Written by Patrick O’Brien
Given my background as a career mortgage banker, I often find myself in conversations with people seeking advice when they’re shopping for a home. Occasionally people casually mention that they’re going to “save a ton” by selling their home For Sale By Owner rather than listing with a Realtor. While I admire their confidence, I often (strongly) advise against it. I’ve financed (literally) thousands of transactions so I know the process well, yet I’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars in Realtor commissions over the years and I feel it’s money well spent. Here’s five reasons why:
1. You Have No Idea What the Hell You’re Doing
I mean seriously, you have absolutely no idea what the hell you’re doing. Inevitably I hear about how they’ll take their own pictures and list the home on Zillow. Congratulations, you’ve covered abut 1% of the things a Realtor manages in a transaction. Do you know how to accept an offer? Do you know how to counter offer? Do you know what terms are reasonable to accept when it comes to your buyer’s financing? What happens if the house doesn’t pass the bank appraisal? What if the buyer’s loan gets declined? What are you required to disclose to the buyer? I mean its cool that Ned in the cube next to you sold a house one time so now he’s an expert, but given the complexity of this transaction, how about we talk to a professional.
2. You won’t be able to access the entire market of homebuyers
Yeah, yeah, Zillow, I get it. The fact of the matter is that Zillow can’t replicate an army of a thousand Realtors with a financial incentive to sell your home. It just can’t. And no offense, you’re cool and all, but a lot of people just don’t want to deal with you. They don’t want to call you and awkwardly walk around your home with you while you give them the hard sell. They don’t want you telling them about the “top of the line” furnace you bought two weeks ago. They want to go in with their agent, leave and think about it. As such, some people just won’t even look at your house. When I bought my most recent house, I just wouldn’t even look at For Sale By Owner, because honestly, I don’t want to deal with you either.
3. The Buyer Expects you to Share the Savings
EVERY SINGLE TIME a borrower called me to get qualified and they were looking at a For Sale By Owner, they always said “Well there’s no Realtor so I’ll be able to get the house cheaper.” Every. Single. Time. Buyers know you’re cheaping out and they expect to benefit from the savings, because let’s face it, you’re saddling them with a lot of extra work that a Realtor would normally handle. So expect a lot of low ball offers.
4. You’re a Nobody to the Bank
A huge factor in you selling your home will be your buyers ability to obtain mortgage financing. So when you accept that offer, what happens next? What happens if you don’t hear anything for a week? Or Two? Or a Month? Your buyer tells you “Just waiting on the bank!” Are you going to call the bank? Hint: You can try but they’re not going to take your call, and even if they did they can’t give you any info. Call your attorney? Hint: He’s golfing (always.)
Guess who has all the clout with the bank? Realtors. Bankers know that Realtors are on the front line with homebuyers, so when a Realtor needs something, the Banker answers, otherwise they risk getting a bad reputation in the real estate community. No Realtor? Expect a bleeding ulcer waiting for the bank approval (or declination letter.)
5. For Sale by Owner Deals are More Likely to Fall Apart
I don’t have any statistical proof on this, however there’s no question that For Sale By Owner transactions are much flimsier deals because there’s nobody there to iron out the wrinkles. Who’s there to keep everyone on track to make the closing date? What happens if your buyer can’t get financing (after you waited around for a month) and you lose the house you’re buying? Where’s Ned now? These things happen. Often. Usually without a professional negotiating these things out, deals just collapse.
The good news Is that people seem to understand these precepts. In 2015, 90% of homes sold were transacted through a Realtor (up from 80% in 2002.) While customer facing technology has created a more informed buyer, Realtors continue to play a critical role in a fluid housing market. If you’re going to sell your home, do yourself, your buyer, your banker, your attorney, your title agent, your inspector and your appraiser a favor — call a professional.