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The True Cost of Selling Your Home on Your Own

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Many people think they can save time and money by selling their homes without a realtor. But did you know that FSBO sales bring in less money on average than agent-involved sales? Selling your house is no simple task. While some homeowners opt to sell their homes on their own, known as a FSBO (For Sale by Owner), they often encounter various challenges without the guidance of a real estate agent. When it comes to selling your most valuable asset, consider the invaluable support that a real estate agent can provide. By partnering with an agent, you can navigate the complexities of the selling process with confidence. Selling a house is tough and many FSBO sellers find the job a lot harder than they expected. If you’re currently considering selling your house or property on your own, here’s what you should know.

These FSBO stats show that, while you can save some money on realtor fees, you will lose more time and money without one. You will also face a ton of challenges. For example, only 11% of sellers actually succeed at selling FSBO. And if they do? Those FSBO homes sell for about 37% less on average than agented properties, which often negates any savings!

The most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveyed homeowners who’d recently sold their own homes and asked what difficulties they faced. Those sellers say some of the greatest challenges were prepping their home for sale, pricing it right, and properly managing the required paperwork, just to name a few. Check out these FSBO facts about what sellers found to be the hardest parts about selling a house without a realtor.

1) Pricing and Housing Market Knowledge

Wondering what the hardest part of selling FSBO is? Pricing the home correctly was the most difficult task for 16% of FSBO sellers. Most FSBO sellers simply look at what other homes are selling for in their area and choose a similar price. But that fails to take into account unique aspects of the home - such as upgrades, features, or repair work - that could affect your final sales price. Pricing your home is one of the most important parts of selling a home. Sellers need to find the sweet spot of not losing money by pricing too low and not losing prospective buyers by pricing too high.

As we'll discuss in later FSBO stats, problems with pricing are part of the reason why FSBO homes sell for over 37% less on average than agented properties. On a $400,000 home, that could mean losing over $148,000 on your sale - way more than you'd pay in realtor fees. The best way to set the right listing price for your home is to get a comparative market analysis (CMA) from an experienced local realtor.

Determining the right asking price for your property is crucial. It requires in-depth knowledge of the local real estate market, including recent sales data, neighborhood trends, and the current demand for properties. Real estate agents have access to comprehensive market data. They spend many hours researching each individual property and have the expertise to analyze it accurately. Should you as a seller decide to go it alone, don't ask a Realtor to value your home or property (in essence, work for free) unless you are willing to compensate them for their time.

2) Prepping the home

Over 6% of FSBO sellers said getting the home ready for sale was difficult. If you’re selling FSBO, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, such as staging your home the right way, keeping the home clean for showings, taking care of repairs and touch ups, and maintaining your lawn and garden. While many of these are tasks you’ll have to do even if you have an agent, an agent can give you direction about what work is the most important to attract buyers.

3) Marketing and Exposure

Effective marketing is a key piece of attracting qualified buyers to your property. Real estate agents have access to various marketing tools and platforms, including MLS listings, professional photography, virtual tours, and extensive professional networks. They can create a compelling listing that highlights your home’s best features and reaches a wider audience. If you sell on your own, you may struggle to match the reach of agents, resulting in limited exposure and ultimately fewer potential buyers.

4) 91% of all homes for sale are listed on the MLS

About 91% of all homes for sale are listed on a multiple listing service (MLS) Only licensed realtors and brokerages can list on an MLS - but it’s how the majority of buyers and buyer’s agents find homes for sale. This leaves FSBO sellers missing out on a lot of exposure. Buyers’ agents may not know your home is even on the market and never show it to their clients!

5) 13% of FSBO sellers hate the paperwork

The second hardest part of selling FSBO is completing the paperwork. This was ranked the toughest part of the job by 13% of FSBO sellers. Completing the paperwork involved with a sale is an incredibly difficult process that most FSBO sellers struggle with. Even if you price your home correctly and find a willing buyer on your own, as a FSBO seller, you'll handle a lot of the paperwork that goes along with a sale. While you can hire a real estate attorney to handle some of the paperwork, including the sales contract, this will cost you extra money out of pocket. And an attorney won’t provide you with the advantages that a realtor offers, such as knowing how to price your home or offer the most enticing buyer incentives for your market as well as guide you from listing to closing.

