The thought of saving a real estate commission when selling a home in Massachusetts can certainly be a tempting one. And make you wonder how to sell a house without a Realtor in Massachusetts. With list-side commissions of 2-4% on a median house price of around $560,000 in Massachusetts that could mean a saving of $11,200 to $22,000 in just the list-side commission.
So can I sell a house without a REALTOR in Massachusetts?
The easy answer is use you certainly don’t have to use a REALTOR to sell your home. You can certainly go it alone as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO).
A bigger question to ask yourself is do you want to put in the time, energy and effort to sell your home without a Massachusetts REALTOR?
What Does It Take To Sell Your Home Without A REALTOR In Massachusetts
When selling your home as a For Sale By Owner you think you are saving thousands on a real estate commission. But, rather than thinking you are saving on a real estate commission, you are actually earning it.
You need to have a lot of time and a certain amount of knowledge to get your house sold as a Massachusetts FSBO.
Before deciding to sell your house without a REALTOR in Massachusetts, determine your goals and what you expect from the final outcome to be by foregoing using a Massachusetts real estate agent to list your home.
The National Association of REALTORS annually provides different statistics for REALTORS and the general public.
- For 2020 roughly 10% of home sales were private sales, this includes FSBO, transfers between families and other private transfers.
- The average FSBO sold for $225,000 whereas the average agent-assisted sale sold for $330,000.
Now before you go off the deep end, there are several reasons why the For Sale By Owner sold for less. First, you have to remember there are a certain amount of sales between family members and third parties that are discounted. The goal of these sales is not necessarily to achieve top dollar.
But a Massachusetts FSBO will often sell for 10-15% less than a sale where a REALTOR is used. The most common reasons are lack of knowledge, not able to put enough time into the sale, and lack of exposure.
A Real-Life Example of A FSBO vs a REALTOR in Massachusetts
A while back I had the opportunity to list a stand-alone condominium alongside another Massachusetts real estate agent and an owner trying to sell on their own.
The units were essentially identical and should have sold within several thousand dollars of each other. The results were:
- My unit sold for $360,000 in 45 days.
- The other agent sold their unit for $345,000 in 106 days.
- The FSBO sold their unit for $323,000 while on the market for almost a year.
I almost listed the FSBO after talking to the owner. They were tired, they were upset and they were about to give up when they accepted the offer of $323,000.
In retrospect did the FSBO save money? I think when you look at the time and effort expended and the actual sale price they would have been far better off hiring a REALTOR to list their home.
My point is not to discourage you from selling your home alone. If you decide to sell your Massachusetts home without a REALTOR realize you will earn every penny and maybe saving on all or portion of a real estate commission doesn’t mean you save money.
Rather than focusing on what the commission is that you are paying, focus on how much money you will net when the sale is done.
4 Key Phases Of Selling Your Home Without a REALTOR
There are four distinct phases in the home sale process. Those four major phases are preparing the home, pricing the home, presenting the home and closing on the home.
For a successful Massachusetts home sale, each phase of the sale needs attention. Normally your listing agent would help and guide you with each of these phases. But, as a FSBO you need to go it alone.
Preparing Your Home
Preparing your home is the critical first step to a successful sale. This means everything from a deep clean, a thorough decluttering and staging your home to appeal to today’s home buyers.
Getting your home ready for the market may also include improving your home’s curb appeal, small repairs and even some minor renovations.
Your local REALTOR in Massachusetts will know where to spend your time energy and efforts to maximize the return on your home. As a FSBO it will fall on you to figure out what needs to be done.
Often times a seller will start the process before meeting with an agent. And, will find they may be focusing time and money in areas of the home that are not important.
Pricing Your Massachusetts Home
After deciding what you should or are willing to do to prepare your home for the Massachusetts real estate market, it is now time to price your home.
Pricing a home is part art and part science and sometimes can be a difficult task. A real estate agent has the Massachusetts Multiple Listing Service as a tool to research similar properties that are on the market, under agreement, recently sold or expired unsold.
When you hire a REALTOR to list your home they will provide a comprehensive report called a Comparative Market Analysis or CMA.
