Many home sellers will want to weigh their options—sell by owner? Or, use a Realtor? But, they need questions answered before they can decide. The following Q and A should resolve most of them.

Yes. There are no legal requirements to use a Realtor.  But if you’re NOT using one you will definitely need help with your Contract and some of the legal fine print. Too many times we have seen a client commit to something, sign the documents and then realize afterwards they undervalued their home then, when they try to get out of the contract they can’t. So, you should definitely seek legal advice when it comes to this.  We also recommend that you hire an appraiser to find out what your home’s worth.  For $300 to $400 you can get a legal, documented value of your home. For the record, don’t rely on Zillow and Trulia for an accurate home valuation. Our studies show they are 10% under or overvalued over 85 percent of the time.

A survey by the National Board of Realtors in 1995 found that about 30% of all home sales are “by owner.” Sellers must weigh the savings in commissions against their own willingness to do the work.  It also depends on the type of market you’re in.  If it’s a Sellers market, then you’re more likely to be able to do this yourself with the help of a lawyer and an appraiser. We also highly recommend hiring a Stager to make sure your home shows correctly. This service runs between $300 to $1000 depending on the size of your home, as well as which part of Florida you’re in. 

Florida law does not REQUIRE one side or the other to pay for any particular expense. EVERYTHING is negotiable. Put whatever you want in a contract; just be mindful that the other side will need to agree.

In most of Florida (except in Miami Dade, Broward, Sarasota and Collier Counties where buyers pay the Title Insurance) sellers customarily pay the title insurance for the new Buyer. It’s generally .0039 x sales price on homes owned less than 3 years and .0055 x sales price otherwise. Sellers also pay documentary stamp taxes on the deed—.007 x the sales price, plus title search and closing fees that total around $500-$750.

Again, anything is negotiable. But it is usually not worth the risk of losing a potential sale. Keep your expectations in check and hire an appraiser to find the true value of your home. Then, negotiate from strength and keep in mind the kind of market we are in.  If it’s a buyers market the seller will not have a lot of flexibility. If it’s a sellers market, you can get a way with a lot more.

The transaction will ALWAYS require a separate, professional escrow agent / title agent / settlement agent to hold deposits, conduct title searches, issue title insurance for the buyer (and usually for buyer’s lender as well), collect all the documents and all the buyer’s money, and finally “disburse” the transaction.

Typically, the party that pays for the owner’s title insurance picks the title agent; although, that is not required by law. Either party can negotiate something different if they want to.  In most of Florida, the Seller traditionally pays for the Title policy and picks the title company.  In Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier and Sarasota Counties the buyer picks the Title Company.

Purchase an appraisal from a licensed appraiser, though this can be costly. Or, have a competitive Market Analysis (CMA) done. One way is to invite a Realtor to give you a presentation. He or she, in the hopes of signing you as a client, will most likely include a CMA as part of the presentation. You will want to be sure the competing properties they list relate as well to your home as possible. Also, look at three indices: price per square foot, total sales price in relation to the market and average time to sell.

Depends on how soon you need to sell. The keys to selling a home in a reasonable amount of time are pricing it right and getting the word out about the sale.  Also, services now exist to help you list your home on MLS—without a Realtor. This should get you the exposure you want.  If you have listed your home for the right price and marketed it right and it’s been 120 days and it hasn’t sold, you’re doing something wrong. If you are not getting showings on your home, your pricing and/or marketing is wrong.  If you are getting showings but no offers, your home may need help aesthetically or it’s priced too high.

Yes. If they bring a qualified buyer with a letter of approval from a financial institution, pay them. Their commission should not exceed 3% and can often be negotiated lower.

Reputable lenders will supply their customers with letters of approval indicating a dollar amount the customer is approved for. If in doubt, ask permission to call the buyer’s lender and ask if they have approved the buyer. You have a right to know these things before you enter into a contract.  Even if it’s a cash sale, ask for a letter from their bank or a bank statement proving they have the funds.  DO NOT make the mistake of thinking it’s too personal to ask for these items. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting time on a buyer that really doesn’t qualify.

Once again, all things are negotiable. Generally, fix things that can be a health threat or potential danger to the property.  Anything that would prevent someone from living in the home—Roof, AC, Plumbing, Electrical, etc.—are all basic items that need to be in good working order.  If someone doesn’t like the color of a wall, they can fix it after the purchase. Once again though, everything is negotiable.  Keep all receipts.

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