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Why You Should Consider Your Options Before Signing with a Realtor

Why You Should Consider Your Options Before Signing with a Realtor

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Florida real estate agent

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With home values continuing to increase and technology constantly changing how we buy and sell everything from toilet paper to cars, people who are thinking about selling a house are looking for the best ways to make the most of their investment. If you’re thinking you might want to sell a house without a realtor in Florida, you’re right in line with lots of other homeowners in the Sunshine State.

Though alternatives to real estate agent sales can seem so out of the box that they’re not easy, what you’ll find here is that other paths are not so intimidating. They also offer you the chance to reduce commissions and still get a good deal for your home. While these alternatives aren’t for everyone, it’s worth the effort to explore what’s out there.

Selling without a Realtor vs. with a Realtor

Couple in Florida shaking hands with a real estate attorney

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What a real estate agent offers you, in essence, is their expertise. They’re giving you support on pricing, marketing, and negotiating with buyers. The other thing, the more tangible thing, that they’re delivering to you are potential buyers.

Online resources can be helpful on your path to selling your Florida property without a realtor, but the amount that you’ll learn online about how to do everything will vary by industry and by your specific needs. Depending on your situation, the information that an agent offers you may not be accessible to the public.

Hiring your own seller’s agent to help you negotiate real estate transactions will definitely make the home sale in Florida easier, there’s no doubt about that. The entire process of selling a house in Florida is complicated and necessitates either a level of expertise or hiring someone who has that expertise. Without a realtor, you’ll have to figure it all out yourself.

Understanding real estate commissions

When you sell your house with a real estate agent, they earn their money by taking a fee at the time that closing costs are put together during the final real estate transaction.

For most people, the most important benefit of working outside the real estate agent structure is saving money by avoiding commissions on the sale of their Florida property. Real estate sale commissions are usually calculated based on the price that a home sells for.

When you, the Florida homeowner, signs on with a seller’s agent to get your home on the market, marketed, and sold, you agree to a price upfront. This price will come in the form of a percentage of the property purchase price.

If there is both a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent, then a split commission will happen. Both real estate agents will be paid for their work, but it will all come out of the purchase price of the home. Buyer’s agents get their commission written into the sales contract, just like seller’s agents.

This is not something that you, the homeowner, will have to deal with. Whatever commission you negotiate with them at the start of the process is what their commission will be.

Calculate real estate commission

To calculate how much you’d pay in real estate commission, you need a simple equation. Take the percentage that you agree to, divide that whole number by 100, then multiply by the sale price of the home.

For example, if you had a home that sold for $300,000, but you agreed with your real estate agent that they would get a 5% commission, then your calculation would look like this:

(5/100) x 300,000 = $15,000 commission

That’s no small number, even in the context of something as major as a home sale. Note that this example uses a 5% commission, but that’s at the low end. A real estate commission can go as high as 8% in some markets, though the average is 5-6%.

It’s easy to see why people are so interested in forgoing the realtor selling model and trying some other ways.

Know the Florida real estate agent process

Florida family sitting with a real estate agent

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The process of buying and selling real estate without a realtor in Florida is similar to that of other states.

If you decide to go with a real estate agent, they’ll likely try to push you to sign a contract that gives them the exclusive right to sell your Florida property. This contract means that you’ll have to pay the listing agent their real estate commission even if you sell the house to a buyer that they don’t bring to the table. Even if you get a buyer without a realtor, you’ll still have to pay a realtor a commission.

The other option is for you to do what’s called an open listing, which is when a homeowner agrees to pay the commission to any agent who brings the final buyer in. This could include an exclusive agency listing, which gives any realtor in a certain agency the ability to make the commission off of the sale.

All home listings are going to be for a set amount of time. For Florida, a homeowner will generally list their house with an agent for a flat number of days, often 90.

Transaction brokers in Florida

In Florida, a real estate agent that represents both the buyer and the seller is called a “transaction broker”. This is obviously a conflict of interest, as the listing agent is negotiating with both the buyer and the seller.

This can only happen if all parties agree to the arrangement in writing, per Florida Statute §475.278. Through that arrangement, the real estate agent becomes a “transaction broker”.

This is an interesting situation because a transaction broker has a responsibility to the buyer and to the seller. Though two real estate agents usually work hard for their individual parties in a real estate negotiation, obviously in this situation they work differently. A transaction broker clearly has limitations on what they can do. Under Florida law, a transaction broker cannot put the interests of one party over the other. In addition, the Florida Statutes state that the real estate agent doesn’t have a fiduciary responsibility to both parties, which would be dual agency.

