Banish the Broker: Sell Your Home Yourself

Realtors may do most of the legwork, but they also make out like bandits with your hard-earned money. Here's how to do it yourself.
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If you think it's hard to buy a home in today's real estate market, with jump-through-hoops loans and the fear of overpaying, try selling your home.

You've got sleepless nights thinking about how much you can afford to let your price drop, all the while working with a real estate agent who's trying to juggle a notebook of unsold inventory and can't remember your first name. And on top of that, you have the average 6% commission you'll pay this person to sell your home. For a home that sells for $500,000, that's $30,000.

As the economy gets tougher and less certain, more sellers are looking to save by being their own broker. In the past, For Sale by Owners (or FSBOs as they're called) were mainly real estate pros selling their own homes or cranks who didn't trust realtors, banks, the government or anyone who dressed up for work. Today a number of companies and Web sites are available to walk sellers through the do-it-yourself process.

"I've seen many people who come from jobs where they're responsible for huge sales and transactions, yet they're a little squeamish about handling their own home sale," said Eric Mangan, director of consumer relations for ForSaleByOwner.com in New York City. "Once they learn how home sales work, they realize they can do it, and they can save themselves quite a bit of money."

Advertise Online

The first step is learning about marketing a house on your own, which in today's world means taking a little old-school water cooler talk (e.g. "You know anyone who's looking to buy a home?") and spicing it up with the Internet.

The experts recommend getting the word out by talking to friends, family, neighbors and co-workers that you've got a home to sell. You can advertise it for free on Web sites like

Craigslist.com

and

Zillow.com

. You can also create an inexpensive or free Web site that features more details about your home, additional photos and a home-made video tour of the house and neighborhood. Craigslist and Zillow will let you link to this site.

Host an Open House

Just like your realtor, you can also host an open house. It helps to time it to coincide with one or two other open houses on your street so you can draw people interested in the neighborhood. It helps to have some colorful flags and big, professional-looking signs, and don't forget flyers with pictures, a description and the price.

Get on the List

If these roads aren't getting buyers to the front door, you can take a semi-traditional route, but it will cost you. Many FSBO Web sites will allow you to list your property on the multiple listing service (MLS), which will get your property noticed by agents looking to sell their clients a house. However, the catch is that you'll owe them 3% of the sales price after closing. That's still better than 6%, however.

Maybe Not 100% Yourself

You can get help with the scariest part -- the paperwork -- early in the process by engaging the assistance of a real estate attorney or title company. "Depending on where you are in the country, an attorney or title company will be your best friend, making sure all the disclosures and the other forms are signed correctly," said Mangan.

Overall, is it worth the time and energy to sell your home yourself? "Only you can judge that factor. But take into account how much you'll be paying in commissions. It's worth at least a good try," said Mangan.