The 3 Options for Selling Your House
So, you need to sell your house. Selling in a market like today’s can sometimes be frustrating. With so many other houses on the market, it gives buyers out there more choices and sellers are often waiting 3, 6, 12+ months to sell their house for a price they feel is fair.
This brief guide will walk you through the decision process to help you decide what’s best for you. Do you go the traditional route and work with a real estate agent, sell it yourself (For Sale by Owner), or work with a real estate investment company? Each of these strategies has different pros and cons, and each one will help you reach a different goal. It’s up to you to really look and see what you need to accomplish with the sale of your house before making the decision that helps you get there.
1. Working With a Real Estate Agent
The most popular way to sell a house today is by working with a real estate agent. Agents know the market and have direct access to the MLS, which is the main way houses are listed when selling the traditional route. The general process of working with an agent is as follows.
Step 1: You contact an agent, and they visit with you about your house to determine what they feel it may sell for.
Step 2: You sign a listing agreement with the agent (normally six months), and they exclusively represent and sell your property.
Step 3: The agent lists the property on the MLS, markets it, and takes buyers through your house for showings (a house should show well to sell well).
Step 4: If a property sells, the agent takes care of the paperwork and negotiation with the buyer to finalize the transaction. The agent then collects their fee.
Cost: Selling agent fees are usually about 3% of the total purchase price. The buyer's agent usually earns 3% as well (totaling 6% in agent fees). As an example, if your house sells for $200,000, you could expect approximately $12,000 of that to be paid to the agents at closing.
Timeline: From 3 to 12 months (with an average of 6 months in many markets)
Pros: Agents know the market well and have access to the MLS, allowing them to list your house and expose it to a broad range of retail buyers. They take care of the marketing, show off the property, and put together all the closing documents for you.
Working with a real estate agent is great for people who aren’t on a time crunch and can wait 6–12 months to sell, have room in the transaction to pay the agent fees, are looking for full market value, have money to pay for any necessary repairs, and are willing to wait it out until a buyer comes along who is willing to pay full market value.
Cons: It can be expensive. An agent’s commission is paid out of the proceeds of the sale at closing. Most agents tend to do "traditional" marketing, which often takes 3–12 months to sell a house. This of course means you’re responsible for the costs of the house while it’s trying to sell.
Additionally, an agent’s primary way to get buyers is by focusing on "retail" buyers (people looking to live in the home). This requires showings of the house, and there’s always the chance that the buyer whose offer you accept has their financing fall through or will delay the closing date. One last “con” is that many retail buyers will ask you as the seller to pay for part of the closing costs.
2. Selling Your House Yourself (FSBO)
In the last 10 years, “For Sale by Owner” has become very popular. With sites like forsalebyowner.com, craigslist.org, and others it has become easy to list a house online. You could even get a “FSBO” sign for your yard, taking control of the sale process for yourself. The general process of selling a house on your own is as follows.
Step 1: You determine the value of your home. Sometimes this can be tricky, but there are many online resources out there to help you. You can also ask a real estate agent or hire an appraiser.
Step 2: Take pictures of the house, gather all of the details about the house (square footage, etc.), and create a listing on a FSBO website. Also, put a FSBO sign up in your yard.
Step 3: Market the house. Since marketing is your responsibility, you can do as much or as little as you want. Many people list in the newspaper or online, and there are even “flat rate” MLS services out there where you can get your house on the MLS for under $500 (with no agent commissions).
Step 4: You handle offers and showings and put together all the paperwork for the sale.
Step 5: You and the buyer show up at the closing table and complete the purchase.
Cost: The real costs to FSBO houses include:
Listing on a FSBO site (between $100 and $1,000)
Adding it to the MLS with a flat-fee agent (about $300 to $500)
Repair costs to fix your house up so it shows well (highly variable)
Potential closing costs that you may share with the buyer
Buyer's agent fee so realtors are incentivized to show house (usually about 3%)
Timeline: This really depends on your ability to market the property. Usually FSBO houses stay on the market longer than with an agent simply because agents sell homes every day and know the tricks to sell. The timeline can vary greatly, but you should budget 6–12 months to sell with this strategy in most markets (some more, some less).
Pros: You can save a big chunk of money by not paying agent fees. And, you have full control and responsibility over the whole process. This can be a very attractive if you’re familiar with the real estate sales process and are a good marketer. Selling your own house is really great for people who don’t need to sell quickly and who have no urgency to get out of the house. Also, people who have a certain comfort level with negotiations, working with offer documents, etc., usually like this route.
Cons: It’s a lot of work to sell your own house. If you’re not comfortable and experienced in the process of selling a house (the paperwork, valuing your house, etc.), you could end up over your head and it will cost you more than working with an agent. The largest drawback with going the FSBO route is the amount of time it could take to sell. If you need to sell quickly and/or don’t want to hassle with everything that goes with listing and selling your house yourself, this isn’t the strategy for you.
