Should You Work with a Real Estate Agent

By Lois A. Vitt, Ph.D.

When asked most people who use a real estate agent to sell their home say they would choose to do it again. Whether this option is best for your needs is a question that requires some research and careful introspection.

Selling Your Home

While selling your home on your own may appear to benefit you financially, you must be ready and willing to assume the personal costs in research, networking, stress, time and effort. Here are some of the questions, according to Susan T. Shay in The Consumer’s Guide to Experts you will need to answer as you consider representing yourself:

    • If a prospective buyer shows up at your door at the crack of dawn on a Saturday, will you be ready to show your home?
  • If the right buyer doesn’t show up before you have to move, what will you do?
  • If you must be out of town on occasion and there is no one to “man the phones” or, for that matter, the property itself, how can you be responsive to prospective buyers?
  • If a buyer does appear, are you knowledgeable about negotiations, customs, inspections, and paperwork that are required for you to close the deal?
  • How will you know that your price is right?
  • Are you savvy about gaining access to Internet sources so you can showcase your home?

Although the task is difficult, 20% of homeowners who decide to sell their homes will do so themselves. Some are prepared to go it totally alone. Others will work with companies that specialize in helping do-it-yourselfers with advertising and paperwork for a flat or sliding fee. And a few will work diligently at local networking and be lucky enough to attract a real estate broker with a willing buyer.

The other 80% work with real estate agents and brokers who traditionally earn between 5% and 7% of the sales price at closing. This percentage varies from place to place, and it is entirely negotiable—do not believe that it is a “fixed fee.” It is not, especially when you are trying to sell an expensive property.

Realtors® and other agents should help you achieve a fast and fair sale by having access to a group of potential buyers. There are several tips to follow should you decide to use the services of an agent. Look at their advertisements for evidence that their photographs and property descriptions are about homes similar to your own.

When you interview agents, don’t be timid about asking for an explanation of each step in the listing and selling process. Never leave an agent interview, or sign a listing agreement, if you do not completely understand the terms and conditions of the contract. You are paying for a service, and you are fully entitled to understand the transaction.

If ease of transaction is a priority, choosing a reliable, conscientious and amicable real estate agent can remove hassles from the selling process. If you have already purchased another home, it makes sense to have competent help so you can sell your home more quickly.

It should go without saying that, until you are totally committed to selling your home, you should not place it on the market. The penalties can be costly and unpleasant if you change your mind or become uncertain once an eager and capable buyer is found. These can range from destroying relationships with agents, (which can cause problems if you choose to sell your home in the future,) to lawsuits if you change your mind during a later stage of the selling process.

Lois A. Vitt, PhD
About the Author

Lois A. Vitt is a housing expert and financial sociologist, and is the author of “10 Secrets to Successful Home Buying and Selling”, the first book to demystify the psychological forces behind our housing decisions. To learn more about Lois and this book, visit

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