The internet has given us access to a vast body of knowledge regarding all kinds of DIY projects and tutorials for complicated processes formerly left to professionals. Not every process is best accomplished without a professional, however, and selling your home is in this category. When it comes to the complicated and often lengthy task of navigating the real estate world, having a real estate agent can make all the difference in selling your home fast and getting the best price.

What does an agent actually do?

In a seller’s market, it can seem like selling your home should be easy. You list your house, plenty of buyers take a look, and you accept an offer. But even in an area where many buyers are looking for homes, it’s easy to overlook a lot of little details, which can cost you more money and time than you may realize. A real estate agent will use their professional training, experience, and personal network to provide you with information about the market in your neighborhood and for your home in particular. While it’s useful to have a foundational understanding of real estate basics, a licensed agent can provide specifics that you wouldn’t be able to find on your own. Knowing those specifics means that a real estate agent can foresee the true cost of selling your home, including closing costs and other often overlooked expenses.

They understand the legal process.

Selling your home involves quite a stack of paperwork, even in the least complicated scenarios. When you’ve already skimmed dozens of pages and signed your name dozens of times, it’s almost impossible to maintain the kind of attention to detail that a FSBO deal requires. A real estate agent can maintain that attention to detail because of their experience with home buying contracts. Small, subtle differences in wording or amounts of money that may seem negligible can have much larger implications down the road, and a real estate agent’s familiarity with these documents makes it much easier for them to catch these important details before they become a problem. A real estate agent will also have more than a passing familiarity with local regulations for home sales, which can prevent major headaches for both buyers and sellers if a contract falls through.

They place expertise on your side.

Real estate agents are fiduciaries, which means they’re required to place your financial interests ahead of their own. As a result, you get a professional with industry expertise who is truly on your side.

They provide professional marketing services.

Agents use tools like professional photos, virtual tours, printables, and advertising to market homes. Even before the marketing process begins, however your agent spends time and resources assembling a comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA is a kind of super description of your home, based not only on the size and layout but also on the neighborhood and values of nearby houses. Creating a CMA is a time-consuming process, but it gives your real estate agent the best idea of your home’s top value in the current market.

They enhance your home’s visibility.

Once a CMA has been compiled, your home can be listed on a private database known as a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Real estate agents and brokers pay fees for a membership to an MLS, and it connects agents and brokers with one another directly, so they can expedite the process of finding sellers and buyers in a more comprehensive way than public sites like Zillow or Redfin. Multiple Listing Services are more likely to be recently updated with accurate information about a property and often include private contact information so potential buyers can get in contact with the homeowner’s agent more quickly and securely than via a public listing site. Multiple Listing Service sites amplify a home’s visibility to the people who matter: other agents and brokers representing serious potential buyers.

What does it cost to hire a real estate agent?

The cost of a real estate agent’s services can vary considerably, so it’s important to understand what you’re paying for. Agents often charge between four and seven percent of the home sale price in commission, but technological advances have allowed other models to emerge. A flat-fee broker can be an inexpensive option, but often, these provide little more than an MLS listing. You’ll be left doing much of the legwork yourself, and you won’t have access the expertise and support an agent provides.

A hybrid option, which provides many traditional agent services while using technology to control sellers’ costs, can provide the best of both worlds. Such services can provide help with marketing, communicating with interested buyers, arranging inspections and appraisals, assembling your signing package, and more. Depending on the value of your home, you might pay as little as 1% of the sales price for this type of service.

When you’ve committed to selling your home, it can feel like the FSBO route is simpler or faster, but there is no substitute for the knowledge and expertise of an experienced real estate agent. Many home sellers fail to account for closing costs, the power of networking, and the cost of their own time spent negotiating the complicated world of real estate law. Once you’ve done the math, it’s impossible to ignore the value of hiring an experienced real estate agent.