If you listen to the radio or look in your mailbox, you’ve probably heard or seen one of those ads where some fast-talker promises no closing costs, no fees, no cleanup, no appraisals, no (fill in the blank).

It all sounds so quick and easy. I probably receive a dozen or so emails a week from someone wanting to buy a house that’s not on the market.

Q: Who are these people?

A: Usually they are either real estate agents, investors or house flippers.

Q: Why do they seem so anxious for me to sell?

A: Because values have risen so dramatically in recent years, sellers will sometimes underestimate the current value of their home. These buyers know this and will offer what sounds like a really good price but is actually less than what it would sell for on the open market.

Q: But if I don’t have to pay to fix up my house, commissions, closing costs, etc., isn’t that saving me money?

A: The short answer is “yes.” The long answer is probably “no.” You might save on not having to pay those costs, but the price you accept will most likely be well under what you could have sold it for had you prepped it properly and sold it on the open market. In today’s markets, many houses are selling for well over even a seller’s highest expectation.

Q: Isn’t it a pain to fix up a house to prepare it for sale?

A: Many sellers move on to their next home before having any market prep work done (painting, flooring, staging, etc.). But, yes, it can involve some time and expense. The big question is how much more you might be able to sell your house for had you done the work versus doing nothing.

Q: I don’t care if I make top dollar; I just want it over with. Doesn’t that make sense?

A: Some sellers are able to receive an offer for their house and say something like: “That’s a good number; I’m happy with it. I don’t care if I might or might not sell it for more.” If you are OK with not second-guessing your decision, then selling off-market might make sense. I can almost guarantee that if you do, you should be prepared for someone to come to you and say: “You sold it for $XXX!! I’d have given you $200,000 more for it.” If you are the sort who will watch the market for months after you sell and wonder, then selling off-market might not be a good decision for you.

Q: What about properties in a trust?

A: Trustees of a trust have a fiduciary duty to maximize the value of the assets in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. I would always recommend that a house held in a trust be exposed to

the open market so the trustees could show with a clear conscience they had gotten the highest possible price for the property.

Q: But aren’t you in the business of selling people’s homes for them?

A: Yes, realtors have a fiduciary duty to treat clients’ financial interests with the utmost of care, and that involves sharing the cost/benefit of all options available to them. In my many years of experience, selling a house the old-fashioned way still maximizes sellers’ return on their investment.

Owen Halliday is a longtime Los Altos resident and realtor who manages the Sereno Group office in downtown Los Altos. Email comments, questions and potential column topics to Owen@Sereno.com. For more information, call (650) 492-0062.