Home > Mortgages > How I Sold My House & Paid My Real Estate Agent Only $500

Comments 3 Comments

Selling a house is a major undertaking. Even if you hire a professional to help, there’s plenty you’ll need to do yourself — from making the final decision on asking price, clearing clutter to making the place look as inviting as you can. And the help you get can be costly. Agents typically charge about 6% to 7% of the home sales price as commission. A lot of people think about doing it themselves, or at least doing some of it themselves.

Back in 2013, Daniel DiGriz, CEO of marketing firm MadPipe, took the plunge. He wanted to leave Oklahoma City to relocate to New York City… but first he needed to sell his home. And he wondered if he really needed to spend 6% or 7% to get professionals to do it for him. He decided to give himself three months, then hire an agent if the house hadn’t sold.

He had worked for a real estate software company before, and he knew some of the basics, but still he was nervous about trying to do it himself. “Then I looked at the enormous cost and said, ‘I can do that,'” he recalls. And for the most part, he did. There was plenty of labor involved, and also a good bit of self-education. He did his homework, studying a book and websites.

And then he came up with a strategy. He decided it was important to get it on the Multiple Listing Service, Zillow and Trulia, and he was willing to pay for that (he paid a listing agent $500 to list it, but not to screen calls, market the home or go to closing). He also offered a discount if a buyer came without an agent. “Rather than paying 3 to 3 1/2%, I gave them half of that as a credit,” he said.

Because a lot of people do their initial house-hunting on the Internet, he suspected they could find their way to his listing on their own before hiring an agent. Here are his tips:

Spend time crafting the description. Be clear and direct, and emphasize what’s nearby. If you can walk to restaurants and nightlife, say so. If it’s in an excellent school district or next door to a park, point that out. You want it clear enough so that it will encourage potential buyers for whom it will be a good fit. Being vague can waste everyone’s time. DiGriz also created a landing page for his home, with photos and descriptions.

Do some staging. DiGriz said a trip to the dollar store for new cloth napkins and so forth can freshen things up. He says he spent perhaps $150 on staging, with a few flowers and plants. DiGriz also noted that a coat of fresh paint can go a long way toward creating the impression that the home is well cared for.

De-clutter. You should be packing to move anyway, DiGriz says. He filled plastic tubs full of items that did not actually need to be in the house and put them in a storage unit. Result: roomier closets, less clutter and no worries that something valuable might disappear when potential buyers toured the house.

Take pictures. You will need to make sure there’s plenty of light and use a wide-angle lens. (Don’t have one? You can buy a stick-on attachment for your smartphone.)

Get a pre-sale appraisal. The cost is likely to be $300 to $400, he said, and it assures buyers that the price you are asking is a fair one. It also tends to discourage lowball offers. This is different from a comparable home price analysis or broker price opinion (BPO) done by real estate agents. An appraisal involves actually going inside your home and estimating the value. While home shoppers may be somewhat influenced by the smell of freshly baked cookies, an appraiser is more likely to be impressed by a new roof.

Put yourself in the buyer’s place. Make the transaction easy and fair. DiGriz used standard real estate transaction templates for offers. He recommended a title agency whose offices were nearby, though the buyer, who paid closing costs, was free to choose.

Be home and available when you show the house. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom. DiGriz said he greeted visitors, offered refreshments and then allowed them to walk through the house, exploring on their own. He was around to answer questions, like how old the roof was or about the access door on the floor, but he did not follow them around as they looked.

Make buyers responsible for financing. He was unconcerned about pre-approvals or pre-qualifications. Buyers had to close in a timely manner or lose their earnest money. (If you’re a buyer interested in buying this way, it would be essential to do what all would-be homeowners should do: know what your credit profile looks like — which you can check for free on Credit.com — and what sort of loan you can expect to qualify for. If you are just starting this process, the place to start is by checking all three credit reports, which you can do for free, for accuracy and disputing any mistakes if need be — finding out there’s a problem late can derail a home sale.)

His eventual buyer called just four hours after the listing appeared online. They have kept in touch, with DiGriz answering questions about the location of plumbing pipes and spare keys. Most recently, he was asked about marketing and selling the house. His buyers bought the house for their daughter, then in college, to live in. It has since risen in value, and she has graduated — and they’re hoping to sell the house the same way it was sold to them.

More on Mortgages & Homebuying:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • Marc Oster

    Instead of hiring an appraiser call any local real estate company and ask for a market analysis. That will be done for free and will be more accurate then an appraisal with regard to market value and time it might take to sell. You will have to meet with an agent and possibly have to endure a listing presentation and calls from the agent afterwards. They also might give you tips on how to sell faster or what repairs to make to maximize your value and get your home ready for possible FHA loans. Also you do need to get the buyers preapproval or prequalification. It’s stupid not to. You might waste a month or more on a deadbeat buyer if you don’t. You might anyways, but its better to be careful.

  • heavyw8t

    Great information and for me personally, very timely.

  • Carl Weisman

    Great article Gerri. I hope every potential home seller reads it.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team