Housing Rumble: Do You Need an Agent? (Day 5)

A real estate agent and a 'for sale by owner' executive square off.


Welcome to Day 5 of the Home Front's new Housing Rumble feature, a regular series that will match up opposing sides of an issue in an online debate format and let readers decide the winner.

The current Rumble features Jay Thompson, a blogger and real estate broker in Phoenix, and Greg Healy, vice president of operations at ForSaleByOwner.com, a Web-based company that markets the homes of independent sellers.

The subject: "Do you need a real estate agent to sell your home?"

Here's a recap of the action so far, in case you're just tuning in:

Thompson, you're up:

From Jay Thompson:

Final rebuttal

Those that are pro-FSBO [for sale by owner] invariably bring up two points, and my opponent has proven no different. It's always the mystical—and incorrect—6% commission, and the fact that an attorney can draft contracts and closing documents.

My previous point wasn't that commissions are 5.12%. The point was they are NOT 6%. They aren't ANY fixed percentage. Commissions are negotiable. If you can't negotiate a commission agreement with an agent, how do you expect to negotiate the price of a home and contractual terms with a buyer?

Yes, an attorney can draft documents. But is that same attorney going to negotiate terms and conditions with buyers and other parties? Is your attorney going to market your home, or help educate you in the nuances of selling a home in markets like we face today? Ask your attorney how much they charge to prequalify your buyers. Ask your attorney for access to their database of hundreds to thousands of potential buyers.

Yes, someone can sell (or buy) a home without an agent. I can also rebuild my own transmission, cut my own hair, and even represent myself in a court of law. Personally, I'd rather leave all those to an experienced professional who does it every day, and does it far better than I'll ever hope to.

Greg asks me to explain "why agents don't allow their clients to sell through an agent and simultaneously sell 'for sale by owner.' "

I can't explain that because I do allow for exactly that. Not to beat a dead horse, but commissions are negotiable. It's quite simple to write a variable commission schedule into a listing agreement. We do it all the time. Thousands of agents do it every day.

Greg himself said: "(unrepresented) buyers can get a better deal on homes, as they can negotiate the commission savings into a lower offer and sales price."

He's right. Buyers are smart. Sell FSBO, and they will want some of your savings. So how exactly is all this commission being saved by FSBOs?

I'll close this debate with a couple of quotes. From Laura on my blog:

"I'm an attorney with transactional real estate experience and I won't buy or sell a house without an experienced agent. Nobody ever wants to hire a lawyer, either, but think they can do it themselves until the damage is already done."

And this one; "He who represents himself has a fool for a client."

Healy, back to you tomorrow.