Can I Sell My House Privately After Listing With an Agent?

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|10 min read

In most cases, homeowners work with real estate agents to market their properties and attract buyers. However, there are times when a private offer comes through that the seller seriously considers.

There are both legal and ethical implications that come with selling your home after you entered into a contract for a Realtor to do it for you. Your options depend on your listing agreement and the source of the private offer. 

Learn more about selling a house privately even if you have a listing agreement. Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself, your buyer, and your real estate agent. 

Do You Need to Pay a Realtor if You Sell Privately?

A real estate agent receives a commission when they bring in a qualified buyer for the home. They are paid at the closing appointment because the deal has gone through. If a Realtor brings in several buyers but they walk away from the house before the closing date, they do not get paid. 

If you find your own buyer for your property, you might not have to pay a commission to your real estate agent. This is because you did the work of finding a qualified party to purchase the home. You can move forward with the private sale if that is what both parties want. 

If you decide to terminate your listing agreement because you found a private buyer, you will not get any more support from your Realtor. This is because they aren’t getting paid for their services. You will have to handle the paperwork, inspections, and closing appointments on your own. 

There might be times when you cannot terminate your listing agreement or fire your Realtor if you find a private buyer on your own. Make sure you read your contract with your agent carefully before you sign it if you are worried this might be the case for you. 

If you have yet to hire a Realtor, then you are free to market your home privately. This is known as For Sale by Owner (FSBO). You will not have to pay any commission fees to your agent, but you will not get any real estate support either.

There are some legal and ethical guidelines to keep in mind if you already have a listing agreement with a real estate agent. The private buyer you work with must have found your property organically.

They cannot have found your house through your Realtor’s marketing efforts. For example, a buyer cannot attend an open house hosted by your real estate agent and then send you a private offer directly. 

Most Realtors have protection clauses in their contracts that prevent buyers and sellers from going around them. Without these clauses, any seller could fire their listing agent once the Realtor found a buyer or simply wait for the contract to expire without paying them. The Realtor would do all the work of pairing a seller with a buyer but wouldn’t get paid. 

If you already have a listing agreement in place, make sure any potential buyers go through your Realtor. Some exceptions include private buyers that you know directly who are interested in your property.

For example, a coworker might hear that you are selling your home and reach out to see it. A family member might also be interested in the property. In these cases, the agent did not find the interested buyers, you did.

Understanding an Exclusive Agency Listing

When you sign your listing agreement, check to see if you have an exclusive agency listing with your Realtor. This gives them exclusive rights to your home. You cannot bring in other Realtors to market your property and you might not be able to sell your house privately after listing. This is also known as a sole agency agreement. 

If you do not want to give the exclusive right to sell your house to one agent, ask about an open listing. This will allow you to work with multiple Realtors or bright in potential buyers on your own.

Most agents prefer the exclusive agency listing model and some might not want to work with you if you insist on an open listing. Explain why you want this option and why you are against a sole agency agreement. 

You can hire multiple agents with an open agreement. However, that also means you will have to manage different Realtors at the same time. You might end up with duplicate efforts to sell your house, which aren’t necessarily more effective.

There’s no reason to publish your property on the multiple listing service (MLS) more than once and you won’t attract different buyers if multiple agents host open houses at your property. It is better to work with an experienced agent you can trust than to hire multiple Realtors, even it if means giving them exclusive agency to the property. 

If you have any questions about selling a house privately after listing, talk to your real estate broker. They can explain your rights as the owner and the protection clauses in their listing agreement.

Communicating with Your Real Estate Agent About a Private Offer

If you receive a private offer from someone who has not heard about your home through your Realtor, you can talk to your agent about accepting it and moving forward with the home sale. The first thing to do is have an open conversation with your real estate agent. Explain where the offer came from and show that it came through your own connections, not theirs. 

Once it is clear that you brought in the buyer, you can move forward with your plans to work with the agent or not. Some sellers want to keep working with their Realtors because they provide real estate know-how and experience.

The agent can help with the closing paperwork and any negotiations. If this is the case, discuss the agent’s fee for representing you even though they did not bring in the buyer. You might get a discount on their commission. 

Other homeowners want to terminate their agreements and move forward with the selling process on their own. To do this, you will need to fire your Realtor. This discussion won’t be easy.

No one wants to be fired, especially when their client thinks they were doing a good job. It’s not their fault that you found a private buyer to work with.

