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The pros and cons of selling your home yourself

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There's a new acronym doing the rounds –  FSBO (or for sale by owner) – and a host of lower cost packaged services emerging which can help you sell your home yourself without the help of a real estate agent.

What is involved in 'for sale by owner' or selling a property yourself?

Promising to save you thousands of dollars in agents' commissions, if you go through a low-cost or flat-fee provider, they provide you with access to online advertising and a host of other marketing tools, such as "For Sale" boards, property reports, printable brochures, and more.

But is this the way to go?

Many people swear by it. The truth, however, is that even if they were happy with the price they received, those who did it themselves will never really know what a skilled and knowledgeable agent could have negotiated for them.

Like many things in life, the best answer is: it depends on a host of factors. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider before selling your home yourself:

Pros of selling your home yourself

You can save tens of thousands of dollars in agent's commission.

You are in control of what is potentially going to be one of the most important financial transactions in your life — and responsible for whatever the outcome is. 

You don't have to put up with an agent that turns out to be not be up to the task, unreliable, unprofessional or too pushy just because you've signed an agreement that gives him or her exclusive rights to sell your property.

There are ways to determine what price you might get for your home without the help of an agent; for example, you can pay for a qualified valuer, or use an online estimation tool like OpenEstimates. However, these kinds of options don't tend to take into account real time market demand for properties just like yours. 

Your best bet, while time consuming, is to visit similar homes for sale in your neighbourhood and talk to local agents. You should attend auctions so you can see buyer demand play out infront of you, and read widely to get a feel for how the market is tracking in general. 

Cons of selling your home yourself

The number one risk not selling your home for the best price possible. Even with the money saved on commissions, you may walk away with less than you should have.

Statistics show that sales by owners in the US usually attract lower prices than agent-assisted home sales.

To put it bluntly, selling property is not your day job. A real estate agent is likely to have much more experience and knowledge about selling a property, overcoming buyer concerns and negotiating prices upwards. Not to mention the dedicated time to liaise with buyers, conduct open homes and close deals. 

A real estate agent will have many more avenues through which to market your property. These may include his or her own database of potential buyers known to be interested in your area, the agency's website and connections to other agents.

The wider you can throw your marketing net, the more potential buyers you can pull in.

You may not have the time to do the job properly – for example, to learn about the market and what selling a house involves, to attend open inspections and follow up on interested parties and so on. Just styling a home for sale and then keeping it presentable during the sales process can take a lot more time and energy than most people expect.

Work commitments may hold you back from doing the best job you can – for example, they may prevent you from taking calls during meetings or from taking off time to open your house for inspection during the week or from meeting with prospective buyers at times convenient to them.

Advertising and other marketing materials cost money. An experienced agent will know what will work best in your area and for your type of property and can help ensure your marketing budget is well spent and perhaps even save you money.

Potential buyers might try and negotiate you down, because they know private sellers are generally inexperienced.

An agent may be more professional and impartial than you in selling your home. For example, it's business as usual for agents so they are likely to keep their emotions out of the process and will not be offended by any criticism of your property.

An agent is likely to have a recommend list of tried and tested photographers, stylists, and builders who have done good work for other clients. If you need these services, you may have to find them yourself, sometimes without knowing whether they will do a good job or are charging you a fair price.

An agent will be up on all the legal requirements and documents you need to sell your house and will advise you about these during the sales process. If you are selling your own home, you will have to find out about these yourself and face the risk of getting something wrong and jeopardising the sale.

The bottom line

Only you know whether you have what it takes to sell your home yourself. If you are still unsure, ask yourself these questions before making a decision.