The internet changed the marketing and advertising world forever for many industries and professions. For the most part, it’s been great for the consumer, as there is a massive amount of information available to those searching for a home to buy. Where is the best online destination for home searches? There are two answers depending on the home seller and the ownership situation.
The Real Estate Mega-Site
This would be sites like Zillow.com and Realtor.com. They are major sites with huge traffic numbers. As research for this article, Denver, Colorado, was the search area and these were the numbers for all homes listed for sale at the time:
• Zillow.com – 1,764 homes for sale
• Realtor.com – 2,310 homes for sale
Realtor.com advertises that it displays 99% of all homes listed on local MLS, Multiple Listing Service, websites due to the site’s tie to the National Association of Realtors and agreements for listings. Zillow.com does not get these listings automatically, though any real estate agent can also list their home on Zillow.
Zillow has FSBO, For Sale By Owner, listings not available on Realtor.com. Zillow also has site bells & whistles that make it a good resource for other neighborhood information, such as schools and local statistics and data. Both of these sites offer advertising to real estate agents to get their listings featured and their own brokerage or personal services advertised. In particular, you will often see an agent’s ad next to a listing, and that is the listing agent. Working with the agent who represents the seller is often not the best approach for a buyer wanting aggressive representation and negotiation.
Local Realtor IDX Website
Local real estate websites who are members of the local MLS IDX group have agreed to share all of their listings for display on any member’s website. So, if you find a local website with the IDX disclaimer at the bottom of the page, you’re searching all IDX member listings in that MLS. You can find one of these sites simply by adding “IDX” to your “local town real estate” search in Google.
The advantage here is that you’re not bombarded with advertising paid for by agents promoting their listing or services. Sure, if you use an IDX site of a local brokerage/agent, they will have their own advertising on the page, but it will be just theirs, not others. The listings are updated regularly through the MLS database, definitely daily and often hourly. You’re seeing the current listing status, not seeing listings that have sold or been removed from the market, as you do sometimes on Zillow.
The biggest advantage for the buyer who wants to stay informed, often even before local agents, is to ask the website brokerage or agent to set up an automated search alert. They often offer this on their search page. You will have to give up your name and email address, but the trade-off is often acceptable. You get automated emails with new listings as they come on the market and price changes when sellers reduce their price.
Combine the Two Approaches
Use Zillow for FSBO listings and a local IDX site search for MLS listings to get the best of both worlds. Use the alerts service for “up to the minute” market changes.
Should You Sell Your Home Without Listing with a Real Estate Agent?
There is no answer to the title question that fits every home seller. There are some questions to ask yourself before making the decision though. It’s a project, and the financial impact is significant, so it is worth the time to go through this exercise.
Do you have the time to do it right?
There are a number of tasks to get your home properly represented on a real estate listing site.
• a thorough home cleaning and lawn manicure
• taking and editing of photos to make the home look its best
• doing a video to walk a prospective buyer through an online walkthrough
• developing a strong selling text presentation
• listing on the various sites
• taking email and phone requests for information and answering questions
• showing your home
• dealing with offers and counteroffers
• coordinating the sale transaction with a title company
• dealing with home inspectors and other inspection scheduling
You may be able to hire some of this out instead of using a real estate professional and paying their commission, but you’ll do some or much of this yourself.
Do you have the knowledge and skills to do those tasks?
If you aren’t sure or know that you fall short in some areas, add in the time to learn what to do. Also, are you willing to accept the consequences of a mistake? You can get some help for some of this from the title company, but there are some important actions that must be handled legally and appropriately.
Can you properly determine the value of your home for the listing price?
Do you understand your market area and the consequences of under or overpricing your home in the current market? When you hear someone bragging about selling their home for full price in a few days, what does this mean? Sure, it must mean that it’s a healthy sellers’ market, but it also can mean that they had it underpriced for the current market and left money on the table.
You may hear someone else complaining that their home has been sitting unsold for a long period of time. This can mean that it’s overpriced. This can just be sentimental overvaluation, or it can be an unrealistic idea of the features of the home and what buyers want. The longer a home stays on the market (DOM, Days On Market), the lower the first offer is likely to be. Buyers look at the time on the market and they adjust their offers accordingly.
Can you show it well and negotiate without “giving away the farm?”
Think about what you do when you want to sell an old lawn mower or some other personal property item. Do you haggle a little or do you just take the first offer that gets it out of your hair? Sure, a home is different, but think about your personal attitude about negotiating and be honest with yourself.
Is there any value in a sales force of hundreds or thousands?
This is about the MLS, Multiple Listing Service, that real estate brokers use to market their listings. Recent surveys report that more than 80% of all homes sold through a real estate brokerage and the MLS, and this number has held steady for years.
The MLS is a cooperative marketing platform that allows all of the member brokerages to show and bring buyers for homes listed by other brokerage members. Brokers even attend “caravans” that go around to new listings so agents can see them soon after they’re listed and see if they are right for buyers they are working with. By listing, you take on a salesforce of all of the agents of all of the member brokerages.
It’s your home and your decision. There are successful “sold it myself” situations out there, and it’s somewhere under that 20% of homes that did not sell through an MLS listing. You can’t be sure that an experienced real estate professional will get you more money for your home or sell it faster, but at least now you have the answers to the questions to help you in making your decision.