If you’re thinking about selling your home, a simple question has probably popped into your head: “Why don’t I try to save money: how hard is it to sell my house on my own?” It’s a tempting idea. After all, the average real estate agent’s commission comes out to around 5-6% on a sale. It only makes sense that you could save that money by selling alone, right?
Actually, it’s quite hard to sell your house on your own. And selling your home by yourself can cost you a hefty sum in the long run. According to a 2021 National Association of Realtors study, owners who used an agent to sell their home landed a price 26% higher than those who sold on their own. That comes out to a savings of nearly $60,000 on the median home sale.
What’s more, selling your home on your own is probably much harder than you realize. In this article, we dig into exactly what it takes to sell your home on your own and look at the reasons why it tends to be a decision sellers regret.
Is it hard to sell a house on your own?
Chances are, you’re asking yourself, “Is it really that hard to sell my house on my own?” In most cases, the answer is “Yes!” It’s one reason why just 7% of sellers decided to go it alone in 2020. Still, there are a few fringe cases where selling a house on your own may not be a bad idea. Attempting to sell your house alone may be doable if you fall into one of the following categories:
- You don’t care how much money you’ll make on your home
- You’re an experienced real estate agent yourself
- You already have a buyer lined up
Unfortunately, even if you fall into the small percentage of sellers from one of the categories above, you’re still not safe from all of the for sale by owner (FSBO) risks. Knowing your buyer beforehand doesn’t protect you from taking a price cut on your home sale, for example. Even worse, if you underestimate the work that goes into selling your home on your own, it can cost you hours of time and piles of money in the long run.
How hard is it to sell your own house?
Too often, sellers will start chugging towards a sale on their own, only to give up midway when they see how much work they’re spending on the whole process. By understanding what you’re signing up for beforehand, you can avoid wasting your time and money on the wrong decision. Here’s exactly what you need to know to sell your house on your own:
Selling your home on your own is a full-time job
Chances are, you already have daily responsibilities that fill up your day. Now imagine tacking on the hours upon hours of extra work that goes into preparing and selling your home. It’s not hard to understand why so many FSBO sellers become overwhelmed.
Laura McKenna, a real estate agent with nearly 40 years of home-selling experience, says one of the biggest factors owners who want to sell their home on their own overlook is how much work and expertise goes into selling.
“Sometimes I liken a real estate agent to a general contractor who assists with the tradespersons to evaluate the home, make repairs, clean, and stage the home,” explains McKenna. “There’s also the assistance with local attorney references and negotiating in their best interest.”
Wondering how hard selling your house without an agent is? Here are a few of the jobs that you’ll need to take on if you decide to sell your home on your own:
- Conducting market research
- Identifying what your target market is looking for
- Picking out your home’s most attractive features
- Spotting home problems, making repairs, and polishing up your home
- Listing and marketing your property
- Reaching out to interested buyers
- Staging your home
- Negotiating prices
- Filling out and managing paperwork
Listing your home and walking away just doesn’t work
It’s tempting. Why not just list your home or drop a sign in your yard and go about your business? The biggest problem is that the chances of actually selling your home this way are slim. According to the 2021 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, only 4 percent of buyers found their home via a yard or open house sign.
Successful real estate agents spend a huge chunk of time marketing your home. Excellent real estate agents don’t just post your house’s listing online and walk away. Here are a few marketing tasks top real estate agents often handle:
- They conduct market research to understand why homes are selling — or not selling — in your area.
- They run marketing campaigns built to grab and keep buyers’ attention.
- They highlight your home’s unique selling proposition and your home’s best qualities.
- They reach out to and connect with the best buyers for your home through social media, websites, ads, web campaigns, or whatever channels they’ve pinned down for your target market.
Prepping your home for a sale is critical and time-consuming
Skimping on preparations is one of the most glaring mistakes a homeowner will make when they’re trying to sell their house on their own. And not staging your home right can scare off buyers. According to a 2021 NAR report, nearly 1 out of every 2 buyers’ agents say that staging impacts how most buyers view a home.
