A couple of Northwestern University economists were sparring over how they each elected to sell their homes, and so they launched a study to settle it. That study, which compared home sellers using a for-sale-by-owner website and sellers using Realtors, was released today.

The result: The people using a popular FSBO site in Madison, Wis., sold their homes for at least as much as those using Realtors. And when they completed their transactions, they weren’t required to pay the 5 or 6 percent commissions typical of a Realtor-facilitated real estate transaction. The study examined home sales data from 1998 to 2004.

The New York Times wrote about the study today:

There are asterisks. The authors cautioned that they did not know whether the results from Madison applied to the country as a whole; certainly, selling a house without a real estate agent would be harder in a city without a heavily trafficked for-sale-by-owner Web site. The authors are also analyzing Madison data from 2005 and 2006, when the housing market cooled after a long run-up, to see how their findings might have changed.

Some aspects tilted in agents’ favor. The researchers found that homes on the multiple listing service sold somewhat faster than houses on the for-sale-by-owner site. The study also did not place a value on other services provided by agents in selling a home.

Here’s our coverage of for-sale-by-owner transactions in San Diego: No Thanks, I’ll Sell It Myself.


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