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How To Sell Your House Without a Realtor

October 24, 2009 Leave a comment

So you want to sell your house but do not see the value of Realtor representation. Not an unusual thought – after all, lots of people do lots of things themselves like fix their cars, do handyman jobs in their house, do their own taxes, etc.   If you can do something as well as a professional does I say “Go for it!”

As a Realtor I believe strongly in my own abilities and I do think I’ll do a better job than you will – but that’s not what this article is about.  I’ve already written about the things that you should expect from a Super-Realtor like me to help you sell your home for the highest possible net value in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of inconvenience to you.

If unrepresented selling feels like the right choice for you, here are some tips to help you through.

RESEARCH

While you may not have access to your local Multiple Listing Service which provides Realtors with up to the minute market data on sold, active and withdrawn properties that are comparable to yours, there is a wealth of data out there for you pore over to help determine what your house can sell for.

If you know of a house that sold recently, your town land records should be able to find details on the sale. Some towns are putting their records on line so you won’t have to weave your way through the town hall to  look things up.

Websites like Zillow can help you also to determine the value of your house based on their algorithms which primarily use square footage and proximity of recent sales as their basis.  You will have to temper these based on the unique attributes of the sold homes balanced against your own.   Things like age, condition, type of heating/cooling, parking, water and waste specifics, flooring and many other specifics will be pluses and minuses that impact the right price for your home.

As for currently listed homes, you can get the basics of these from various websites to use as comparison.  I would also recommend going to any open houses you might see advertised in order to check out the competition.

The key in this is to be honest with yourself — check your ego and emotional attachment to your house at the door, so to speak.   Things that have personal value to you might not mean much to prospective buyers.  A wine cellar, for example might add a lot of value to you, but to someone who doesn’t collect wine, it might just be considered storage.

EXPOSURE

One of the most important things about selling anything, whether it’s a toy collection, a house or a football stadium, is that you have to somehow get your product into to the consciousness of your target audience.

First you have to determine who and where your target audience is.  Remember that, as an unrepresented seller, your buyer pool is most likely limited to the people who have decided that they want to purchase from someone who is selling on their own.  If someone has decided to engage a Realtor to help them find homes, they are most likely going to rely on that Realtor to help them find a home.  Most Realtors have user friendly interfaces for their buyer clients to peruse the houses that are available and choose which ones they would like to see.

There are, for sure, buyers who are specifically looking for For Sale By Owner houses. Here’s why.  They know that the seller isn’t paying a commission to a broker and they would like to save some money. Their logic is that they are entitled to some of the money you’ll be saving in the form of a lower purchase price.

You can find those buyers, usually via two methods.

  • Online. There are a ton of individual websites where FSBO buyers and sellers can connect.  Check them all out and post the details of your house on each of them that you like.
  • Signs. The second method of attraction is the FSBO sign in your front yard. Obviously this will only attract people who actually see it, so the exposure will be limited to people who drive down your street.  If you live on a really busy road, many people will drive by and a certain percentage of them will be prospects for you. If you live on a cul-de-sac or dead end street your exposure will be mostly limited to people who visit your neighbors.

If you go with a sign, don’t make the mistake of trying to advertise too much on your sign. Business 101 says that marketing should not be an attempt to sell your product – just a means of getting the prospects to contact you.

Someone I know recently sent me this photo of a FSBO sign.  I don’t know if this sign was real or a joke (probably a joke) but it shows what not to put on the sign.

What you do want to put on the sign will basically be how to contact you.  In good weather you may also want to put some brochures with some of the POSITIVE highlights of the house.

Third possible avenue (this will cost you some money) is to contact Real Estate brokers and offer them a commission if they bring a buyer.  You can set any amount you like.  Simply tell them, that you are not listing your house with a broker but you would be willing to pay a certain amount to a broker who has a buyer.

If you decide to do this, you will be paying less than you would to a listing Realtor who has to account for paying a portion to the buyer broker.  Remember, as I said above, if you are saving money, your FSBO buyer will want to share the wealth with you.

You can reach out to the Realtors by finding out individual email addresses, calling them, printing fliers and bringing them to all the offices, mass faxing – or any other method you choose.

SHOWING POLICY

Decide ahead of time how you will handle requests for showings.  If there is more than one adult living in your house, make a schedule as to who will be responsible to host visitors to your house.  Decide what times you are willing to be available.  Most buyers want to see homes in the evenings or weekends, so be sure someone is available.

Also, never let people wander through your house unescorted.  If there is a large group including relatives, children, friends, etc.  ask them to all stay together as you take them through the house.  Since you don’t know the people, you have no way of really judging if they are honest or not.  Item such as jewelry, small electronics and prescription drugs can be slipped into a pocket very quickly and easily by someone who is skilled.

