04/19/2012 08:44 EDT | Updated 06/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Ask A Realtor: Do I Really Need an Agent?

Selling a home in 2012 is a big undertaking and usually accounts for one's biggest asset. Is it better for me to go with a "do-it-yourself" broker or hire an agent? Well, that depends.

"Ask a Realtor" appears Thursdays. Have a real estate question for Susanne? Please email her at, and she will publish and answer the questions of most general interest.

Q. Do I really need an agent when selling a home?

Selling a home in 2012 is a big undertaking and usually accounts for one's biggest asset. Doing it right is a challenge and in my view you need a good agent to price, market and sell your property for the best price possible to a qualified buyer who will be able to close the deal.

Talk to your agent about commission but keep in mind they have perhaps been working for you already, keeping you abreast of market conditions, sending you comparables, occasionally updating you on the value of your home.

They know the sales on your street or condominium complex, and how best to get the property ready to sell. The going rate for sales commission is five per cent for the sale of a property and that is split four ways, 2.5 per cent for the agent and their listing broker and 2.5 per cent for the selling agent and their broker.

Remember that the listing agent has associated advertising costs, including signage, ads in the local newspaper, website, feature sheets etc. They also have realty association dues, insurance and course fees. On the buy side, they may have spent several months with you looking for the "new" place. To that end, the agent is often negotiable if they are going to get the sale of your property and the purchase of another.

Is it better for me to go with a "do-it-yourself" broker and save money on the commission?

Well, that depends.

Can you market your property as well as your agent with professional photos, a virtual tour, feature sheets, etc.? Can you represent the house as objectively as your agent? Will buyers believe you or do they want a professional, knowledgeable third-party agent pricing the property and doing the negotiations?

I have only been involved in one of these transactions and the owner needed me to help them read the offer. They had no feature sheet, the property did not show well and they felt very unknowledgeable in the negotiation. Because the property showed so poorly my buyer was only prepared to offer the seller below the asking price and that is what it sold for.

I think the seller thought they were saving sales commission by going alone but they ended up with a sale price below market value!