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Do You Really Need a Realtor?

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My wife and I recently moved to Florida and because a new job required us to move rather rapidly, we didn’t have the luxury of waiting for our home to sell. Looking back on the experience and thousands of dollars I could have saved by not paying a real estate agent, my “hindsight is 20-20” question to myself is, did I waste a lot of money by using a realtor? We live in a world of social media and instant, widespread propagation of information so getting the word out to my hundreds of Facebook friends as well as Craigslist and other online resources wouldn’t have been too difficult.

After looking back, here’s what why I think a realtor was worth every penny.

Time is Money

As much as I am all about this do it yourself world, we all have a certain premium that people pay us for our time. For the sake of math, let’s say that each of us is worth $20 per hour. Too high for some and too low for others but it will make the math easy. A $130,000 home at 6% commission is $7,800 paid to the realtors involved in the sale which means you have 390 hours to put in to selling your home. That’s a lot of hours but a quick look on Trulia.com reveals that homes are staying on the market for three months on average and for many, quite a bit longer. Setting a monetary value on your time is less than a perfect science but it has to be factored in to your costs.

Experience

I was fortunate to have the #2 performing realtor in my state. Despite the numerous articles I read, her experience of what buyers look for was invaluable when I was deciding which improvements to pour money in to before selling.

She also asked me if my fireplace had been used in the past 10 years of owning my home. When I told her no, she told me to list it as a non-functioning fireplace. That would later come back to save me $2,300 when the buyers had estimates drawn up to make a never used chimney function again. I could have just said no to the repair but we aren’t living in a sellers market anymore. It could have taken another six months to get a serious offer.

In another instance, the buyers had received an opinion on what they perceived to be a crack that ran down the side of my home. My realtor had a masonary contractor examine the area. He found that it wasn’t a crack in the structure but instead an expansion joint. That was another $500 saved that I probably would have paid if my second opinion was somebody who wasn’t familiar with my subdivision and how homes were constructed at that time. My realtor had worked with this person for 15 years and knew that he had a lot of experience with my subdivision.

Marketing

I could have listed my home on Craigslist or FSBO.com but she was putting it in the real estate section of the newspaper. Quickly glancing through the newspaper at pictures of homes for sale is still much faster than the internet and she knew that. Taking out a newspaper ad for even one week a month wasn’t cheap, I’m sure. She also knew how to do open houses and the volume of clients she has kept a steady flow of people viewing my home.

Legalities

There was a point where the FHA lender was upset about how a shelf in the garage was listed on the contract. My realtor took care of all of that. All I had to do was read the contracts (and there were a lot) and sign where she told me to sign. If I sold it myself I would have had to pay somebody to prepare all of the documents for me. Based on a few online sources, that would have cost me about $1,500.

I read this article about how much money some people saved selling a home on their own but here’s how I look at it: For every month my home sat on the market, I was paying nearly $2,000 in expenses for that home. I don’t have time to learn how to sell real estate while I pay month after month of expenses. I don’t have the legal or marketing knowledge or the contacts with the other realtors to get this done.

According to that same article, those who use a realtor get a higher asking price for their home. I don’t know if that happened in my case but just looking at the few examples above, the money my realtor saved me made the money I paid to her next to nothing in the end! The 6% that I paid to the realtors seemed high until I added everything up.

{ 17 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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17 Responses to “Do You Really Need a Realtor?”

  1. Eric says:

    I’ve used a realtor twice and have vowed never to do it again. Furthermore, I will raise my children to never deal with realtors either. I believe they are evil, blood sucking, greed loathing vampires! Just my opinion of course.

    • billsnider says:

      I was disastisfied as well. I foubnd that they told me what i wanted to hear. In one house they raved about the wallpaper. I said i didn’t like it. They did a 180 and knocked it. In another house they said i could only see it at night since the seller wanted to be there. I returned next morning and found a major trucj depot near by. My front door if i bought it was a truck freeway.

      Yes, I will not do business with them again.

      Bill Snider

  2. Steve says:

    Often the buyer has a buyer’s agent, who would get half the commission (3%). Even if you FSBO you might have to pay that (or eliminate all the buyers who have their own agent).

    However, your math on the $ per hour is backwards. Just because you paid her $3900 does not mean she put in 195 hours of work. The question is, would you have put in 195 hours of work into selling your house yourself? And then you multiply that times your own dollars per hour, and see if it is less or more than the agent’s total cost.

    The documents you would have gotten prepared for $1500, would have presumably been by a lawyer. In that case, the documents would arguably be of a higher quality. When an agent “prepares” documents all they are doing is writing in numbers and names in a pre-printed form created by the real estate organization in your state.

    I’m glad it worked out for you, however hand-wavy your justification might be.

  3. adamcarollafan says:

    realtors are the scum of the earth. they will always tell you to buy no matter what the market looks like – even if it screws you and your family. all they care about is their commission.

    anyone who disagrees with me is probably a scumbag realtor.

  4. I have to agree with your analysis. It’s hard to compare exactly how things will go with or without a realtor, but in the end the costs that you save are indeed things like paying for utilities on a house nobody is living in, messed up documents, random things in the house that you didn’t know you had to fix.

