If you live anywhere along the I-15 corridor in Utah, specifically in Salt Lake and Utah counties, you’ve likely seen all the signs along the highway popping up touting the ability to sell your home without broker commissions, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars by going around the traditional process of listing your home with a real estate agent. Homie, the breakthrough system making the bold claims, has been around in Utah for a few years, since 2015. Their system seems to have picked up a lot of momentum over the past couple years. In fact, Utah Business pointed out last year that within 18 months of its existence in Utah, Homie had become the largest brokerage in the state, with a listing inventory of 200 new homes each month.
When my wife and I decided to sell our home in Lehi earlier this summer, like many home sellers, we were not in love with the idea of giving up 6% of the value of our home, potentially somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 worth of our equity, to the traditional home sales process. We had sold our previous home in Spanish Fork several years ago through the “For Sale By Owner” method, and that worked out pretty well for us. Also, I had spent a short time working as a real estate agent almost two decades ago, and I wasn’t very impressed with the industry during the few months I spent working at Coldwell-Banker. In fact, I’ve written before on this website about some of the issues I’ve observed with too many real estate agents and their lack of commitment to fiduciary obligations. Needless to say, we fit the profile of a potential Homie client nearly as exactly as anyone could.
Prior to being ready to list our home for sale, we talked to some friends who were going through the process of selling their home using Homie. They had mixed reactions, but were ultimately happy with the fact that they saved a lot in realtor commissions, as most of the billboards on I-15 promise.
After doing a little more homework, we decided to make the commitment to Homie to list our home for sale.
I’m going to share with you my experience using Homie to sell our home in Utah. Since we used Home, I’ve had many people ask me (people who were also considering using Homie) to give them personal reviews and details about the pros and cons of going with Homie. I will include in this public review much of the information I included in my conversations with friends about whether they should go with Homie versus the alternatives.
Together with my wife, who worked as much as I did or more on this process, I made a quick list of the pros and cons of using Homie to sell your home. Here they are.
Pros of Using Homie
- They provide a market analysis (a good one) to get you started pricing your home.
- You actually CAN save tens of thousands of dollars in real estate commissions.
- They take pretty good pictures.
- You get a yard sign and a lock box to make your home look legit.
- They review contracts, addenda, and other aspects of the sales process for you and provide some legal help.
- You get some agent representation and interaction.
Cons of Using Homie
- Their system likely doesn’t work as well in a buyer’s market, where it’s critical to have access to more buyers.
- Interactions with Homie are highly transactional instead of relationship based.
- You have to be assertive about the various aspect of selling your home.
- Response times tend to be slow (sometimes materially too slow).
- It can be difficult to reach an agent.
- They don’t make much effort to understand your home or specific situation.
- Open houses are setup and operated by home owner. Homie doesn’t help with these.
- Their rules are more restrictive than alternatives (no listing of seller financing in advertisements)
- The home selling process can be awkward compared to what you’re used to.
- Other real estate brokerages tend to shy away from Homie because their model is so different from the traditional real estate.
My Experience Selling with Homie
Prior to listing our home for sale in May of 2019, we had been preparing to move from Utah for over a year. We spent tens of thousands of dollars putting in new carpet, re-painting the home, and updating and repairing things that needed attention, including repainting deck rails, fixing small holes in walls and doors, purchasing new door knobs, etc.
The reason I mention what we did to prepare our house for sale is because I think it would be much more difficult to sell your home with Homie if you don’t have something about your home that really stands out, including having it in its best possible shape. This obviously is going to cost you money. How much exactly it’s going to cost will obviously depend upon how efficient you are about the items that need to be updated. In any case, while doing some of these these things (painting, new carpet) should be done for anyone selling a house, in my judgment you’ll need to be extra thorough if you’re selling with Homie, because you’re selling without all the extra help that a relationship based real estate agent would normally put into selling your home.
Signing Up with Homie and Taking the Plunge
After talking to several people with experience selling home, we considered just listing our home in the KSL classifieds and on Craigslist and local Facebook groups first, then move to Homie if our home didn’t get much attention quickly. Some neighbors and others within our local network were convinced that a home listed for sale in such a seller’s market (as Utah has been for several years now, since it finally completed an inventory rebound after the 2008 housing crisis) would net pretty close to what it would get being listed on the MLS. Their reasoning was this: because of how much real estate selling fees (including with Homie, more about that later) end up costing, you still end up netting more not using a real estate agent even if you sell the home for 1-2% less than you would have with an agent.
Because we didn’t want to miss out on the hot part of the real estate sales season (May through the first part of August), we decided to go straight to Homie and get our home listed. Here’s how that went.
