Selling your house without using an agent: What you need to know first

Emma Duffy By on July 18, 2019
transactional
 
a couple selling their home

Image by De Vasyl via Adobe Stock

Selling your house without using a real estate agent. It sounds terrifying, but many sellers are tempted to take on the challenge in order to save thousands of dollars in real estate agent fees.

But are the potential savings worth all the hassle and risk that can come with going solo? And is it possible to achieve the same result as a real estate agent?

“Highly organised people with experience in marketing, sales and negotiating contracts may be able to achieve a good outcome for the sale of their home,” Josh Callaghan, general manager at the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) told Savings.com.au.

“In times when the property market is running really hot and the power is firmly in the seller’s hands then a private seller may be able to get a similar outcome to some agents. 

Josh Callaghan, general manager REIQ
Pictured: Josh Callaghan.

“However, a good agent will often be able to use their expertise to increase the sale price and manage the process through to settlement.”

So why would you put yourself on the back foot by not harnessing the expertise (not to mention the database of potential buyers) of a real estate agent?

The answer lies in the 2-3% agent commission. Say you sell your house for $500,000 – you’ll be forking out $10,000 to $25,000 to the agent handling the sale. There’s also all the advertising costs, which can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on rates and where the ads are placed.

It’s easy to see why people would want to keep that money in their pocket – after all, you could buy a car or go on a nice overseas holiday with that much cash. But when it comes to selling your home, it isn’t simply a matter of taking a couple of photos and uploading them online.

“There’s the administration of advertising, organising, hosting and facilitating open homes and everything that comes with having a house on the market,” says Mr Callaghan. 

“Sellers need to think about what tactics they will use to attract people to their open home and then on the day, how they will gather contact details for follow-up and what that contact strategy will look like to ensure when it comes to negotiation, you have more than one buyer in the process. Many people think that advertising is as easy as listing it on an online portal, but sellers may find themselves alone come open day if they haven’t created a compelling description of the property or if they haven’t targeted the property correctly.”

Veronica Gravolin, director and co-founder of online real estate platform Airlisting, said there’s a range of benefits that come with selling your own property. 

“The most obvious is cost-saving. You also know your property better than any agent will ever know it. So by capturing your knowledge of your own home and being able to relay this information to potential buyers in a comfortable way, you effectively become the best agent possible to sell your own home,” Ms Gravolin told Savings.com.au. 

Veronica Gravolin, director and co-founder Airlisting
Pictured: Veronica Gravolin

“When you sell yourself, you always know exactly what is going on with your sale. You are told how many enquiries are received, the true number of open home attendees, buyer feedback is delivered to you transparently and you know that the only goal of the person selling the house (you) is to sell YOUR house. Whereas agents are just as incentivised to sell any of their listings.”

Ms Gravolin says listing your own home on a real estate platform, such as Airlisting, is simple.

“With the Airlisting way of selling your own house, you can have your house listed on the major listing sites in under 20 minutes, you do not have to meet potential buyers or speak with them directly, your properties’ enquiries are managed 24/7 and there is no required upfront cost unless you successfully sell. So we have removed all the risks associated with putting your home on the market.”

There are many aspects to consider when you’re preparing to sell your own home. Let’s take a look at what’s involved. 

How to sell your own home without an agent

There’s a lot more involved in selling your own home than sticking a ‘for sale’ sign in the ground and crossing your fingers that a buyer will show up to purchase it. Here are some of the steps involved in selling your own home.

1. Get the property ready for sale

This is something you should do, regardless of whether or not you have a real estate agent. If you want potential buyers to leave with the best impression of your home, you should do the following:

  • Repairs: You should fix anything that’s broken, from cracks in the walls to broken appliances, etc. 
  • Renovations: If you think a renovation will add value to your home (or is necessary) you should aim to have it done well before you put the house on the market. But you want to make sure it’s a renovation that will actually boost the property’s value, and that you’re not over capitalising. 
  • Cleaning: No one wants to buy a dilapidated, dirty house so clean the property from top to bottom. 
  • Painting: If you have the time and the property needs it, consider giving the place a fresh lick of paint. 

2. Decide on the property’s value

You should research the property market thoroughly to get a realistic idea of your property’s value. You can do this by looking at recent sales prices in your area, but make sure you compare similar properties to your own. 

To do this, look at:

  • Overall space
  • The number and size of rooms
  • Street location and size of the land
  • Age and quality of the building
  • Quality of fixtures and fittings

It may be worthwhile to get a professional property valuation so you can be sure you’re selling your property at the right price.

Having a good idea of the value of your home will help you advertise your property correctly, attract the right buyers, and puts you in a good position to negotiate when it’s time to accept offers from buyers.

3. Prepare the listing

Now that you’re ready to sell your home, you need a way for buyers to find your property. You could always just stick a handmade sign out the front, but it’s probably more effective if you also get your property listed online. In Australia, there are plenty of websites and businesses that will list your property.

