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Should You Sell BEFORE You List?

By Mary Anne Walser, Realtor & Attorney, 404-277-3527, maryannesellshomes@gmail.com

It’s a hot seller’s market in Atlanta right now. We don’t have enough inventory for the buyers who are ready to purchase. So many times recently I have received offers on a home that I am getting ready to list BEFORE it was listed. This can occur when I am working with a buyer who is looking for exactly what I have coming up – or when another agent and/or buyer asks me “what do you have coming up?” and what I have coming up suits their needs and an offer is made.

So, from the seller’s perspective, is it a good idea to sell your property without ever listing it? Here are some considerations if you are lucky enough to have this dilemma.

From an agent’s perspective, I would typically prefer that a seller LIST the home with me before we agree on the contract. This way the home is exposed to fair market forces and we are sure that everyone who might make an offer on the home has the chance to see it and bid on it. Exposed to market forces, we might even get an offer above the list price or a buyer who is willing to pay above appraised value. So why would a seller EVER agree to sell a property prior to listing? Here is an examination of some of the reasons:

  • The most common seller who sells prior to listing is the seller for whom showings are a real hassle. My clients Vivian and Mike have four young children under the age of ten, two rambunctious dogs, and had trouble keeping their home clean, much less straightened up and staged for showings. They needed a bigger home as soon as possible, and needed to sell their home in order to buy their next home. So when I brought them a buyer (and an offer) that was more than they thought they would get if they had listed their property, they were ecstatic and chose to accept. This allowed them to get under contract for their next, bigger home and concentrate on the move rather than on the logistics of showing their current home and the fear that it would not sell fast.
  • Another seller who might agree to a contract prior to listing is the seller who has time on their hands and for whom this is a low risk proposition. Let me explain. If a seller gets under contract prior to officially listing the property on the MLS, and the buyer terminates, the seller can always then list on the MLS with no ill effect. Typically if one contract falls through, the world knows about it because it’s noted when a property goes under contract on the MLS. With a prelisting contract, however, if it falls through, the only parties who are informed are the seller, the buyer and the agents, not the world at large. If the contract doesn’t fall through, then the seller has saved the hassle of listing the property.
  • Some sellers want to sell before they list because they don’t want to pay agent commissions (or don’t want to pay two sides of an agent’s commissions). Agent commissions are negotiable no matter what, of course. But sellers will sometimes sell without involving agents and/or using only one agent to represent both parties, hoping that will save them money. Of course, a great agent will always maximize your return even with the payment of commissions, so I feel this logic is faulty. If you’re cutting out agent commissions, you’re also cutting out the marketing, advocacy, and market exposure that full agent representation provides.
  • Sometimes a buyer who makes an offer prior to listing is willing to pay more than they would otherwise for the opportunity to snag a great property before it is exposed to the market. While this sounds counterintuitive, we never know for sure what will happen when a property hits the MLS. While we can often predict, we are sometimes wrong. A property that we think will be hot gets few showings and no offers. If you hold that buyer off telling them you want to list and test the market first, if you do NOT get better offers then guess what? Often that buyer has cooled and is no longer willing to pay what they were willing to pay prior to you listing the property.

So as you see, there are many considerations involved, and every seller’s situation is unique and must be examined in light of your specific wants, needs, and goals. I hope that you too are lucky enough to have offers before listing! But whether or not you want to accept them is a separate determination. If you are ready to sell, please call the Walser Team today! We will strategize the right way to get the most money for your property.


Mary Anne Walser is a licensed attorney and full-time REALTOR, serving buyers and sellers in all areas of Metro Atlanta. Her knowledge of residential & commercial real estate and her legal expertise allow her to offer great value to her clients. Mary Anne is a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, the Georgia Association of Realtors, the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. Contact Mary Anne at 404-277-3527, or via email: maryannesellshomes@gmail.com.