Q: Would you recommend a web site where I could list my home for sale?

Is it ethical to consult with real estate agent about home then try to sell by owner, promising to sign with agent if the sale by owner isn’t successful?

A: There are many websites that are designed to help sellers sell their own homes without the help of an agent. You can find many of them by simply going to a web search engine like Google or Yahoo and typing “for sale by owner websites”; into the search box.

The website with the most traffic currently is ForSaleByOwner.com — which isn’t necessarily a recommendation. While the site is national, ForSaleByOwner.com has franchised its operations on a local level. To list your home on the web, you have to go through the local representative. Some of the local operations are run well, and others appear to be run by inept, pushy managers.

The general concept of listing your home for sale by owner on a website goes as follows: You pay a flat fee to get a web listing. If you want to buy an ad in the website’s magazine, it’s an extra fee.

Some of these FSBO websites offer local classes to teach you the tricks of selling by owner. It also will either give you (as part of your flat fee) or sell you signage, listing sheets and other tools you’ll need. You can even pay a separate fee that will get your home listed in the local multiple listing service, which is where the vast majority of home buyers go to look for homes that are available.

(But be aware that if you list your home in the MLS, you will have to pay a commission to the agent who brings the buyer.)

Unlike a discount broker who might be more involved with your sale, when you sell by owner using a website, you’ll be responsible for doing just about everything, including the showings, any negotiation and making sure all the details get done that will enable the house to close.

As far as ethics go, I think it’s perfectly fine to consult with several top real estate agents in your area about selling your home. You could ask them to prepare a comparative marketing analysis (CMA) for your home, which would tell you how they would market the home and their suggested list price.

While you might then go and list the home yourself, most savvy agents know that just 15 to 20 percent of homeowners are able to sell by owner. The rest wind up using agents — typically the agent they liked best from the initial round of CMAs.

That’s why agents are usually happy to oblige: They know this is their time to impress a prospective seller.

If you feel bad about it, you can talk to your local real estate agent about perhaps doing a comparative marketing analysis for a flat fee. Today, more real estate firms are “unbundling” the real estate services they offer, with the hopes of giving sellers exactly what they need at a price they’re willing to pay.

How long should you try to sell your home by owner before turning to an agent? That depends on you. But if you haven’t had an offer in two months, and you need to sell, you may want to hire a real estate agent to get the job finished.