6) Managing Liability and Legal Considerations

Today, more disclosures and regulations are mandatory when selling a house. And all that paperwork and all the legal aspects of selling a home can be a lot to manage. Selling a house without professional guidance exposes homeowners to potential liability risks and legal complications. Real estate agents are well-versed in the contracts, disclosures, and regulations necessary during a sale. Their expertise helps minimize the risk of errors or omissions that could lead to legal disputes or delays.

7) Negotiations and Contracts

Negotiating the terms of a home sale can be challenging, especially when emotions are involved. You may find it overwhelming to navigate these negotiations alone. Without an agent, you assume this responsibility on your own. This means you’ll have full accountability for working and negotiating with:

  • The buyer, who wants the best deal possible.

  • The buyer’s agent, who will use their expertise to advocate for the buyer.

  • The home inspection company, who works for the buyer.

  • The home appraiser, who assesses the property’s value to protect the lender.

  • The closing attorney for both sides.

Rather than going toe-to-toe with all these parties alone, lean on an expert. Real estate agents act as intermediaries, skillfully negotiating on your behalf and ensuring that your best interests are protected. They have experience in handling tough negotiations, counteroffers, and contingencies. When you sell your house yourself, you’ll need to be prepared to manage these vendors on your own.

8) 10% of sellers struggle to sell on time

About 10% of FSBO sellers said selling their home within their desired time range was the hardest part of the work. Non-realtors simply don’t have the marketing skills or the network of interested buyers that an agent brings to the table - and which help get a property sold fast. Not surprisingly, selling within a desired time frame was also the top reason people did choose a realtor, according to 36% of agent-assisted sellers. That suggests selling fast is one of the top benefits that a realtor brings to the table compared to going it alone. If you’re looking to sell fast, your safest bet is to get an agent to help with your sale.

9) 5% wish they had more time to focus on selling

FSBO is so much work that a lot of people struggle to find the time for it. 5% of FSBO sellers say finding enough time to devote to selling was the toughest task for them.

Not only do you need to focus on getting your home ready for sale (which is the number one difficulty that FSBO sellers encounter), but you also need to focus on finding buyers by marketing, holding showings, and negotiating with potential buyers.

And when you have an offer, you’ll have to do even more of the work that a realtor would typically do, like draw up a sales contract . And after all that work, there’s a good chance that you’ll still end up with less money than if you just hired an agent in the first place.

What are the biggest regrets FSBO sellers have?

All of the difficulties involved with selling FSBO inevitably lead to a few regrets. From having to pay surprise agent fees to selling for less than expected, these FSBO statistics show what sellers wish they’d done differently - or what they wish they knew beforehand.

10) Many FSBO sellers still pay commission

The majority of FSBO sellers still have to pay 3% in real estate commission. Successful FSBO sellers save themselves a fee for their listing agent, but most still have to pay the agent who brought in a willing buyer.

In fact, 77% of all sellers (FSBO or not) offer a buyer’s agent commission. Since this commission is how the buyer's agent gets paid, failing to offer one potentially shuts you off to a huge pool of potential buyers. After all, a buyer’s agent won’t want to show their clients a property if they’re not going to get paid. (And if your home isn't on the MLS, buyers with agents won't find it anyway.)

If you already have a buyer, it may make sense to hire a real estate lawyer to help with the paperwork, rather than using real estate agents. But most FSBO sellers don't know the buyer - meaning they're probably offering a competitive buyer's agent's commission of around 3% to find a buyer.

11) FSBO sellers often reduce their listing price

Even after reducing their price more often than other sellers, FSBO sellers who eventually give up and list with an agent then only receive 98% on that already lower price. Having a buyer lined up also won’t shield you from having to drop your price. In fact, sellers who already knew a potential buyer had to reduce their listing price more often than sellers who didn’t have a buyer lined up!

12) Many FSBO sellers still end up with an agent

Paperwork and the amount of work involved are more than a lot of would-be FSBO sellers can handle. About 10% of all homesellers start off trying to sell on their own, but eventually end up with a real estate agent. FSBO sellers who give up and get an agent list three main reasons for doing so:

  • Selling with an agent is easier

  • It takes too long to sell without one

  • FSBO paperwork is too complicated

These reasons reflect some of the most common difficulties we discussed above - namely, that selling a house on your own is time-consuming work that is often better left to an experienced professional.

