Before you hire a real estate agent, read the answers to your most important questions.Will a property I sell myself be at a competitive disadvantage compared to properties sold by real estate agents?No-and in many ways, you’ll have an advantage. First of all, today’s buyers find their homes on the Internet on their own time. If they like your home, they’re going to contact you no matter what-and the odds are good that they’ll be happier dealing with you than with an agent. It is no secret that a huge number of homes are not selling and expire before the agent ever gets the home sold. Do a Google search and you’ll see the amount of training material the real estate industry offers to teach their agents how to persuade sellers to renew their listings for a year. There is no magic in what a real estate agent does.To give you an example of the advantages of selling your home yourself, think about signs. When you list with an agent, they get to place a mini billboard in your yard that includes a tiny bit of advertising for your home and a huge amount of advertising for their company. The whole industry should have moved on to customized signs a long time ago-but they haven’t. You’ll have a significant advantage by tailoring your on-the-ground marketing plan to your home, including your FOR SALE sign.Do homes sell for more when listed with a real estate agent?That’s what the National Association of Realtors funded by real estate agents says, but there’s no independent data to support their statistics. If a real estate agent tells you they can get you more money for your home, ask them to bring you a buyer; if they can’t, they need to leave you alone to sell your house. Far too many listings handled by agents expire, unsold.An agent’s opinion is not going to get your home sold. It’s easy for people to make guesses and conjectures, but to win in today’s market, you have to deal with hard facts.How much time and effort is this really going to take?It takes about as much time to sell your house as it takes to plan a long vacation. The marketing side requires the most time up front, but once you’ve gathered your facts, it shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to get your marketing plan started. You’d have to gather that same information for an agent, if you used one. And the process has been streamlined for you on sites like simpleandsold.com.If you’re skeptical, take the amount you’d pay in commission to a real estate agent and divide it by the number of hours it takes to plan a vacation. The result should help you see that time you put into selling your house will be time well spent.A real estate agent told me it would be dangerous to sell my own home, since I’d be letting strangers in my house all the time. Should I be worried?Unfortunately, you’re going to have to let strangers in your home to sell it. But you would have to do this with or without a real estate agent, so this is almost a moot point. Remember that you can open your home any way you want: you can take down information for safety purposes; you can schedule your viewing appointments so that you won’t be alone in the house; and you have the right to stop the process if you ever become uncomfortable with a person’s presence. This is something even real estate agents face.Do I need to use a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to get the exposure I need for my home?First, you should understand what MLS is. It was not designed as a marketing venue for homes; rather, it’s a simple way for brokers to negotiate compensation with each other, so that Real Estate Agent A can tell Real Estate Agent B, “Sell my listing and I will pay you X.” Period.My local MLS, which was named #1 in the country, is still way behind the times. It allows me to upload approximately eight tiny (two-by-two-inch) pictures and about three sentences of description. I’m not even allowed to link to anything. How is that a viable marketing tool?Look at Zillow, Trulia, and Yahoo! Real Estate and you’ll see how much the MLS has been eclipsed. It’s become just an outdated method for real estate agents to protect their turf. Some systems are not even Mac compatible.With Simple and Sold, you can put your home up for viewing on hundreds of websites, and you can add up to thirty-six large, high-definition photos in your listing. You can have paragraphs of description about your home. You can attach listing brochures and other files, which interested buyers can view online or download. You can add background music or a voice-over about your property’s features; you can provide links to area schools and anything else you want.What is the NAR?NAR stands for the National Association of Realtors, the lobbying group listed at #4 on opensecrets.org’s list of political heavy hitters. It’s the organization about which Joe Nocera of the New York Times once wrote: “You have to wonder sometimes what they’re smoking over there at the National Association of Realtors.”According to Bloodhound Realty Blog, The NAR has stayed under the radar while doing a monstrous amount of damage to the economy, the housing market, and most importantly, the consumer. Bloodhound Realty Blog states (this blog does a great job of exposing the NAR), “It was the NAR that lobbied for each law and rule change that resulted in the housing boom, the sub-prime lending catastrophe, the wanton bundling of fraudulent loans, the ongoing subsidization of the secondary mortgage market, etc. The villain behind all the villains in the collapse of the American economy is the National Association of Realtors.””The real estate licensing laws, written in their original form by the NAR, exist to limit competition in real estate brokerage, eliminating alternative sources of real estate brokerage to artificially sustain higher commissions for NAR brokers”John Crudele of the New York Post recently stated: “The real estate industry lives by the motto: “location, location, location.” Next week it’ll be known for “deception, deception, deception.” People want the truth and the NAR is deceiving the public all to save the sacred real estate commission. Crudele also reports: “The National Association of Realtors admitted that it has been reporting bad figures on sales… Jeez! Tell the truth!… The Realtors aren’t doing the country any favors by sugar-coating their stats… and the people at NAR don’t seem to be bothered by the practice.”Don’t most people trust real estate agents to get them the best deal?Unfortunately, people don’t trust them. In the most recent Gallup poll, they ranked lower than bankers but higher than congressmen in terms of ethics.In all fairness, it’s not the behavior of real estate agents that has been unethical; it’s the way their organization, the NAR, has worked to block their competition. As I see it, and as most Americans see it, competition is for the competent. You own your home, so you should have the choice to sell it any way you choose.The NAR got a public slap on the wrist in 2008 from the Justice Department when the organization tried to stop real estate agents without a physical office from participating in MLS. The Justice Department had to sue the NAR to allow mobile, internet-based brokers-the kind who operate from laptops and Starbucks instead of fancy offices-to practice their trade.I think the NAR should be ashamed of making taxpayers pay for this lawsuit, which (in the words of the DOJ itself) “requires NAR to allow Internet-based residential real estate brokers to compete with traditional brokers.” The Department said the settlement would enhance competition in the real estate brokerage industry, giving consumers more choice, better service, and lower commission rates. NAR is now bound by a ten-year settlement to ensure that it continues to abide by the requirements of the agreement.But don’t Realtors operate under a Code of Ethics?Ironically, the NAR emphasizes a “Code of Ethics” for all its members-but at the same time, they have been called on the carpet for deceptive statistics on homes sales.In my opinion, anyone who needs an organization to tell them how to be ethical probably doesn’t understand the code of ethics that they’re swearing to uphold.