Q: I have a house in the Fayetteville area, south of Atlanta. I am stationed at Fort Bragg NC. I drive home every other weekend and heard part of a radio commercial about a realtor charging a fee to sell a home at that was substantially less than the typical 3 to 6 percent cost. What information can you give me?
A: Historically, when you wanted to sell your house, you hired a real estate agent and typically paid the agent a commission of about 6 percent. In some cases, that amount might be 7 percent and could be as low as 5 percent. But you could usually assume that you’d pay about that amount when you sold a home.
If you didn’t want to pay a commission, you could sell the home on your own in what is called a “for sale by owner” (commonly known as a FSBO). You’d do all the work to sell but you wouldn’t get the benefits of listing the home on a multiple listing service. You would place a sign on your yard, advertise the home for sale in your local newspaper and hope that buyers would find your home and make you an offer.
Some years ago, a new market developed that allowed sellers to hire a real estate agent to provide limited services or less than full service.
Traditionally, the full service real estate agent selling your home would handle a broad range of tasks in dealing with the sale of your home. The listing agent would not only place the home on the multiple listing service, draft the home description, advertise the home for sale, place the for sale sign on the property, show the home, handle all inquiries, negotiate for you in the sale of the home and also take care of other tasks to take the home from listed to closed.
These days, home sellers are demanding other ways of doing business. Now home sellers can sell their homes themselves and still list the home on the multiple listing service. In addition, that listing is the only interaction they might have with the listing broker. The seller will have to do all the work to sell the home from start to finish. If the seller feels that’s too much work, the seller can add a full range of services to the process. In turn, the seller will pay more for each service provided by the listing company. This is known as a discount or limited brokerage model.
You could see that you might end up paying 6 percent of the sales price for the home to a broker to do everything for you or you might pay less than one hundred dollars for a sign to place on your yard advertising your home for sale or if you want to have your home listed in the local multiple listing service for a period of time, you might pay an additional several hundred dollars.
Whether you choose a full-service or discount broker or decide to sell by owner will depend on how much work you want to put into selling your home. Some buyers will definitely require a full service broker while other more independent and motivated sellers may use less services and may opt for a listing broker that may provide limited services.
The difference between a full service and discount real estate agent can be significant. If the full service listing agent charges 6 percent on the sale of a $200,000 home, the fee would be $12,000. The fee with a discount listing service or broker might be as low as $400.
The real issue for any seller is whether the model you chose will actually work to sell the home. It won’t do much good for you to spend $500 and wait 6 months to find out that your home won’t sell. In many instances, you might be better off with a full service agent if that agent is successful in selling the home.
During slow market times or if you’re selling a home for the first time, it often pays to use a full-service broker who will give your property a lot of attention. When you’re in a market where homes are selling within hours of being listed, or if this is the fifth house you’re selling in 10 years, you could save a ton of money by selling by owner.
Before you hire an agent or brokerage company, be sure you do your homework. Make sure you talk to people who have had a successful relationship with the individual and the company before you sign your listing papers.