    • billsnider says:

      I saved a bundle getting my own mortgage. The realtor told me he gets the best deal. I found it loaded with points and the rate was higher than I understood. I spent a few hours shopping banks on the phone and saved myself a bundle of dough.

      Bill Snider

  5. Ben says:

    Ok for all you people who think that realtors are scum. You are just mad that you got into a house that you could not afford. It is not the realtors fault that you got foreclosed upon. Its is also not the Realtors fault that you cant make the payments on your house. Before you start blaming everyone else for your problems you may need to take a look in the mirror to check your youself.
    *(I am not a realtor)*

  6. Daniel says:

    Jim,

    Good luck in FL and thanks for sharing your thought on this. Do you mind sharing how did you find the #2 performing realtor and how to locate this information? I agree that lining up yourself with the best realtors is at least half of the outcome on being successful selling a home.

  7. Daniel says:

    Sorry, I meant to say Tim.

  8. Unless you’ve already gone through the home buying or home selling process recently, using a realtor is usually a good idea. You made a great case using numbers, and that is one consideration. But there are so many details when buying or selling a home that a realtor can help you keep in order. Glad it worked out for you!

  9. Strebkr says:

    Even if you do FSBO you don’t have to pay the full 3% commission. You could offer 1.5% or something. That will at least have agent bringing their buyers to your place, and you can save some money. If you go with 0% then they simply will skip over your house and offer another to their client.

  10. JamesV says:

    I’ve sold my 2 previous homes myself as FSBO and made out very well during 2004-2007. If you are comfortable learning the basics of selling your home and working with a reasonably priced lawyer for the final paperwork, it will save you many, many thousands of dollars if not tens of thousands. Of course, it helps if you have kept your home updated and in good working condition.

    I would sell our current home again in a heartbeat.

    Now if you are bad with details and have no time, then a Realtor could be a good choice. Just be sure “you” are running the show, and they are not dictating everything to you. You always have the final say whether your Realtor agrees with you or not. On the side of working with Buyer Agents, I’ve had Buyer Agents laugh at me before for offers I want to put in on my previous home buy. I told them basically to “listen up, or get out”, and of course they finally do what you tell them to even if they are reluctant. Remember you are paying their commission, cuz without you, they’d have nothing.

  11. First Step says:

    I have sold a 2 houses, one with an agent (pre-internet days and out of town) and one FSBO. I wasn’t really happy with the agent, but since I was out of town, I didn’t do the best I could have in hiring an agent. We sold our next house FSBO because it was in a neighborhood that always had many houses on the market, so we had good drive-by traffic. Also, it was a lower-priced house, so many potential buyers were looking for FSBOs to save money.

    If I were going to sell our house right now, I would definitely use an agent to get recommendations on what upgrades to make and to get a market analysis. We have competition from a new neighborhood less than .5 mile away, and houses in our neighborhood have lingered on the market over the past two years since that neighborhood began construction. We don’t have the drive-through traffic that our old neighborhood had and it’s also more likely that a buyer for our house would be relocating from another part of the country. Very few of our new neighbors have been local moves. It would be very important to get our house in MLS and on the other real estate websites, like Realtor.com, Trulia.Com, etc. Many full-service brokers steer their clients away from homes listed by discount brokers or as FSBOs, and we would want to reach the widest audience.

    Yes, we would spend money on commission, but we would hope to get a quicker sale. The local market determines the value of an agent’s services, and the decision about using an agent should be on a case-by-case basis. If you weren’t happy with your last agent, by all means, interview some others, and don’t rush into a decision. If the agent pushes you to commit at the first meeting, move on.

  12. timparker says:

    Steve, first I don’t believe I did pay her $3,900 when I factor in the money she saved me. Second, I’m not concerned with the amount of hours she actually spent. I own my own business and I know how many hours I put in to marketing and it’s a lot. My hourly rate is actually much higher than $20 and if I’m spending time selling my house, I’m not spending time building my business. Using a realtor was a good leverage of somebody else’s time and knowing my schedule, I have to factor in the fact that she probably saved me extra mortgage payments. There is no doubt that in this market, the math works out.

    I’ve also used lawyers and no, they would not be of higher quality. Lawyers do the same thing. They have templates that they use and fill in information. They wouldn’t be of any higher quality and in actuality, the underwriters prepare more of the documents than the lawyers or realtors.

    Daniel, when I was a school teacher, I taught her son so I had some connections to her. There was an identical home to mine on the same street on a better lot. It’s still for sale and the guy is trying to sell it himself. I’m glad that so many have had good luck selling on their own but in this market, it’s definitely not for me.

    • Strebkr says:

      Time is money, but for the average person, they can’t earn $20 a hour for 24 hours a day. So if they have something else productive they can do, then by all means, go out and get a Realtor, but if you work an 8-5 type job and you have a few spare hours in the evenings to do this, you could save some substantial money.

      I have never sold a house yet, but I have bought two. The first was a direct buy and the second was a short sale so we needed some professional help.

      I think I would try and sell mine and if it didn’t work after 6 months, I might bring in a pro.


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