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Is A Realtor Worth The Commission?

Home sellers in Madison, Wisconsin, in the period between 1998 and 2004, that sold their home using a real estate agent did not consistently get higher prices than those who didn’t. When you factor in the commission, for sale by owner sellers did better. How about them apples?

What stinks is that its likely not representative of the average because the Madison, Wisconsin for sale by owner websites are more popular than others in the nation, but it certainly points to a direction that the National Association of Realtors doesn’t want to go. The primary benefit that real estate agents offer is exposure – specifically a listing in the MLS database. As fewer prospective homebuyers rely on real estate agents and begin scouring for sale by owner, or other sources of homes for sale listing, the less value a realtor can provide.

What can a real estate agent do nowadays that will get you more for your home that you can’t do yourself? If you don’t know how to stage a home and need tips, watch some home flipping or home selling show on A&E. If you don’t know how to play people off each other and getting them to overpay, read a book by Machiavelli. Short of having the legal document templates handy, I honestly don’t think there’s much to offer outside of the exposure/MLS listing and this study backs that up.

What’s funny is that the National Association of Realtors claim that houses sold through MLS get a 16% premium over those not sold through MLS, which is really as fair a measure as the Madison, Wisconsin results when you think about it. Unless they sold identical homes at identical times, some with MLS and some without, there are so many disparate factors that the claim is meaningless. Plus, 16% is before the 6% commission, and 10% is probably getting close to how much error they had on that self-serving study.

If you want to read more, Freakonomics has a great writeup with additional reading material [3] and the original article appeared on the New York Times. [4]

Any real estate agents out there want to defend their commissions? 🙂