By Robert Irwin
If you want to sell your home, you have to make it available to buyers who want to see it. That's the rule whether you're using an agent or selling on your own. However, there's a day and night difference between having an agent do the actual showing, and showing it on your own.
When you list your property, most likely the agent will want to put a lockbox on your door. This allows the agent (or other agents who are co-broking the listing) to come by and show the home when you're out.
For most sellers this seems like a terrible inconvenience. It means that you have to keep your home clean and neat virtually every minute of every day, simply because you never know when someone will come by to see the property. Of course, some sellers insist on a "call first" policy. Here, the agent must call first and make an appointment. Presumably, if your home isn't clean, or you're busy, or you just don't feel like it, you can decline the visit.
"Call first" sellers really aren't that interested in selling their property. If they were, they'd realize that buyers won't wait. If your house is not available to be seen, a buyer will want to see others, and an agent will be happy to oblige. Tell buyers to come back tomorrow and chances are you'll never see them again. You have to make your home available when the buyers want to see it, not when it's convenient for you.
The same holds true if you're selling by owner. If a prospective buyer calls, you have to be willing to show that buyer your property at the drop of a hat. Only it's a bit more difficult, here. When you list, the agent comes by, walks the buyers through, makes small talk and, if possible, gets an offer.
When you're selling by owner, you must do that task. You must be there to welcome the buyers to your home, show it to them, ask them what they like and don't like, and later call them back to see if they're interested in making an offer.
In both cases there are security concerns. While most buyers are perfectly honest people, not all are. Some may try to snitch an item of value while looking at your home. Therefore, you are well advised to take ALL your valuables and secure them at another location. (Agents are trained to keep an eye on buyers when they walk them through homes and as a "by owner" seller, you should do the same thing.)
There's also the matter of safety. While it's rare, a presumed buyer actually might be a mugger or worse. Therefore, you are advised to not show your home when you're alone, particularly if you're a woman. Always try to have someone else there with you. Keep all the blinds on the windows up so people from outside can see in. And call a friend to let them know when you're showing the property and that you'll call back when you're done. It's also a good idea to get the name, phone number, and address of would-be buyers before letting them into your home.
Unfortunately, while these precautions should help, nothing can totally guarantee safety. If this is a major concern of yours, then let an agent show your house while you're out.
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 for Owners.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.