Do You Really Need a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your House? 6 Times When You Don't

It all depends on who you are, what you know, what you're selling, and who you're selling to.

Most conventional home-selling advice starts and ends with getting a great real estate agent. They not only help you sell your property, but they can also help you get the best possible price for it. Yet, most real estate agents earn their commissions from the seller’s side, with most commissions at four to six percent of the home's sale price. So hiring an agent can shave off thousands of dollars from your potential profit. That alone could be a reason to go at it on your own.

A plastic house, set of keys and money on a white background
turk_stock_photographer/Getty Images

While this may contradict the standard home-selling best practices you've heard, many seasoned investors say there are a variety of instances where a real estate agent isn’t really necessary to sell your home. Surprisingly, even some agents themselves waive off certain kinds of transactions if it makes more sense for the seller to do it themselves. However, these specific scenarios will depend on who you are, who you're trying to sell to, and, of course, the home you're selling.

While you're not legally required to hire a real estate agent to sell your home, some states do require that a real estate agent handle the paperwork for the closing of the sale. Check the legal requirements in your state once you're ready to sell. Then, once you know that a "for sale by owner" (FSBO) is legal, consider if it's practical. We talked with Texas realtor Eric Hegwer to learn about seven situations when a property owner might be better off selling without an agent.

A transfer between family members

In some cases, you may not be selling your home as much as you are passing it on to a loved one. While there are still plenty of i's to dot and t's to cross in the process, you probably don't need to call in an agent. “If the [seller] doesn’t need the house to be put on the market and only wants to change the name on the title, I simply refer them to my favorite title company that can do this quickly, efficiently, and for not that much money,” says Hegwer, an Austin-based realtor who has been selling houses for over 10 years.

A transaction between experienced investors

When two experienced investors come together for the selling and purchasing of a home, there’s not much need for an agent or a broker, Hegwer says. Since there is little value in adding another person to that transaction, it's best to save the commission for a rainy day and tackle the sale as directly as possible. If one party wants some advice, they might be able to do a low-cost or free consultation with a licensed agent, Hegwer adds, but it's probably not necessary to hire someone for the entire transaction.

If you're a lawyer

Lawyers may have an upper hand when trying to sell property on their own. Of course, those who are new to the market or to the profession, might want outside advice. But, similarly to investors, lawyers can often handle all the fine print by themselves. So, it's worth considering if an agent will truly add value or if you feel equipped for the job on your own.

If you're a home influencer

Content creators with a large following in the home and DIY space have already built up marketing buzz about their fixes and flips, so they might not need outside help to sell a home that they’ve been sharing on their socials. Hegwer has several friends who have a large social media following because they write about fixing up and decorating their homes. “They have tens of thousands of followers—or more—and a website or Instagram feed full of amazing photos of their house,” he notes. “They can usually successfully ‘for sale by owner’ their house, and they have gotten surprisingly high amounts in the process.” In these cases, Instagram and Pinterest can act as free marketing for a home even before it's on the market.

If you get a cash offer

There’s been a lot of talk about cash buyers lately because they’ve been popping up everywhere. Cash buyers are dream clients for sellers and the name says it all. If the homeowner wants to, they can accept the offer—without an agent—and keep a larger chunk of the proceeds for themselves. Many cash offers are lower than a financed offer, so there’s a trade-off between speed of closing and take-home profit. Some homeowners make up the difference by cutting out the agent and, so long as they have someone read over the contract fully, this can work out well.

When privacy is a concern

One of the lesser-known reasons not to use an agent is when privacy is the concern. If you want to sell your house but don't want publicity surrounding it, you may opt not to appoint a real estate agent. To gain clients, agents have to let other people know that you are selling the house. If you’re not comfortable with all your neighbors and strangers on the internet seeing photos of your home, along with its prospective value, then you’ll need to find an exclusive brokerage with a private client list to suit your needs. Or, you could use old-fashioned word of mouth to contact people who would be willing to be discrete.

Whether you need to sell quickly or have the time to search for the right buyer in your network, sellers have lots of good reasons to cut out the agent. This can take many different forms: for sale by owner, negotiating with a cash buying company, transferring the deed to a family member or friend, and selling to an iBuyer. No matter the method, you should still get professional assistance where necessary—use title companies, inspectors, and (if your state requires it) lawyers to make sure that the transaction is lawful and that you’re still protected in case anything goes awry.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles