments and then not show up, she didn’t like to hear them say bad things about the house because she had an emotional attachment,” Jones says. “By the time I got to her she was so over it, she was ready to list and have a professional take over.”
At first, it might seem heartbreaking. Fork over 6% of my home’s sale proceeds to a total stranger? Why use a real estate agent at all?
Well, once you read through the real benefits of hiring an agent (especially when they’re the top real estate agents) you’ll see they’re worth every single penny.
1. Getting into the MLS Is a Goldmine for Sellers
The multiple listing service is the holy grail of home listings. Once in the MLS, a home is sent out to dozens upon dozens of online sites and into buyer agents’ hands, so your home always has a steady influx of foot traffic in showings and open houses.
You must be a licensed realtor in the state to list a home in the MLS. So, when you list as for sale by owner, or FSBO, you’ll have to shell out a flat fee or commission to a broker to have access. The fee already cuts into your cash flow from not using a realtor. This probably explains why, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, only 10% of the MLS website is made up of FSBO homes.
2. High Roller Buyers Don’t Look at FSBO Listings
Top real estate agents Jones, Janice Overbeck, and Bonnie Fleishman all agree: The No. 1 reason people choose to sell their home themselves is to save money on commission. There’s a problem though: Statistics say you won’t.
The typical FSBO home sold for $210,000, compared to $249,000 for agent-assisted home sales, according to the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
Overbeck explains one huge reason why:
“Those ‘A’ buyers are in town for the weekend for a few days to buy a house, or they’re under contract to sell their home and they’ve got to find one,” Overbeck adds. “They’re never going to buy for sale by owner, and those are the highest paying buyers.”
“One of my past clients is trying to do a for sale by owner,” Jones says. “And the main reason they said is they’re trying to save a few bucks, which is ironic because the people who want to buy for sale by owners are usually pretty cheap.”
3. Agents, Quite Literally, Are Forced to Put You First
“A realtor has a fiduciary duty to the client, and so it’s crazy not to use an agent because you end up making back that money you think you’d save all the time,” Overbeck says.
Put in simple terms: A realtor is bound by law to act in a seller’s best interest. If for some reason they do not, a seller has recourse in court.
4. Your Saved Commission Money Won’t All Go to the Bank, Either
Agents are generally paid in a split commission deal: The sellers pay typically 5 to 7% of the selling price as commission to the listing agent, and the listing agent splits the money with the buyer’s’ agent. For a $250,000 home, the commission can, at the high end, be $17,500.
Don’t put all that money in the bank just yet, though.
Stats already show that the typical agent-assisted listing sold for $39,000 more than a FSBO, but FSBO who look to skip commission forget about paying the buying agent.
A buyer’s agent is never going to make your listing a No. 1 priority if you don’t offer that agent a commission. Typically, the listing agent will split the commission earnings with the buyer’s agent. To put your FSBO home on buyers’ radar, offer their half of the commission.
Overall, on a $210,000 house, which is the FSBO selling average, a seller who thinks they can pocket a $12,000 commission, really only ends up saving $6,300, or 3%.
5. You Never Want to Be an Amateur at the Negotiating Table
Who would have the upper hand in a tough offer negotiation: a licensed, professional, experienced buyer’s agent who has done this dozens upon dozens of times in their career, or a home-selling newbie who has an emotional attachment to the home? Never bring a fist to a gunfight.
Without a listing agent, sellers go into negotiations handicapped. Even in a genial, smooth negotiation process, that agent’s only priority is to get the home for the price the buyers want—he or she has no responsibility toward the seller.
Plus, that’s doesn’t even take into account some out-of-the-box offers that can be difficult: all-cash offers, bidding wars for the home, low-balling offers, and more.
6. You Could Be In Weird Zoning Violation, Without Even Knowing
Homeowners may not be up to speed in things like housing code or zoning violations, but they are massive when trying to sell a house. Did you know in Georgia that your home could be in violation for having too many tomato plants in your garden?
A house will almost certainly not get sold if it’s in violation of code, no matter how silly they seem.
7. Pricing a Home Is Like Hitting an Exact Bullseye
When they narrow in on an effective price, real estate agents have access to comparable home sales and neighborhood information dating back years. Sellers without access to this pricing information are throwing a dart in the dark, which could make or break a listing.
“The worst thing you could do is overprice a home,” Jones says. Overpriced homes are more likely to sit on the market because they don’t show up in potential buyers’ search criteria.
Think a site like Zillow can get all that information for you? Think again. Home value is called a “Zestimate” for a reason—it’s based off of user-inputted data mixed with public information in a proprietary formula.
