For most people, a for-sale-by-owner transaction simply isn’t in the cards Granted, some people are able to sell their own homes without the services of a real estate agent. Some of these successful do-it-yourselfers are very experienced home sellers. Others are transferring ownership of their home to a child, a coworker or a tenant who’s already living in the home. These circumstances are the exception, not the norm, however. For most people, a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) transaction simply isn’t in the cards. Here are five reasons why.
- FSBOs can’t list their home in the MLS. FSBOs aren’t permitted to put their home in the multiple listing service (MLS) because these industry membership organizations are open only to licensed real estate brokers and agents. FSBOs are also locked out of many home search engines and Web sites, including the gigantic Realtor.com. Sure, a determined FSBO can put a for-sale sign in his or her front yard and run a tiny advertisement in the local newspaper, but the home won’t receive nearly as much exposure as it would through the MLS.
- Agents won’t show FSBO homes. In a typical home sale, the buyer’s agent receives a percentage of the commission that the seller pays the listing agent. Without a listing agreement, there’s no guarantee that the buyer’s agent will be compensated for his or her services, unless the buyer has signed a buyer’s brokerage agreement that specifically provides for such compensation. Even if a FSBO offers to pay the buyer’s side of the commission, most agents won’t want to go through a transaction with an unsophisticated self-represented seller across the table. That means the pool of potential buyers for FSBO homes is limited primarily to unrepresented and probably unqualified prospects. Moving? Minimize your relocation stress. Our moving section offers checklists, free services, tips and more.
- FSBOs usually overprice their home. Like most homeowners, most FSBOs honestly believe their own home is worth more than comparable homes in the same neighborhood. Usually, they’re wrong. A real estate agent can provide an update on market conditions, an assessment of the likely selling price of the home and tips for improving the home’s buyer appeal. Overpricing a for-sale home is a sure way to deter potential buyers.
- Buyers will feel intimidated. Potential buyers will spend less time in a for-sale home if the owner is present during the showing, and they’ll be shy about discussing its pluses and minuses with their own agent if the owner is within earshot. Buyers will also be less inclined to make an offer if they know they’ll be negotiating directly with the seller. Having an agent on each side creates an effective emotional buffer between the seller and buyer.
- FSBOs are likely to stumble into legal trouble. Real estate transactions are fraught with potential liability for unwary sellers, particularly in states that have extensive disclosure requirements (such as California). A FSBO who overlooks even one required form or legally mandated disclosure could face a protracted and expensive buyer lawsuit after the transaction closes.
Get a REALTOR®
Before placing a home on the market you should also identify REALTORS® in your community who can assist with the sale. Because Realtor.com is the largest real estate site online, it’s a perfect place to look when seeking realty services. Realtor.com lists realty professionals nationwide, and you can find those active in your community through extensive directories and property listings.
Why use a REALTOR®?
There are more than 2 million people nationwide who have licenses to sell real estate, of which about over 1 million members belong to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Only NAR members are entitled to use the term “REALTOR®.”
NAR members must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. By joining NAR, individuals have access to a wide range of classes, seminars and certification opportunities. Local REALTOR® groups are active in community matters, and individual members are routinely involved in PTAs and other neighborhood organizations.
In essence, local REALTORS® are community experts. They track real estate trends, share neighborhood concerns and participate in local matters. They’re good neighbors who are in the business of helping others buy and sell homes.
How do you choose a REALTOR®?
Whether you’re a first-time seller or someone who has sold many homes, there are several ways to find a local REALTOR®:
Use the “Find a REALTOR®” search engine on REALTOR.com® to find individuals who actively sell in your community. Get recommendations from past sellers. Look for REALTOR® signs in your community. Check the classifieds in local newspapers and “shopper” publications.
Look at the listings in local real estate magazines.
In some cases, sellers elect to meet only with one REALTOR® while other owners elect to meet with several. Whatever your preference, there will be a number of questions you will want to ask, including:
What services do you offer?
What type of representation do you provide? (There are various forms of representation in different states. Some brokers represent buyers, some represent sellers, some facilitate transactions as a neutral party, and in some cases different salespeople in a single firm may represent different parties within a transaction.)
What experience do you have in my immediate area?
How long are homes in this neighborhood typically on the market? (Be aware that because all homes are unique, some will sell faster than others. Several factors can impact the amount of time a home remains on the market, including changing interest rates and local economic trends.)
How would you price my home?
Ask about recent home sales and comparable properties currently on the market. If you speak with several REALTORS® and their price estimates differ, that’s OK, but be sure to ask how their price opinions were determined and why they think your home would sell for a given value.
How will you market my home?
At listing presentations, brokers will provide a detailed summary of how they market homes, what marketing strategies have worked in the past and which marketing efforts may be effective for your home.
What is your fee?
Brokerage fees are established in the marketplace and not set by law or regulation. Typically, brokers who list homes are compensated on a performance basis – that is, the broker is not paid unless the home sells under the terms and conditions that are acceptable to you.
What happens if another REALTOR® locates a purchaser? That is, who will that broker represent, and how will he or she be paid?
What disclosures should you receive?
State rules require brokers to provide extensive agency disclosure information, usually at the first sit-down meeting with an owner or buyer.
How long do you want to list your home? A “listing” agreement is a contract that shows the broker’s obligations and outlines the terms under which your home is being made available for sale. The length of the agreement is a negotiable matter.
What should you expect when working with a REALTOR®?
Once your home is listed with a REALTOR®, he or she will immediately begin to market your home according to the most appropriate conventions for your community. Your REALTOR® should keep you informed as the marketing process unfolds and as expressions of interest are received. In time, the marketing plan may be modified to reflect buyer reactions and changes in the marketplace.
In real estate there are written offers and oral offers. Oral offers (“Would they take $225,000 for the home?”) are not acceptable because they generally cannot be enforced (“Gee, did I say $225,000? I was sure I said $215,000”). Written offers created by the REALTOR® with assistance from qualified attorneys address numerous issues, are consistent with local requirements and provide the foundation for an actionable offer.