How Hard Is It To Sell A House Without A Realtor?

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  • 90% of all buyers in the US use a realtor.
  • That means 10% of buyers sell their house without a realtor.
  • The goal of this article is to help you decide if you should join the small minority of people that sell their home on their own

Table of Contents

Is it difficult to sell your own home?

In a word, yes. If you think that selling your own home is a walk in the park, you’re in for a rude surprise. Even the relatively simple task of preparing the legal documentation for a sale can prove too much for some homeowners, and that is just one of many obstacles that you will have to overcome.

Despite being a highly credible profession, it is surprisingly common for people to assume that real estate agents aren’t worth the commission that they get paid. However, if you dig a little bit deeper into the challenges involved in selling a home, it becomes pretty clear that having a trained professional by your side is both helpful and necessary in most cases.

What Makes Selling Your Own Home So Difficult

Pricing the House Correctly Can Be A Challenge

The price that you set for your house can make or break the deal before potential buyers even have a chance to look at the property. Even if you complete a comparative market analysis using recently sold comparable properties, there is still room for error. This is especially true if you’re experience as a real estate investor is limited.

There are two negative outcomes that you may run into if you get the price wrong. If the price is too expensive, it may take very long to sell the house and you may have to implement a price reduction in order to close a sale. Conversely, if the price is too cheap, the market will snap it up in a heartbeat, leaving you with the awful realization that you left money on the table during the deal.

Neither of these two scenarios is desirable. If you have any doubts about the final asking price, it is a good idea to use a realtor or a professional appraiser before listing your house on any property website.

Marketing the House Successfully Takes Skill

Even though it is entirely free to list your house on Zillow, to actually sell the house, you need to make the home an attractive proposition for potential buyers. Broadly speaking, to market the house successfully you need to:  

  • Take Professional Quality Photos
  • Price the house with pinpoint precision
  • Provide an excellent written description of the house features
  • Access all major property listing websites, both free and paid
  • Distribute the details of the property to a network of real estate professionals and motivated buyers

If you decide to use a realtor, the tasks and services outlined above are simply part of the package. However, if you choose to sell the house on your own, you will need to perform each of these key functions in your own capacity.  

House Showings Will Consume Large Chunks of Your Time

When selling a home on your own, you will need to spend a significant amount of time arranging house showings. You will also need to make time to attend each showing. In most cases, house showings take place during the week and on the weekend, which means you may have to take time off work to attend them.

Only you can make a call on how much time you have available for this important part of the sales process. If your time is already scarce, it’s probably best to go with an agent, but if you have time on your hands, it may be viable to arrange and attend all house tours.  

Home Staging Might Not Be As Easy As You Think

Unless you are an interior designer, there’s a good chance that the aesthetics of your home could be greatly improved with the services of a professional home staging company. According to the National Association of Realtors, for every $100 invested in staging, the potential return is $400. In addition, professional home stager Betsy Wilson notes that “A staged home will sell for 17% more on average than a non-staged home, and 95% of staged homes sell in 11 days or less.

With a realtor at your disposal, it will be easier to decide if staging is necessary, and it will be significantly easier to arrange it if is needed.

Key Reasons to Consider Selling Your House on Your Own

You Want to Avoid Paying Thousands of Dollars in Realtor Commissions

Let’s be honest. The primary reason for selling your own home is to avoid paying realtor commissions. Depending on the value of the house, commission fees can range from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. The desire to keep this money in your own pocket is perfectly understandable, especially if you have the skills needed to close a property deal without assistance.

You Already Know the Buyer

If you already know the buyer of the house and you already have a price in mind for the sale, the services of a real estate agent can be classified as optional. In this particular scenario, you can save thousands of dollars without taking on any significant risks. The only thing to keep in mind is that you will probably need the services of a legal team to ensure that all the necessary paperwork is filed correctly.

Your House Is Located In A Sellers’ Market

If the home that you are selling is located in a sellers’ market, there’s a strong chance you will be able to close a deal that is relatively close to (or even above) the asking price.

In a hot real estate market, there tends to be more buyer’s than sellers, which puts the homeowner in the pound seat when it comes to negotiations. Provided your asking price is realistic (using comps is a good way to check), some buyer’s may even be willing to pay more than the asking price in order to secure the property.

If this applies to your home, you can potentially forego an agent altogether, assuming you have the marketing and administrative skills needed to close the deal.

Key Reasons To Use A Real Estate Agent To Help Sell Your Home

Reasons To Sell Your House With A Realtor

You Can Sell Your House For More Money

According to the National Association of Realtors, “the typical FSBO home sold for $217,900 compared to $295,000 for agent-assisted home sales.” Whichever way you look at it, this statistic doesn’t bode well for those hoping to sell their home without any assistance. It’s pretty clear that agent-assisted homes sell for more.