One urgent safety issue. If you do have a sign in the yard and there are times when minor children will be home alone, have a family discussion and make a plan how to handle unexpected visitors knocking on the door when there is no adult at home.

QUALIFYING

OK – so people start to call you – or they just knock on your door because of the sign – what is your plan?

Is everyone welcome to tour your home or do you feel that you should find a little bit more about them before letting them into your home.

My recommendation is to prepare a little script for people who call.  Something to the effect of:

“We’d love to show you our home but I’m sure you understand that we need a little information about you first. We’ve prepared a little questionnaire which I can fax or email to you.” If they are already standing on your doorstep because they saw your sign, you’ll probably have to address this a little differently.

Some of the things you want to know include the following items:

  • Name,
  • Address
  • Telephone #
  • e-mail
  • Do they own or rent now?
  • Do they have to sell something before moving
  • How many people in the family
  • Where they commute to
  • When are they looking to move

These last couple are critical unless you want to waste your time with people who love to look at houses but cannot afford one.

  • Are they financially qualified to buy your home?
  • Have they seen a lender yet and do they have a letter of pre-qualification or are they buying  cash.

You may want to personally connect with a local bank loan officer that you can refer people to in case they don’t know anyone.

OFFER PROCESS

So if someone does make an offer, what do you do next?

Will you require them to give you a deposit WITH the offer?

If they don’t want to give you any money until after you settle on a price, you can suggest that they give a check to their attorney for, let’s say, 1% of the offered price.  Their attorney can provide you a letter certifying that he is holding the money.  If your buyer is serious he’ll be willing to “put something in the game” before you waste your time negotiating.  An offer with nothing attached to it, is not likely to be serious.

Prepare a sheet in advance stating your terms.

  • How long after the price is set do you want to allow them to perform an inspection?
  • How many days after the inspection will they have to bring up any requested repairs?
  • Do you want to require that the inspection be done only by a licensed home inspector – or can they just bring their cousin who has a tall ladder?
  • Will you accept an offer from someone who has not sold their house yet?
  • How much time will you allow them to obtain a mortgage approval?

To protect yourself on these and similar issues, you probably want to have your attorney prepped for these kinds of issues so he can prepare a contract template for you to use.

NEGOTIATING

Once you and the prospective buyer are on the same page as to the process you can begin negotiating the price.

Expect a low initial offer.   That’s what buyers do today.  They will test the waters to see what your sense of urgency or desperation is.   So decide ahead of time how you will respond.

The second reason for an expected low offer is something I mentioned above.  The buyer wants to share in the savings you will realize from not listing your house with a broker.  He’s shopping in the FSBO market for the same reason you are selling there.

Real estate fees are always completely negotiable – there is no such thing as a standard commission.  If, however your buyer has the perception, for example, that the fee you WOULD HAVE paid is 5% and your house is selling for $400,000, he has it in his head that you are saving $20,000.  That might not be accurate since there is no standard commission, but as we all know, perception becomes reality for many people.

In that scenario he is likely going to expect to pay $10,000 less for your house because you are selling it on your own. You will have a hard time convincing him otherwise.

Remember, you have three options each time an offer is presented:

  • Accept the offer
  • Decline the offer
  • Make a counter offer

Repeat the offer/counter-offer cycle as many times as necessary to come to an agreement with the buyer on price and other terms.  If you do not agree, just hang on for the next prospective buyer and begin the process again.

END GAME

So, you’ve received and accepted an offer. Final steps:

  • The buyer did an inspection and was satisified with the condition of the house.
  • Your attorney and their attorney have created contracts which you both have signed.
  • The buyer has applied for a mortgage.
  • The lender sends an appraiser out to confirm that the sale price does not exceed the current market value.
  • The buyer gets his mortgage approval.
  • The sale of his house get completed.

Somewhere in this process you will look for and be negotiating the purchase of your next home.  It’s always a difficult call to know when to begin because in most cases you won’t be able to complete the purchase of your next home until your current home is sold.  It’s a bit of a juggling act – but this is not exclusive to unrepresented sellers – it’s just a part of the real estate process.

Once all of those things have been accomplished a date is set for closing and you are on the way to your next home.

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Did Alan Greenspan cause the housing bust?

Recently there have apparently been some comments that the current decline in housing prices is the result of the super-low interest rates that former Federal Reserve (Fed) chairman Alan Greenspan promoted during the early part of this decade. Greenspan defends his actions in this article in the London Financial times. In a nutshell, the question is why there are similar depreciating markets in other countries that were never regulated by Mr. Greenspan or the Federal Reserve.