The ups and downs of using a realtor

Florida couple with a buyer's agent

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Often sellers find selling a house without a realtor is better than working with a real estate agent. Though all of the numbers point to the ability to save money and time by selling a home in Florida without a realtor, the vast number of people decide to use a real estate agent.

Homes sold without using a real estate agent can be sold for less than those that employ the services of an agent. If a homeowner puts out a listing price of 97% of the fair market value of their home, they’re likely to get a buyer much faster and get on with their lives after the sale. Though this is less money than they could get with a real estate agent, that undermarket listing price is still more than what they would get if a normal Florida real estate commission came out of that price. The homeowner nets two percent at least.

If you are unable to get your house assessed properly without a real estate agent this may mean a less expensive home. It can be extremely difficult to estimate and price a house without a realtor. Most real estate agents are very experienced negotiators, which means they usually know when offers will be worth the cost versus when they won’t be.

What are the options if you don’t sell with a realtor?

Florida FSBO seller signing a contract

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If you decide to try to sell your house without a realtor to save money or to see what you’re capable of, then you’ll want to know your options.

The home sale process in Florida might be foreign to you, but with some market research and using online tools to help you understand what steps there are in the process and what your opportunities are, you can get the right potential buyers to look at your home.

Option 1 – selling your house yourself

FSBO homes are a definite way to sell your house without a realtor. In this situation, you become your own agent and take on all of the roles that a traditional real estate agent would take on.

It may be simpler for you than for many fsbo sellers if you are flexible on the final sale price. Price negotiations are one of the hardest things to deal with, and most buyers come to the table thinking they have the advantage if they know you’re selling a house without a realtor.

Sellers are usually drawn to FSBOs for a number of reasons: they want to reduce agent commission cost, they want to get a home purchase through quickly, and they want to circumvent the existing real estate system.

FSBO sale offerings are relatively unusual in Florida, though they aren’t unheard of. You have to advertise and promote your listing, get an inspection and improve the property accordingly, take professional photos, organize tours, and hold open houses. To sell FSBO property is no small venture. Few homeowners will accept this task, nor are they willing to accept the lower price points they’ll get for the home, despite their ability to save money on the other end.

In 2020, FSBO sales were just 11% of home sales nationwide. Fortunately, even if you don’t have experience in marketing a home, creating a list price, or in fact with FSBO homes at all in order to get a successful sale. FSBO websites can walk you through most of the process for finding a potential buyer.

FSBO paperwork can be overwhelming

Paperwork can be an intimidating aspect of selling a home in Florida. For example, the amount of paperwork on a typical house sale is 180 pages! That’s a huge amount to go through and understand.

In Florida, there is a requirement that sellers must notify customers when the property has a defect. If you’ve had a home inspection and share that with you potential buyers, then this covers the legal requirement. If you, the seller, fail to disclose a known defect in the house, you could face possible legal and financial consequences. Paperwork risks are sometimes the primary factor in a homeowner choosing not to sell a home like this.

Option 2 – sell to someone you know with a real estate attorney

You don’t necessarily need to go through the whole route of acting as your own listing agent in order to get your home sold in Florida without a realtor.

One other potential option is to hire a real estate attorney. If you are selling a house without a realtor to someone that you know, then you don’t even need to act asy our own realtor. You essentially have a situation of an instant buyer.

Real estate attorneys can help you draw up a purchase agreement for a flat fee of less than a few thousand dollars. A good real estate attorney will be able to take care of all of the paperwork in short order and get the sale pushed through.

A lawyer with extensive real estate expertise may also help with the drafting and interpretation of countless documents such as real estate contracts, existing loan documentation, other loan documents, and every other kind of legal contract that goes along with the sale of a property.

Option 3 – agent assisted home sale

A method of selling your home that’s really outside of the box is to look into agent assisted home sales. Working with a realtor in some capacity, even if it’s on a consulting basis, can be really helpful.

Know that if you go in to ask an agent to work with you in this manner, they’re going to try to hard sell you on using their services. However, you can offer to pay them a flat amount to get the support you need to make more money on your For Sale By Owner property.

Another, related option, is to use a flat fee MLS service in conjunction with your other FSBO tactics. This is a means by which you can list your house on the Multiple Listing Service websites across the web without a realtor. Listing on the MLS is hugely valuable as it allows your home sale to attract buyers who would otherwise not see it.

