Selling Your House

Category: Finance

Most home sellers rely on professional real estate agents to handle the legal and marketing details of selling a home. But the realtor's commission takes a big bite out of the proceeds of a home sale. With home prices already depressed, a growing number of sellers are attempting to sell it themselves. Here are some online tools to help you sell your home...

Online Tools for Home Sellers

Selling your house is a major undertaking, especially during an economic downturn. To take some of the sting out of depressed real estate values, many people are choosing the "For Sale By Owner" route, or working the Internet in tandem with an agent. Online tools for home sellers first appeared around 2000, and met with stiff resistance from real estate agents. But today, an estimated 32 per cent of homes are sold by owners without a realtor's full involvement. As the for-sale-by-owner market has grown, so has the array of online tools that can help sellers maximize their returns.

ForSaleByOwner is one of the oldest such sites. It offers home sellers several levels of selling assistance ranging from simple listings in the firm's online database to discount and full service agent services. Among the services included in the bargain listing plan are a pricing report, yard signs, printable flyers, and guidance from's customer service staff. The firm claims that its average client saves over $12,750.
Selling Your House Online offers seller services too. Its Flat Fee MLS service, priced between $199 and $499, will insert your listing into the local MLS database in your area. That's the same Multiple Listing Service database that realtors use to advertise homes to each other, enabling realtors with buyers to search for homes. Other online home-selling sites also offer flat fee MLS service, too. Prices may vary.

Craigslist has a "real estate for sale" section. Many of those listings are placed by agents, but owners often list their homes there too. While Craigslist is free, its listings are rather limited in terms of the number and format of photos you can include. Craigslist won't sell your home for you but it may make your phone ring with interested parties.

eBay also has a well-developed real estate section. Unlike other transactions on eBay, real estate "auctions" do not create a binding contract to buy or sell. As eBay explains, its "auction-style" real estate listings are simply a way for interested parties to meet one another. At the conclusion of a real estate "auction" the parties are expected to meet and hammer out a valid real estate transfer contract.

Estimating Your Home's Value

If you decide to sell on your own, there are risks. Let's say you set your selling price too low, get 100% of your asking price, and pay no realtor commissions. You might feel pretty good about that. But it's entirely possible that if a realtor helped you set a more accurate price point, you might end up with more money in your pocket, even after paying the commission.

Estimating what your home is worth is difficult and often humbling in today's market. The traditional method, and probably the soundest, is to engage a licensed real estate appraiser for a fee of around $500. An appraiser will look at recent sales of comparable properties in your area; add value for features you have that comparable homes don't; and subtract value for features you lack. The result, theoretically, is a fair market price. It's very much a hands-on process; the appraiser actually comes and looks at your home.

Online market-value estimators are seldom so precise. Zillow is probably the best-known online home price estimator, and the most reviled by realtors and home sellers alike. Zillow does not reveal exactly how it estimates home prices, and many of its results seem wildly out of touch with market realities. But it does have some interesting features. Zillow can tell you the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a home, the square footage, lot size, and the current mortgage payments. You can also use it to find out which homes in a neighborhood are currently for sale, price reduced, recently sold or foreclosures.

Eppraisal uses a different method of calculating house values, and shows you their figure alongside Zillow's estimate. In my case, the Eppraisal number was VERY close to the value that I got from a professional appraiser, while Zillow came in at 20 percent less. I also liked the "Recently Sold Homes" feature, which shows those figures in a list or map view.

Do you know of a great online resource for home sellers? Post your comment or question below...

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