A FSBO must realize their house is competing with similar homes in the market. The basis of the CMA is to find comparable homes that have recently sold in the same neighborhood. A REALTOR will have an understanding of the appraisal process and where to make adjustments for certain amenities.
As a For-Sale-By-Owner it will be your job to find comparable homes and set the proper prices.
A home’s listing price can make or break you. List even ten thousand too high and your home can make languish on the market.
Once you have prepared your home and have it priced properly it is time to present your home to the buying public. The biggest hurdle a FSBO has when it comes time to sell their home on their own is marketing.
The key to getting the best price for your home is exposure. You want to give your home the broadest appeal possible and get it in front of as many eyes as possible. Your home may be awesome but if buyers don’t know it’s on the market they can’t buy it.
The internet plays a large role in exposing your home to the right buyers. The biggest tool an agent has is the MLS. The Massachusetts MLS has around 30,000 members that share listings and feed the latest Massachusetts homes for sale to a large pool of buyers.
I strongly suggest getting your home into the MLS by using a company that does entry-only listings. An entry-only listing is where you pay a brokerage to enter a listing into the MLS but they do not represent you in the sale of your home.
An experienced REALTOR in MA will include all of these services in their listing commission and as a FSBO you should consider paying for the same services so your house can compete on the same level.
A top-notch Massachusetts REALTOR listing your home will also have a strong internet presence and will be able to push your home out onto the internet through many channels including social media.
There are many aspects to getting a home closed on time. Much of it revolves around paperwork.
It is strongly recommended you work with a real estate attorney to help you with the flow of documents and keep the sale legal.
As a seller, you need to provide: a new deed, a Municipal lien certificate, Title V certification (if you have a septic system), a 6D certificate if you are selling a condo and a Certificate of Compliance for your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
This Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg
The major phases of selling a home as a Massachusetts homeowner has been spelled out in a quick overview. But, each phase has many steps that need to be taken.
Missing or overlooking a step can have serious legal or financial ramifications. And it is important to have the right real estate attorney looking over your shoulder.
Selling A Home Without A REALTOR in Massachusetts Might Be Right For You If:
You Already Have A Buyer
Sometimes as you prepare your house for sale and let your family, neighbors and friends know you will be selling, a buyer will come out of the woodwork.
If you have a ready, willing and able buyer to purchase your home at a price you are comfortable with, heck, save the commission.
You Want To Save on The Real Estate Commission
Many homeowners try to go it alone and sell their homes without a REALTOR. Their number one goal is saving big dollars on a commission.
Savvy FSBOs still offer the buy-side commission to drastically improve the buying pool for their home.
You Are In A Seller’s Market
A hot seller’s market like we have been in for the past few years makes it easier to forgo a listing agent. Buyers are desperate with low inventories and competitive bidding wars. They will leave no stone unturned.
As the market cools down and becomes a buyer’s market more market and buyer insight and marketing and negotiating skills will be needed that a Realtor in Massachusetts will have.
Selling A Home Without A REALTOR in Massachusetts Might Not Be Right For You If:
You Have Never Sold a Massachusetts Home Before
There are a lot of moving parts to sell a home. An experienced REALTOR knows exactly what needs to be done and has a proven process to get your home sold.
The worst part of trying to buy or sell a home on your own is you don’t know what you don’t know. And, it’s what you don’t know that gets you in trouble.
Without experiencing a sale of a home previously, you may not have a full understanding of some of the critical steps. Because of this reason, it may be wise to hire a REALTOR to sell your Massachusetts home.
As pointed out earlier while you can pocket thousands of dollars in real estate commissions that aren’t paid out, you will probably earn every penny.
You will need the time to research the process, figure out how to best prepare your home, coordinate paperwork, coordinate showings, etc….
A listing agent can spend as little as 10 hours and as many as 80 hours bringing a home to market and then to a smooth closing. And unfortunately, much of that time is not dictated by you, but by interested parties in your home. You must strike while the iron is hot.
Do you really have the time to sell your home on your own?
The Savings May Only Be A Matter of Perception
Statistics show that FSBOs sell for less than homes that are sold by real estate agents. The reasons can vary.
