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Selling a House Without a Realtor: Pros and Cons

Apr 29, 2024 2:00:00 PM / by Matt McGee

What could you do with $25,000? Would you replace your old, damaged roof? Get a new car? Maybe you’d take that family vacation you’ve been dreaming about for years. Yeah, that’s what you’d do. An amazing vacation!

But where are you gonna come up with $25,000, especially when you just got a new job and have to save every dollar to pay for that cross-country relocation?

Well, if your home sells for $500,000, and your Realtor® charges you the common 5%-6% real estate commission, $25,000 is about what you’ll pay your agent…maybe a little more. 

In other words, that’s how much you could save if you sold your home without a Realtor®. So DIY is the way to go, then, right? 

Not so fast! 

“I think the generalization is, ‘We're going to save money.’ Generally speaking, I think it very rarely turns out that way,” says Phoenix-area agent Blair Ballin.

Despite the appeal of significant savings, only 7% of homeowners sold their homes without a Realtor® in 2022-23, according to the National Association of Realtors®. 

That’s because selling your home without an agent’s help has trade-offs that many homeowners decide are as significant as the potential savings. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the different ways to sell a house without an agent’s help. But first, let’s look at the pros and cons of selling your home without a Realtor’s help so you can understand the trade-offs involved in such an important decision.

Pros of selling your home without a real estate agent

Here are some of the arguments in favor of selling your home without the help of a professional real estate agent.

Potentially significant cost savings

As we showed above, you could save $25,000 to $30,000 in commissions if you sold your $500,000 home without having to pay an agent the common 5%-6% commission. If your home’s worth a million dollars, you could double that savings. (Note: Some agents charge a smaller commission on luxury homes, so the savings may not be quite double. But the point still stands.) 

We should mention here that the landscape around real estate agent commissions appears to be changing. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has proposed a major settlement to a class action lawsuit over real estate commissions. One potential outcome is that your listing agent’s typical commission, which has historically been shared with the buyer’s agent, could drop from 5%-6% down to 2%-4%. That, in itself, represents a cost savings, but it also means you’ll save less by not using an agent to sell your home.

Control of the process

You might enjoy having full control over the sale of your home. When selling your home by yourself, you’re in charge of setting the price, scheduling showings, and how to market your home. You’re the boss, and this all happens on your timeline.

Direct negotiations with the buyer

In a traditional sale, your real estate agent will advise you not to communicate directly with buyers to avoid the risk of you saying something that will hurt your position during negotiations.

When you sell your home without an agent’s help, you’ll need to communicate directly with interested buyers—including negotiations over terms of the sale. This might lead to quicker and clearer negotiations.

Cons of selling your home without a real estate agent

While the pros may sound appealing, you need to be aware of the flip side, too. Selling a home without a Realtor’s help may not be as appealing as it seems on the surface. Here are some potential downsides:

Less exposure to potential buyers

A licensed agent will list your home in the local MLS, which instantly makes the home visible to all other local agents. It also distributes your home to local and national websites where buyers are looking for homes every day. Rather than calling you for information, agents and buyers will be able to see your home’s price, size, photos, and all other relevant information to help them decide if it’s worth seeing in person.

According to a 2023 NAR survey, 57% of homeowners who sold their home without a Realtor’s help ended up selling the home to someone they already knew. This suggests that selling your home without an agent’s help leads to limited exposure of the home.

Pricing mistakes

We all suffer at times from the endowment effect. Never heard of it? It’s the tendency we have to overvalue things we own. That can be very dangerous when it’s time to set a price for your home. You’ll probably assume that your home is worth more than your neighbor’s house down the street simply because it’s your home, even though both homes have essentially the same features.

The opposite is also possible, too. Without the market knowledge and insight of a local real estate agent, you might not be aware that homes like yours are especially popular right now. Or you might compare your home to others that aren’t as similar to yours as it seems. Either mistake could lead you to undervalue your home and sell it at a discount.

Marti Reeder, a top agent based in Kent, Washington, has seen both pricing mistakes from sellers in her area who don’t use an agent.

“If they undervalue their home, it will sell really quickly and they won't know what they could have sold for (with an agent),” she says. “And then overvalued homes—those are the ones who don’t sell and I wind up calling like an expired listing.”

