Should You Use a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Home?

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The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

With real estate prices down in so many markets, if you’re looking to sell your home, you want to get as much from it as possible.

One of the ways to do this that quickly comes to mind is selling your home without using a real estate agent. After all, real estate agents charge a hefty fee for their services, that could run as high as 6% of the sale price. If you could sell your home without having to pay that fee, that’s more money in your pocket – a lot more!

As much as we might like to see the real estate agent’s fee – and their services – as superficial and unnecessary, the reality is that they perform certain vital services that spare us of the need to do ourselves. Before trying to sell your home yourself, think carefully about how that will impact the sale, and your efforts to make it happen.

What will you give up – and what will you take on – if you choose to go it alone?

You will have to market the home yourself

If you have ever tried to sell a home yourself, then you know how complicated the process can be. Top of the list is marketing the property – nothing will happen unless you are able to master this process.

If you decide to sell the home yourself, you’ll need to place ads in all of the major publications in your area. You may also have to consider advertising on “for sale by owner” websites. You will have to pay for all of these advertisements.

You’ll also have to purchase a “house for sale” yard sign, and print up hundreds of flyers providing photos, specifications, and a sales type description of your home. All of that will take time – and money.

A real estate agent will do all of that for you and you generally will not have to pay for any of it. In addition, the agent will list your property on the local multiple listing service (MLS). By having your property listed on the MLS, it will make it available to every other real estate agent in town so that they can then show it to their buyer prospects. This is a service that you cannot duplicate for yourself. Is also the system by which most homes are sold. You are at a severe disadvantage if your house isn’t listed on the MLS.

You will have to show the home yourself

This will mean you’ll have to make yourself available to show your home anytime anyone wants to see it. In order to do this efficiently, you’ll have to make a point to be home most of the time until the home is sold. You will find out quickly that most of the people who come to see your home will be “lookers”, either having no real interest in buying your home nor the ability to do so if they did. And, some people who call to look at the property just plain don’t show up. That can get old real fast.

There’s a skill involved in showing a property for sale, and unfortunately, most homeowners don’t have it. In fact, a homeowner is probably the worst person to show the property to potential buyers. You’re emotionally involving in the property, tend to see only it’s good points, and of course, anxious to sell it. This can make for a very uncomfortable experience for the people looking at home.

Real estate agents can handle all of this for you as part of the fee that you pay. Not only will they show the home even when you are not around, but they will also pre-qualify buyers to make sure that they have the ability to buy the house. And, since showing and selling homes is their business, they have the skills necessary to show your property in a professional manner.

You will have to handle the negotiations yourself

Whenever you are selling anything, it will help to have a “middleman” to handle the negotiations for you. Real estate agents can negotiate a sales transaction between buyer and seller, and do so in a way that will not only maximize the sales price, but will also avoid uncomfortable exchanges.

Because the purchase of a house involves so much money, emotions can get in the way of the process. Words can be exchanged that could doom the transaction entirely. With a real estate agent in the middle, such comments can be modified and that can keep the process moving forward.

A real estate agent, because he or she is not the owner of the property, will also find it easier to discuss sticky situations – such as repairs and closing costs – with both buyer and seller. Their position in the middle of the transaction could be the difference between a successful sale and one that never goes to contract.

Is that worth saving a 6% Realtor fee

Imagine doing all of that yourself; do you still think that a 6% Realtor fee is too much? 

While many of us that don’t work in the business tend to think of real estate sales as somehow easy, the reality is that it is very difficult and can break down at any point in the process. Since the real estate agent is paid a commission only upon the sale of your property, they have a built-in incentive to keep the deal alive and move it forward. Think of the agent as your partner in the sale of your home.

In today’s competitive real estate market, many real estate agencies are willing to work for less than the standard 6% fee. There are some agencies out there that will charge as little as 1% or 2%, just to put your property on the multiple listing service. You’ll have to handle all of the other aspects of the sales transaction yourself, but being on the MLS is a huge advantage – especially in a tight market.

I’m not a real estate agent, nor is this post an advertisement for Realtors in any way. After being in the mortgage business for many years, I saw a lot of home sellers waste a lot of time and a lot of money trying to handle this themselves. If you really want to sell your home in the least amount of time for most amount of money, a real estate agent is a necessary evil.

How about you all? Have you ever tried to sell your home without using a real estate agent? What would you recommend to anyone who is contemplating it?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. myfijourney says:

      Various family members have at various times tried the for sale by owner approach. The only observation that I can make is that it seems to work fine if the property is hot. If the market is average a lot of for sale by owner listings get passed up. I'm not sure if all the new internet resources are shifting this balance at all.

    2. We plan on using an agent when we sell our current house this year. We just don't have the time to do it all ourselves!

    3. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

      We've never sold a house before, only bought. That said, we had a great experience with our agent and will likely use her when/if we do sell. I'd love to knock out the fee, but at the end of the day they're (generally) the experts and the time saved on my part would be well worth the cost.
      My recent post Taking the Plunge: Why I Hate Being Self-Employed

    4. moneybeagle says:

      In 2007, we went through the process of selling my condo and buying a house. I used the same realtor on both sides and I could not imagine having done that without him. He kept me aware of nearby pricing and had me re-price to keep it aggressive, and the condo sold in six weeks, unheard of as we were already in the midst of the slowdown here in Michigan. He also showed me that the offer that I was annoyed by was in fact fair, and as it turns out, was $50k higher than I would have gotten even 12-24 months later. He also advised us on the offer of the house, going $25k lower on the initial offer than I would have, and then when the seller countered with their 'FINAL' offer, he advised we go $5k lower. I would not have done that, but he assured me it was fine, and they accepted. Right there, he practically covered his entire commission on the sale of the condo.

      On the opposite end of that, we were interested in a house where they were doing it without a realtor. We made several offers but could not get them to budge near where we wanted, so they walked away. We found out later that they sold it 6 months later for $40k less than we had been offering. Had they gone with a realtor from the get-go they would have come out ahead.

      So, if you find the right realtor, they are absolutely worth every penny.
      My recent post Sprint Protects Itself From Fraud But Customers Are On Their Own

    5. Nick @ says:

      We tried to sell our condo last summer. We opted to use a real estate agent. We had a lot of interest and several offers, but with the real estate commissions we couldn't get a high enough offer(we got several offers that we could have accepted if we didn't have to pay commissions). I thought our agent did a great job, but we were to close to the edge on our mortgage (we lost $35k in equity during the recession). The bottom line is, it is great to use an agent if it fits your situation but it is definitely not necessary.

    6. graduatingfromdebt says:

      Good post. I think if you can somehow manage to list your property in MLS then it might be worth it. In the end selling and buying a house can become incredibly complicated and busy people don't have the time to deal with this. If you end up doing it yourself you might save money, however you probably waste a lot of your time which you can't take back.
      My recent post Doomed to Debt – Bottom 5 Earning Degrees

    7. Sounds like I'm a little against the grain here, but I plan on not using an agent when I sell my home (if for some reason I don't rent it out). I do have the luxury of working at home or the office if I'd like, so that does help.

      For me, showing the home is not an issue, and of the two of us (the agent and I), I believe I will be the one more motivated to sell my home. My biggest concern would be exposure, but there are multiple fee only services to get your home on the MLS for a couple hundred bucks.

      For me I'd rather save the money. Paying an agent has always seemed like a waste of money.
      My recent post Recently Unemployed? The Positive Side To Losing Your Job

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