If you're looking for impassioned differences of opinion in the field of real estate, look no further than selling a home by yourself, which is typically referred to as FSBO (for sale by owner). I've written before about the advantages of going FSBO and about the advantages of using a real estate agent. And I've received numerous emails from readers sharing additional thoughts. Permit me to share a few of them with you:
One reader disclosed that he's a Realtor before listing some familiar benefits of using a Realtor. For example, a good one will have expertise to share on the local home market and will handle most of the details, such as arranging for viewings, marketing, dealing with other involved parties, etc. He then added a point I hadn't thought of: Real estate agents can ensure that you fill out all the required disclosure paperwork correctly and objectively. Why is this such a big deal?
Well, if you fail to disclose some things, a lawsuit can come back to bite you. If your FSBO cost-benefit analysis has you saving $7,500 by going FSBO, consider that you might end up paying much more in legal fees later on. (I don't mean to scare anyone too much. Lawsuits aren't the norm, but you should take their possibility into account.) The reader concluded: "Many people who think they have the knowledge in handling details related to a real estate transaction, often regret to find out that there is much more to it than first imagined."
Your time and place
Another reader offered a simple way to frame your decision:
I think two major items that also come into play are: (1) How much time do you have? (2) Where do you live? ... FSBO might be the way to go if you have lots of time to do all the research, running around, filling out paperwork, et al; but if you are still working and/or packing to move and/or looking for a new home while trying to sell your home, time pressures become paramount. I think you have to look at all the stuff you have going on.
That's a good point. You shouldn't underestimate the work involved in selling on your own. His second point is also apt. Some states have more paperwork than others (his example of a lots-of-paperwork state was California). And some states are simply more conducive to FSBO transactions, due to their being more prevalent and accepted. Some states have well-stocked websites with FSBO listings and high traffic, while others do not.
Another factor is what kind of real estate market you're dealing with. If it's a seller's market, with buyers snapping up homes quickly, you might do well via FSBO. If it's a buyer's market, the professional expertise of an agent could be helpful.
In a San Francisco Gate article, Carol Lloyd offers another thing to mull over: your emotional readiness to FSBO. Know that it will involve negotiating and having a thick skin. (You're likely to hear negative comments from prospective buyers about your property and even your decorating style.)
The bottom line
The truth is that you stand a chance of dealing with a nightmare no matter what route you take. Consider the pros and cons of the FSBO process, weighing whether it will serve you very well or create headaches you hadn't anticipated.
You can learn more about homebuying in the Fool's Home Center -- we've even got some good deals on mortgage rates and information on refinancing. In addition, drop by our Buying or Selling a Home discussion board to see what other Fools have on their minds.