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Selling Your Home -- Do You Need a Real Estate Agent?

A major consideration for home sellers is whether they can sell their home on their own or whether they need a real estate agent to oversee the sale.

There are pros and cons for either option. Benefits of selling your home by yourself include, for example, being able to recoup more of the sale from your home because you will not have any commissions to pay. The drawback is that selling a home on your own makes you responsible for knowing and following all of the steps and requirements involved in selling a property.

This article outlines the basics of what a seller needs to do to prepare a home for sale, with an emphasis on whether you need a real estate agent. Review the topics below to help you decide whether or not you need a real estate agent.

Do I need a real estate agent by law?

Although many people think that they need a real estate agent in order to sell their home, there is actually no requirement or law that mandates that you hire one to help you sell your home. However, there are some states that require you to have a real estate agent in order to handle the paperwork that is associated with the closing of the home sale. If you do not know the laws that apply in your state, you should check with your state department to see if you need the help of a real estate agent to close your home sale.

Selling your home by yourself

If you decide to sell your home by yourself, you will be engaging in a process known as "For Sale By Owner." This can be a great way for you to get the full sale price of your home without having to pay commission fees, but along the way you will probably develop a better understanding of why real estate agents charge the commissions they do. You should be prepared for putting in more time, energy, and effort than you think you reasonably should.

However, before you put up your For Sale By Owner sign, consider checking out the market in your area. Circumstances can vary depending on whether the real estate market is in favor of buyers or sellers, that is, if prices are on a downward trajectory due to a housing supply glut or if prices are rising due to relatively higher demand. If it is a buyer's market, you will probably have a hard time unloading your home by yourself. This is because you will be up against real estate agents whose sole job is to sell homes in a difficult market that favors buyers, and you will have to balance your life and work against putting in time to sell your home in those competitive conditions. Thus, the best time to sell your home by yourself is when there is a seller's market where buyers are more willing to bid up home prices.

Legal considerations for selling your own home

In order to properly sell your home by yourself, you will need to learn about the laws of your state that govern real estate transfers. These laws will indicate what kinds of paperwork you will need to prepare as well as who will need to sign them. In addition, you will need to find out what to do if you find that there are any encumbrances that are on your home, such as liens or other liabilities that affect marketable title. Lastly, most states have mandatory disclosure laws that you will need to follow where you will need to disclose certain physical characteristics of your home and your knowledge of any potential defects or problems therein.

Listing your home

If you are serious about listing your home by yourself, consider posting your listing online. There are a number of websites around that are dedicated to helping you sell your home on your own.

One of the best things that you can do to get your home sale off the ground is to get your home listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This is a nationwide service that lists homes for sale that are searchable by area, even neighborhood. There are a number of ways that you can get your home listed on the MLS, such as:

  • Hiring a real estate agent to list your home
  • Listing your home for free by using websites like and Zillow
  • Using certain low-fee services provided by websites devoted to For Sale By Owner

Using a real estate agent

Although you may not need a real estate agent, there may be times when you can use a real estate agent to help you. Many real estate agents are willing to help those who are planning on listing their home as For Sale By Owner with many tasks including:

  • Helping you determine the home market
  • Assisting you with maximizing the sale value of your home, e.g. via staging
  • Determining an appropriate asking price
  • Listing your home on MLS, or
  • Assisting in some of the more complex paperwork and transactions.

If you can find a real estate agent that is willing to help you with some of the smaller tasks associated with your home sale, you may be able to work out a compensation plan for the agent that is more to your liking. For example, you could negotiate a smaller commission, or even agree to pay the agent an hourly fee for each hour that he or she works on marketing your home.

When you need a real estate agent

If you come to the conclusion that listing your home as For Sale By Owner is not your cup of tea, you can always go ahead and hire a real estate agent to sell your home for you. Although he or she will probably take a larger cut than you may like, it may save you time and effort in the long run. Agents are experts in listing your home in the right places and setting up your home to be shown to prospective buyers. However, if you are in no rush to sell your home, you can always take a shot at selling by yourself first before you hire a real estate agent.

Wondering if You Need a Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home? Consult with a Lawyer

Every home -- and indeed every sale of a home -- is unique. If you have special legal needs or concerns when selling your home (perhaps questions about disclosures), you may want to consider speaking to an experienced real estate attorney near you.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help guide you through the process of selling your home.

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