The current structure goes like this, when you sign up with Homie, you pay a $199 installment fee, which gives you access to the Homie system for marketing and selling a home. The first service they provide for you is the Property Comparative Market Analysis
Homie’s Property Comparative Market Analysis
Two days after we signed up for an account with Homie and input our home data, we received the following Property Comparative Market Analysis, or CMA. When you sell your home using a real estate brokerage, the agent normally provides you with a list of three homes that they consider to be similar to the one you are listing for sale. Homie provides this service as well. When you receive your CMA by email, the agent assigned to your Homie listing also calls and gives some feedback and input on your ultimate decision on what price to list your home.
In this case, the CMA showed our home to be worth in the neighborhood of $705,000 based on data from homes from three homes, two that sold for less than our recommended sales price, and one that sold for higher. Our Homie agent called and quickly reviewed the report, saying that they recommended that we don’t go above $715,000 when listing our home. Instead, we chose to stay below the $700,000 mark and list our home for $695,000.
With Homie, the interaction you have with them from the beginning, starting with their delivery of the CMA and the time they allot for discussing how to price the home, is very scaled back from what happens with a traditional brokerage, where the realtor likely spends more time getting together more appropriate comparable properties, and then spends an hour or so reviewing the information with you (as opposed to less than 10 minutes) working through a strategy for pricing your home, including what it will mean if you get to the point where you’d need to lower the price if it’s not getting enough activity.
Homie’s Listing and Sales Process
Once we decided on a listing price for our home, it was time to schedule a photoshoot to get some professional pictures for our home. For home with the square footage of ours, a professional photoshoot would normally cost at least $400. Homie includes the photoshoot cost in their listing fee. I’m guessing that they pay less than $199 (my guess is $150…see the explanation below) to the people who do their photoshoots.
How Homie’s Home Listing Photoshoot Works
When we called to schedule our home’s photoshoot, we were hopeful that we could get the photographer out to our house within a couple days of signing up for our Homie listing, so as to not delay publishing our listing and pushing back the time we’d have over the spring and summer to sell our home. We were also on a tight schedule finishing up the last few projects (baseboards and other touchup mostly) we needed to do have done to stage the house and make it ready for professional pictures.
Once we scheduled the photoshoot, two days after we opened our Homie account and started the listing, the photographer was scheduled to come out. He gave us a window of a couple hours, during which he would stop by quickly and take the pictures.
It turned out that we weren’t completely ready for him when he came. As he whizzed through the house taking pictures, we realized quickly that he was not there to chat or hang around for long. He was on a tight deadline. In fact, if you look through some of the pictures of the home shown below, you can see that the rooms weren’t all completely ready. When he had finished the entire house and yard, we were able to get him to re-take a picture of our front formal/music room since he had taken that picture first, and there were some things that were very out of place.
Bottom line: your Homie photographer also (like your agent) acts like a “transactional” photographer. He or she will take great pictures of whatever is in the room, but it’s your responsibility to make sure that the house is staged and ready to go. Your photo session will likely not be more than a half hour. However, in our case, despite being as unprepared as we were for him, our photographer produced pictures that were good enough to make the house look attractive.
Within 24 hours of finishing the photoshoot, the photographer sent us over the finished photos for our approval.
If You Need to Cancel or Have Retakes Done
In the event you need to cancel your photoshoot appointment or decide that you want another one done, you’ll have to pay a fee of $150. Based on that price, I’d predict that a Homie photographer gets paid slightly less than that to take 30-50 or so pictures of your home and to do some minor editing on them.
Publishing Your Homie Listing
After our photoshoot was finished, it was time for us to roll out the listing. We published the listing through our Homie seller portal, and they pushed it out to their network.
In addition to putting your home on its own Homie listing, Homie broadcasts your listing to the following online real estate and classified ad listing websites:
- Local MLS
- KSL (Utah)
Receiving and Handling Home Tour Requests
After you’ve listed your home on Homie, if it’s priced well and your listing is attractive, you’ll start receiving tour requests. These requests can come from anyone who sees your listing, whether on Homie’s website or on one of the other places where they list your property. Home tour requests normally come in the form of a text message, to which you can reply to confirm the date/time. You can also decline or suggest another date/time. For the most part, detailed information about who is requesting a tour is not given, and a lot of the interaction is abstracted versus what you’d experience with a traditional real estate agent, who’s likely to let you know (or at least is capable of giving you that information if you ask for it) more details about each tour appointment, including how interested the buyer seems to be in your home, which brokerage their agent is with, and other information.
