5 Reasons You Don't Need an Agent

Agents can make a home sale easier, but they aren't a must-have for motivated sellers.

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For homeowners, there are thousands of reasons to bypass real estate agents and sell your property yourself. "If you cut out all agents...you would essentially cut out on average about 6 percent of commission," says Greg Healy, vice president of operations at ForSaleByOwner.com, a Web-based company that markets homes for independent sellers. "On a $300,000 home, that's about $18,000 of savings." But despite this huge potential savings, many home sellers—especially in today's tough housing market—feel that a real estate agent's expertise is essential.

Healy begs to differ and offers five reasons home sellers don't need agents:

1. Just point and click: With the rise of online real estate search tools, homeowners are no longer beholden to real estate agents for the resources and information they need to sell property. "The Internet has essentially changed the face of real estate," Healy says. "It's essentially leveled the playing field across the market."

2. You can market yourself: With the emergence of online platforms designed specifically to market the homes of sellers not affiliated with agents—such as ForSaleByOwner.com—homeowners no longer need agents to get their property in front of prospective buyers, Healy says. Plus, "agents leverage the multiple listing service as their primary 'marketing tool,' " Healy says. But "anybody can access that if they want to pay for it." (Homeowners can put their homes on the MLS for a couple of hundred dollars, according to ForSaleByOwner.com.)

3. Agents aren't appraisers: Appraisers—not agents—are the key to getting an accurate home valuation, Healy says. "An agent is going to give you their perspective based on what they are seeing, [but] they have no true professional training in that aspect," Healy says. Home sellers working without an agent can obtain the services of an appraiser on their own for roughly $200 to $300, he says. "Even if you used an agent, you would still bring in an appraiser," Healy says.

4. Agents aren't lawyers: At the same time, real estate lawyers—not agents—are responsible for ensuring that documents and other legal matters pertaining to the sale are in good order. "There is a myth out there that the agent helps you with this paperwork," Healy says. "They may offer direction, but they are not legally capable to provide that expertise." As is the case with appraisers, independent home sellers can find a real estate attorney on their own to handle the legal aspects of the process, he says.

5. You can do what an agent can: The main service that real estate agents provide is convenience, Healy says. All of the services they offer—finding a real estate attorney, coordinating home viewings, and so on—can be done by any homeowner willing to put in the effort. "Remember that a real estate agent license takes under two weeks to get," Healy says. "So after those two weeks, that person can be in charge of the selling or buying of a person's home, which is one of the largest financial assets in a person's life."