Real estate: Home free

Selling your home yourself can save you thousands.

by

From the June 2009 issue of the magazine.

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When Chris and Patricia Brooks decided to sell their four-bedroom bungalow in St. George, Ont., they didn’t call a real estate agent. They sold it themselves. “We used an agent on our last house and it sold in a day,” Patricia says. “That’s when we began to wonder what we were paying all that commission for.”

This time the Brooks had to wait three weeks to sell, but they’re not complaining. Not only did they get close to their asking price, they pocketed $12,000 that would otherwise have gone to an agent. If you want to do the same, follow our five steps to do-it-yourself real-estate bliss:

Step 1: Be precise on price

The secret to selling your home isn’t stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. It’s price. Set an amount that’s too low and you give away thousands of dollars; set the price too high and your home will languish unsold for months. Real estate agents are masters at pricing homes because they have all the data on what various houses sold for in your neighborhood. You can piggyback on their work by checking how they’ve priced homes on your street at Realtor.ca. Look for houses similar to yours and set the same price or close to it.

If you want to sell fast, price your home at slightly less than market level. When Ed Enns, a factory worker in Stratford, Ont., decided to sell his three-bedroom bungalow last fall, he looked at two similar homes for sale nearby. One was priced at $169,000, the other $166,000. “I decided to price mine $500 cheaper to draw traffic,” he says. When it didn’t sell right away, Enns dropped the price to $164,500 and quickly found a buyer.

Step 2: Get a little help

Selling your home by yourself doesn’t mean going it alone. Many online real estate services offer package deals for $300 to $800 that include lawn signs, open house signs and an online listing with photos of your home. Some services, like ComFree.com in Alberta, SkHomes4Sale.com in Saskatchewan and Grapevine.ca in Ottawa focus on specific markets, while others like PropertySold.ca and PropertyGuys.com are national. Once you’ve found a buyer, a lawyer will charge $500 to $1,000 to walk you through the legalese and handle the paperwork.

Step 3: Hold an open house every weekend

Nothing turns a browser into a buyer like an open house, says Ralph R. Roberts, a Michigan real estate broker and author of Sell it Yourself. To draw a crowd, drop flyers in mailboxes up and down your street. Neighbors who have friends who want to move into your neighborhood are often the best source of buyers.

Step 4: Brag about your castle

Patricia Brooks made sure to highlight her home’s best features in both her online listing and during open houses. Rather than say her home has hardwood floors, she raved about the “brand new ash Merlot hardwood floor.” And she talked up the neighborhood by mentioning the school and library up the street. “Your home is a product and you have to have confidence in that product. If you’re shy, you might be better off with an agent,” she says

Step 5: Protect your commission

Smart home buyers know that you aren’t paying the standard agent’s commission, says Roberts, so they’ll try to bargain you down on price. Don’t let them. But if a real estate agent brings in a buyer, you might have to sweeten the pot and give the agent a 2.5% commission to seal the deal. Another option: If you’re going to buy another house right away, suggest to the agent that she represent you. She won’t make any money off your home, but she will earn a commission when you buy.

120 comments on “Real estate: Home free

  1. I'm a regular guy and not a realtor, but I still disagree even though it sickens me to pay the realtor commissions on quick sales.
    You missed the key piece for any service or product being sold – it requires that people actually know its for sale. When you list on WeList or another budget site then you miss the larger segment of the market looking on MLS. On WeList/etc you'll only get bargain hunters wanting a share of your "savings" from not using a realtor. In the end its all a wash; what you "save" on selling yourself you lose on the lower asking price because you haven't tapped the larger markets that the realtors reach.
    Therefore you lose overall because of the hassle, legal risks, and inconvenience of selling it yourself. Even though the system is clearly self-fulfilling for realtors, might as well use it and get them to do the work for a higher price, then cut the cheque and be happy its done.

    Reply

    • This monoploy of mls.ca or realtor.ca must be broken. Alternatives must be available and promoted. they have unfair trade practices.

      Reply

      • Haha thats funny. The government has a monopoly on our country too. It MUST be taken down! Very smart idea B Minhas (sarcasm)

        Reply

  2. I think it depends where the property is . Realtors will make you money when there are buyers and some kind of competition for properties . If you are sitting with something no-one wants and may have to wait to sell , you are better off selling yourself.

    Reply

  3. MLS.CA or REALTOR.CA were developed by Realtors and paid for by Realtors. All sorts of alternatives are readily available but few choose to use them. Commissions are always negotiable and have been so for a good long while. The reason that so many people use the MLS is that it is a great system and it works. It also offers the protection of rules and regulations which offers recourse in case of a problem. Sales Representatives and Brokers must be licenced and insured to carry on business in Ontario. When properties are selling well you always get complaints about commissions, but when they do not sell quickly who do you think is paying for the marketing efforts.?

    Reply

  4. Typically, a realtor spends 20 hours selling your home. With a commission rate of 5% on a home sold for $250,000 the realtor would "earn" $12,500. That translates to $625/hr. I don't know any realtor that is worth $625/hr. We sold our home privately in 6 days for our asking price. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    Reply

    • pls advise which website u used ?

      Reply

      • Please use proper spelling when trying to discredit another…

        Reply

  5. I believe that selling for yourself can be rewarding, but also more stressful. If you're a young couple, looking to save some money, selling your home yourself might be a viable option. If, on the other hand time is short then choosing a reliable realtor can take a lot of the burden off your table. This gives you prime time to ensure that your home is in true show condition.

    Chris http://www.housebulb.com

    Reply

  6. Selling a home is not that hard. Sometimes hiring an agnet is not a good thing. it is like a trap. They will say that your house could sell that high. Once you signed up for them you are hooked. They will put a sign and just wait for somebody to call. It will be featured to MLS but then later they will say you have to lower your price. Because you have a contract with them you can not do anything but lower your price. Agnets said that even if you singed for a year or 6 mos. contract you can cancell anytime. But then the truth is once you sold the house the contract is still valid not until you signed the unbiding contract, which they will say they are not issuing. Please, please read evrything and ask and record your conversion with an agent before signing. You will really feel bad at the end if you do not.

    Reply

  7. I am trapped in a contract waiting for it to expire. All of the above comments happened to me and my family and more. I would rather give the commission saved to another person then a realtor. I will be going private.

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