Poor marketing

You can put a homemade “For Sale” sign in your yard, tell your friends on Facebook that you’re selling your home, and even schedule an Open House on your own. But successful real estate agents got that way because they have, among other skills, the knowledge and tools to expose your home to potential buyers. 

A good agent will put into action an aggressive marketing campaign that begins with online tools like the MLS, but also involves paid ads on Google and/or social media, email marketing, and much more. They’ll also promote your home to their network of real estate agents. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to match an agent’s marketing if you sell your home by yourself.

Time commitment

Yes, you’ll get to control when showings are scheduled and manage the timeline of the sale, but selling your home without a Realtor® requires an enormous time commitment. You’ll be responsible for 

  • Getting the home ready to sell

  • Marketing it

  • Fielding calls, texts, and emails from interested buyers (and agents with buyers, too)

  • Scheduling tours so buyers can see the home

  • Negotiations

  • Navigating the inspection and appraisal process

  • Handling the paperwork

  • and more

All of that is on your shoulders, as are any surprises that come up during the sale. One of the underappreciated benefits of hiring an agent to help sell your home is how they help you get over unexpected hurdles. Reeder tells this story of a recent holiday emergency:

“On Easter day, I called my contractor and said, ‘My upcoming seller came to the house and the back door was busted in. Now she has no way to secure the door.’ He went to the house on Easter, boarded it up for her, measured the door, told her what to buy, and is installing it this morning. I hated to make that call on a holiday, but he did it.” 

Handling negotiations and other legal risks

Real estate agents are trained and skilled at navigating the legal complexities of a home sale, which include negotiations over the sales price, timing, and other concessions that are often required to close a sale. 

Trying to handle these legal compliance issues without professional guidance can lead to costly mistakes and/or future legal issues. This is especially true if you’re negotiating with a real estate agent representing the buyer.

Options to Sell a Home Without a Realtor

Now that you understand the pros and cons of not using a real estate agent to sell your home, let’s talk about the three most common ways to sell your house by yourself.

1. For sale by owner (FSBO)

This is exactly what it sounds like. In a traditional FSBO sale, you handle all aspects of the sale yourself, from listing and marketing the home to negotiations and closing. This option offers the most control and potential cost savings, but also requires the most effort and expertise from the homeowner.

If you use this option, consider paying a flat-fee real estate agent or brokerage to add your home to the MLS so it gets extra exposure in your community.

2. Selling to an investor/cash buyer

You may have seen signs around your neighborhood: “We buy houses fast!” or “We pay cash for your house, any condition!” These companies or individuals typically offer cash for your home, but usually at a discounted price. With this option, you’ll often have a quick sale without needing to fix up the home. On the other hand, cash buyers typically offer less than what the home would be worth on the open market.

3. Selling to an iBuyer

An iBuyer (short for “instant buyer”)  is a national or regional company that uses data and technology to make speedy offers on homes, and then resell them. Selling to an iBuyer typically means you’ll get an almost immediate offer on the home and a quick sale process. But the offers are typically below market value. 

Ballin says iBuyers may appeal to homeowners who “don’t care about how much they’re going to walk away with. They don’t want to deal with a Realtor. They don’t want to deal with showings. They want to have an offer, not deal with inspections, and if they take a $20,000 hit, okay.”

Also note that iBuyers often charge service fees that are comparable to an agent’s commission.

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A better option: Use Redy to find your agent

Although you can sell your house without a Realtor’s help, it’s definitely not for everyone. There are trade-offs you should consider before making such an important decision. 

A better option is to use Redy to find a great real estate agent. With Redy, you’ll benefit from a transparent competition among agents who are willing to pay you for the privilege of listing your home. 

Want to be in control? With Redy, you’ll have access to each agent’s profile and can review them on your time in the comfort of your own home. You’ll only hear from the agents you choose to hear from.

Want to keep more money in your pocket? Agents competing to list your home will include in their proposals a one-of-a-kind cash reward. Homeowners who use Redy save an average of more than $5,800.

Feature your property on Redy and discover how much agents are willing to pay you for the privilege of listing your home today.

Matt McGee is a writer and editor who's been immersed in the real estate industry his whole life. Matt's dad was an agent for nearly 50 years, his sister is an agent, and his wife has been a Realtor® since 2004.

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