Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


people found Bruce's experience helpful.

Did you?

I spent my early years climbing the corporate ladder. When I burned out from the travel and time away from home, my wife and I decided to take some time off and build our dream home near her family in Upstate New York. I have always been a “do it yourself type” and we decided to build the house on our own.

We designed the house and chose a wonderful lot overlooking the village of Marcellus. The farmer we bought the land from told us it was the highest point in Onondaga county and he was saving the lot for his daughter but she decided to build elsewhere.

I acted as the general contractor, did a lot of the work myself, and we built a 3,500 square foot home including the lot for about $40,000. It was our pride and joy and within a few years we owned it outright with no mortgage.

We added a pool for around $15,000 and enjoyed ten wonderful years raising our three daughters. In 1995, with our nest emptying, we decided to sell our dream home and downsize. The house appraised at $140,000 so we had a potential net gain of $85,000.

Selling on Our Own

In the past, we always used realtors to sell our houses, but since we were in no big hurry, opted to sell on our own this time. I have a background in sales, did my research about selling a home on our own, and it seemed like a good idea.

We learned about how to price, stage, freshen up, and market our home from a website called For Sale By Owner. We created a purchase offer using a template we found online and everything looked easy.

We did some "comps" of other houses in our neighborhood and determined that we were pricing our home correctly. We expected to save over $10,000 in realtor fees.

The Purchase Offer

Within a few days, we had a signed purchase offer and everything looked great. We went shopping for a smaller home in the village, found what we were looking for and all the wheels were now in motion.

The buyers were relocating from New Jersey and were using a buyer’s realtor so we had no direct contact with them. With title searches completed on both houses and loans in place, we were anxious to make the move. Everything proceeding according to plan - or so we thought!

The Deal Unravels

Then things started to unravel. The realtor contacted me about a week before scheduled closing and told me the buyer’s bank would not approve his loan at the agreed upon price. Supposedly the bank's appraiser determined the house was only worth $125,000, not $140,000, which is what they offered.

The owners of our next house accepted our offer, we applied for a mortgage and all the wheels were in motion. Our buyer had us over a barrel. Having a realtor on our side of the transaction at this point suddenly seemed like a very good idea.

We were not sure what to do. The housing market was in a slump at the time and we really did not want to miss out on the opportunity to get our house sold.

Why we did not contact a realtor or talk to an attorney at that point I don’t know. In later years I became friends with a realtor and learned that this tactic of reducing the offer price at the end of the process is very common – unethical and possibly even illegal, but common. He would have called their bluff and forced them to stay with the original offer. I was in too much of a hurry and lost my objectivity.

What We Learned

In the end our net savings was only about $5,000 (the $15,000 loss - $10,000 in realtor fees) so our decision to sell on our own became a lesson in why to hire a professional.

As in so many things in life, we did not understand the value of a realtor until a problem surfaced and then it was too late - I guess they earn their commissions after all!

Sometimes DIY is Not the Best Idea

There are good times for DIY and bad times for DIY. Acting as my own general contractor went well. I learned to respect their role in the process, but because I had the time, it was worth the effort.

Acting as our own realtor, however, was a bad idea. A good realtor represents his or her client's interests properly, knows the pitfalls of the industry, and always remains objective. Now when someone asks me about selling their home, I recommend hiring a professional.

Read More Selling a Home Stories

see all stories in this category