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For Sale by Owner or Hire an Agent? Key Things You Should Know.

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Are you thinking about selling your home by yourself? Before you do, let me give you a few pros and cons of going solo vs hiring an agent, so you can make a better decision.

Above all, weigh your options! Don’t just wing it, because you’re dealing with a lot of money.

Let’s first talk about a few reasons why some people want to go FSBO (for sale by owner, pronounced ‘fizzbo’).

First, and probably most important, is a realtor commission, which is a chunk of change that can look like a bite out of the proceeds from the sale of your largest asset.

A typical listing side commission is 2.5-3% (of course, you're smart enough to realize that you can't cut out the buyers' agent too, who expects the same 2.5-3% or else good luck finding buyers!). So if you’re selling a $1,000,000 home, a listing agent's commission is $25-30 grand (sound the following out in your best friend's voice) "into someone else’s pocket." Keep in mind though that even after the buyer's agent is paid, the listing agent must share their portion with their broker. Also, there are marketing expenses, licensing costs, and so on.

Still, without a realtor, you could potentially save 2.5-3% of the sale price. Potentially! If you know what you’re doing. For some people who know the industry (this is rare), it may actually be well worth it.

Second, you may feel like real estate agents get paid (again your friend's voice here) "for barely doing any work." It's like the easiest job ever!

You may be thinking “What does an agent do to earn a commission? They show up once for the listing appointment, and then they shoo me out of my house to show it to people I don’t even get to see and talk to. I don't get to evaluate them. What if they are just window-shoppers? What if I don't want them in my house?”

In reality, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes that sellers are often totally unaware of. I explain this below.

Also, it’s not just the straight-up time that goes into the compensation but also the years of training and expertise. Doctors can charge tens of thousands of $$ for a 30-minute surgery, and we seem to think it's normal.

Even a relatively smooth home sale can get complicated and contentious very quickly. And remember, the stakes are high. But keep on reading to see if you can pull off a FSBO.

The third reason may be that you’ve just had a bad experience with an agent in a recent past, and you no longer trust real estate agents in general. And them cold calling you, sending you bothersome mailers, trying to wrangle out a listing from you, may have exacerbated your feelings towards them.

I mean, yeah, not all agents are great. In fact, some can be downright incompetent. So, if you decide to go with an agent, you should most definitely choose with care the one who gets to represent you. If a surgeon is dealing with your life and health, a realtor is dealing with arguably the next most important thing: your largest asset. Interview a few realtors, don’t just go for the first one, even if they were recommended by your best friend. And when you find one, have a good, friendly, non-antagonistic relationship with the person (or persons), who is handling a great deal of your money. You’re nice to your doctors, right? Speaking of doctors, you should research and choose them carefully too. Trust me, health outcomes can be very different depending on which doctor you get.

So why in the world would you want to hire an agent to sell your home?

Let me give you 6 reasons why recruiting the help of a professional may be in your interest.

1. You Can Actually Net More with an Agent, even after paying their commission.

According to NAR (National Association of Realtors) statistics, agent-assisted listings on average sell for 18% more than FSBOs. Even if you don’t believe this 18% (which honestly, seems kind of high), even half of this amount, 9%, is well above the 2.5-3% listing commission. And, you let them do all the heavy lifting.

Also keep in mind, as a FSBO you’re going to attract bargain hunters trying to lowball you out of your commission saving.

2. Marketing Isn’t As Easy As You Think

Do you have a lot of free time? How about extra cash for marketing?

In today’s informed, computer-savvy homebuyer age, simply putting up a “For Sale” sign in front of your house won’t get you the traffic streaming to your home. As a FSBO seller you may have to spend a lot of money on advertising.

The trouble is that most of your target audience will still be out of reach if your home is not posted on the multiple listing service (MLS), and you’re going to need an agent for that OR you’d have to pay an outside agency a flat fee to get your home listed.

The MLS provides massive exposure to potential buyers, which explains why more than 80% of buyers find their home through the MLS. Also, the listings that appear on the MLS are automatically syndicated over to such sites as Zillow, Trulia, and so on, so your home can get a wider exposure.

Besides the MLS, agents have access to a vast network of realtors, have the tools (MLS, CRM, developed social media and web presence, YouTube channels, websites, broker's opens, etc.) to gain a wide, yet very targeted market exposure, and have a superior knowledge of the market trends and local neighborhood specifics. Speaking of YouTube, check out our channel.

3. Hidden Costs Can Add Up Quickly

You may not know this but many realtors bear much of the burden of expenses related to getting your home marketed and sold. A list of expenses can include

  • professional photography
  • membership access to the MLS (this is not cheap)
  • targeted social media campaigns
  • web, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest video posts
  • signage and print advertising (not much of a thing anymore, but some still do it)
  • and of course, the opportunity cost of the time spent on the long and complex process of selling your home.

These expenses come out from the agent’s uncertain future commission, and sellers with representation are often blissfully unaware of these costs. In fact, agents do all the work and pay marketing costs without getting paid for weeks or months (sometimes never, if there is no closing).

4. Agents Are Better at Pricing (most agents, anyway)

It doesn’t matter how uniquely beautiful your house is (and how much you love it and how much work you’ve put into it). Sorry to break it to you but it won’t sell if you’ve priced it too high. Sure, you may get really lucky if you come across a buyer to whom your house is a ‘love at first sight’ and who also happens to have the money to act on this love.

But chances are, you just can’t beat the market (ask anyone in finance). Not by much anyway. Yes, sure, it’s possible to get a bit of a premium, with a carefully planned approach and masterful marketing. We do it for our clients all the time. But you still have to be smart about pricing your home.

If you overprice your home beyond what the market can bear, you risk letting your house sit on the market too long, making it look stale and undesirable. People are going to start wondering what’s wrong with the house. Also, buyers won’t feel the urgency to put in an offer.

An accurate pricing strategy isn’t easy. It takes someone with a PhD in economics for that! 😄

Every house is different, and good pricing requires deep knowledge of factors that affect house values, as well as the current local housing market trends, neighborhood specifics, and the economy overall.

5. Save Yourself from Drowning in the Paperwork

Unless you love dealing with contracts, counteroffers, riders, addenda, disclosures, inspection reports, appraisals, HOA approvals, contractor permits… I think you get the drift. The stack of papers you’d have to deal with can be thicker than your thigh. Literally.

6. Showings Can Be Draining

Buyers can’t buy if they can’t see your house, so you would need to make it available often, at various times of the day, and on a short notice. Are you prepared to make quick changes to your schedule or plans? Can you call in sick every time a buyer wants to see your home?

Also consider this, most buyers’ agents as well as buyers are uncomfortable when the owner is present during a showing.

As a final note: according to this blog on LinkedIn, “91% of FSBO sellers eventually hire an agent, but usually not without first spending considerable time and energy.”


In summary, selling your home is a big decision. You may still want to do it yourself (if you do, read these 7 tips). Maybe you have the knowledge, confidence, and free time to do it. Or maybe you’re now thinking, "Gosh, I didn’t know how much is involved in this. I’m better off hiring a professional." Whatever you decide, be informed.

© This article is copyrighted by Kana Nur-tegin. All rights reserved.

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