Because of the lack of information about who’s touring your home, it’s important that you make sure that you don’t have cash and other valuables laying out on the kitchen counter, and that your home is ready in regards to security to make sure people are not tempted to pilfer your stuff. Homie makes efforts to validate tour requests, but it’s a lower level than what you’d normally see with a traditional realtor to realtor interaction where there is more of a relationship built between the buyer’s agent and their client, and between your agent (who should be your fiduciary, looking out for you and your home) and the buyer’s agent and client.
As we found out later, although your Homie’s selling agent (remember, their involvement is minimal; that’s how they cut down the fees) doesn’t come to the showing appointment, they also don’t want you (the homeowner) to be there either. That situation can be a little nerve wracking. We were nervous about having to have our home in a near-show-ready state constantly and having our kids (6 of them, little ones included) ready to hit the road and head to the park or somewhere else for an hour or so while someone toured our house. We put together an action plan to have the house race ready in a half hour and have the kids out the door quickly, and we went over it with our kids, hoping that we didn’t have to experience this type of “evacuation” drill too many times before our home sold.
Open Houses with Homie
Homie doesn’t do much with open houses. They give a little bit of instruction, but don’t help with scheduling and marketing them, nor do they provide (similar to tours) someone to be at your home during the open house.
We decided to skip doing an open house for a couple reasons. 1) our home was under contract within two days of being on the market, and 2) we’ve heard a lot of negative about open houses, including that they tend to attract just tire kickers and creepy people who come through the home and make it messy.
If having open houses is important to you and you plan to use Homie to sell your home, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to do some work.
We Sold Our Home Quickly with Homie (Before the Sign Was Up)
The day after we published our home for sale, we started receiving tour requests. The first request was from a team of two agents, who were representing a client from out of state. The tour was early enough in the morning (and we hadn’t been told by Homie how important they thought it was for us to not be there during the tour; it seemed fairly optional) that we cleaned the house and planned to at least have me stick around, giving the tour and answering questions. The agents walked through the home video taping the house and yard while sending messages and spending time on the phone with their clients. Things were looking good as far as I could tell.
After giving the tour, I talked to the agents a bit about the neighborhood, answered questions about what types of fruit trees we’d planted in the back yard, and discussed the real estate industry and our choice to use Homie. These two women were nice about it, but basically told me that Homie’s not very well regarded by the traditional agents and brokerages. That didn’t come as a surprise to me, considering that Homie’s billboards and other advertising takes a lot of direct swipes at the waste associated with paying real estate commissions, essentially playing down the value that’s contributed by real estate agents.
As I had the somewhat awkward conversation with these agents about the difference between them and Homie, they pointed out that it is well understood in the Utah real estate industry that the role of an agent is to be relationship based, but Homie is simply a transactional brokerage, not intending to establish a relationship with any of their clients. This obviously causes some breakdowns in the buying and selling process and can be frustrating for people who are used to selling their homes using traditional real estate listings or even doing for sale by owners (FSBO), which doesn’t bring with it the restrictions and other baggage that Homie brings (along with its perks).
These agents who toured my home were hesitant about giving us their contact information, telling us that Homie wants to have strict control over the communication, and that they threaten agents who don’t go by their rules. I told them that ultimately it’s my home, and I’d never be willing to give up my freedom to choose who I interacted with, so we exchanged contact information.
I later discovered that this decision to be open and in contact with the buyer agent was critical for getting the deal done and our home sold. Although they do provide some value, if you rely strictly on Homie for communicating and negotiating back and forth with the buyer, it will likely cost you the sale because of delays and what appears to be a general lack of engagement.
This idea that Homie is transactional and not very engaged with any one client came out almost immediately. These agents (the first people to tour our home) submitted a full-price offer the following day, and sent me a text informing me that it has been submitted. With any real estate offer or addendum there is a time constraint for acceptance or replying in one way or another. As time drew closer and closer to the deadline for responding (which was almost a full two days later), we still hadn’t received the offer from Homie. We had already let the buyer agent know we would accept the offer, but leading up to the deadline for response, we still hadn’t officially received the offer from Homie.
Fortunately, the buyer agents emailed the offer to me and my wife, so we had the time we needed to look it over and be okay with it. The next day we finally received the offer from Homie, just a few hours before we needed to respond. My wife and I signed the offer and then followed up with our agent, asking her to make sure she submitted the acceptance to the buyer before the deadline passed. It was obvious that she was handling likely dozens of other listings, probably 4-5 times the amount a traditional agent normally handles.
We found that same delay with each of the other offers we received. If we had not been assertive about responding, even prodding our agent to keep up with the pace, the sale of our home would not have happened as smoothly, with a remote possibility that it would not have been completed.