But, there are several that might stand out. A FSBO may not have the knowledge and market savvy that a real estate agent has. They also lack the marketing channels that are at a real estate agents fingertips.
It is all about exposing the home to as many buyers as possible and finding the right buyer. And on top of it, you will have to spend money that an agent would to market the property.
Several Things A REALTOR in Massachusetts Can Provide A Home Seller
Market and Buyer Insight
Full-time real estate agents are immersed in real estate every day. We know how to interpret the market. We know what most buyers want in a home.
If you never worked a shifting market or run around with home buyers how are you going to be able to make informed decisions?
True Story, Swear To God
Years ago, I showed a entry-only for a FSBO listing, to a couple I was working with to buy a home. From the moment we walked thru the door to the moment we left, the seller was obsessed with how much money he spent soundproofing his basement….. He basically followed us around the house telling us about it.
So first, it was so distracting we probably didn’t pay attention to what really would interest my buyers. Secondly, I have never had a buyer list a soundproofed basement on their wants and needs list.
And third, ewww that’s creepy. Why do you need a soundproofed basement? My buyers were freaked out!! And, couldn’t get away fast enough.
The point is the seller missed the mark about what is important to the buyers of his home. Plus to my next point, for whatever reason, he was highly emotional. It is important to know what buyers are looking for in a home.
As a real estate agent, a large part of any day is filled with negotiating. Whether it is an offer on a home, home inspection repairs, or a myriad of other issues that arise during a closing, a portion of any day is spent negotiating.
Negotiating techniques have been developed and specifically an understanding of generally how a buyer or seller will react. This can be an invaluable skill a REALTOR in Massachusetts can bring to any client.
A Voice Of Reason
Buying or selling a home can be highly emotional for some. You could be overly proud of your home and the effort you put into it. Or, you can be very nostalgic because you raised your family in your and there are many fond memories.
But emotions can get you to make poor decisions.
A real estate agent can provide an objective perspective to the decision-making process. They will keep you on track with your goals.
An Experienced REALTOR in Massachusetts Has A Track to Run On
After 20 years in of buying and selling real estate in Massachusetts, I have a process to sell your home.
From preparing your home to sell, pricing your home, marketing and showing your home to managing the paperwork and bringing you to a smooth closing there is a proven plan to get the job done.
Real estate is also dynamic. What I did 10 years ago or even 3 years ago is different than what I do today. That plan is always being tweaked to benefit my home sellers.
What A Massachusetts Home Seller Needs To Be Aware Of
There are several areas that a For Sale By Owner Needs to be aware of to avoid legal issues.
Often a brokerage will ask a seller to fill out a Seller’s Statement of Property Condition or SSPC. It is the opportunity for a seller to disclose various aspects of the property.
Massachusetts is one of the few states that is what is called a caveat emptor state or basically buyers beware. It is not required for a seller to disclose anything about a property except whether a home does or does not have lead paint and whether the home is served by a septic system.
A property without an SSPC may be suspect to potential buyers and many questions will ensue. While you are not obligated to disclose anything upfront you do need to answer any questions truthfully.
Whether you are answering a question from a buyer or you are filling out specs on a home, accuracy is important.
Square footage, lot size, and room dimensions, etc…. should be accurately stated and verified. Anything in writing, like a listing description of your home’s specifications, can be a potential liability down the road.
Be as accurate as possible. If you don’t know don’t assume.
Fair Housing Laws
When selling your home on your own you are not exempt from Massachusetts Fair Housing Laws. It is your responsibility to understand Fair Housing Laws.
Massachusetts and Federal law prohibit discrimination in the sale of a home by owners, landlords, property managers, mortgage lenders, and real estate agents. These fair housing laws make it unlawful to discriminate based on: race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, ancestry, genetic information, marital status, veteran or active military status, age, familial status (i.e., children), and source of income.
It’s The Benign Statement That Can Get You In Trouble
A Massachusetts Realtor spends time every year staying up on fair housing laws and usually knows what to steer away from.
For example, it is a violation in a listing description to say “family neighborhood”. Or you could be in violation by saying it is a “short walk” to the school.
