By Robert Irwin
As soon as you put your home up for sale "by owner," you can expect to start getting some traffic through it. If no one else, your neighbors will want to come by to see what you've done to fix up your house -they'll be comparing it to theirs and judging how much they can get when they sell!
Chances are you'll also get some real estate agents who may come by. They may say they've got buyers looking for a home in your area and, if they bring a buyer by, would you pay them a "selling agent's commission." This is usually half a regular commission, so if you'd regularly pay 6 percent, they're asking for 3 percent. I usually suggest agreeing since it can make for a quick sale and you'll still be saving half the commission.
Finally, hopefully, you'll get some actual buyers who come by to see your home. They may have seen your sign, or your advertisement, or your listing on the Internet. They've called to say they want to see your home, and now they're here.
GET BUYERS TO SIGN IN
While it may seem so obvious that it's hardly worth mentioning, one of the biggest mistakes that people selling by owner make, is to overlook the "sign in" register. It's very important that you get everyone who comes to your house to sign in. You should have a notebook or register near the front door so that as people come in, they can list their names, addresses, and phone numbers and, very importantly, the date. You want to say something such as, "Have you signed in, yet?" If you ask as they enter, almost always people will sign your register. If you wait until after they've seen your house, they may simply leave.
One big reason to get lookers signed in, is so that you can call them back. Buyers rarely purchase on their first visit. And sometimes all that it takes to peak their interest and get them to come back (and hopefully make an offer), is a phone call. Call them up, ask them if they have any questions, and start a conversation. It could lead to a sale. But, you can't do it if you don't know who came by and if you don't have their phone number. Be sure to call neighbors, too. While they may not be interested themselves, they may have friends who are. And you can compose a list of agents from your register, in case you want to list later on.
A second big reason to sign people in, is that if you do later list with an agent, you can use the names from your register to exclude buyers. You can say you'll pay the agent a commission for buyers he or she brings by. But, if the buyers first saw the home while you were selling "by owner," they're your buyers, you'll deal with them directly, and no commission is due. This is why it's important to get as much information on the buyers as possible, including the date they saw your home.
Keep your sign-in register until you sell your home and escrow closes, or for at least six months if it doesn't sell. It can be a great resource that you can refer to, sometimes calling potential buyers back at 1 or 2 month intervals to see if they've changed their minds and would like to reconsider and see your home again.
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.