3. Selling Your House to a Real Estate Investor
A third option for selling your house is to work with a local real estate investor who buys houses. In virtually every city, there are independent real estate investors who buy houses and either: fix them up and sell them, hold onto them as a rental property, or sell them to other real estate investors who will hold them as rental properties. Every area has reputable investors who you can contact to work with. The general process of selling your house to a real estate investor is:
Step 1: You connect with the investor and submit your information about your house and situation to them.
Step 2: Investor will evaluate the house, come up with a value for it, determine if any repairs are needed, find out what your goals are, and make an offer that fits their buying criteria and helps you reach your goals.
Step 3: You look at the offer and decide if it works for you.
Step 4: If it’s a fit, the investor buys with all cash so it’s a quick close and you get your cash quickly. Closing happens at a title company and the title company prepares the documents.
Step 5: The house sale is complete and you walk away cash in hand.
Timeline: The process can take from 7 to 30 days. (Many times, investors can close in less than a week if necessary.)
Cost: The cost to sell your house to a real estate investor is very low. There are no commissions or fees and often times the investor will pay for 100% of the closing costs as well. This immediately eliminates thousands of dollars in costs that you would have to pay when working with an agent or selling the FSBO route.
The main cost when working with a real estate investor is the fact that an investor can’t pay full retail value for a house. They usually look to buy houses at discounts that allow for them, of course, to turn a small profit on the deal just like any other business turns a profit. But, for many people selling at a lower price makes sense in return for the elimination of commissions and fees and the much faster timeline to sell your house.
A Word to the Wise
What many people don’t take into consideration are the “carrying” costs when selling a house with an agent or the FSBO route. Carrying costs are all of the costs associated with owning and maintaining the house (mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, utilities, HOA fees, etc.) These costs can really add up.
If your mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance) is $1,500 and you work with an agent and it takes them eight months to sell the house at full market value, that means during the eight months you actually paid $12,000 in payments on that house (which we all know most of your mortgage payment is interest going straight to the bank). Plus, you’ll have to pay the commissions and any other related costs. In the end, you could net less in your pocket if it takes a long time to sell your house with an agent for full retail value versus selling very quickly to an investor at a discount today.
A similar situation we’re all familiar with is trading in your car to the dealership when you buy a new one. Most people trade in their car to the dealership to eliminate hassle and headache. We all know the dealership is paying a discounted rate and will turn around and sell your car for a markup and make a profit. However, because of the convenience and speed it makes sense for you to sell it for less money in return for not having to worry about taking it home, spending money on marketing it, and trying to sell it yourself.
Pros: The timeline to sell your house when working with a real estate investor can be very quick. Since investors buy with all cash (not using conventional banks which take more time), they can close very quickly. It’s less headache. You can have your house sold this time next week if you wanted to with no fees or commissions. Many times the investor will pay all closing costs as well, and the closing happens at a title company just like with an agent—ensuring it’s done correctly. In addition, most investors will buy your house “as-is” and won’t require you to repair anything, clean anything, or even remove everything from the house. They’ll pay for those costs themselves after the sale is closed. It is the option that many sellers go with when they need to sell their house fast and with little hassle.
This strategy is mainly for people who are willing to sacrifice a bit on the sales price in exchange for a fast, convenient sale with no hassles. If you need to sell quickly (days or weeks rather than months), investors can close quickly. If you don’t want to hassle with repairs or cleaning up the house, investors actually will take care of that for you.
Cons: Just like with anything, there are drawbacks. The main drawback may be that you are selling at a discount in return for the speed and convenience that a real estate investor is able to offer. If you’re able to work with an agent and the agent is able to sell your house for full market value within three months, and you can wait three months, it may be in your best interest to go that route. But, if it takes longer than three months for the agent to sell it, the “carrying” costs we mentioned earlier start to eat away at any gains you may have working with an agent.
In the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If you have lots of time and aren’t in a hurry to sell, seriously consider going the FSBO route first to see if you get any bites. Then, if you still have lots of time (you don’t care if it takes longer than six months to sell), you may try working with an agent.
However, if you need or want to sell quickly (maybe you are in foreclosure, inherited a house and don’t want to mess with the hassle, are moving, bought a new house and can’t handle two payments anymore, or any other situation that calls for a fast and no hassle sale), working with a local real estate investor may be the best way to go.
Just like with anything, do your research and make sure you trust the investor or realtor you’re working with and make sure the actual closing is done at a reputable place like a title company. The vast majority of real estate investors out there are honest and do great business. Work with those, ask for references if you’d like, and trust your gut.
If you have questions about working with a real estate investor to evaluate how much your home is worth and what an investor will pay for your house, please contact us and we will be happy to help. We are a real estate investment company that focuses on helping homeowners reach their goals. Whether we buy your house or not, we’re on your side. We look forward to helping you as a resource and working with you on the sale of your home if there’s a fit.