Columns share an author's personal perspective.
Reader Question: We are going to downsize and buy a smaller home. We are considering three options: engaging a single agent, hiring a team of agents or selling on our own. We have kept our home up well, and houses in our neighborhood seem to sell quickly, which is why we are considering selling on our own. On the other hand, we have an agent we are acquainted with who works independently and appears to do very well. An agent we met recently has a team of agents who sells many homes in the area. Do you have an opinion as to which approach works best?
Monty's Answer: The answer depends on several variables. I could not recommend one approach over another with the information you provided: the property's condition, neighborhood desirability, the price and the activity in the neighborhood itself. My inclination is that many homes sell themselves. Here are my thoughts on each of the three choices you are considering, in no particular order.
1. Single agent. This option can work well. Ask both prospective agents (and yourself) if taking open houses works. In most cases, open houses are the most convenient and nonthreatening choice of home buyers. If an agent is sour on open houses, my suspicion has always been they have a cottage. Here is a list of questions (and answers to look for) on the DearMonty website when interviewing real estate agents.
2. Team of agents. I have interacted with agents that are part of a team. My sense of how they operate is that the team leader is an energetic, articulate, and personable individual who is very likable. Most of us do business with people we like and trust. I sense the seller loses the connection with the leader to other team members. The leader emphasizes that the team sells many homes a year, but when there is a five- or six-person support staff splitting the fees, the production per agent is not so spectacular.
3. Sell on your own. Anecdotally, more homeowners are selling on their own than in the past. The reasons for this are a prior unsatisfactory experience, they believe it is not difficult and they can save a considerable amount of money. Additionally, many homebuyers today are doing the legwork of identifying the home they like online and calling whoever has the sign in the yard. Houses in a desirable neighborhood, priced correctly and clean as a whistle, are not hard to sell. The other factor is your willingness to put in the time to do it right. That said, some for-sale-by-owners are not successful for a variety of reasons.
Regardless of which option you choose, the best way to ensure success is to invest effort. Unfortunately, many home sellers take a risk only to talk with one agent. Even if you sell on your own, you will likely have to invest time and money and require additional outside services to present your home in its best light. I suspect that is why the National Association of Realtors research (http://bit.ly/38zBZsM) has found that for-sale-by-owners sell for less than represented sales.
Richard Montgomery is the author of "House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home." He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty, or at DearMonty.com.