What does a buyer expect from a FSBO?

November 20, 2007 Leave a comment

I’ve written in the past that the people who look at homes that are marketed by the owners (For Sale By Owner – FSBO) are somewhat limited since most buyers don’t care about whether the seller is paying a fee to a broker – they just want to see the most homes available for them. This means that most buyers will simply not look for FSBO homes unless they happen to pass a sign.

There actually is another set of buyers – the kind who specifically want to buy directly from the owner. They will seek out the FSBO simply because the seller does not have to pay a real estate fee. Their logic is that they will save money on the home because the seller will keep a higher percentage of the proceeds.

If you look a little closer at the thought process, this buyer will expect the seller to charge less for his home than if he was paying a fee. So in essence, the buyer expects to benefit from the seller’s savings.

Another way of putting that is that the buyer wants the real estate fee. In a free enterprise market, the buyer and the seller both want to keep as much money for themselves in a transaction – that’s the way free markets work.

So, if you’re thinking of selling your home yourself, make sure to take into account that saving the real estate fee may not happen. You might not pay it to a Realtor – but you might pay it to the buyer.

I don’t need a broker to sell my house, do I?

September 11, 2007 Leave a comment

People do it every day. So the answer is, obviously, no – you do not NEED a broker. So the underlying questions are

1. What are the advantages?
2. What are the disadvantages?

The advantages really are twofold. First, you don’t have to pay a fee. The entire sale price of your home is yours. Secondly, many people feel they have more control over the situation, they can set their asking price based on what they want, they don’t have a lock box on their door which allows them to control the access to prospects instead of giving access to agents from all over the county.

There are some potential disadvantages – here’s what they are.

1. Marketing. Most “For Sale By Owners” advertise by putting a sign in their yard. This works well if your potential buyer happens to drive by your house. If you think about it, this is an incredibly limited way of exposing your home for sale. Unless you live on a main road or highway, the same cars usually drive by your house again and again. Within a few days, it’s likely that everyone who is going to see your sign, will have seen it.

The second form of advertising is to post your home on a website that is specifically for the “For Sale By Owner” market. There are a number of these sites. This gives you a little bit broader exposure than the sign but it is still very limited. Think about it. People who are looking to purchase a home are not likely to really care about whether or not the seller is paying a real estate fee. They simply want to buy a home. Most buyers go to real estate agents.

Realtors all have (to varying degrees) structured advertising and marketing plans for all the homes they list. In looking for a Realtor, make sure to ask about the marketing plan – it is the most important component in how they can help you. You can find out about the Coldwell Banker marketing plan by contacting me — it’s the most comprehensive plan out there. There’s a lot to advertising and marketing a home — way more than a sign, a newspaper ad and Internet listing.

2. Qualifying your buyers. If you should happen to get a prospective buyer, who calls after seeing your sign or seeing your listing on the Internet, you will, likely invite them to preview your home and perhaps even make you an offer without having any knowledge of their financial situation and their ability to actually get a mortgage. A reputable Realtor will have worked with the prospect in advance of showing them homes. This provides a much higher probability that the people who are viewing your home are capable of actually making the purchase.

3. Setting the price. When you are setting the asking price for you home, what are you basing it on? It’s a fairly complex process. Realtors have tools and experience to help you set the price correct. The danger is that if you set it too high no one will be interested in making you an offer and if you price it too low, you risk not getting as much for your home as you possibly could.

4. Getting the highest price possible for your home. Aside from the asking price, you also have to be concerned with the final price that you settle on if and when you do get a buyer. When selling it by yourself, you are likely to be dealing with a single prospect. The negotiating scenario is the typical back and forth, where the buyer offers a low price, you come down a little, he comes up a little and eventually you meet somewhere in the middle.

When working through a realtor, if your house is priced and marketed correctly, there is an increased likelihood that there will be multiple prospects interested in your house. There’s no guarantee that you’ll have multiple offers, but the increased exposure and marketing increases the chances. When your Realtor does receive multiple offers, the negotiating mode changes from a back and forth scenario to an “auction” environment. This is where the multiple buyers each put forth their highest and best offer, always keeping in mind that if they bid too low, they will not “win” the house. This type of negotiation will make you comfortable that you got the best possible price and didn’t “leave any money on the table”.

The bottom line is that while in some cases it may seem at the outset that you’ll save money by selling yourself, you have to consider the “net equity” of your sale. In other words ask yourself the following question: “If I save 6% in commission but get 7% less for my home, what did I save?”

Categories: FSBO, Selling a home