8. Marketing Is a Whole Different Ballgame Than Listing
You won’t sell a home by merely listing it on websites and waiting for offers to come flooding in. They won’t. That’s where marketing comes in.
“There’s a difference between marketing a home and selling a home,” Jones says. “The way you get top dollar is to market a home, and that’s what I do.”
Marketing is about getting exposure in the best places with the best angles. A real estate agent knows what listings buyers will be attracted to, gets the listing on the best websites, recognizes and highlights a home’s stand-out qualities, positions home showings in the best light, and networks regularly about the house. It’s a consuming process that will evolve according to reception at open houses and reactions from potential buyers.
9. You Want Access to a Realtor’s Buyers List
Many real estate agents work with both buyers and sellers, and so they have access to high-quality home-seekers on the other side of the equation who may be the perfect fit for your home.
A study by the National Association of Realtors shows that 82% of homes are sold via realtor contacts—i.e. prior clients, referrals, friends, and family.
10. Realtors’ Rolodexes Are Filled With Star Professionals
It’s not just buyers in agents’ contact lists; they also have a laundry list of skilled professionals at your disposal.
Top Maryland agent Fleishman can’t even count the number of times her contacts have come through to help her sellers in a bind.
“I had a seller who had a termite issue, and we didn’t find out until two days before closing. [The seller] called some people, but they couldn’t come out or they wanted to charge an arm and a leg,” Fleishman recounts. “I called my guy and he came over on a Saturday afternoon … and he got the whole job done so we could close on time.”
“So we got the deal to close just because I had the contact of somebody who I give a lot of work to who, when I need a favor, is going to drop everything and help me out,” she adds.
She remembers another time when her lawyer contact handled a last-minute title issue at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, when the seller’s lawyer couldn’t get to the bottom of the problem. She has stories exactly like this for countless types of professionals in her rolodex.
“Networking is key. If I didn’t have a good licensed handyman who was reasonable who could come at the drop of a dime, a lot of transactions wouldn’t happen.” Fleishman says.
11. There’s Nothing More Frustrating than Endless Paperwork
One glance at the 15-plus-page state contracts, plus their addendums and disclosures, should send more people scrambling to a real estate agent to close on a home. That’s just one technical form sellers have to complete in the process, which are time-consuming and can be confusing.
All this paperwork can add up to mistakes. Mistakes can be costly, not just in terms of dollar value but in the law. With a realtor, any of these types of mistakes pass the repercussions off to the agent, and they won’t sit on sellers’ shoulders.
12. Cancel All Your Plans, You Have to Sell
Selling a home is a full-time job. You have to host open houses, prep for last-minute showings, vet a slew of interested people to find actual potential buyers, complete the seemingly endless paperwork, market a home, and do all the smaller day-to-day tasks that keep your home presentable. It’s exhausting.
For most people, they already have a full-time job. For agents, this is it.
“You don’t realize how hard it is to sell a house until you try to do it,” Jones says. Just remember Jones’ story of an exhausted woman trying to tell her home before caving and hiring a professional.
13. There’s a Built-in Negative for FSBO Showings
Jones believes sellers should never attend open houses or showings at their property—which isn’t exactly possible in a FSBO.
“When I show a property, I never want the seller to be there because I want the buyer to say whatever they want about the house without the fear of offending the seller. Also, a buyer doesn’t feel like they can poke around or open and close doors while the seller is there,” Jones explains.
“So, if you’re trying to sell it yourself, you’re going to be there, and you’ve already got that built-in challenge that’s going to automatically put the buyer in an uncomfortable situation.” He adds.
If potential buyers are uncomfortable, that’s a huge detractor from getting an offer.
14. Emotions Don’t Mix with a Business Transaction
“Buying and selling a home are next to getting married and having a baby—all the reasoning goes out the window, sometimes, people get very emotional,” Overbeck says.
She has a recent story about why these emotions can come into conflict with the stressful business transaction of selling a home.
“I have clients where, he built the home, he proposed to her on the lot before they built it, and they got married across the street in the clubhouse … [After negotiation] they felt like, ‘we just don’t want to sell this home to these people because it’s so special to us’ and it’s not a business transaction anymore,” Overbeck says, adding that she had to step in as a therapist, as well as a realtor.
Why Use a Real Estate Agent? That’s a No-Brainer.
Sellers who think they can save a buck by listing for sale by owner are missing out on the countless advantages of using a licensed realtor. Ultimately, the monetary benefit of not using a real estate agent is arguably non-existent.
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