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Aaron Pickert: Consider selling your house on your own

The Examiner

Selling a house right now is as about as easy as it will ever be. As one of our clients who is selling off a few long-held rentals recently said, “You could prop a tent and get a good selling price right now.”

If you are considering putting your house on the market, I’d like to share a way for you to save thousands in the process.

Aaron Pickert

The method I’m referring to is to sell your home with a flat-fee broker, instead of a traditional Realtor. This is where you pay a flat-fee amount to have your house listed on the Multiple Listing Service that agents use. This type of agent still will help you with the paperwork end of the transaction. You just won’t get all the full-service that a regular listing agent provides.

In most real-estate transactions, the seller of a home receives the sale price minus 6% in commissions to the real estate broker, along with some other closing fees. Three percent of closing price typically goes to the buyer’s agent, and 3 percent goes to the seller’s agent. If you list your home with a flat-fee agent, then you can save on the difference between the 3 percent the seller's agent would charge and what the flat-fee agent charges. I saved around $10,000 on my last house sale by going this route.

Now, this may not be for everyone, but I would like to encourage more people to consider the use of a flat-fee broker. If the housing market was not as hot, then maybe you would reconsider. However, I believe the need for using a seller’s agent has been lessened by the hot housing market, the Internet and smartphones.

Most buyers today direct the agent to what houses they want to see, versus the agent having a stronghold on all the listings. There are some fantastic agents out there who are worth every penny for their services, but I’d argue many people can handle selling their own home with the assistance of a flat-fee agent.

Here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way when selling multiple homes with a flat-fee agent. Researching and choosing the right selling price are very important. You don’t want to overprice the home and not get gain a level of traffic. Services such as Zillow have made this easier. I wouldn’t rely completely on it, but you gain valuable insight by looking at their estimates of your home and the ones around you. Look at comparable homes within your ZIP Code. You should be able to come up with a reasonable listing price.

Staging a home in this day is paramount. Minimize things down to show an abundance of space in each room. You may need to rent a storage space for your extra belongings. Take your personal pictures down. I would pay a professional photographer to take your pictures. You want to get bright pictures of the home, put them in the proper order, have a virtual tour option, and get that fancy aerial view. You can find these services for around $300.

You’ll want to sharpen your negotiation abilities, but thankfully you have the power in this market as a seller. If you have a desirable house, you’ll simply have to choose between all the offers over your ask price. In the absence of multiple offers, your first offer may be your best. List the house on a Thursday evening, with a Sunday open house advertised. Schedule an open house Sunday so people can stop by, and this may also drive a motivated buyer to get the deal done before the open house.

I have had a lot of success selling my past houses this way, and I believe you can too. It’s not without headaches, and you can’t expect to get the same care. If you are willing to put in a little extra work, I think it's well worth the reward. I have no dog in this fight. I simply want you to maximize your gain. Feel free to contact me at ajpickert@stewcap.com if you have any questions or would like more guidance.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations.)

Aaron Pickert, CRPC, is chief investment officer at Stewardship Capital in Independence.