Can You Afford Not to Hire an Agent to Sell Your Home?


There are avenues for those who wish to sell their homes without the assistance of a real estate agent, also known as for sale by owner, or FSBO. Commonly cited reasons for choosing to sell a home without hiring a listing agent are the following:

  • To save on costs, namely the commission that the seller’s agent would earn on the sale of your house
  • To maintain control over the listing price and other aspects of the sale
  • To ensure that undivided attention is given to selling your home

But it takes an especially savvy seller to sell a home successfully without enlisting the services of a real estate agent. Let’s take a look at some of the costs and risks associated with FSBOs.

Remember, Time Is Money

Of course, it is true that if you choose to work with an agent, it’s likely your home won’t be the only one he or she is selling at any given time. However, if you choose FSBO, expect to devote a lot of time to all these tasks:

  • Researching comparables in order to properly price your home
  • Decluttering and cleaning
  • Staging, photographing, and taking video footage of your home
  • Writing compelling copy to effectively list your home online
  • Putting up signage
  • Marketing your home
  • Answering questions via phone and email
  • Showing your home to prospective buyers
  • Negotiating prices
  • Qualifying your buyers
  • Getting the proper paperwork in order at every step of the way

Wow! That is a long to-do list. And let’s be real; your attention won’t exactly be undivided, especially when you also have to find the time to clean, pack, secure a new home, and move.

The Price Isn’t Right

The top reason that homes don’t sell is that they are overpriced. A real estate agent and an appraiser are two professionals who can help you make sure that your home is priced appropriately. If a home is priced too high, it is unlikely to receive multiple offers. As the law of supply and demand goes, having multiple offers will drive up the sale price.

Real estate agents analyze comparable properties in your neighborhood or similar neighborhoods to help determine an appropriate price for your home. Unlike you—to whom your home has a personal, poignant history—real estate agents have no emotional stake in the outcome that can sway their analysis of appropriate price. In fact, if you hire an agent, he or she has a fiduciary responsibility to you, meaning that it’s your agent’s job to get you the best possible price for your home. To hammer this home, a 2017 study reported that FSBO sellers ended up bringing in 30% less than sellers who worked with agents.

Limited Exposure

If you are selling your house without an agent, you can certainly list your home on sites like or However, working with an agent will enable your house to be listed on the multiple listing service (MLS) and established real estate websites, as well as the agent’s own website. In addition, the agent will put the word out across a large network of agents working for a buyer looking for a home like yours in the area. While FSBO homes can gain some drive-by traction in densely populated neighborhoods, in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula, such neighborhoods are rare. And in many cases, homes aren’t even visible from the street, making a prospective drive-by a bust.

Risky Business

There are some heavy-duty risks associated with FSBOs. Listing your personal contact information online (or even on a for sale sign) and repeatedly inviting strangers into your home may put your safety and privacy at risk. Other risks impact your financial security. Less-than-ironclad contracts can cost you more than the commission that you were trying to avoid paying.

Opportunity Costs

A prospective buyer might be wary of turning over his or her personal financial details to an FSBO seller. After all, an FSBO seller is not under the same obligation as an agent is, to keep the information confidential.  What’s more, if a seller’s agent has misled, lied, or disclosed confidential information, such behavior can be reported to the agent’s professional association. As there is no such recourse when working with a seller without an agent, a prospective buyer might take the path of least risk—and walk away.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to go the FSBO route or hire an agent is yours to make. A home can certainly be sold without an agent, but make sure that, for your unique situation, the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.

Check out the latest issue of Up North Home Showcase to learn about the outstanding real estate professionals working in northern Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula Michigan.

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