Airlisting

A real estate platform that allows buyers and sellers to engage directly but in a “managed and private way”. All Airlisting properties have undergone an independent, formal pre-sale valuation. Director and Co-Founder Veronica Gravolin told Savings.com.au she initially designed the concept when she first started working in a real estate agency.

“Seeing that the information that was given to sellers came from a singular place, all enquiries came from either the two main websites or the For Sale Sign, it made no sense to me that a seller would pay so much money to the agent when the agent was not responsible for finding the buyer, knowing the property’s actual value and also didn’t even pay for the advertisements. I wanted to create a better way for everyone to buy and sell more efficiently and with less risk. So that’s what we did,” she said. 

Ms Gravolin said Airlisting takes “all the aspects of a great real estate agent and digitises them”.

“We give our sellers step by step options and access to every marketing tool and then support them through to a successful sale outcome. Every seller is given all the information and is free to take the action they choose to. We believe that no one knows the property as well as the seller, so as long as our platform links sellers with the very best suppliers for marketing and advice and we provide enquiry management, transparent reporting and a safe and easy negotiation platform, then our sellers have everything they need to themselves be Australia’s best real estate agent.”

For Sale By Owner 

If you’ve got the gift of the gab and the right personality, For Sale By Owner lets you bypass a real estate agent altogether and sell your home yourself. Forsalebyowner.com.au is one of the largest private sale businesses with around 2,000 listings at any given time. They offer two packages (Essentials $699* and Essentials Plus $969*) to help vendors sell their own home. Both packages are listed until sold and include listings on the major property portals such as realestate.com.au and domain.com.au as well as “for sale” boards, marketing collateral and extra support if needed.

buyMYplace

If you want to sell your house yourself but want the option of having some help, buyMYplace lets you do just that. You simply select one of their packages, write your property description, upload the images and buyMYplace puts your listing on their website as well as the big guns realestate.com.au and domain.com.au. Their ‘recommended’ package includes four hours of support with a property expert plus a floor plan and professional copywriting. If you want to take your home to auction, you can do that for an extra $895*.

Sell My Property Now

You can list your property on up to 10 property listing sites including the biggest ones. There are two packages for sellers and investors also have two rental listing packages. 

No Agent Property

 Lists on all the major listing portals and offers professional services, like professional copywriting, photography and a video ‘walk’ through the property. 

Real Estate Your Way

You only pay one listing fee and nothing more until the property is sold. 

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Utilising these websites can be the only way to get your property added to the larger property sites like Realestate.com.au and Domain, as they don’t allow individual members of the public to upload properties on the site. 

To make your listing stand out, you will need high-quality images of the property and a clear, detailed written description of the benefits and features of the property. 

4. Organise inspections

If your property listing has attracted buyers, you will need to organise times for people to come and view your home. You may also want to arrange some general ‘open for inspection’ times.

Be prepared to have information about the property ready to answer any questions, and make sure the house is clean and tidy before every inspection. 

5. Negotiate with a buyer

Once you’ve found a buyer, they will offer you a price.

Be prepared to negotiate on price with the buyer (this will be easier if you go in with a clear idea of your home’s value and a firm minimum price in mind). 

6. Get a lawyer to finalise the contract

Once you’ve found a buyer and settled on a price, it’s highly recommended that you enlist the help of a solicitor or conveyancer to organise the contract, says Mr Callaghan. 

“Sellers need to be confident that they can handle the relevant negotiation of terms and de-risking the contract of sale should they sell the property. A saving in agency fees could easily be eroded by legal fees should the seller need to seek advice on accepting or inserting special terms to the contract. An agent is often well versed in the common contract variations and will have the means to either negotiate away from that term or have the right term available for them to insert,” he said.

The conveyancer will draw up the contract and make sure everything is legal when settling the property and exchanging titles. Until the contract is signed, nothing is legally binding and can be negotiated. As the contract is the most crucial part of the process, it’s important to leave it up to the professionals. 

How much money could you save by selling your house privately?

The most obvious attraction to selling your home without a real estate agent is saving on the agent’s commission. The commission rate is generally about 2.5% of the sale price in Australia. With the median capital city dwelling price sitting at around $819,000 according to CoreLogic data, that equates to a cost of over $20,400.

If you do manage to successfully sell your own home without an agent, that $20,000 could easily fund an overseas family holiday!

However, Mr Callaghan warns sellers to be cautious. 

“A saving in agency fees could easily be eroded by legal fees should the seller need to seek advice on accepting or inserting special terms to the contract,” he told Savings.com.au.

Pros and cons of selling your home privately

There are big advantages and disadvantages of selling your own home. 

There’s the potential savings on agent commission, the fact you know your own home better than anyone, and that offers can be made online, Ms Gravolin said.

