Steps for home sellers
Research prices: Access to the MLS would be great, but daily driving tours of the area are also useful.
Set a price: Setting it too high could limit the amount of buyer interest; too low could cut into profits.
Get ready to show: Small fixes, such as changing old doorknobs or cleaning the garage, can improve the appearance of a home. Hire an inspector to check for any needed repairs.
Marketing: Newspaper ads, fliers, yard signs and Web sites like craigs list.com provide options in addition to the "for sale by owner" Internet sites.
Make the sale: Sellers can hire a lawyer to help with negotiation and legal matters, and either hire their own title company or get one through one of the Web sites.
MIRAMAR — Despite the glut of homes on the market, falling prices in many areas, and competition from bargain-basement foreclosures, plenty of homeowners still want to sell their properties without a real estate agent. • For the intrepid and value-minded homeowner, selling a home without an agent has some distinct advantages: saving the typical 6 percent commission, no conflicts of interest, and more control over the process. But going solo also can be time consuming and mentally taxing. Sellers must research the market, advertise and show the home, negotiate with buyers, and know the legal and financial details behind real estate transactions.
Seller does his homework
One recent successful seller was Jim Seidel, in Miramar, about 18 miles north of Miami. With skidding prices and slow sales, Seidel wanted to avoid paying the commission.
He noticed that a neighbor was in foreclosure and the house was for sale. So he found out the price and slashed his asking price on his Internet listing by about $100,000, to $355,000, and sold his home in just five weeks.
"We wanted to sell it right away, rather than wait, because we figured the prices would keep falling. We did a quick price comparison and we priced it fairly," he said.
Of course, real estate agents have their benefits. They have access to the Multiple Listing Service, they pay for advertising and marketing, and they can often devote more time to showing the property than an owner can. The ideal agent also has a more sophisticated knowledge of the local market and contract laws, and can provide negotiation and screening skills that are integral to securing a buyer.
"Buyers want negotiation skills . . . If you don't have an intermediary, you can be at a disadvantage," said Walter Molony, a National Association of Realtors spokesman.
Just 12 percent brave it
Last year, 12 percent of sellers skipped the real estate agent, down from a peak of 18 percent in 1997, according to an NAR survey. Why? The complexity of real estate transactions has increased, as has the time to market a property, the survey said.
But spending that time may be worth it for some sellers.
A study last year by Stanford University analyzed housing transactions on its campus over 26 years. It found that using a broker did not significantly affect either the average initial asking price or the average selling price of a home in the sample — indicating that brokers did not "pay for themselves by obtaining prices high enough to offset their commissions."
The Stanford campus study did show that using a broker led to a quicker sale.
Online listing services like BuyOwner.com, FSBO.com and ForSaleByOwner.com have packages that are priced differently, based on services provided.