You’re not required to use a realtor to sell your house, though most sellers find greater success by hiring a listing agent.
Choosing to list your home “for sale by owner” (FSBO) could be a smart move if you already have a buyer or you’ve sold a house before.
You can have more control over the transaction and eliminate listing agent commission (2.5–3% of the final price), but you’ll be responsible for the entire sale process.
📣 Attorney states
While it’s completely legal to sell FSBO, some states require a real estate attorney to be involved in the closing process: AL, CT, DE, GA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MS, NH, NC, ND, OK, RI, SC, VT, WV, WY.
You could sell your house without a realtor if you…
Already have a buyer lined up | Have prior experience with real estate | Have plenty of free time to list and sell your house | Can negotiate effectively | Understand your legal requirements (or have a good attorney)
Considering that homes sold with the help of a realtor sell for 31% more than those sold without one, the agent’s commission is often well earned. Besides selling at a higher price, a realtor helps you navigate through the complexities and uncertainties of a home sale, like negotiating with buyers and handling stacks of paperwork.
Handling these tasks alone can be overwhelming without a pro in your corner. But if these challenges don’t scare you, then you could save thousands on realtor commissions by selling without the help of an agent.
An existing buyer
If you’ve already got someone who wants to buy your house without you having to list it (like a family member or friend), you might not need a realtor at all.
Selling directly to that buyer can save you on paying realtor commissions — 5–6% of the sale price, assuming the buyer also doesn’t use a realtor. For example, on a $400,000 home sale, you’d save $20,000–24,000.
You may still want to protect your interests by hiring a real estate attorney, transaction coordinator, or limited-service agent to help you review all of the paperwork and contracts.
Experience selling a house
If you’ve moved many times before (perhaps for work or as part of a military family), then you’ve probably already gone through the process of selling your home.
In this case, you could use your own knowledge and experience instead of relying on an agent.
Still, it may be worth consulting with a local realtor if…
- You depended on professionals to handle most of the sales process
- It’s been a while since you’ve sold your home, as the market may have changed
- You’re selling in a different state or metro, as local laws could vary
You may also want to consider listing your home with a flat-fee MLS service to get it advertised online.
Selling a house is a time-consuming process: It takes about 67 days to sell a house nationwide, not including the time it takes to prepare your house for sale before listing it.
Only consider selling without a realtor if you have enough free time to handle the sale. That includes time on the weekends and evenings to host buyer showings and open houses, and field calls and inquiries from agents.
A big part of the sales process includes the negotiation phase. Only consider selling without an agent if you are confident you can negotiate favorable prices and terms on your sale. This involves responding to offers objectively and keeping a level head during the negotiation process.
Being a strong negotiator requires a firm understanding of your local market and how your home’s value compares to similar properties in the area. If you possess this knowledge and experience, then consider working without an agent.
You’ll either need access to the various contracts and paperwork required to sell or hire a real estate attorney to help. However, remember that challenges may still arise during the home sale, regardless of how well prepared you are.
You may need a realtor to…
If you’re not comfortable handling any of these by yourself from start to finish, you may want to hire a real estate agent for at least part of the process.
Important tasks required to sell a house:
- Preparing your house for photos and for showing buyers
- Hiring photographers and videographers
- Marketing the property on the multiple listing service (MLS), house buying websites, and social media
- Coordinating buyer showings and hosting open houses
- Negotiating with potential buyers or their agents
- Attending inspections
- Completing the necessary paperwork
- Complying with the timelines built into the contract
A realtor in your corner will know how to best complete these tasks and avoid pitfalls at each step.
Key documents required in a home sale:
- Purchase and sale agreement
- Seller property disclosures
- Home inspection reports (including pest inspections)
- Appraisal report
- Mortgage and lien payoff statements
- Homeowner’s association (HOA) documents
Realtors and their brokerages deal with these and other documents regularly. They understand which signatures are needed and when, how to check if a buyer has mortgage pre-approval, and other home sale legalities. Their guidance can save you time and potentially help you avoid legal pitfalls.
A 24/7 commitment
There’s no such thing as a standard or irregular schedule for an agent. Consider the dozens of hours needed to prep it for sale, list and market it online, host showings, negotiate with agents, and complete paperwork.
Some of this work must happen…
- Outside traditional work hours — early mornings, evenings, and weekends
- During traditional work hours — while you may be working a full-time job
It can take several months just to find the right buyer, even longer to finalize the sale. If you simply don’t have the time to sell a house on your own or have other work or life commitments, hire a realtor.
How a realtor values your home
Realtors conduct comparative market analysis reports, which provide far more accurate and in-depth valuations than home value websites like Zillow or Realtor.com. For example, agents will factor in your home’s renovations, upgrades, and unique features.
Realtors can also help you price your home strategically based on your selling timeline, objectives, and local market conditions. For example, if you need to sell ASAP, they might suggest listing at a slightly lower price to speed up the process.
How a realtor can maximize your home’s sale price
Not surprisingly, statistics show that a realtor will likely sell your house at a higher price than if you were to sell by yourself. That’s because they…
- Know how to take the most appealing photos of your home, highlighting its key features — or they have access to pro photographers
- Have a knack for writing engaging listing descriptions
- May already have a pre-vetted network of potential buyers who need to find a house ASAP
- Have a strong social media network of other agents, local businesses, and customers
- Know how to price your home competitively to get more offers (and potentially spark a bidding war)
- Often have strong negotiating skills to get you a better deal
So while you may save on paying a listing agent commission, you may net less money than if you’d hired a realtor from the get-go.