Selling Your Home


How To Sell Your Home

You have choices

Your reasons for selling will factor into your best option for how to sell. If you’re selling to capitalize on an appreciating market and make top dollar, then you may want to seriously consider FSBO (for sale by owner), or other fee-for-service options. If you’re in a hurry, then the services of a realtor may make more sense. So, what are the options? How do you decide what will work for you? There are four main options:

  • Using a licensed real estate professional
  • Discounted real estate services
  • Fee-for-Service
  • For Sale by Owner (FSOB)

Most people hire a professional

By far, the most prevalent way to sell a home is using a real estate professional – an agent, broker, or realtor. You have access to the broadest range of resources, and it’s what most of us assume will be the easiest and best way to just get it done. Nine out of 10 people use realtors, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Does anyone like paying that big commission at closing? No. Especially if the house sold quickly, and it seems like the realtor is getting a big chunk of change for not a lot of work. But read on. Houses don’t always sell in a week or two, or even a month. And there’s a great deal that goes on behind the scenes, at the negotiating table, and before you ever get your proceeds from the sale.

Defining the terms:

Person What Do They Do?

A REALTOR is a firm or individual engaged in the real estate profession (see The person or firm is a licensed, paying member of the National Association of Realtors and affiliate local boards. Realtors are governed by a standard of ethics that is typically higher than what is required by state real estate agent licensing boards.


A BROKER is someone who is licensed to engage in certain real estate business activities, for which he may charge a commission. Again, this is regulated and defined at the state level.


A real estate AGENT is someone who acts on behalf of a buyer or seller, representing someone in a transaction. State real estate boards govern licensing and qualifications required for agents as well as brokers and “sales people.”  An agent may also be a licensed realtor.

Options for Selling Your Home - Pros and Cons

Here is a a table expaining the four options and the Pros and Cons of each. Read through it and think about which option is right for you.

Source: (May 2005) and Others
Method Description Pros Cons
“Traditional” – agents/brokerage firms - Seller pays a commission, typically 5% to 6% on the sale price; commission is split among agents and their brokerage firms.
- This means a seller’s agent receives 2.5 to 3% and buyer’s agent receives 2.5 to 3%.
- Example firms: Century 21, RE/Max, Prudential, Harry Normanl
- Knowledge of local market.
- Breadth of services: marketing, advertising, showing, inspections, managing offers, negotiating, financing, closing, and dispute handling.
- The cost of commission can be a significant chunk of money. On a $200,000 home, the fees will average around $12,000.
“Discounted” Commissions
(emerging practice)
-, and others are offering agent referrals as part of their lending services. Rebates and gift cards are used to offset commission expenses. - Reduced commission rate; broad offering of services. - Agents may be less motivated to market and sell the home because of the smaller commissions.
Fixed price services
(emerging practice)
- Fixed price for specific services, e.g. MLS listing, negotiating contracts, assisting with closing; this option is a type of ‘hybrid’ of real estate company services and For Sale By Owner. - You pay for only what you need; saves the seller’s commission; you do it your way. - Do the math: depending on the number of services you use, you may come close to paying as much as a traditional commission, without benefit of a realtor's sales force
- Some buyers are more comfortable dealing with selling agents.
For Sale By Owner - Seller pays for a limited number of marketing tools – a listing, yard sign, some supplies and free advice, and does everything else on his own (see,  - Saves the seller’s commission
- You can do it “your way”
- Some services offer a large web repository for buyers and sellers both
- Much of the above; learning curve and mistakes may cost you sales, time, and market price.

More information

For more information on these options for selling your home, click on the links below:

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Discounted Services

An emerging trend is the appearance of realty firms that are offering services at discounted commission rates. While these agencies claim they are being competitive, the powerful National Association of Realtors lobby has tried to block these firms, as well as fee-for-service plans. They have also tried – unsuccessfully so far – to prevent those who are not licensed brokers from making MLS listings available to seller’s without agents. MLS listings are the primary means by which buyers and buyers’ agents find out about available homes.

Will the quality of discounted services be as good as those provided in the traditional agent model? If an agent is making much smaller commissions, will he be motivated to sell your property quickly, and at the best price?

No one can say, yet. This may just be the impetus for streamlining and improving (slowly) practices in the industry. Or effectiveness of these discounted services may vary by market, type of home, or other factors.

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Fee For Service

Some agencies and independents are offering specific services for flat amounts. Each time you need the service, you pay a flat fee. For example, you may pay $1,000 or more for the MLS listing, with a specified number of digital photos provided. Or you may pay $3,000 for an MLS listing and a package of other marketing tools and expert assistance.  

In some arrangements, the specific services you may purchase can start adding up. For example, if you need assistance with a sales contract when you get an offer, you can purchase that expertise for another flat fee. Each offer or contract would incur that fee. It might be $700 or more.

Need assistance with negotiating? With closing?  More flat fees, paid as you go.

Need help sitting open houses? Another flat fee per open house, along with an hourly rate per person that you will be charged. This might mean $300 per open house, or more, if there is a minimum on the number of hours you have to pay for.

If you’re considering an arrangement like this, do the math first. Talk to friends and neighbors. See if anyone you know has used this method, and how they came out in terms of cost. Do your homework. Make realistic assumptions about when you will need help, and start adding up the expenses. You still have to show the house. You don’t have anyone to show your house except you.  And you probably still have to pay the buyer’s agent commission (2.5 to 3%) at the end of the sale.

Are you coming close to what you’d spend if you paid out a 3% seller’s commission at the end? Are you going to spend more?

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For Sale By Owner

This one has been around for awhile, although the National Association of Realtors  hasn’t been tracking statistics on it for very long. For Sale By Owner means you essentially do it all yourself – though you can now purchase MLS listing packages, yard sales signs, brochure boxes, and limited advice through FSBO companies (,,, and others).  

This can start out as low as $15 (one-time fee) for yard signs and a voicemail to pick up messages, or it can go to a higher fee to include online listing with a specified number of images and unlimited description. That’s a far cry from a big commission!

And doesn’t saving the 3% seller’s commission sound good to you? On a $200,000 home, that’s $6,000 in your pocket. On a $500,000 home, that’s $15,000 to your bottom line. Sounding even better?

If the buyer has no agent, you can just double that - $30,000 more - just for making your own flyers, and showing some people around. Right?

Well, not exactly.

Selling on your own sounds great. And it is great for those who have the time, skills, patience, property, and sometimes. . . luck. . . to make this work for them.

Often, those FSBO signs you see are a seller’s way of sticking a toe in the water. Seeing if anyone is interested in the home. After all – interest rates are great, and the homes in the neighborhood seem to be selling themselves.

If you’re serious about selling, and have a little time, trying out the FSBO method isn’t a bad idea. But don’t be surprised if within a few weeks, you’re thinking you need a realtor.


Most of us don’t have a house that will sell itself. And it really does take skills and time we don’t have to give to the process.

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