As the U.S housing market gains strength, homesellers are increasingly apt to take matters into their own hands, without the help of a real estate professional.
Not on the mortgage side, of course. Buyers and sellers still need a good mortgage professional for that. But in terms of handling the sales of their own property, homeowners certainly aren't reluctant to take a "do it yourself" approach.
According to recent data from San Francisco-based Owners.com, 75% of homebuyers/sellers would rather "handle an issue themselves to save a buck" instead of 'throwing money at the problem." Another 35% of buyers and sellers say they "felt cheated" when paying the agent/broker's commission.
Here are some other takeaways from the Owners.com survey:
- Saving money on commission was the most appealing aspect of using a self-directed home buying/selling model (73%), followed by not having to pay for additional/unnecessary services (69%) and flexibility in determining price (57%).
- Respondents were most concerned with their inability to understand legal contracts/issues (39%), complex paperwork (37%) and making a mistake/missing a step (35%).
- Millennials were the most likely to go through the home buying/selling process without a broker or agent (17%) of any age group.
- Yet consumers are generally satisfied with their real estate professionals. Of the 88% of respondents who had reportedly bought and/or sold a home using a real estate broker or agent in the past, only 14% were reportedly not very satisfied with their experience.
Not that the process is easy, but DIY homesellers can expect to save 5% to 6% on real estate agent commissions by going it alone. That represents about $15,000 to $18,000 on a home sale of $300,000.
Some people have done both, selling their home alone and selling a second home with the help of a real estate professional. "We just recently used a broker to sell our Portland, Ore. rental home, because we are 300 miles away and needed lots of fixes to sell it," says Jamie Diamond, a homeowner in Williams, Ore. "Now, we're going to sell our primary residence in Williams ourselves."
Diamond says he'll use a virtual home selling website and take his own photos of the home, leverage Zillow and buy a unique URL for his home. "I did this back in 2005 when I sold my own home," he says. "The title company and the buyers representative can actually help make it all work well, if you know what you are doing."
If you do elect to sell your home yourself, make sure you know your state's home sale disclosure requirements. "A regular real estate contract is just a couple of pages but with all the disclosures it can be as many as 15 pages," says Greg Cook, a mortgage lender based in Temecula, Ca. "Also, know that one of the overlooked services that good realtors provide is they keep things moving forward. A homeowner should set forth timelines for appraisal, home inspection, loan approval, and other benchmark home sales events. Otherwise they could be in escrow for months."
Cook says that if the homebuyer needs a loan to purchase, the homeowner should require an approval letter from a reputable lender, too. "Even with new guidelines, many lenders are still issuing 'approval' letters when they haven't reviewed the borrower's income, credit and asset documentation," he adds.
You're going to need help making your home look its best, too, before you pound any "for sale" signs into your front lawn. "Bring in a professional home stager to review the property and help prioritize what should be done to merchandise their property," advises Karen Gray Plaisted, owner of Design Solutions KGP, a home staging firm in the New York City area. "With 90% of buyers searching online for their next house, this is important."
Once the house is merchandised, find a great photographer to take awesome pictures, Plaisted adds. "If the presentation has been taken care of, the marketing becomes effortless," she says.
Then, list your home and begin marketing. "The majority of buyers find the property they eventually purchase online," says Arvin Sahakian, co-founder of BeSmartee, a Los Angeles-based digital mortgage services provider. "You must list your home on websites that buyers frequently visit." The most popular destinations for homebuyers are Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com.
Sahakian says that, outside of these real estate listing websites, place a "for sale" and/or "open house" sign on your front lawn and list your property with classified directories. "Some sellers even shell out cash to buy advertising space in local newspapers," he says. Selling your own home isn't easy, but it can lead to thousands of dollars in savings on real estate commissions. If that isn't incentive enough, then maybe you should stick with a realtor after all - and let him do the heavy lifting.