“There is no time or location barrier to making an offer or negotiating an offer. This means that someone can make an offer from interstate, internationally or the comfort of their own home without having to wait to be face to face with an agent.”

But Mr Callaghan says there are disadvantages to this method too. 

“Over years of operating within a specific location, an agent has accumulated a strong base of interested potential buyers that they can contact to attract more potential buyers to the open home. They also use tactics like previews and special open nights to build momentum on the negotiations to optimise the sale price,” he said. 

Pros
Cons
  • Saving tens of thousands of dollars in agent’s commission
  • You know your home and the neighbourhood better than most, so you’re well placed to point out the benefits
  • You can also save money on the costs of marketing and advertising the property
  • You are in control of one of the most important financial transactions you’ll ever make
  • You open yourself up to risk if you don’t understand the legal requirements
  • You may not have time to do the job properly
  • You risk not selling your home for what it’s worth
  • You’re emotionally invested, and may not be able to be objective when selling
  • You don’t have the database of potential buyers that a real estate agent has
  • Buyers might try and negotiate you down because they know you’re inexperienced

With that in mind, what should sellers consider if they’re thinking about selling their own home?

“The important thing to know about selling your home is that the first few weeks on the market really matter,” Ms Gravolin said.

“Like with many things first impressions count. It’s important to know what kind of price you’re shooting for, have the home presented well, have exceptional photos, and get your property seen by as many people as possible.

“We also recommend having a draft contract and any disclosure documents needed created for you by your conveyancer before listing. This is a legal requirement in some states and not in others, however, it’s a good idea even when it is not a legal requirement because it can speed up the time from receiving an offer and then being under contract.

“For older homes, it is also highly recommended for a seller to do a pre-sale building and pest inspection. This enables the seller to fix anything that is found and could potentially end their future sale contract and can also be used as a marketing tool to give a buyer more confidence if the house is in great condition.”

Despite only launching Airlisting in April 2019, Ms Gravolin says they’ve already sold many properties.

“We have seen numerous successful settlements since then and have many sales under contract as well. We even have numerous examples of properties that were unable to secure a buyer whilst listed with a traditional real estate agent and have then gone on to secure their sale through Airlisting, saving an enormous amount compared to if they would have sold the traditional way.”

One of those examples is Greg Crail, who sold his Upper Kedron home in Brisbane through Airlisting after having it on the market with an agent for four months. He sold the home in eight days at the price he wanted to achieve with the agent and saved about $16,000 in the process.

a sold sign on a house

He says people considering selling their own home should do their research first. 

“Research on pricing in the area and be realistic on price as some real estate agents will give you an inflated price to get your business,” Mr Crail told Savings.com.au.

Another Airlisting success story is Abbey Cameron, who sold her South Brisbane home at list price, saving an estimated $17,000.

“The whole concept appealed to us right from the beginning – both because I don’t really believe that the traditional real estate model sees agents really working hard enough for the percentage commission they receive (not all, but many) and because as a busy parent and business owner I honestly just didn’t want the human interaction that comes with the traditional model,” Ms Cameron told Savings.com.au.

“We really had no expectations going in, but the whole process was very simple and straight forward, and I loved that we could customise it to what we wanted (e.g. sometimes we wanted someone to host the open homes, and sometimes we wanted to do it ourselves). Honestly, our biggest challenge was just how much interest there was in the property – we had over 130 people through!”

She said being able to describe what the home and neighbourhood is really like appealed to buyers.

“We ran a lot of our own private inspections, initially people found it a bit awkward knowing I was the owner, but I found once they started opening up we could have a really great conversation about what it was actually like to live in the area – none of it was made up agent spin, it was just our real experience, which really resonated with buyers.”

Savings.com.au’s two cents

There are a lot of things to consider before taking the plunge and deciding to sell your own home.

Selling a home can cost a lot of money, the biggest being the real estate agent’s fees. With these typically around 2% to 2.5%, sometimes even as high as 5%, you can fork out up to $25,000 to the agent handling the sale. Cutting out the middle man by selling your home yourself could save you thousands of dollars in commission. On the flip side, scrimping on using a real estate agent could cost you if you end up selling your house for less than what it’s worth.

Selling your house on your own definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Perhaps you feel paying thousands of dollars in commission is worth it if it saves you the hassle of selling your home yourself. Or you may decide the potential savings are worth the hassle and risk that can come with going solo. 

Before making the decision to sell your own home, you should do your research and weigh up all your other options first. The reality of selling a house by yourself is often much more complex than most sellers realise, but not an impossibility. 

Emma Duffy
Emma Duffy joined Savings.com.au as a Finance Journalist in 2019 after spending a year as the editor of The Real Estate Conversation. She's most passionate about improving the financial literacy of women and millennials by writing about complex financial topics (what's an ETF I hear you ask?) in a way that's easy for the average Joe (or Jill) to understand.

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