The MLS is how homes get listed on Zillow and Redfin, which derive their home listings from this master listing.

Working with a real estate agent in this capacity can save money on fees while still giving you the benefits of saving money by selling without a realtor.

Option 4 – sell your house to a cash buyer

The cheapest and easiest way to sell your home is to work with a cash buyer.

Cash buyers come in many forms, from corporate cash buyers to individual home investors. A cash buyer is different from other potential buyers because they don’t rely on a down payment and mortgage system the way most buyers do. There are no legal risks to working with a cash buyer if you make sure that you get a proof of funds document from their bank before closing.

Cash buyers provide sellers a lot of ease through quick sales and lower fees than traditional home sales. Homeowners can expect to get a lower price for their home from a cash buyer, but they also don’t have to deal with a whole host of things like real estate inspections, home appraisals, and home repairs.

If you sell your home for cash, you’ll get a quick transaction that won’t require much if any negotiation.

The major difference between selling to a cash home buyer, using a FSBO listing, and selling with a real estate attorney is the amount of work that you have to do. In fact, with a cash offer there’s none of the red tape or negotiating that comes with other means of selling your house in Florida.

Real estate is a significant time investment

Choosing to go it on your own can be intimidating. A real estate agent has a way of giving many homeowners comfort through a major life change.

When you take on selling your home yourself, you’ll start asking yourself questions like these:

  • Do I have to take care of an open house today?
  • What house marketing tactics am I missing?
  • Is my listing price in line with the rest of the market in my area of Florida?
  • Did I email the professional photographer about getting professional photos of my house?
  • What time are the repair workers coming? The home appraiser? The home inspector?

When you work with someone from the National Association of Realtors in Florida, you’ll pay a flat fee in the form of commission to them for all of the work that they do in relation to the house. A realtor will install a lockbox on your house so that they can come to your home for showings even when you aren’t there.

Selling homes can take a lot of effort, and that effort can easily overwhelm even experienced FSBO sellers. Besides the paperwork mentioned previously, all of the marketing and home arrangement could mean selling the house is a full-fledged job. It’s a lot of unnecessary work that you may or may not want to take on.

Take the emotion out of the home sale in Florida

Couple getting the keys to a new home in Florida

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It can be emotional when you sell your home. This is a place that you might have lived for a long time, making memories with family and friends. Depending on your situation, it could also feel like a place that you just want to put behind you so that you can move on with your life.

One thing that real estate agents do well is to help you work through that emotion. On the other end, working with a cash buyer will help you get out of the house quickly, which can also help to blunt the emotional attachment that you have to the home.

All of the real estate professionals that you work with during this process should appreciate the emotional reality that you are living through when you sell your house. However, sometimes all of that emotion is the reason to do it yourself. Less people involved in the sale can be a good thing.

Knowing how much your home is worth on the Florida market

Whatever decision you make about selling your house without a realtor, make sure that you do your homework about the pricing on the home.

Look online for how much homes in your area of Florida have sold recently. Don’t rely on the valuations that you see on websites like Zillow, which are often inflated. Instead, look at the actual sales prices of homes.

Find the square foot average prices of comparable houses close by that can apply to your home. Also consider the unique features of your house or property in Florida, the conditions of the local market etc., as these can all influence the ideal selling price. FSBO houses tend to be cheaper when compared to other houses, as do cash home sales, so keep that in mind.

In a hot real estate market, your house may “sell itself”

If you’re living in an active housing market, which is what most of Florida is, you may not need a realtor simply because the market is so hot. In this case, it’s the buyer’s agent who will do the bulk of the talking and the buyer’s agent who will be eager to get the home secured for their client.

Home sales typically go well above asking price in a real hot market, so all of that marketing, staging, showing, and negotiation generally takes much less time. That’s not to say that you won’t have to do some work on the house, or that it’ll be a walk in the park, but you will have an easier time working with a buyer’s agent than you will in a cooler, buyer’s market.

What you decide to do with your home sale is very much a personal finance decision. You don’t want to find yourself losing money on a transaction, but sometimes getting the most money means looking outside of the traditional real estate agent model.

Brett Riggins

Brett Riggins

Founder of Connect Home Buyers Brett Riggins started his real estate journey after graduating from Western Michigan University in Construction Engineering. After completing his first few residential flips, him and his wife Arin started Connect Home Buyers LLC, and today, they help homeowners sell their property quick and hassle-free.

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