Is it possible to sell a house without a real estate broker or agent?
Usually, yes. This is called a FSBO (pronounced "fizzbo") -- For Sale By Owner. You must, however, be aware of the legal rules that govern real estate transfers in your state, such as who must sign the papers, who can conduct the actual transaction and what to do if and when "encumbrances" arise which slow down the transfer of ownership. You also need to be aware of any state-mandated disclosures as to the physical condition of your house. (See Seller Disclosures.) Check with your state department of real estate for advice on FSBOs, including the involvement of attorneys and other professionals in the house transaction. (See State Real Estate Departments and Commissions.)
If you want to go it alone, be sure you have the time, energy and ability to handle all the details -- from setting a realistic price to negotiating offers and closing the deal. Also, be aware that FSBOs are usually more feasible in hot or sellers' markets where there's more competition for homes, or when you're not in a hurry to sell.
If you're interested in listing your house online, check out sites such as http://www.owners.com, the largest national FSBO website. To find local FSBOs, see www.fsboguide.com. If you live in a major metropolitan area, check to see which newspapers put their real estate classifieds online. (See Househunting Online.)
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Is there some middle ground when a seller can use a broker on a more limited (and
less expensive) basis?
You might consider doing most of the work yourself -- such as showing the house -- and using a real estate broker's help with such crucial tasks as:
- setting the price of your house
- advertising your home in the local multiple listing service (MLS) of homes for sale in the area (a database managed by local boards of Realtors), or
- handling some of the more complicated paperwork when the house closes.
If so, you may be able to negotiate a reduction off of the typical 5% to 7% commission brokers charge, or you may be able to find a real estate agent who charges by the hour for specified services, such as reviewing the sales contract. "Discount" real estate services are available from franchise operations such as Help-U-Sell (http://www.helpusell.com) as well as other independent real estate companies and individual brokers.
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