Selling your own home can be very satisfying, but it can also be risky. To make their money, real estate agents will generally do four things. You need to be able to replicate those things to have this process go well. If you can, you can save a lot of money - the usual fee is 6%, which is $12,000 on a $200,000 home. That's worth the time!
First, they have all the pre-made forms and contracts that have been reviewed and approved by lawyers to execute a sales contract. There are some standard conditions that can be applied, and they have the wording for this down. For instance, what appliances are included with the sale? Are there any assessments from the town for utility work? You can address this one by retaining a law firm. Most will charge $500-$2,000 for the contract work associated with a home sale, they provide a LOT of protection, and you're still way ahead of the game. Some things are best left to the experts. (Note: some states have relatively standard contracts that you can use for this, and you can also get some from books, although I don't recommend the latter unless you're experienced in this already.)
Second, you have to address advertising. People don't buy homes down the road, so a road sign isn't going to do it - word may get around, but sales are rare here. You have to advertise in newspapers, home circulars, online, and if your state has the Multiple Listing Service. How you do that varies from state to state, but it's what the real estate agents themselves use, so since the majority of buyers are going to be working with an agent, you want your listing in front of them. Agents will also do open houses, create or help you create booklets that hype up the house, identify areas where you could increase your curb appeal, etc. They want to move the house as much as you do.
Third, agents will be there when buyers show up. They can point out unique features, appliances you're leaving that can add value (some people take the washer/dryer, if you're leaving it that can add some value IF it's a nice unit), recent work you've had done (new roof?big value add), etc. They act as a shield between you and the buyer, so the process is unemotional. That makes the process is unemotional. That makes the process much less stressful - the house stands on its own, it's not an audition for YOU too.
Fourth, you have to handle negotiations. What is your home worth?You can use Zillow to benchmark its rough value. A real estate agent would normally look at recent home sales around you, and then apply positive adjustments for things like new roofs, pools, etc., and negative adjustments for unusually small size, only one bathroom in the house, etc. The price is always negotiable, but think about it. You're saving $12,000. What if the real estate agent could have gotten you $15,000 more?You'd have all the protection and help of the process, and you'd have made MORE. This is supposedly their primary purpose, although in my experience the seller's agent doesn't always do that much here. In both home sales we've been through, we ended up determining what we wanted to make. I suppose agents vary.
The buyer will make proposals. I'll pay such-and-such, but I have to be able to sell my own home first, and I have to be able to secure a mortgage. The more these conditions add up, the less attractive the offer is, and you need to identify the good ones from the bad. Your agent would normally talk to the buyer's agent and get a nod or a shake on how likely the mortgage is - they won't divulge lots of details, but they're usually pretty honest with each other because they're colleagues and they all work long hours and don't want to waste time on bad bets. Will you recognize a good deal when you see one?
If you're prepared to address these issues, go for it! It helps a lot if you've already sold at least one home using a seller's agent. You should know much of the above in that case, and you should know most of the terminology so when you go to your lawyer you know what to expect.
At this time, I would suggest you get yourself on as many free advertising websites as possible. I want to commend you on attending nursing school and wish you the best of luck. I know how difficult it is to operate a household on only one income. I can only imagine what the cost of all these home improvements is doing to your budget as well.
If you have any other questions or ever decide to list with a REALTOR, please feel free to contact me. I know you mentioned listing with Howard Hanna. However, I work for RE/MAX Advanced REALTORS and I would be more than willing to work with you through this process. RE/MAX statistically sells more real estate than any other company, is the ONLY international company & the only company to win TWO (2) J.D. Power & Associates awards EVER! Seems like a no brainer.