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Should you sell your house without a real estate agent?

This is a true story. Two houses with identical floor plans and similar quality finishes were listed in a desirable Baltimore City neighborhood at the same time (Summer 2020), for the same price. One was listed For Sale By Owner, the other was listed by a REALTOR®.​

Home A

Home A was beautifully photographed and listed For Sale By Owner (“FSBO”) on Zillow at a carefully researched and attractive price based on recent comps. The seller created a dedicated website for the property and posted it in the local neighborhood association Facebook group. A buyer found the listing on the Facebook group and scheduled a time to see it with their buyer’s agent. The buyer’s agent missed the appointment and the buyer decided to submit an offer at asking price but requested a 2% seller concession to pay the buyer’s agent ($7,000) which the seller agreed to and went under contract within 1 week of listing. The buyer’s agent, acting in this transaction as nothing more than an expensive document preparer, added nowhere near an appropriate amount of value to justify their commission, and the seller and buyer were both understandably irritated by this. A real estate lawyer could have drafted the docs for $250, saving $6,750 for the seller.

Home B

Home B used a listIng agent but insisted on listing 5% higher than the listing agent recommended. The house was slightly less attractive in its finishes and how it photographed. There is no indication the house has been marketed anywhere except the MLS. The house sat on the market for over 120 days before going under contract. If/when the transaction closes we will update this post. We expect the seller will likely have lowered the price to the original recommended range, paid 6% in brokerage fees and have delayed their move-out plans by the length of time it went unsold.

Morals of the story:​

  • You need to price your property attractively, this is the #1 mistake we see, especially from FSBO sellers. From our research, we estimate that over 90% of FSBO listings are overpriced.
  • If you list FSBO, you need to put in a lot of work (comp research, marketing, coordination), price the house attractively, have someone you trust review the Purchase And Sale Agreement and associated disclosure docs.
  • If you list with an agent you need to trust their suggested listing price or do your own comp research.
  • Listing agents may only leverage MLS instead of other relevant channels, you need an agent that can use other technologies and platforms, especially social media. Make them earn their commission!
  • To save money selling without a Realtor, you need to generate buyer awareness and create buyer demand.

Make buyers compete for your house, sell commission-free on OfferMarket.