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For Sale By Owner

Critical facts to know about being a For Sale By Owner and marketing your own house

When considering selling a home on your own, realtors, friends and relatives may caution you against doing so and try to talk you out of it even though it can save you many thousands of dollars. Here are the most common arguments presented against being a For Sale By Owner (or FSBO), along with rebuttals.

“Buyers at this price point won’t want to deal with a For Sale By Owner.”

Most owners who sell their own homes are on the lower end of the average house price. Which makes sense, because they can least afford to pay a realtor’s fee. If your home is higher up in the average home price, people sometimes advise that you use a realtor as a middleman to appeal to more sophisticated buyers.

But buyers will do whatever they need to do to buy your home if they love it. If they see it online (and today they can easily search anywhere in the country), there’s every reason for them to come see it, and they won’t be put off by a For Sale By Owner. They might even guess — often correctly — that it could save them money, as the savings of not paying a realtor don’t have to land entirely in the seller’s pocket. Being a For Sale By Owner gives a seller more negotiating room, or ability to price the home more competitively, which might make the difference in motivating the buyer or enabling them to afford the home, and get it sold.

“We can reach relocations as we are nationwide.”

As long as you list your home online, you have the reach you need to find buyers wherever they are searching from.

“We have the experience to get you the most money for your house. Realtors sell homes for more than For Sale By Owners.”

Realtors use the fact that people with lower-priced homes are more likely to do For Sale By Owner (as the savings in equity are more important to them than to wealthier clients) to imply that realtors get more money for houses they sell. But they get more money, on average, because they sell more expensive homes than FSBO owners do. A 2007 study of single-family homes sold in Madison, Wisconsin compared the prices of For Sale By Owner and realtor-assisted sales of similar homes in similar neighborhoods. The study found no price difference at all between comparable homes sold as For Sale By Owner and homes sold by realtors.

“I have a buyer looking for a home just like this in your town. They are eager to buy quickly.”

If a realtor says they have buyers lined up, you can offer them a reasonable co-broke fee to bring the buyers to you. Since that would be a quick sale, the fee can be significantly lower than the 5–6% that realtors often charge to market your home.

“The online estimates for your home value are not accurate. You need a real market analysis by a professional real estate agent to price your home correctly.”

The process is of pricing a home competitively is unfamiliar to the average homeowner, but much less complicated than most people think.

Just like on Ebay, you can look at sold listings on the real estate search sites. Find as many recent sales as you can that compare to yours in terms of amenities, location, and condition. If you can, drive by them to get an idea of how they compare. Find the average price per square foot of the most comparable homes. Then multiply your home’s square footage by that average. Compare to any similar homes on the market to see where yours stands.

Alternatively, you can pay for an actual home appraisal (not to be confused with a relator’s market analysis), which will give a very accurate price. The real estate appraisal’s report can be presented to buyers to assure them the price they are paying is accurate and realistic.

“Realtors have important knowledge that a layperson doesn’t.”

Hiring a real estate attorney can help guide you so you feel confident preparing contracts and signing them, navigating closing, and getting advice on disclosures or other legal matters. And the price of a real estate attorney, surprisingly, is a fraction of the cost of a realtor.

“You’ll be wasting your time with people who can’t afford your home. We will pre-qualify buyers for you.”

Most buyers self-select. They don’t shop and look at homes that they can’t afford because it’s a waste of their time. And banks now offer pre-approval letters stating exactly what they can afford. You can request one when they submit an offer.

“Most For Sale By Owners fail.”

I’ve been successful every time I’ve sold For Sale By Owner (four times in my lifetime, through slow and hot markets) and know others who have also had success. I’ve recently helped four close friends sell without realtors, and also helped a friend buy her condo without a realtor, and I also purchased my home without a realtor.

Doing FSBO is getting easier and more widely accepted every day. According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2018 owners sold 11% of homes in the US without a realtor. That number, though, doesn’t include people who used a flat-fee listing in MLS (paying a minimal price to a realtor, say $99, to have your home put into the Multiple Listing Service but receiving no other help from the realtor) which accounts for an additional 10% of sales.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) counts flat-fee listings as realtor-assisted sales, not For Sale By Owner. I’ve sold four homes without realtors but only two of them would count as For Sale By Owner according to the NAR, since on the two most recent I paid for a flat-fee listing in the MLS. So, upwards of 20% of homeowners are having success as For Sale By Owner. By the way, I strongly advise sellers to avoid flat-fee listings in the MLS. It makes it very hard for you to be identified and contacted as a For Sale By Owner, and you will most likely end up having to pay the buyers real estate agent anyway. List as a For Sale By Owner directly in a Real Estate search site like Zillow, and put right in the beginning of your ad copy that you are selling For Sale By Owner and are happy to work directly with buyers.

Younger buyers and sellers are more likely to embrace the For Sale By Owner homes route.

Summary

Selling a house and moving is time-consuming, stressful and hard, with or without a realtor to help. Houses take three months to sell, on average. That’s a long time to keep a house clean!

But the marketing of your home, which is what a realtor is paid to do, isn’t as complicated or time-consuming as most people believe, and today, with the ability to search for homes online, sellers can reach buyers easily. With a real estate attorney to guide you, selling your home yourself is a great way to save a big chunk of your nest egg.

Adapted from: Real Estate Without Realtors, Save Money Buying or Selling Real Estate. Donna Rucinski, Copyright 2020.

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