However, most homeowners don’t have the time or the expertise to properly prepare their home for a sale alone. McKenna recalls a time when she tried to help out a homeowner after he had attempted to sell his home on his own:
“It was disappointing to find that items that should have been disclosed by the seller were not, property details were covered up, and the house was not as presentable as it should have been,” recalls McKenna. “There was mold in the attic and a gaping hole in the basement covered up with a towel! A Realtor® would have had these issues either repaired or disclosed.”
To squeeze the best price out of your home possible, top agents use trained eyes to spot and improve every corner of your house that could be problematic. From there, they spend hours staging your home in a way that will motivate buyers to sign on the bottom line.
Selling a house looks so easy. Open the door, walk around the inside, check out the basement, visit the yard and viola, a sale! But there is so much that happens before the home is put on the market, and then there’s the negotiations and preparation towards closing.
- Laura Mckenna
Real Estate Agent
Real Estate Agent at Barrett Sotheby’s International Realty
Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience
- Average Price Point
- Single Family Homes
Selling your home on your own requires constant attention
Even before you list your home, you’ll need to spend hours, if not days, preparing. For instance, most homeowners overlook how much time agents spend poring over housing data and market prices.
Not only have agents spent years getting to know the trends in a specific area, they also watch housing markets like a hawk. That means they know how to price your home in that perfect sweet spot–one that’s bringing in the most profit possible but isn’t turning potential buyers off because it’s too high.
“Selling a house looks so easy,” says McKenna. “Open the door, walk around the inside, check out the basement, visit the yard and viola, a sale! But there is so much that happens before the home is put on the market, and then there’s the negotiations and preparation towards closing.”
Here are a few standard steps McKenna and other top real estate agents do — all before your home goes on the market:
- Dig into the local market
- Examine your property
- Connect with the seller
- Decide what improvements your home needs
- Pick out the upgrades that you can easily make before selling
- Identify the opportunities and potential hold ups that may affect your home’s sale
Sorting through paperwork can give you nightmares
Too many owners will grind through the FSBO process only to be pummeled by home-selling paperwork halfway through a deal. According to McKenna, there are two harsh realities sellers wake up to when they’re hit with contracts and negotiations:
1. Negotiating for thousands of dollars is hard
Simply put, effective negotiating takes time, practice, and expertise. It’s not as easy as winning an argument with pals or bartering over a few bucks at a yard sale. When it comes to navigating closing costs and negotiating your home, thousands of dollars are on the line. And that usually isn’t the amount of money you’ll want to gamble on novice or even intermediary negotiation skills.
Plus, there’s often much more riding on negotiations than just your home’s final sales cost. You may need to go back and forth on additional contingencies, closing date details, home warranty terms, leaseback options, and other important items.
McKenna states it plainly: “Most sellers do not know how to negotiate their home.”
2. Sorting through paperwork is complicated and time consuming
Even if you’re a solid negotiator, you’ll still need to handle complicated contracts, extra paperwork, and marketing on top of nailing down a final price. That all can consume your life. In fact, the process is so time consuming that McKenna says she outsourced many of these tasks when it came time to sell her own house.
“The proof is in the pudding,” McKenna explains. “When I put my personal home on the market, I hired an agent in my office to prepare, market, and negotiate the sale, which made for a successful home transaction.”
Is there a smarter way to sell your home on your own?
In the end, there’s a good chance you’ll save time, make more money, and cut down headaches by rethinking your plan to sell your home on your own. When it comes time to sell, it’s a good idea to pick out a top real estate agent from your area who has a proven home-selling record.
Still, if you’re hesitating to hire an agent, and you want to sell your home fast, you do have more options. Try out our HomeLight Simple Sale tool. With Simple Sale, after answering a few questions, you can sell your house, as-is, with no prep work and receive an all-cash, no-obligation offer in as little as 48 hours.
In all cases, if you’re thinking of selling your house on your own, weigh the pros and cons of FSBO. The worst things you can do are waste hours trying to sell on your own only to revert back to an agent or to fumble through a sale on your own, losing thousands of dollars in the process. Crafting a plan now can help you sell faster, sink less time into your sale, and earn more money in the long haul.
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