What are the disadvantages of selling your home without a real estate agent? Even in the best of times, selling a home can be complicated. Market conditions can change on a dime, impacted by everything from local to national and international economies, to changes in population and even the weather. Especially in times of market uncertainly, a little professional help can go a long way.

Why Go It Alone?

With technology always on hand and information literally at their fingertips, the hyper-connected Millennial generation has taken a do-it-yourself approach to consumables; everything from products and services, to purchases of every kind – including real estate. Generation Y might as well be called Generation DIY. The appeal of the FSBO (For Sale By Owner) transaction lies in the flexibility, customization and let’s face it, the cost-effectiveness.

As a consumer, job one is educating yourself, weighing your options and making an informed decision. When it comes to real estate, an FSBO could be the right choice for those who want to save the commission fee and take the reins in all aspects of their transaction. But buyer and seller beware – an FSBO has some drawbacks as well. Here are five things to know about FSBO.

The Agent Advantage

Professional real estate agents have the experience and expertise to navigate through any market conditions. They’ve likely already been through some market ups and downs, and can guide a seller in deciding if now is the right time to sell, who your target buyers are and how to appeal to them. Aside from their market expertise, an agent will also have access to the tools and technology necessary to complete your real estate transaction safely and virtually, no in-person contact required.

What are the disadvantages of selling your home without a real estate agent?

FSBO is an acronym for “For Sale By Owner,” meaning the seller hasn’t retained the services of a professional agent to assist with the sale of their home. By doing all the legwork in selling a property yourself, the seller will save on the commission fees he or she would be required to pay to both the selling agent and the buyer’s agent.

Selling a home is a full-time job.

Now, we’re not saying you can’t sell your home yourself, because you can. There are plenty of resources out there to help you DIY. We’re just saying that a professional, experienced real estate agent can do a better job of it, and get you more money too. While saving on the agent’s commission might be tempting, consider what you get as part of the price you pay, including (but not limited to!):

• Setting the right asking price
• Preparing your home for sale
• Marketing the listing
• Showing the home
• Reviewing and negotiating offers

All this takes know-how and time. And you likely already have a full-time job, right? And remember that for avid home hunters, listings get stale fast. If you home’s been on the market for an extended period, due to delays related to home staging, marketing and showing, prospective buyers will lose interest fast. Remember: you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Some hard stats

While Canadian statistics on FSBOs are limited, the US-based National Association of Realtors has done some research on the subject. According to a 2022 study:

FSBOs accounted for 10% of home sales in 2021. The typical FSBO home sold for $225,000 compared to $330,000 for agent-assisted home sales.

FSBO methods used to market home:

    • Friends, relatives, or neighbours: 28%
    • Yard sign: 20%
    • Third party aggregator: 19%
    • Social networking websites: 17%
    • For-sale-by-owner website: 3%
    • Open house: 3%
    • Online classified ads: 3%
    • Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Website: 3%
    • Other website with real estate listings: 1%
    • Video hosting websites: 1%

Most difficult tasks for FSBO sellers:

  • Preparing/fixing up home for sale: 6%
  • Getting the right price: 16%
  • Understanding and performing paperwork: 13%
  • Selling within the planned length of time: 10%
  • Having enough time to devote to all aspects of the sale: 1%
  • Attracting potential buyers: 1%
  • Helping buyers obtain financing: 1%

Risks and rewards

For novices, the FSBO transaction can be tricky. As with all things, the more you do something, the better you’ll be at it. Experienced real estate agents can be worth their weight in gold. Again, we’re not saying you can’t sell your home yourself, and in fact, many people do. But there are risks that can be mitigated by working with someone who’s been there, done that. Potential pitfalls include:

• Pricing that could turn off prospective buyers.
• Misunderstood legal matters disclosed in writing.
• Safety concerns with showing your own home.
• Poor negotiation that leaves money on the table.
• Unrealistic promises as part of the deal.

Eyes on your listing

As a seller, how do you get the phone to ring? Generating interest from potential buyers is the key objective of listing agents. Especially in a buyer’s market, yard signs won’t cut it. If you’re not a real estate agent, or a marketing or advertising professional, you likely don’t know where to start – and who could blame you? Marketing through yard signs, brochures, and online and print advertising can help spread the word. How does a virtual tour sound? Do you plan to host an open house for buyers? What about an open house for agents and brokers? Beyond marketing, an FSBO means you get to juggle third parties such as a home stager, photographer, appraiser, the buyer’s agent (or if they’re DYI-ing it as well, the buyers), then throw in a pile of paperwork, just for fun – NOT.

Then there’s the legal stuff…

Once you have a buyer who is interested in purchasing your home, consider the legal side of things. The buyer will submit an offer, and when you’re confident that you have a good deal on the table (you are confident that it’s a good offer, right?), a contract will need to be signed by yourself and your buyer. Remember, if it’s not written in the contract and signed, then it doesn’t count. An Agreement of Purchase and Sale will include details about the buyer, the seller and the property. It will outline the purchase price, the deposit, fixtures and chattels, title searches, closing arrangements, conditions and clauses. A real estate lawyer can help with this step of the process. The benefit of working with an agent is that oftentimes, they already have a lawyer they regularly work with, to ensure all legal matters are handled correctly and in a timely manner.

Your home is likely your biggest asset. When you’re ready to sell the place, ensure you’re well-represented – whether you represent yourself, or are backed by a professional real estate agent. A “minor” mistake can mean the difference between a lucrative sale, or tens of thousands of dollars left on the table. As the consumer, do your due diligence and make an informed decision before you start the selling process.

Ready to take the next step? Find a RE/MAX agent near you.