Try to be as professional as you can during this conversation, even if your agent gets upset or angry. Thank them for their time and hard work. You can also offer to write a positive review online to help them in the future.

Completing the Private Sale Process

Once you terminate your listing agreement, you can take steps to sell your house privately.

During this time, the buyer will likely want to complete a home inspection and an appraisal. The home inspection highlights any issues with the house so the buyer has complete transparency about what they are buying. The appraisal provides an objective estimate of the value of the home, so the buyer knows they are getting a fair price. 

If your buyer needs to secure a loan to buy the home, the inspection and appraisal might be mandatory. However, many cash buyers still want these contingencies met to protect themselves. No one wants to buy a house and immediately discover foundation issues or realize they overpaid for the property. 

After these inspections are complete and the buyer has financing, you can close the deal. You will set a closing date and move your belongings out beforehand. A real estate attorney or the title company can work on the paperwork required to transfer the ownership of the house from you to the buyer. 

Depending on whether the buyer has cash or needs a mortgage, this whole process can take between two weeks and 60 days. Realtors typically follow up with buyers to make sure they are working toward the closing appointment and getting everything they need.

Without a listing agent, you will have to keep up with the buyer by yourself.  This is one of the challenges of selling a house privately after listing it.

Financial Implications of a Private Sale

Selling a house privately comes with financial opportunities, drawbacks, and risks. Understanding each of these is important before moving forward with the process. 

First, selling privately allows you to skip the commission you pay to your real estate agent. However, you might still need to pay the agent’s fees if your buyer works with a Realtor to help with the deal.

Instead of saving six percent commission on the home sale, you might still need to pay three percent commission to the buyer’s agent. This also means they will have representation throughout the buying process but you will not. 

Next, firing your listing agent might come with fees. Some real estate agents build clauses into their agreements to cover themselves if their client decides that selling privately is the better option. Know how much these fees cost and decide if it is better to pay the fee or keep working with your Realtor even though you found the buyer.

If you stop working with your agent, you will want to hire a real estate attorney. These professionals can draft contracts, mediate issues, and move the process forward. They are a significant asset to anyone who wants to sell a house privately after listing.   

Know that without a Realtor, you will need to handle the negotiating process yourself. If this is your strength, you might get a good deal on the sale. However, if you don’t have a lot of negotiating experience you could lose money by agreeing to a lower offer. 

Each real estate transaction comes with several financial implications and moving pieces. This is why you need to be sure that selling privately is your best course of action.

Alternatives to Consider

There are other options if you aren’t sure about giving the exclusive right to sell your house to a listing agent. You don’t necessarily have to sell your house privately. Here are a few choices to consider. 

  • Requesting an open listing: an open listing allows you to work with multiple agents at the same time. This is often used by homeowners that have difficult properties to sell. It also keeps the door open for you to sell your house privately if you find your own buyer. 
  • Hiring a flat-fee agent: if you are worried about Realtor commissions but still want to work with an agent, consider hiring a flat-fee or discount Realtor. These agents can help you sell your house for a lower amount compared to other Realtors. However, they also offer fewer services and have less availability to help you than a standard agent. 
  • Working with a cash-for-homes buyer: some investors and companies are willing to make cash offers on homes sign unseen. This is often considered a faster option compared to selling with a Realtor. However, sellers often get less for their homes, so you could lose money by going this route. 
  • Marketing your home privately first: you don’t have to hire a Realtor if you want to sell your house privately. Try listing as FSBO and see if it works for you. If not, you can always hire a real estate agent. 

There are multiple ways to sell a house. Your goal is to find the best process that works for you. Look for an option that protects you financially while also allowing you to move quickly. More often than not, this means hiring a Realtor.   

Find a Buyer Privately or With a Real Estate Broker

It’s possible to sell a house privately if you find a buyer, even if you already have a listing agreement with a real estate agent. However, there are legal and ethical considerations to keep in mind – along with basic professionalism. Know your rights and make sure you have enough resources to ensure everyone gets a fair deal. 

If you are still interested in working with a listing agent, turn to the professionals at FastExpert. An experienced Realtor can streamline the selling process and help you move quickly. They can bring in potential buyers so you don’t have to market your house privately.

Try FastExpert today and take the first steps toward starting your next chapter in life.

Amanda Dodge

Amanda Dodge is a real estate writer and expert. She has worked in the field for more than eight years. She spends her time writing and researching trends in real estate, finance, and business. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communications from Florida State University.

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