Can I Be My Own Real Estate Agent?

The law doesn't require that an agent be involved in the purchase or sale of a home, and there is good reason to believe you can do just fine on your own if you have the right home in the right location and under the right market conditions. But unless all of those things are aligned -- and you should disqualify yourself as a judge of whether you have "the right home" since you are emotionally attached -- then the standard pitch of an agent selling his or her services is probably true.

Real estate agents typically say that they can get you a better price and sell your home more quickly and with less hassle.
Barring all of those "right" circumstances, they're probably correct.

The main reason to represent yourself is to save money, generally a commission of 6 percent, although it sometimes varies by a point or two in either direction, of the sale price that gets paid to the agents involved in the deal. On a $200,000 house, that's $12,000; depending on individual circumstances, that can be the difference between making a profit on the home or bringing a checkbook to the closing to settle up your losses.

But that assumes you can actually get to a closing on your own. Selling without representation is not a go-to-closing-free card. You must do your own market analysis -- in order to price your house reasonably (but not too cheaply) -- pay all marketing costs, organize any and all open houses, and you must find buyers without free use of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a computerized system where member real estate brokers and agents advertise and swap information on available homes. (In the Internet era, ordinary folk can access the MLS for a fee, typically ranging from $150 to $500; pay enough fees and costs -- to listing services, firms that help stage the home for an open house, for advertising, to put a sign in your yard, and more -- and your commission savings start to shrink noticeably.)

And unless you have the cash to do a seller-financed deal, you probably lack the kind of financing muscle that a good agent can produce for a prospective homebuyer.

In other words, there's a reason why estimates suggest that "independent sellers" represent anywhere from 12 to 20 percent of all home transactions, but anyone who goes it alone will have to earn every penny of the commission savings by properly setting the asking price, marketing the home, showing the home, enlisting an attorney to handle the documents, negotiating with buyers, and much more.
By Chuck Jaffe
Chuck Jaffe is a senior columnist and host of two weekly podcasts at MarkWatch. He has also been a guest speaker on several television and radio shows.

Copyrighted 2016. Content published with author's permission.

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