13) 89% of sellers would use the same agent again

It’s worth noting that bad real estate agents are the exception, not the rule. Which is partly why FSBO sellers represent only a small fraction of overall home sales.

According to the NAR, 89% of sellers who work with an agent say that they’d definitely or probably use the same agent again if they had to buy another property or sell their current one. That’s a pretty high number, and it indicates that the majority of sellers are happy with the experience that they have working with a real estate agent. This fact suggests many FSBO sellers are putting themselves through what could be a difficult process when they could have a much more positive experience working with an agent.

14) 41% of FSBO sellers want to save money

Saving money on realtor fees was the most popular reason sellers chose FSBO instead of an agent. 41% of FSBO sellers decided not to use an agent because they did not want to pay real estate agent commission. However, what FSBO sellers save on commission they often lose in terms of a lower sales price and other costs. FSBO homes sell for about 37% less, on average, than those that are sold with the help of an agent.

15) 34% of FSBO sellers already know a buyer

That being said, FSBO sellers often have a buyer lined up when they decide to sell, such as a friend or family member. In fact, 34% of FSBO sellers say they didn’t use a real estate agent because they already had a potential buyer. If you already have a buyer ready, some of the things that a real estate agent does - like holding open houses and listing the home on the MLS - are unnecessary. However, a real estate agent can still help draw up the sales contract and ensure that you're pricing the home appropriately. As well as help you through inspections, appraisal and closing.

16) FSBO sales have dropped by nearly 50% since 1981

While FSBO might seem like a popular alternative to hiring an agent, FSBO sales only make up 8% of all home sales in the U.S. Most sellers are still turning to agents for their expertise and professional sales skills. And the share of sellers who are relying on realtors is only growing. FSBO sales made up 15% of all home sales in 1981, but have dropped to almost half that today. Put simply, selling a house is a complicated process. With new real estate regulations, better ways to save when you sell, and access to a larger pool of buyers, there's a reason that the vast majority of sellers choose to use a real estate agent.

17) 28% of sellers choose an agent to save time and energy

Time limitations are one important reason why some sellers choose to work with an agent. Selling FSBO requires a lot of extra time and energy, so 28% of sellers decided that hiring an agent is a better choice. While this isn’t the number one reason for choosing an agent, it’s an important consideration if you’re already busy or don’t feel prepared to do all of the legwork yourself. As we’ve already seen, not having enough time to dedicate to selling a home is one of the top five difficulties that FSBO sellers face. For many, hiring an agent solves this problem instantly.

18) Only 42% of FSBO sellers are in a rush to sell

FSBO sellers tend to be in less of a hurry to sell than sellers who are represented by an agent. Just 42% of FSBO sellers say they either very urgently or somewhat urgently needed to sell, compared to 55% of agent-assisted sellers. This lack of urgency has its upsides and downsides. While many FSBO sellers can patiently wait around for a good offer, the facts suggest that - because FSBO homes sell for less than agent-assisted ones - those good offers fail to materialize.

19) FSBO vs Realtor

FSBO sales have a median sale price of just $225,00 versus $330,000 for homes listed by an agent. That’s a difference of over $105,000 - or about 37% - that you could potentially lose by trying to sell FSBO. Given that most sellers choose FSBO in order to save money, $105,000 is much higher than the real estate commission you’d pay on a $330,000 home. In fact, that equals the real estate commission on a home that sells for $1,750,000!

20) Only 11% of FSBO sellers succeed

FSBO sounds like a good idea initially to a lot of sellers, but most eventually realize how hard it is and give up. In fact, 36 percent of sellers try FSBO, but only 11 percent actually succeed. Those who don’t succeed either take their homes off the market or they enlist the help of a real estate agent. For many, FSBO ends up being a lot of wasted time and energy. Since most FSBO sales fail, if you’re thinking of selling on your own, why not just skip all the trouble that FSBO entails? Instead, your best option is usually to find a real estate agent who can do the work for you and still get you a sale price that will net you more in profits than you’d likely save on your own.

Bottom Line

While selling a home on your own might seem appealing at first, the challenges that come with it can quickly become overwhelming. The expertise that a real estate agent brings to the table is vital for a successful sale. Instead of tackling it alone, make sure you have an expert on your side.


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