experts: real estate column Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Do I Really Need a Realtor?

It's time to sell the home and move to different quarters. One of the first things you're going to consider is whether to sell it yourself or use the services of a Realtor.

By Ozzie Jurock

It's time to sell the home and move to different quarters. One of the first things you're going to consider is whether to sell it yourself or use the services of a Realtor. The answer to this, like so many other questions concerning real estate, is a very conclusive --- 'it depends'.

It depends mostly on the sum total of your experiences in sales in general and real estate sales in particular. If your sales experience consists of manning a booth at the church rummage sale or, going back even further, running that lemonade stand on the sidewalk in front of your house when you were a kid, then you had better beware.

The decision to sell your home yourself could be a dangerous one. The reason it is dangerous is because it looks so simple but in reality it is terribly complex. It is much more than putting a sign on the front lawn in the morning and then having the buyer knock on your door later that same day. It requires specialized knowledge, financial resources, and a considerable amount of time.

Everyone will agree that buying or selling a house is usually the largest single financial transaction that a family ever makes. Because it is the largest it is also the most important. And because it is important you owe it to yourself and your family to see that you get optimum results. You're probably going to get better results from a skilled real estate professional than from your own efforts.

Of course, there is always the chance that you will get lucky and you will connect with just the right buyer who is driving down your street at the exact moment when you stab your sign into the lawn and it turns out that your house is exactly what that buyer is looking for and he thinks your price is fair --- but that's asking a lot from coincidence. In fact it's asking too much because industry statistics show that that almost never happens.

What is much more likely to happen is that you will wait an inordinate length of time to attract the eventual buyer and you will end up taking too low an offer either because of fear or impatience or a combination of both. This will be as a result of not appealing to the correct segment of the market, not attracting enough buyers, and in far too many cases having the house priced either too high or too low.

Unless your house is drastically under priced, it can take longer for you to sell it privately than it will through the services of a real estate firm. There are many reasons for this but the principal one is that most people don't have the communication resources that give the real estate professional access to the entire spectrum of the marketplace.

For instance, real estate salespeople reach hundreds or even thousands of potential buyers through the use of advertising and Multiple Listing services. Major real estate companies have cross-country referral and relocation services that can pinpoint buyers for your house even though they are living in another city. You as a private individual have neither the resources nor the professional affiliations to take advantage of these kinds of selling tools.

Then there is the question of cost. Real estate companies spend thousands of dollars in advertising to entice a sufficient number of potential buyers to look at your property. You, trying to sell your own home, are competing with the real estate companies for those buyers. Unless you spend the same kind of money you're not going to achieve the same kind of results. Consider: It can cost as much as $100 just to have a sign painter make you up a professional looking sign for your front lawn.

When you use a professional, the real estate commission covers all these costs, plus it buys you the talents, skills, and experience of that professional. Better yet, if there is no sale there is no cost to you regardless of how much time and money your Realtor spent trying to market your home.

But there are other issues beyond enticing the potential buyer to knock on your door. Once you've got the buyer in the house you've got to do a selling job. Remember, you only have one house to sell and he is looking at every home in the neighborhood that is comparable to yours and is for sale. If you don't have the necessary selling skills you're going to be much better off with a professional representing you. The Realtor has the training and experience to show off your house to it's best advantage and can marry the needs of the buyer to corresponding features of the house.

Then there is the question of privacy and safety. The minute you become a 'for sale by owner' every curiosity seeker and snoop can feel free to knock on your door or ring you on the phone and say, "I want to wander through your house." And do you really want to spend your evenings and weekends guiding strangers through your house? And if you have an 'open house' you're tied down for that whole period of time.

However, your Realtor welcomes these activities and does them every day. The Realtor thrives on taking on the chores and challenges that go along with the effective marketing of real estate. The Realtor has a full time staff back at the office to assist in weeding out the window shoppers so that your house will only be shown to qualified, serious potential buyers.

Also, bear in mind that the paperwork aspect of this kind of transaction can be extremely daunting. There are legal aspects of preparing sale contracts and understanding all the various clauses and making sure the important ones are in the agreement. And then there's the matter of arranging mortgage financing and knowing where to get the best interest rates for any potential buyers.

It all comes down to the two factors of money and peace of mind. If you try to sell your own house you'll find it can turn into a full time job. And even if it doesn't take up all your time it will certainly take up all your spare time. You have to ask yourself, "Am I able to learn the real estate business overnight? Am I willing to spend a considerable amount of money that might not result in a sale? Can I allocate the necessary time from my schedule? Am I willing to surrender my privacy?"

If the answers to those questions are 'No!', then you will be better off hiring a real estate professional. Make sure, when you do this, that your Realtor gives you a written marketing plan and the undertaking that close contact will be maintained so you will know what's happening at all times. Good luck!


About the Writer
Ozzie Jurock is the president of Jurock International Net, Editor of Real Estate Insider Publication and Author of Forget Location

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