Editor's note: In this three-part series, Inman News uncovered the different real estate business models through the eyes of consumers. We sought out their experiences with full-service versus flat-fee discount brokerages and for-sale-by-owner to see how they stacked up. (See Part 2: Home sellers test alternative realty shops and Part 3: Traditional home sale hinges on good agent.) Real estate is often described as an inherently local affair, and Ray and Beth Merrell took this adage to the extreme when they sold their home last year through neighborhood contacts. "We didn't go to the MLS, we didn't even go to the newspaper – we sold it word-of-mouth," Merrell said. The couple was moving from their longtime residence in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill., to a custom-built hom...
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