Judy Moore of Re/Max Landmark Realtors in Lexington, Mass., says that today's topsy-turvy housing market is just too treacherous to go it alone. She offered five reasons why homeowners are better off selling their property with an agent:
1. Employ an expert: A typical property owner does not have anywhere near the home-selling experience of a real estate agent. Agents can recommend relatively simple improvements—painting, making repairs, decluttering—that can help a home sell faster and for a better price. "The Realtor is the neighborhood expert," Moore says. "We can walk through a property and see right away what needs to be done to [get the home sold]." Independent sellers might not be aware of these tricks of the trade.
2. Use better tools: Homeowners using agents can get their property listed on Realtor.com, "which has more far-reaching access to market that property—with over 3 million properties on it—than the for-sale-by-owner sites, which have tens of thousands," Moore says. Independent sellers do not have access to this service.
3. Sidestep lawsuits: Agents can also protect sellers from potential litigation. "There are all kinds of liability issues that a seller could potentially face when...dealing one on one with a buyer," Moore says. A homeowner could, for example, tell a potential buyer that hardwood floors extend to all corners of the house underneath the wall-to-wall carpeting. But if even one room has cement flooring, the homeowner could be sued, Moore says. Agents, who have experience dealing with these liability issues, can help homeowners dodge such scenarios.
4. Duck the riffraff: Independent sellers might not have any idea whom they are letting into their homes during open houses. These potential buyers might not have the credit to make the purchase—and would therefore be wasting the homeowner's time—or could even "try to rob them later on," Moore says. "It's a very scary kind of thing." She says that homeowners working with agents will have qualified buyers visiting their properties.
5. Avoid hardball tactics: It's a buyer's market out there. And with all the information available online, today's well-informed buyers are tough negotiators, too. Real estate agents have been through the home-selling process before and are trained in negotiating tactics—giving them a potential edge in hammering out a deal in the seller’s best interest. "It's hard to do that with your own property, particularly if you are not a professional," Moore says.
Corrected on 7/15/08: An earlier version of this article, in the section headed “Avoid hardball tactics,” misstated who might benefit from a real estate agent’s negotiating skills. In this case, it is the seller.