By mentioning “family neighborhood”, you could be discriminating against buyers who are not a family. A “short walk” can be viewed as discriminating against someone with disabilities.
Review the protected classes and avoid making any discriminatory remarks. In general, keep your conversation about the property and not about the people.
The Four Biggest Hurdles To Overcome By Foregoing a REALTOR In Massachusetts
There are going to be several hurdles you need to overcome to sell your Massachusetts home on your own.
Understanding The Market
Often a buyer or seller is often running on older market data. But markets can turn on a dime as 2022 real estate market is a prime example. You need to current data and what is happening with current market conditions and be able to interrupt them to make decisions moving forward.
For example, if you try to price a house like sellers were in April of 2022 you will probably find your home languishing on the market and chasing the market down.
Know How To Set A Listing Price
Your home’s listing price is a fickle thing. Even appraisers and real estate agents can struggle with certain houses in some markets. Never mind, being a FSBO and not understanding all the principles that go into pricing a home.
The proper asking price on your home is about 60% of the sale of your home. List even 2% to 3% over fair market value can be a certain death for the sale of your home.
Don’t think you can ask 10% over asking and the buyers will just make offers. Or tack on another 5% for negotiations.
Choose valid comparable homes, understand your comps, make adjustments and set the proper asking price for your home.
A big hurdle for a FSBO is exposing their home to the majority of potential home buyers that might consider their home.
A Massachusetts Realtor only has to upload your listing into the MLS and it will immediately be sent to thousands of potential buyers within 24 hours. But on top of that agents have other means of syndicating your home on hundreds if not thousands of real estate websites immediately.
Not only does an agent have multiple sources of advertising your home they know how to do it properly. In this day and age taking a few out-of-focus, dark pictures and posting them on the internet is no longer suitable. Professionally staged homes that are professionally photographed are the norm for homes that are listed in 2022.
Sticking a sign in the lawn and telling the neighbors is not going to provide the exposure you need.
Paperwork and Legality
Selling a Massachusetts Home is a complex legal transaction.
It is important to keep the transaction on track and legal. A missed date, having the wrong people sign a purchase and sale contract ( and it happens more than your think) not having the proper paperwork for the closing can all throw a monkey wrench into the works.
Another True Story
Years ago there was a FSBO who signed two contracts to sell their home. In all the excitement and emotion they signed a contract with one buyer then immediately received a higher offer and signed that one as well thinking they could easily pull out of the first contract.
Not so easy and very sticky. The legal aspect went on for years and the original seller lost the home to foreclosure as the battle went on in the courts.
Have a full understanding of the contracts and paperwork that will be needed for the sale of your home. Contracts are legal and binding. They are not easily broken.
It is certainly possible to sell your home without a REALTOR in Massachusetts. The question remains is it the right decision for you.
There are a lot of moving parts to sell a home and as a FSBO you need to be prepared for the task. To successfully sell a home on your own you will have to put in a lot of time and effort. It goes beyond slapping a sign in the yard. You will have to have an understanding of the legal aspects, necessary contracts, the process and how to market your property to the right buyers.
Weigh your options carefully and decide if it is the right choice for you.
Other Real EstatateResources
- As a home seller, this article has discussed whether a seller should use a REALTOR or not. Luke Skar discusses where a buyer should use a REALTOR when buying a home. There are many advantages to having a REALTOR in your corner when you buy a home.
- As real estate markets across the country slow down we are hearing about contingencies in a real estate contract again. In hot markets, a contingency in a contract meant you weren’t getting a home. Vicki Moore discusses the use of contingencies when buying a home.
- If your selling your home without a REALTOR there is a lot to know. Paul Sian shares some tips when selling your home on your own.
How To Sell A House Without A REALTOR in Massachusetts is provided by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Realty. If you would like to sell or buy a home, give me a call at 978-360-0422 and let’s get the process started.
REALTOR Services in the following areas: Northeast Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley, Northshore and Metrowest. Including the following communities and the surrounding areas- Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Groveland, Haverhill, Lowell, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Wilmington, Westford