By Robert Irwin
One of the biggest challenges that any "by owner" seller faces is attracting buyers to the home. Getting a high level of traffic through your property is an important part of the selling process. In one sense, it's a numbers game - the more people pass through the house, the more likely one of them is to buy it.
But, how do you get people to come out to your property? After all, you don't have the advantage of an agent who can list the property on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and thus get the help of all the other agents in the area.
Actually, there are agents who will list your home for you on the MLS for a fee. These are discount and online brokers. Their fees vary from a low around $600 to as much as two and a half percent of the sales price.
However, even if you do get your house listed on the MLS, in order to be competitive with other homes listed there, you need to offer a full buyer's broker's commission. That typically amounts to another 3 percent. By the time you've done all that, the amount that you're saving by selling "by owner" has greatly diminished.
Nonetheless, it is possible to sell you home by yourself even without going to the MLS. This is particularly the case in today's market where in many areas of the country there is an actual shortage of homes - more buyers than sellers.
It may come as a surprise to many sellers, but today buyers identify areas in which they want to purchase and then cruise those areas looking for homes for sale. If they see a listed property, they call their agent and ask to see it. If they see a FSBO, they may call you and ask to come by. That's why the first line of offense in selling is to get a good visible sign in the yard. It's positively amazing how many homes (both listed and "by owner") are sold just on the basis of the sign. (Owners.com will provide you with a sign when you list online with a Standard or Premier package.)
After a sign, your next challenge is getting the word out. My suggestion is that you tell everyone you know and ask them to pass the word around to their friends and relatives. I once bought a home from a seller who's aunt was a passenger sitting next to me on a plane ride and told me about it!
Other methods of spreading the word is to create a flyer and then:
Tack it on bulletin boards in grocery and convenience stores.
Give it to housing offices in local companies.
See if you can have it displayed in malls and shopping centers.
Tack it on bulletin boards at any nearby colleges.
Get that flyer out anywhere that people might see it. The more legwork you do, the faster you're likely to find that buyer.
Advertising also pays. But make it short. A 3-line ad in the local paper is all you're likely to need to attract buyers' attention. Remember, when you write "by owner" in your ad, buyers immediately assume this is a house that agents won't show them... and they go out of their way to check it out. On the other hand, they're also wary of FSBOs where the seller has jacked up the price unrealistically. Don't attract buyers by a good ad, only to scare them away by a bad price.
Robert Irwin is the most prolific real estate writer in America having produced over 100 published books in the field. His TIPS & TRAPS McGraw-Hill series has sold well over a million copies and his FOR SALE BY OWNER KIT and FIND IT, BUY IT, FIX IT and other books have been strong sellers for Dearborn. In addition Irwin writes a regular real estate column for The Wall Street Journal online and is introducing a new weekly column forOwners.com.
Irwin has sold his own property "by owner" and during over 30 years in the business has been a broker and consultant to lenders, agents, buyers and sellers.