When you sell your home, carving off a piece of that big check and handing it over to a real estate agent is an unpleasant moment. It’s hard to resist wondering whether you could have sold your home yourself and kept the agent’s commission. There is an alternative that lets you DIY – For Sale By Owner or FSBO (pronounced “Fizzbo.”). According to the National Association of Realtors, about 7% home sales are FSBO.
By cutting out the middleman and selling your house by owner, you avoid paying thousands of dollars to a selling agent. But selling your house yourself can cost you a lot of time and introduce new headaches and risks. And you might not save you as much money as you think. Here’s how to tell whether the FSBO path is right for you:
How much can you save?
Average real estate commissions are usually between 5-6%. So a seller with a $200,000 home owing 6% commission would pay $12,000 to real estate agents, typically split 50/50 between a buyer’s and seller’s agent. “I support sellers who want to give it a go, because there’s real money on the table,” says New York-based real estate attorney Michael Moshan.
Still, saving 5%-6% seems like a good idea; unfortunately it’s not that simple. Here are a few reasons why:
- While FSBO lets you eliminate the seller’s commission, you’ll typically still have to work with a buyer’s agent; otherwise, no one will bring clients to see your house. That 5%-6% ends up more like 21/2-3% – or about $5,380 on that $200,000 home.
- Without a seller’s agent, your house may not sell for as much. A seller’s agent posts your house on a Multiple Listing Service (MLS), available to licensed real estate agents, exposing it to many potential buyers than you’re likely to find on your own. And that increased demand can drive the price up for agent-assisted sales vs. FSBOs. Avoiding a 2.69% agent’s fee isn’t such a great deal if it means your final selling price 10% lower.
- Finally, some real estate agent fees are tax deductible. “Commissions you’ve paid for listing or selling the house reduce the taxable profit” at tax time and reduce your tax bill, explains Rob Babek, a CPA at Marcum LLP. No commissions, no extra tax break.
How much work will it take?
Here’s where you’ll need to consider what your time is worth. Because FSBO will require time, legwork and brainwork.
- Decide on the asking price for your house, which will take some research into the market. Review recent home sales in your area and find out what comparable homes have sold for. Hiring an appraiser can help provide the most marketable price for your house.
- Photograph your house and perhaps record a video tour. You can hire a professional photographer or take the photographs yourself. Staging your house will make your photos more appealing and could help you sell it faster.
- List your house on the MLS. The MLS will provide the best exposure for your home since it is not only used by real estate agents but also feeds popular real estate websites such as Realtor.com and Zillow. You can pay a flat fee of $400 to $500 to have your property listed on the MLS.
- Be prepared to show your house. You will need to coordinate showings with interested parties and respond to questions about your property. It could take dozens of showings before receiving an offer.
- Make sure potential buyers are qualified. Require pre-qualification letters from the buyer’s bank that certify they can meet the proposed financial commitment before accepting an offer.
- Hire a real estate attorney. Home sales require a great deal of paperwork, including the title, transfer documents and mortgage documents. An attorney can ensure that the sale is legal and binding.
How to know if FSBO is right for you
Although there are many challenges to selling a home, there can be upsides. For the right person, it can be the way to go. If you enjoy research and have an interest in the real estate market, staging and selling your own home might be a good way to see if that’s a career you’d like to pursue in the future. If you have both the energy and the interest, you might find a new career path that you truly enjoy. You can find plenty of online resources that help you navigate the waters and find out what needs to be done at each step along the way.
Regardless of whether you sell through a real estate agent or become a FSBO seller, make sure that your home is always protected. Nationwide’s homeowners insurance options can make sure your residence is securely covered.