The value of a real estate agent is constantly discussed – especially in select neighborhoods where prices seem to be going up every day. While consumers constantly seem to complain about commissions – even reduced – those persons attempting to sell their home by themselves overwhelming say they would seek professional help the next time.

While I’ve not agreed with some of the practices demonstrated by real estate salespersons and even some members of the National Association of Realtors (not every salesperson is a Realtor), I believe the basic service they offer often saves, rather than costs, the average homeowner money. The big money picture is rarely viewed from the end of the transaction. Instead, the home-sale deal often begins with, “Well, I have to pay the Realtor 6 percent off the top…”

Reasons vary why 80 percent of all people who attempt to sell their home without a professional agent would never do so again. Two good examples surfaced in the past month, yet few people will probably spend time thinking about these examples and other criteria before placing a for-sale sign in the yard.

The first situation had everything to do with personality and very little with product. A very edgy, elderly man absolutely had his mind made up that he was going to avoid paying a real estate commission at all costs. It ended up costing him dearly because his home was his only real, yet considerable, asset and he couldn’t get along with anyone who wanted to buy it.

Remember, most of the time, buyers want to pay as little as possible for your home. They will highlight only the negatives when arriving at their offered price. Some complaints may be true, but a seller cannot afford to constantly be upset especially if the anger constantly agitates the buyer. Sooner, rather than later, the potential buyer will simply walk away from the deal and look for another home. Why hang in there and tussle an angry seller if there is an easier buy down the street or in the same neighborhood?

It turned out that the man, Richard, actually netted thousands less without an agent. That’s because an agent would not have taken the nitpicking personally, knowing that it came with the territory. Genuine glitches are common, yet the pride factory can be significantly curtailed, and often eliminated, by letting the agent play the target for negative exchanges. Richard, who had completed most of a major remodel to his own tastes and needs, was astounded when potential buyers even considered turning his workshop into an additional bedroom.

But the deal breaker, as it usually is with a for-sale-by-owner home, was asking price. Richard was absolutely convinced that his custom remodel had added to the value of the home. The extensive work actually moved the house out of the norm for the neighborhood. In addition, friends a few blocks over in a more desirable neighborhood had sold their flawless home for a huge gain, influencing Richard’s price. When Richard had set his price at an unrealistic level, it eliminated a large group of buyers who could not afford the anticipated payments that come with a fatter mortgage.

The second example involved five children attempting to sell a vacant lot held in the estate of their father. In a capsule, they did not know if the lot was “buildable” and ended up in a lawsuit when they could not deliver. A professional agent probably would have done the research and saved both sides a lot of money and anxiety.

For decades, health authorities have approved subdivisions based on standards deemed reasonable at the time. Those standards include adequate water supplies, height restrictions and house “footprints.” Many lots in those subdivisions have been sold and resold in good faith as legal building sites.

Now some state health authorities have ruled that numerous developments, under newly adopted criteria, are at maximum water and sewer capacity even while some lots remain vacant. Many of the affected water systems have never experienced shortages. Without water service, vacant lots could be rendered unbuildable and their market value could disappear.

In this case, the kids did little, if any, research. None of them checked with local districts to see if the lot was buildable or if any structure could be remodeled. A thorough investigation would have clarified any view corridors, height limitations and setbacks.

Most of the time, a good real estate agent is going to be worth every cent of the agreed-upon commission for the average home seller. A hot market doesn’t usually change that.

Tom Kelly‘s new book “The New Reverse Mortgage Formula” (John Wiley & Sons, New York) is available in local bookstores and libraries. Tom can be reached at


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