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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 independently or need a real estate agent to oversee the sale. There are pros and cons for either option. One of the benefits of the for-sale-by-owner option (FSBO) is being able to recoup more money from the sale because you won't have to pay any real estate commissions. A drawback is that selling a home on your own means that you are responsible for all of the steps and requirements involved in selling a property. Dealing with real estate transactions on your own can be overwhelming.

This article outlines the basics of what a seller needs to do to prepare a home for sale, emphasizing whether or not you need a realtor. Review the topics below to help you decide if you require a real estate professional to help you with the selling process.

Do I Need a Real Estate Agent by Law?

Although many people believe that they need a real estate broker or agent to sell their home, no law mandates that you must hire one. However, some states require you to have a real estate agent handle the closing paperwork associated with a 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 or a real estate attorney to close your home sale.

Selling Your Home by Yourself

Independently selling your home is a great way for you to get the full sale price of your home, as you won't have to pay agent commission fees. Along the way, you will probably develop a better understanding of why real estate agents charge the commissions they do. As an FSBO seller, you need to know how to negotiate the price of your home. You should also be prepared to put in more time, energy, and effort than you think you reasonably should.

Before you put up a For Sale by Owner yard sign, consider checking out the housing market in your area. The market value of your home will vary depending on whether the real estate market favors buyers or sellers at the moment. If it is a buyer's market, you will probably have a harder time selling your own house. 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. In contrast, you will have to balance your life and work while trying to sell your home in a competitive local market. The best time for homeowners to sell is when there is a seller's market, where the demand outweighs supply and potential buyers are more willing to bid above the listing price.

Legal Considerations for Selling Your Own Home

Before selling your own home, you should learn about your state's real estate laws. These laws will indicate the required paperwork and who needs to sign them. Many states have mandatory disclosure laws that require home sellers to disclose any encumbrances on the home, such as liens or easements. In addition, you will likely need to disclose certain physical characteristics of your home and your knowledge of any potential defects or problems therein.

Listing Your FSBO Home

If you are serious about listing your home by yourself, you should have professional photos taken of the property. Curb appeal is extremely important when selling real estate. You can then post your home listing, along with the photos, online and on social media. There are many websites, such as Craigslist, that are dedicated to helping you sell your home on your own. Consider hiring a home staging company to declutter the property before hosting a walk-through or open house.

You should also get your home listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This nationwide service lists homes for sale that are searchable by area and neighborhood. There are several 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 FSBO

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 brokerages are willing to help FSBO sellers with many tasks including:

  • Market analysis
  • Assisting you with maximizing your home's value
  • Determining an appropriate asking price
  • Listing your home on MLS
  • Calculating closing costs
  • Connecting you with a title company
  • Assisting with buying a new home
  • Setting up an escrow account

If you 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 their assistance. For example, you could negotiate a smaller commission, or even agree to pay the agent an hourly fee for each hour they work 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. The National Association of Realtors is a great place to start looking for an agent.

Although a listing agent may take a larger cut than you like, hiring a realtor can save you some hassle in the long run. Agents are experts in listing your home in the right places for the right price. They also have an established network of buyer's agents, which can speed up the selling process. However, if you are in no rush to sell your home, you can always take a shot at selling it yourself before hiring 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. The challenges presented by selling it on your own can be daunting. If you have special legal needs or concerns when selling your home, you may want to consider speaking to an experienced real estate attorney near you.

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

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