Discount Agents and Counselors

Some real estate brokers offer bare-bones service, charging flat fees or lower commissions in exchange for specific services that can run the gamut from the most basic—renting a sign—to service barely distinguishable from full-service brokerages. Most offer something in between. For example, Garand Realty, a full-service real estate company located in Fairfax, Va., offers clients the option of a flat-fee listing for $295. For this fee, an agent will come to your home to complete the MLS listing form, photograph your home's exterior, list your home on the MLS within 24 hours, list your home on the Internet with realtor.com and others, and supply you with a list of comparables in your area and price range along with copies of information sheets to supply prospective buyers. The MLS listing offers a 3% commission to the selling company, but if you sell the home yourself you pay no commission at all. For an additional charge of $100 (refunded when all items are returned), you can get a lock-box and sign. Garand Realty will also assist you with preparing contracts and other documents for an hourly charge.

If you are considering a discount broker, apply all the same standards you would if you were selecting a full-service broker (see the next chapter). One service you probably shouldn't pass up is having your home advertised to other agents through the multiple listing service in your area. Make sure any discount broker you're considering can list your home with the service.

There also may be real estate counselors or broker-consultants in your community who help owner-sellers for a percentage of the selling price or work on an hourly basis. For names, check with large real estate firms in your area and watch for advertisements in the real estate section of the paper, or contact the Counselors of Real Estate (430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; 312-329-8427; www.cre.org). In some communities, title companies will help you close the deal once you have a contract with a buyer.

If you are considering a discount broker, apply all the same standards you would if you were selecting a full-service broker.

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