Homie Seller Commission: $1,500; Buyer Commission: 3% of Sales Price
When you sell with Homie, don’t get caught up thinking that you’ll only pay the advertised $1,500 fee to sell your home. Only on the rare occasion that you sell to a buyer that is using Homie or a purchaser not using an agent will you come close to that cost. When you sell with Homie, you’ll most likely have to pay a buyer commission, which is typically a standard 3% of the sale.
When we initially went through the Homie signup process, we offered a buyer commission of 2%. Our reasoning was that the market was hot, our home was attractive to buyers and well-priced, and the buyer agent wouldn’t have to do much to earn a commission.
When the agents for our buyers submitted an offer, they also asked that we raise the buyer commission agreement to 3%. We obliged, considering that we’d received an offer for our full asking price.
I have found that most buyer agents don’t want to be short-changed their commissions, especially since they have to split some portion of their commissions with their brokerages. In this case, because they were working with a Homie listing, it was obvious that the buyer agents knew that they would be required to do more work than usual, filling in the gaps that were left with a one-size-fits-all, get-through-the-process listing agent, which is the model Homie typically follows.
Negotiating While Under Contract: Home Inspection
One thing we did find a bit frustrating was that the full offer we’d received ended up being a bit deceptive. Instead of negotiating on the price of the home, the buyer’s agent and their buyers began negotiating using the home inspection report, on which the inspector seem to list every possible contingency, giving excuses to expect us to concede a thousand dollars for this and a few thousand dollars for that.
With a traditional agent, they have the experience to give pushback to the buyer or to let the seller know when requests seem to be exorbitant, such as a $2,300 allotment for new range/oven although the existing one works well and looks fine. With Homie, you don’t get that expertise in your corner. If it hadn’t been for the fact that my wife and I tended to be solid negotiators, we would have easily given up close to $10,000 that was unnecessary. Instead, we were confident enough that we could find another buyer that we gave a few smaller concessions and then said, “Take it or leave it!”
They ended up taking the deal, but even that wasn’t ideal for us. We weren’t planning on moving out of the home until the end of June, after baseball season and girl’s camp were finished for our kids, and after we’d had adequate time to tell friends goodbye. We offered to rent back our property after closing on it in early to mid-June. The buyers were insistent that they move in on June 13th. Had we been working with a more relationship based agent, we might have given more pushback to that, and tipped the balance in our favor. Instead, we relented and rushed to move out more than two weeks prior to what we had planned. I also ended up feeling obligated to send $1,000 to the new owner (outside of closing) for not completing the checklist of repairs that I would have been able to finish had we stayed in the home during the time we had expected. Moving out early and having it cost me an extra $1,000 was doubly inconvenient, but that kind of lack of negotiation can often happen if you represent yourself as we were doing.
How Much Does Homie Save You When Selling Your Home?
I found Homie’s prediction of how much you’ll save to be very accurate. I’m including a screen shot of their calculation of the amount ($19,350) we saved selling our home at a sale price of $695,000.
The savings you get with Homie can be attributed directly to cutting out the 3% cost you’d normally pay to list with a normal real estate agent, and exchanging that instead with the $1,500 flat fee charged by Homie.
Homie’s business model depends upon having that $1,500 cover its costs associated with listing your home, taking pictures, and having personnel work through the process of getting your home sold. If it feels like you’re getting the bare minimum, that’s because you are. That’s the business model.
However, that business model works well for lots of people, including us in this situation. If you’re confident, assertive, selling your home in a good seller’s market, you’ll likely be satisfied with Homie, feeling confident that you saved thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands for more expensive homes) in exchange for purposefully giving up other “white glove service” options.
Should You Use Homie to Sell Your Home?
I feel like I can recommend Homie, but only for those who are willing to make up for the service gap that exists selling with Homie. If you are not confident about how real estate works and are not a great negotiator, you will likely find yourself frustrated.
Homie gives those who are the more assertive part of the population a chance to keep their hard-earned equity by working hard to keep it during the critical home sales process.
MLS Listing Alternatives to Homie
If I had it to do over again, I would likely have started out selling my home by using some FSBO (for sale by owner) options, including advertising the home on KSL, Craigslist, and in local Facebook groups. With a background in online marketing, and having experience using outside the box tactics to market and sell things, I feel like that might have saved me possibly ten thousand dollars or so. However, it would have been more work
For people like me, who are commonly do-it-yourselfers, my recommended path of escalation looks like this for selling real estate:
FSBO -> Homie -> Real Estate Agent
One of the main reasons we wanted to list on Homie was to make sure that our home made it onto the MLS. There are other alternatives for getting your home listed on the MLS though. For instance, the Flat Fee Group gives you a range of options for getting your home on the MLS starting at just $49.00.