What Does A Real Estate Agent Do & Learn Why You Don’t Need One
Many people sell their own homes. Once you learn what a real estate agent does, you may realize that you don’t need one and become confident as a private home seller.
Now, more than ever, people are selling their own homes without the help of a realtor. Can you do it too? What does a real estate agent do anyway?
You absolutely CAN sell your own home. The most important thing you need is time. With time, you can learn, do, and/or access almost everything a realtor does, including:
- Determining the fair market value of and reasonable listing price for your house;
- Figuring out the best way to showcase your home, with repairs, deep cleaning, and staging;
- Developing a marketing plan, including an MLS listing; and
- Showing your house to potential buyers.
You may choose to bring in other professionals during the listing process, like a licensed appraiser or certified home inspector. And you will most certainly need the assistance of a real estate lawyer to close the sale. But, the most expensive professional to hire for a real estate transaction is a realtor. Realtors typically charge a commission of 5-6% of a home’s final sale price. But, since there is no need to hire a real estate agent, you can save a significant amount of money by selling your house on your own.
Determining Market Value and List Price
Determining the fair market value (FMV) of your house is a crucial step in the listing process. Once you know the FMV, you can set your listing price. And the price is the single most important factor in selling your home. At the right price, every property will sell.
Figuring out the FMV of a house is more of an art than a science. Real estate agents have training and experience to help with this process. And, more importantly, they have access to data. But, with the same data and an understanding of how FMV is determined, you can perform the calculations yourself.
It’s important to be objective when calculating your home’s FMV. For many reasons, you may value your house more highly than a prospective buyer might. Keeping objectivity firmly in mind, consider these factors, as suggested by the National Bank of Canada:
- Consider the municipality, neighbourhood, and nearby properties and amenities.
2. Property characteristics
- Examine lot size, outbuildings, square footage, number and type of rooms, and the overall condition and finish of the house.
3. The sale price of comparable properties
- Objectively compare your own home to 3-10 comparable properties that sold within the last six months. This will help you place your house within the range of final sale prices.
4. Municipal valuations/Property tax assessments
- These are often outdated, but may be useful–when researched for comparable properties–in determining market trends.
5. Home value calculators
- Offered as a free online tool by some real estate companies, these aren’t terribly accurate. However, they may be helpful in determining if your range of prices is correct.
One of the most important things that a real estate agent does is determine the FMV of your home. That figure is then used to arrive at a listing price. While this step requires a lot of time and research, it is certainly possible to do it on your own.
Showcasing your Home
A real estate agent’s job is to showcase your home, so that it sells quickly and for the highest possible price. They will advise you on what you can do to make your house look stunning and stand out from other homes on the market. But with a critical, objective eye, there’s no reason why you can’t do these things on your own.
Repairs and minor upgrades can help your home sell more quickly and for a higher price. Simple upgrades like updated light fixtures and cabinet hardware can give your house a fresh, appealing look.
Clutter makes a house look smaller. It fills up physical space and it also makes it seem as though there isn’t enough room for storage. If the clutter is highly personal (such as a collection of fridge magnets), it can also make it difficult for prospective buyers to imagine themselves living there. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and purge.
Your house should sparkle from top to bottom. Clean EVERYTHING, including light fixtures, windows, window coverings, walls, and baseboards. Break out an old toothbrush to scrub out corners and grooves.
Try to imagine yourself as a stranger viewing your own home. What would make you feel more welcome? Consider removing or rearranging furniture, putting out neutral home accessories, setting the table with your good china, appealing the olfactory senses with natural scents, and setting out fresh flowers. And always let in as much natural lighting as possible. When setting things up for a viewing or when taking photos for marketing purposes, turn on every single light.
Once your house is sparkling clean and looks stunning, it’s time to prepare the marketing materials.
Marketing your Home
Marketing your home is, of course, key. If no one knows your house is on the market, it will be impossible to sell it.
Years ago, properties were marketed primarily through MLS listings. Only licensed real estate agents had access to the MLS service. These days, however, most home buyers browse property listings online. As a private homeseller, you have access to all the same online marketing tools as a real estate agent – even the MLS service.
Crisp, well set-up photos are crucial. When taking photographs for your online listing:
- Use an actual camera (and not a phone);
- Use a tripod or otherwise stabilize your camera;
- Take landscape photos;
- Take photos in bright, natural lighting whenever possible;
- Use the highest resolution setting; and
- Edit your photos by brightening, cropping, and/or straightening where necessary.
Online Real Estate Listing Sites
There are several different websites for marketing real estate. Use them ALL, including:
- For Sale by Owner (FSBO) websites, such as Zillow, FSBO, and HomeFinder.
- Private sale sites, such as Kijiji and Craigslist.
- The classified section of your local newspaper.
- Your own social media channels.
MLS (Multiple Listing Service)
The MLS is a massive conglomerate of small, local real estate databases where realtors share detailed property information with each other. Only realtors can list properties on the MLS, but those listings are available for anyone to view at REALTOR.ca. MLS listings and the REALTOR.ca website are real estate’s most powerful marketing tools.
Although only real estate agents can list on the MLS, private sellers can get their properties listed on the service by seeking out realtors who offer “Flat Fee Listings” or “Mere Postings.” These real estate agents will work with you solely to list your property on the MLS. Fees for this service are relatively low–ranging anywhere from $99 for a basic no-frills MLS post to $700-800 if the MLS post is bundled with other services offered by the realtor.
Showing your Home
The open house, or showing, is one more task that you can certainly take over from a real estate agent. To keep showings professional and to showcase your home as brightly as possible:
- Show your house by appointment only, at times convenient to you.
- Make sure your house is decluttered, sparkling clean, and staged.
- Give pets a brief vacation, by taking them to a doggie daycare, spa, or play date.
- Adjust the temperature to a comfortable level.
- Let in as much natural light as possible and turn on every light in the house.
- Leave out small treats, like coffee, tea, chocolates, or wrapped candy, and leave a note indicating that the prospective buyers may help themselves.
- Provide printed information that includes important details about the house and your contact information.
It’s important to find a balance between being available for the prospective buyers, in case they have questions, and giving them enough space to feel comfortable to fully check things out and have discussions with each other. Don’t leave while a showing is underway but also don’t follow too closely behind.
Once your marketing is in place and you start having showings, the next step is fielding offers. Once you’re at this stage of the selling process, you will need the assistance of a real estate lawyer. And that lawyer can take you the rest of the way, through to closing the sale.
While real estate agents bring a great deal of knowledge and expertise to the table, most of what they do can be done by a private seller. It will take a significant amount of time, and may require learning new skills. But the payoff will be tremendous, both in terms of the commission fee saved and the personal satisfaction you can take in tackling a huge and complex task successfully.