The Flaw With Selling Your House on the Cheap

 In Buying / Selling Resources, Real Estate Market News

Ever wanted to sell your house but didn’t want to pay a real estate commission?


Ever longed to see your home on the Multiple Listing Service — a starting point for about 90% of Canadian real estate sales — but didn’t want an agent’s help?


Soon, you’ll likely be able to do just that. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has reached a tentative agreement with the federal Competition Bureau to allow sellers to hire an agent for one part of the process only — the MLS listing. It’ll likely cost you a few hundred dollars instead of thousands.


You’d have to do the rest of the work yourself — stuff like setting the price, organizing appointments for potential buyers, running open houses and getting the deal closed. But it’s your house. Who knows it better than you do?


It’s certainly tempting to do it yourself when the average house price in Canada is $350,000 ($427,000 in Toronto) and the usual 5% real estate commission tops $17,000.


Instead, if CREA members approve on Oct. 24, you could pay an agent a flat fee to put your listing on MLS and then say goodbye. Most potential buyers today find properties by going straight to on the Internet.


But you might want to rethink DIY. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  To rework an old saying, a homeowner who acts as his own agent has a fool for a client.


My husband and I have bought many houses in the last 35 years and one thing we’ve learned — a good agent is worth his/her weight in gold. In the search for a new house this year, we’ve run into do-it-yourselfers a few times. One aging couple put the sign on the lawn — but then didn’t want to talk details like the asking price and wouldn’t arrange timely showings. A few weeks went by and a new sign went
up: Royal Lepage.


Another elderly couple held open houses every weekend for months. It was a nice bungalow but without an agent, they had no one to tell them how to fluff it for potential buyers — tear out that neon turquoise carpet for instance — or to suggest a more realistic price. They gave up.


Hints on preparation


A good agent has the patience of a saint, extensive market knowledge and a willingness to work all hours to get your house sold. He’ll show clients dozens of houses to find the right one. He’ll give you hints on preparing your house and provide potential buyers with lots of information. Our agent has taken us through so many houses, I lost count months ago.


Bad agents, on the other hand, will treat you as if they’re doing you a favour just looking at your pathetic little hovel. One we met told us he charges a whopping 5 1/2% “because I’m worth it.” We didn’t list with him.


In Toronto — the land of three-day sales and multiple offers — it’s easy to think your agent isn’t earning his commission. But almost anywhere else in Ontario, where the market is slow this year and hard times have discouraged buyers, agents have worked hard for every sale.


So I think the good ones can rest easy — flat rate MLS listings are unlikely to hurt them. Bad agents? Maybe they’d better start thinking about other careers.



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