How to sell your house without an agent, privately, commission free, or not

selling your home privately Would you like to sell your home without an agent?

Would you like to sell your house privately and commission free?

It’s not rocket science. Anyone can sell a house without paying the high commissions that agents get. It’s going to take some work and you’re not going to save the whole commission. It costs money to make money. Agents don’t make the whole commission. We know it cost money too. Our biggest expense is the high fees we pay our brokerages, our Errors and Omissions Insurance and a sundry of other expenses which include advertising and marketing (ourselves and our listings), and real estate board fees, desk fees, fees for this, charges for that..

How would you like to save 30% of the 5% commission? How about 40%? The “For Sale by Owner” companies would have you believe you can save the entire commission, but how can you save it all when you are buying their signs and selling collateral?

To begin

First of all, I have to come clean and tell you this blog post might convince you that it is not worth your while selling your home yourself. If you really want to move, if you really want to sell fast and get through the process quickly and as painlessly for yourself and your family, if you believe that saving 1%, $3,000 on a $300,000 house isn’t worth while then selling your house yourself isn’t for you, hire an agent and get it over with. If you need to justify it to yourself further, think of it this way: the commissions are build into the selling price of a house just like they are built into the selling price of a car, a sofa or an ice-cream cone. You don’t go to Baskin Robbins and ask to scoop your own ice-cream cone to save 50 cents, do you? If you need further justification, think of it another way: if you’re selling your house, chances are you’re buying another. If you’re smart, you’re using the “free” services of an agent and it is costing you nothing on that end of that transaction. Someone has got to pay sometime and that is you when you’re the home seller.

Real estate is not like this in other countries. You may not like it and it may be flawed but this is the way that real estate is currently set up in this country.


How to sell your house without using an agent

Get the house ready to sell

The first step is about putting your home in its most saleable condition. Declutter and clean, clean, clean. Paint the walls. Painting has the greatest return on investment. Now  you are ready. You could do more and probably you should but you don’t have to. Some people are too busy and some people simple don’t want to do more and that is ok. The selling prices will reflect how much work you put into getting it ready, the time it takes to sell will too.

Get a sign

Now that your house is ready, the next step is to attract buyers. You need a sign. The sign is an identifier for your house. It won’t necessarily attract buyers (unless you are on a really busy street), but it will help buyers find your house if they are going to do a “drive by” or make an appointment to visit. Canadian Tire sells signs for $5. Get a big one and stick it on your front lawn. Put your website address on the sign.

Set up a website

This could be a Facebook page or a free website you create yourself through wix or blogger. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It has to be informative thought. Include as many details as possible about the house, Don’t be salesy. Just the facts, Numbers. Money. Sizes. The price should be front and centre. The taxes, the square footage, the room sizes, the lot size, the utilities bills, the age of the roof, windows and furnace, these are all important numbers to most buyers.


A picture is worth a thousand words. Take the time and take good pictures. If you don’t have a good camera, get a good one with a wide angle lens. Dark and unclear pictures just aren’t going to cut it.


Invite an agent over to give you a free home evaluation. You could hire an appraiser if you prefer. Since you really want your home to sell, price it lower than the market price he gives you. The buyer knows you are saving the commission. He’s going to want to negotiate with you. You might as well give him some up front. That way you can show him, “Hey look. I already priced my home cheaper that the other similar houses on the market.” You’ll be taking away his room to negotiate.

This is a good strategy for a second reason. Buyers shop in their individual price ranges. Your house will be superior to all the other houses that he’s seeing if you price it cheaper than the rest.

Attracting buyers

The MLS is the be all and end all when it comes to attracting buyers. If you’re serious about selling, pay a real estate brokerage to post your house on the MLS. This is called a mere listing or a mere posting. Failing that, you can advertise the old fashion way – word of mouth. It is the best way to advertise. That means, tell all your neighbours, your co-workers, family and friends. You never know, you may know someone who knows someone who is looking for a home just like yours.

Open houses

Place your directional Open Houses signs near the brokerages’ signs. You can piggy-back on their advertising.


A day can feel like a week when you’re selling your home. Currently homes are selling in about 40 days. Wait it out. Selling a homes is like fishing. Being a realtor is like being a fireman, waiting for the alarm to go off.

Thats it.


What to expect

You’ll get false promises from visitors that they will “think about it”, “call you back” and that sort of thing. If you’re in sales or ever dealt with a salesperson, you know that means you’ll never hear from them again. Think about it. You do it all the time when you’re out shopping too. Your visitors, they never think about it and they never call you back. When they are gone, they are gone. The universe is infinite. There are only a few bright stars scattered in the cold black void.

You get calls from real estate agents 

They will be full of promises. They will tell you that you should increase the price of your house to cover their commission. They may be right. There is no magic in real estate. Last year in Kitchener Waterloo almost 40% of homes listed for sale on the MLS simply did not sell. Agent’s don’t have all the answers either but agents don’t get paid until the house sells, so they are committed to getting it sold.


What not to do

FSBO franchises 

Do not waste money on FSBO brokerages. They get paid up front. They prey on their client’s greed. They tell you that you can save the commission. You can’t. They want money for their signs, advice and marketing material. They have a product to sell. They are not committed to you selling your home. They are committed to getting you to buy their stuff. If almost 40% of homes don’t sell though organized real estate, what percentage don’t sell after spending money on these guys? No one knows. They don’t talk about that, do they?

