When it comes time to sell, homeowners have a lot to consider, including the inevitable question, “Do you need a real estate agent?” Of course, navigating New York City’s unique housing market is no easy task. However, having already purchased at least one home, some sellers believe they have the know-how to get the job done. Meanwhile, others prefer the value a broker brings. But which approach is best for you? Let’s break down the benefits of both.

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    Do You Need a Real Estate Agent? The Pros

    Do you need a real estate agent? NYC’s housing market is complex and ever-changing. Not having a deep understanding of it is a big reason for hiring one.

    Determining fair market value

    An agent’s most significant value is their knowledge about the market, said Jeanne Byers, a principal agent at Case & Byers of Warburg Realty in Manhattan. “It’s a broker’s full-time job to know current and historical market values. Also, the ability to prepare a property to get the highest possible price is something to look for in an agent or team.” 

    Understanding market conditions and evaluating comparable properties is critical to pricing. There’s a price-per-square-foot metric that NYC brokers understand. Additionally, they will factor monthly carrying costs into the list price. You don’t want to price too low and lose money, of course. But good agents don’t like to price anything higher than comps and market analysis show because a well-priced home creates urgency — and buyers react to that dynamic. 

    Qualifying buyers 

    It takes more than just money to close most deals. Take the complexities of co-ops, for example.

    “Making sure a buyer meets the financial criteria of the co-op board will determine whether a deal gets done,” said George Case of Case & Byers of Warburg Realty. 

    “Buildings vary widely in what they look for in a prospective buyer,” Case said. “Considerations like an individual’s debt-to-income ratio and post-closing liquidity often come into play. Also, co-op boards may reject a deal if a sale price could negatively affect the value of other apartments in the building.”

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    Negotiating terms of a deal

    Price may seem like the most significant negotiation point in a home sale, but other factors are just as critical. Agents can manage expectations for buyers and sellers, as well as other terms of a deal, including:

    • Property exclusions
    • Property disclosures and other state forms
    • Home inspections
    • Closing date

    Safeguarding the transaction from purchase offer to closing 

    Do you need a real estate agent if you’re selling a co-op or condo? Co-op board approval can be a drawn-out process, and other issues can crop up that require skillful follow-up. Good agents know how to get answers and minimize the stress of a transaction. While you won’t need approval from a board when purchasing in a condo, they have their fair share of headaches, too. New-construction condos, for instance, can become tricky when delivery dates change on the fly.

    Match with a StreetEasy Expert

    Want to be matched with a customized selection of listing agents who are ideally suited to selling your particular home? Try StreetEasy’s Expert Match tool. We’ll provide you with a carefully curated selection of high-performing, highly regarded listing agents who have verified deal histories with homes just like yours and who are part of our StreetEasy Experts program. On average, top Experts sell homes 1+ month faster than the market, at a sale-to-list price ratio that is around 10% better than the market.*

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    The Pros and Cons of for Sale by Owner 

    Do you need a real estate agent? It’s rare for NYC homeowners to forego using a broker. A recent search of all StreetEasy sales listings showed that out of the more than 17,000 listings across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, just 10 were for sale by owner (or FSBO). But it can be done. 

    Ryan D. Harbage, a literary agent and founder of the Fischer-Harbage Agency, listed his remodeled Stuyvesant Heights 2-family townhouse for $1.8 million without an agent. He is an exception among NYC sellers because he closely follows the market. “Pricing and comps aren’t a mystery to me,” he said.

    Harbage said he prefers to deal directly with principals in a real estate transaction. “I like to hear their voices, see their faces, and convey information the way I like it conveyed. There are many good reasons for hiring a real estate agent. It’s just a service I don’t need.”

    If you also don’t need a real estate agent, you can use StreetEasy’s sell your home page to get started. StreetEasy can estimate your home’s value and provide valuable market data. Additionally, you can list your own home on StreetEasy through its FSBO and FSBO+ programs.

    FSBO Pro: No Commission Costs

    Buying and selling a home is the largest financial transaction most people ever undertake. Hence, it’s natural to wrestle with the math — especially when sellers face paying a 6% industry-standard commission to brokers in New York City. A million-dollar sale racks up a $60K fee! However, FSBO pricing requires a keen understanding of the market to get top dollar and close the deal.

    FSBO Con: Inexperience Can Lead to Bad Pricing

    However, FSBO pricing requires a keen understanding of the market to get top dollar and close the deal. And in many cases, that keen understanding is what allows real estate agents to price homes effectively.

    “People think, ‘If I don’t have a broker, I don’t have to pay a commission.’ True, but an agent will often get a seller a higher offer,” said Linda Maryanov of Zimmerman and Maryanov, a real estate attorney with more than 35 years of experience representing New York City home sellers. 

    Brokers spend hours every week producing real estate comps for their properties so that they can determine the right price for a listing. Henry Hershkowitz, a broker with Compass, explained that brokers have much more information about the market than people outside the industry. They can access sales that have not yet been finalized, whereas the average FSBO seller can only see public, closed sales. Many sales aren’t officially closed until a few months after the signing, meaning you won’t know up-to-date selling prices.

    “The market — especially in today’s market — was very different six months ago than it is today. Even if something closed yesterday, it probably got signed four or five months ago,” says Hershkowitz. “So by having a broker, you’re actually able to know what’s happening now, what things are selling for today.”

    FSBO Con: Emotions Can Get the Best of You

    As the owner, you’re bound to have your own opinions, memories, and sentiments about your home. While that’s usually great, it isn’t always great when you’re representing your own sale. Not only can your emotions cloud your judgment on pricing, but it can also make it harder to show to prospective buyers.

    Josue Galdos, a salesperson with Compass, has noticed that buyers are less likely to ask questions and nitpick apartments when the sellers are showing them. They often feel like they’re trespassing or judging the seller’s personal choices.

    “As opposed to if it’s just the seller’s broker and us, they know that they can speak freely, and they can open the windows and closets without thinking about how they’re in someone else’s apartment,” he said.

    Hershkowitz agreed, noting that hearing sellers’ qualms about the home can make the transaction feel personal rather than professional.

    “You’re going to be emotional about it no matter what. It’s your biggest asset. You created this home,” he said. “If somebody offers you a small number, or if they don’t like it, or say something negative about it, you’re going to be emotional in your response instead of measured like a professional real estate broker would be.”

    FSBO Con: Selling Your Own Home Takes a Lot of Time

    There’s a reason why being a real estate broker is a full-time job. It takes a lot of time to sell a home, between staging, taking photos, writing the listing description, listing online, marketing, showing to buyers, running open houses, and much more.

    “A lot of people think it’s just opening a door, just showing an apartment,” Galdos said. “But it’s more than that.”

    If you have a full-time job, coordinating tours, calls, and negotiations can be challenging. Plus, brokers have connections to other real estate professionals who can help with the heavy lifting, like photographers. Hershkowitz always pays for the photographer himself. In his eyes, 6% commission — split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents — is very reasonable.

    Additional Real Estate Professionals to Consider

    In addition to hiring a real estate agent, sellers will need a real estate lawyer to execute a contract to sell their property. Sellers can also benefit from a professional stager to help declutter or rearrange the furniture. In vacant properties, stagers can add value by decorating to attract the attention of buyers. Professional cleaning services go a long way toward impressing prospective buyers. No matter how clean you think you keep your home, a pro will likely do a much better job. For FSBOs who won’t get the benefit of professional photographers or videographers that come with a real estate broker listing, a good home photographer is also crucial to attracting interest online.

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    *SOURCE: StreetEasy (2012-2022). Market defined as borough, unit type, price point, and share of listings by year.