Today we’re going to talk about our decision whether or not to use a realtor for the sale of our first home.
Initially when we decided to list the Vineyard House,
Jordan and I had read up on listing houses For Sale By Owner (FSBO). We were primarily considering forgoing a realtor in order to save between 3-6% commission on realtor’s fees (keep in mind sellers typically have to pay the buyer’s agent 3% of the sale price, regardless of whether the sellers have an agent or not).
We scheduled out our final weeks, choosing a listing date and setting our final work week in place.
As I learned more about FSBO sales, one hiccup I came across was how to get our house listed on an MLS or Multiple Listing Service. This is how we were going to get visibility for our house from realtors, it would also make our listing populate on all of the various home-buying sites (Zillow, RedFin, Realtor.com, etc.).
If you do not list on an MLS (and yes, there are multiple of these, it’s not a single database) and instead go FSBO, some sites like Zillow will put a hold on your listing for several days, potentially delaying our listing date. They also downgrade your listing to make it more difficult for prospective buyers to find by putting it on a separate list on the website and app, that a lot of people do not even realize exists.
We were really not excited about the lack of visibility to buyers, and the potential delay in listing our house, especially with interest rates climbing. I started looking into flat rate MLS listings, which seemed like a good solution. In this situation, you pay a few hundred dollars to get your house listed “officially”, but save on the realtor’s fees. This is a good option for people who choose to go FSBO but want increased visibility for an affordable price.
Other Prep-Work: Photos, Video, Staging
In addition to using a service, we also had the option of a realtor friend who was willing to charge us $300 to list the house. She also gave us a recommendation on photographers, which was going to run us about $400 for photos and drone footage.
We considered hiring people to stage the house as well, but ultimately decided against it based on cost (in our area this runs anywhere from $1200-3000+). I did “de-personalize” all of our rooms and bought some more generic artwork on sale to fill in the gaps, as well as some rugs and fake plants to dress things up. We also bought some new fluffy white towels for the kids bathroom and hand towels to hang in all the bathrooms. All together we probably spent $500 on decor for our own staging. Most of what needs to be done is removing ALL of your “extra” stuff, so that the house appears clean and decluttered.
If you list FSBO, you are responsible for organizing all of the showings, managing offers, and all of the paperwork associated with the sale. This may put some buyers off, as there is traditionally a little distance kept between buyers and sellers. You may also need a lawyer to draft up or review some of the paperwork, which may be added cost. Additionally, it is a good to have some idea of how you are going to “vet” potential showings and offers. Are you only going to do showings for people with agents? Are you going to have an open house? Are you going to require pre-approval or pre-qualifications?
Our Final Decision
As the finish line approached for our listing date, we started to second guess our willingness to handle all parts of the transaction. Also, with the housing market beginning to take a downturn due to the rising interest rates (up to about 5% by our listing date), we decided to take a gamble that using a realtor would actually be more beneficial than listing the house on our own.
The realtor we chose was the same one we used for the home purchase, which meant she was willing to knock a percentage off of her fees for us. She’s also employed by an agency that specializes in horse properties, with a large network of potential customers. We know from working with her previously that she’s pretty good with negotiations.
Ultimately, the final pros and cons broke down like this:
Pros to FSBO:
- No seller’s agent fees (3% of the sales price)
- Potential for no buyer’s agent fees (3% of the sales price)
- More control of some of the costs and specifics associated with the listing (photographer, staging, showings, open houses, title, etc)
Cons to FSBO:
- Listing visibility issues and potential delays
- Have to organize showings and open houses
- Have to handle all negotiations and paperwork directly
- May have to engage a lawyer for some of the paperwork
- No access to professional opinion on listing price, any work needing to be done on house, etc.
Pros to Realtor:
- Experience and knowledge of the current market
- Experience with negotiations
- Buyer’s agent may be more willing to work with another realtor to achieve a result in your favor
- Able to be completely hands off with showings and most of the transaction work
Cons to Realtor:
- Cost (generally 3% of sales price)
- Bias towards selling quickly vs. for a higher price
Since we moved to my parents’ guest house to get out of the Vineyard house during showings, we ended up deciding to use a realtor for our sale. She was able to get us a list price offer (the highest price ever in our neighborhood) within three days of listing, and we were under contract in under a week. We’ve also negotiated an appraisal waiver, a short option period, a free lease back for a month, and minimal concessions on our side. All in all, I think it has been worth it to have someone else handle the heavy lifting for us. We’ll keep you posted on how everything turns out as we finish up the option period tomorrow and move towards closing at the end of the month!