Selling on Your Own? Words to the Wise

In the current fast-moving seller’s market, many homeowners believe they can sell their home on their own and save on Realtor® commissions. You no doubt would agree that saving $18,000 – $20,000 on your sale would feel very nice, indeed. But be careful — not everyone can negotiate like a professional. One key factor that sellers do not consider is that your Realtor® is there to guide you and to look out for your interests. It is easy to make a verbal mistake that discloses how eager you are to move (read, willing to reduce your price), or that repairs might be necessary (say, if your water or electric bill is much higher than most in the area, indicating a water leak or aging mechanical system).

True story: A seller in a popular and very attractive private community was selling her home on her own. When the buyers noticed many cars on the street, they asked if there was difficulty parking in the neighborhood. The seller answered in a way she felt was honest: “Yes, and that homeowners’ association is doing NOTHING to remedy the problem! I have called them, and they don’t return my calls.” The buyers, who had three cars, immediately thanked her for her time and left. They were soured not only on her home, but on the entire community, and chose to look elsewhere. Had the seller been prepared to answer the question without expressing her opinion, and had not disparaged the HOA, the buyers may have made a different decision.

As nice as they might be, a buyer’s agent does not represent your interests! A seemingly innocuous statement about how eager you are to move near family, or how you wish you had upgraded the padding under the carpet, or how the lanai gets so dirty you must sweep daily might trigger a negative reaction for the buyer. Rather than disclosing your position before you would like to, and leaving money on the table, it’s best not to have discussions with the other party. Deals have fallen apart because the parties did not agree politically, or religiously, or they didn’t like the other person’s style. Sellers must assume that anything they say directly to the buyer’s agent is going to be repeated to the buyers, which is why your Realtor® will recommend that you not be there during showings.

Discussions between Realtors® may be more candid and detailed than those between the sellers and buyers. We know how to present your home in a more objective way, and the words to avoid in conversation and yet maintain the ethics guidelines of the National Association of Realtors.

So, if you’re thinking of selling, yes, declutter and de-personalize so that buyers can envision themselves in the home. Yes, clean, and clean some more. Yes, make your home available via a lock box, so that you do not need to be home when buyers arrive with their agent. And yes, listen to your Realtor®’s guidance when it comes to showing your home. After all, it is probably the biggest investment you have ever made, and you want to get top dollar when you sell.

Valerie LaBoy is a Realtor® with EXIT Compass Realty. She represents home sellers throughout Sarasota and Charlotte Counties. She can be reached at or 941-564-5020.