On this point it is also worth noting that agents are incentivized to sell your home for as much as they possibly can. The higher the selling price, the more money they can earn in commission. In other words, the seller and the agent win when the house is sold for the maximum reasonable price. Moreover, the increase in sales price can easily cover the cost of the commission that you have agreed to pay to the realtor.

The Commission Fee Savings Are Smaller Than You Think

It is very common for inexperienced real estate investors to assume that they can eliminate realtor fees entirely when choosing to sell a house without an agent. However, there is a fundamental flaw in this assumption.

While the total realtor commission when selling a house is usually around 6%, that 6% is usually split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. Think of it this way:

6% Total Realtor Commission = 3% to Buyer’s Agent + 3% to Seller’s Agent

So, even if you remove the seller’s agent entirely, the existing homeowner still has to foot the bill for the buyer’s agent, in most cases. In effect, this means you can only save half of the realtor fees that you are likely to pay during the sale. This can be a deal breaker for many homeowners. It diminishes the biggest benefit of the FSBO approach.

Direct Access To All The Most Popular Property Listing Sites Including the MLS

Even though Zillow is completely free and has a gigantic userbase, it does not represent the be all and end all of property listing sites. To give yourself the best possible chance of selling your house for the maximum possible price, you need to take advantage of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). 

The MLS is a collection of property listing databases that can only be accessed my licensed real estate professionals. It provides more details on each property than you will find on free sites like Zillow, and it is an excellent tool for real estate agents to connect with one another and sell properties efficiently.

If you choose the for sale by owner route, you may find it difficult to get your property listed on the MLS, because of the strict entry requirements. While there are once off services available that you can potentially use, you will have to pay a substantial fee to get your house listed, and you won’t be able to monitor the listing in the same way that a real estate agent can.

Ultimately, by using a realtor, you get direct access to the MLS and syndication to all the most popular real estate sites. This means your house will be exposed to more motivated buyers than it would be without an agent involved.

You Have A Professional Negotiator on Your Team

According to Business News Daily, approximately 40% of American employees do not feel confident in their negotiation skills. While it is perfectly understandable to find the prospect of negotiating nerve wracking, if you lack confidence and experience as a negotiator, it could mean that you end up selling your house for less than it is worth. It could also mean that you end up agreeing to unfavorable terms, especially if you are geared toward conflict avoidance.

Fortunately, if you take on the services of a real estate agent, they will do all the negotiating on your behalf. This is one of the key reasons that a realtor is so useful. The specialize in closing deals, and they know how to get a good price for your home.

You Can Sell The House Faster

In a study compiled by the National Association of Realtors and NorthWestern University, it was found that:

  • Agent listed houses spend approximately 69 Days On the Market
  • FSBO listed houses spend approximately 88 Days On the Market

In addition, it was found that 20% of FSBO homeowners end up relisting the property on the MLS, which can add another 68 days to the home selling timeline.

In effect, it is fair to conclude that agents can definitely help sell your house faster, reducing the time on market and potential holding costs that you may incur while advertising the property.

The Paperwork Becomes Becomes Much Simpler

Just imagine the legal complications that you could run into if you fail to sign every legal document correctly during the sales process. To give you a better understanding of the legal documents needed to sell a house, consider this list from HomeLight

  • Original Sales Contract
  • Home Repair & Maintenance Records
  • Mortgage Statement
  • Homeowners Insurance Records
  • HOA Documents
  • Receipts For Capital Improvements
  • Past Utility Bills
  • Home Inspection Report
  • Property Deed
  • Listing Agreement
  • Preliminary Title Report
  • Pre-Inspection Report
  • Transfer Disclosure Statement
  • Natural Hazards Report
  • Purchase Offer & Counter Offer
  • Final Purchase & Sale Agreement
  • Appraisal Report
  • 1099-S Tax Form

Even if you have a legal background, getting the paperwork absolutely spot on when selling a house can be tricky. This is where advice from your agent and the services of a legal team can be tremendously helpful.  

Final Thoughts

In the end, it’s fair to say that when selling a house, most property owners will be best served by the skills and services of a real estate agent. You can greatly reduce the time, energy and effort needed to sell your home, and you can sell your property for a higher price.


According to Redfin, it takes approximately 65 days for the average US home to sell, whereas For Sale By Owner homes take approximately 88 days to sell. This one of the main reasons why it can be helpful to use a real estate agent to help you sell the house.  

For approximately 90% of all homeowners, For Sale By Owner simply isn’t worth it. In most cases, the house will sell for less money and take longer to sell. However, if you know the buyer or you live in a sellers’ market (where buyers far out number sellers), you can potentially forego the services of a realtor.

  1. The house is likely to sell for less money
  2. It will take longer to sell the house
  3. You may expose yourself to legal risks if all the necessary paperwork isn’t filed correctly
  4. You will need to invest huge amounts of your personal time to complete a successful sale