I’m not allowed to mention the name of these guys (nudge nudge, wink wink) as last time I did, I got a cease and desist letter from their lawyer. However, if you feel you must have the signs of a FSBO franchise on your front lawn, read and try to navigate through their individual websites and get a feel for what kind of business they are. Real estate is a business of co-operation between the buyer’s and the seller’s sides of the transaction. If you’re not co-operating with the buyer’s side then he’s going to buy somewhere else. If you are going to pay for a FSBO service use one that is actually going to help you, not hurt you.

Discount brokerages

Don’t go with a discount brokerage. Calls to their office go unanswered. They come and go like yesterday’s fashions. If you have to sell your service by offering the lowest price, you’ve already lost. You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.


How much will you save?

Let’s talk about percentages

If you price your home 1% lower than other houses on the market and when the buyer comes you negotiate hard, you may save about 3% of the value of your home. You’ll aways lose a little through negotiations whether or not you work with an agent, 3% of a $300,000 home is $9,000 not bad for a couple of months work.

You will lose time of course. It takes longer to sell a home on your own. If your house is easily replaceable, interchangeable with others in the neighbourhood, if you live in a neighbourhood that is less than ten years old, if your house is in an undesirable part of town, I wouldn’t recommend selling privately at all, unless you are prepared to give up a greater share of the a 5%.

If that’s the case, you could offer up your house at 2% off the average listing price – the asking price of similar properties in your neighbourhood and still potentially save 2% or $6,000 (you’ll lose 1% in negotiations).


Read: You won’t save $18,000 when you sell your home privately 


But wait. What about buyer’s agents?

Most people personally know two or three real estate agents, or knows someone who does. Most buyers are working with an agent. You don’t want to cut out the largest part of the market from potentially buying your home. You want to attract this market. You have to pay the cooperating brokerages the going rate, which is 2.5% in Kitchener Waterloo. But let’s say you offer 2%, you will still save 1% and that’s $3,000.

Of course, you don’t know how much you’re giving up by dealing directly with a buying agent who is a professional realtor and a real estate expert and does this everyday. The balance of power is tipped against you.


Questions and thoughts to consider

Is your house attractive to first-time homebuyers? You know they would rather deal through an agent than deal directly with you. Although you may think there is a trust issue with realtors, they trust you even less. You’re an amateur, obviously.

Cut your price. Appeal to their greed. Even if you net out with the same money you would have received by employing an agent, you will still have the satisfaction of knowing you sold it yourself and didn’t need to go through an agent. Many home sellers that sell privately say they would never do it again.

Did you buy from the builder? Have you ever bought and sold resale real estate before? You can test your limitations. Home Depot used to advertise: “You can do it. We can help”. My experience is, “I can’t do it and they didn’t help”. I hire professional tradespeople now when I need something done right.



So you see what I’ve done here. I’ve tried to show you that selling your own home is a bad idea, a fools folly and a waste of your time and money.

I don’t agree with the way real estate is set up in Canada. I too think commissions are too high. But they are because the brokerage’s cut from the agent is too great. The insurance and board fees, desk fees are too high. The cost to advertise, even place a sign on your front lawn is costly. It costs a lot of money to sell a house, but that is just the way it is.

My advice. Suck it up. Call an Realtor. We are allowed now to strip down our services and offer discounts from the regular 5%. I like to cut out all the fluff that doesn’t really lead to the house selling and pass along those savings in the form of a commission reduction. A lot of what realtors do is intended to demonstrate to our sellers that we are “earning our commission”. But really, the newspaper and magazine advertising, the postcards, the open houses and even the sign out front don’t often help sell your home. Commission is earned when the knowledge is learned and professional full time Realtors know this.


January 4 2018 Update:

  1. Hire a professional photographer. Unless you are really good, self-taken photos won’t cut it any more.
  2. The average home value in KW is now roughly $500,000 and the average commission rate is 4%.
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  1. Hi Keith,

    Great advice all around. I often think back to a situation early on in my career where a private seller just wouldn’t list their home with me, they wanted to save the commission…. 6 months later they reduced by $30,000 (while the market went up another $10,000), and it finally sold. To make matters worse, they were already under priced by $10,000 to start off (part of what the FSBO company told them to do). They lost $50,000 because they want to do it on their own. It their mind they still saved….

  2. says: Random person

    The title of this post is totally misleading. I was expecting to learn more about the contractual aspects of selling a home. All the stuff mentioned here are obvious and logical. The average person can figure these things out. But what IS a mystery are the legalities and paperwork that must be handled.

    1. says: Keith Marshall

      This post gives specific advice about how to sell your home privately. It also talks about what to expect once you have listed your home for sale.
      As for legalities, if you have a specific question I may be able to answer it, especially if it is about processes. However, as a private home seller, you will definitely need a lawyer so perhaps you can get clues about those mysteries from your lawyer.
      Finally paperwork, in Ontario realtors use standard forms. Here is a link you will find useful.

  3. says: Stephen Bajada

    For the most part I had positive experiences with Real-Estate agents in the past. I have also sold a property on my own and was lucky that it worked out great. Due to my recent bad experience with an agent which I fired and am working with Real Estate Council of Ontario to address I am looking at selling my property on my own again. Your information provided did stem on the obvious but sometimes it’s good to get that obvious 2nd opinion. Nice Article, thanks

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