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FSBO May Not Mean More Money For The Seller

Ginny…I would like to try to sell my home by owner for about three weeks before listing it with a real estate agent. I did have good experiences selling this way for my last two home sales.

Do you have an article/book to recommend I should read, especially since this is a $1.5 million home and I am not sure how to reach interested buyers? Should I place my ad on any particular Internet site(s)?

I plan to request about a $25,000 deposit, refundable only if inspection or appraisal/loan should fall through. I also plan to require evidence of financing qualification before showing it.

Should I note in my ad “seller’s agent protected”? Am I incurring any special risks I should look out for? Avis S., Sacramento, CA

Avis…Most homes in the United States are sold with the help of a real estate agent. (The actual percentage of by-owner sales that are reported varies between 8 to 15 percent.)

I frequently get letters on this topic, particularly from sellers believing they will get more by selling the home themselves than by using a broker.

It’s interesting that you mention that you’d like to try to sell your home for about three weeks on your own. Depending on where you live and the local market circumstances, that could be a good idea.

I generally tell sellers they can give it a shot and try to sell on their own. You might even find real estate agents willing to give you general information and some helpful advice knowing that you might choose them when you find out how hard it is to sell real estate or can’t find a buyer.

Three weeks should give you a good idea whether you will succeed on your own.

While your home is high-end, the vast majority of buyers these days start their search for a home on the Internet. They may do a general search or may try one of many specific real estate sites.

You’ll want as much attention on your home as possible, and that includes on the Internet. Listing a home in the local multiple listing service (MLS) is usually sufficient to disseminate the information throughout the many sites on the Web. That is typically done by the real estate agent you hire.

These days, however, you can find discount listing brokers who will list your home on the MLS for a fee. That fee can be as low as $400 and may depend on the length of time you want to keep the posting. You should then go on all other Web sites that handle real estate listings and make sure your home is listed there as well.

There are too many Web sites to name here, but the major real estate portals, including Zillow, Trulia and, should have your listing. Also make sure Web sites catering to your local community are included.

You’ll also want to buy a URL that is the property’s address and build a small Web site full of photos and listing information. You can use social media to point people (particularly your family, friends and neighbors) in the direction of that Web site and encourage them to share it with others.

Selling a home is hard work. Listing the home is just the beginning. If you’re lucky, you’ll have priced it right and your home will sell immediately. If not, you’ll be taking on the job of seller (and keep your home spotless) and chief marketer (which is what the agent is at this point) and be available for showings, to print a listing sheet for your home, to weed out people who may not actually want to buy your home but are simply looking to take a look around, and, finally, to watch out for people who may be looking to steal from you or do you harm.

I think that you should indicate on your listing that you are willing to pay a real estate agent a commission if he or she brings you a buyer for the home. That amount could be negotiable but may be in the range of 2 to 3 percent of the sales price.

If you don’t offer to pay the buyers’ agents, they won’t bring their buyers to your home. Since about 90 percent of homes are sold using a real estate agent, you would lose out on quite a number of potential buyers — especially in your bracket.

Be careful who you show your home to, and to keep your valuables and financial information secure. When you deal with potential buyers, you’ll understand the headaches real estate agents face with customers. You’ll also end up fielding phone calls and answering questions about your home at all hours of the day.

Most homebuyers are now accustomed to seeing quality pictures and videos of homes. You may have to invest some time and money to get those pictures and videos of your home up on the Web.

Selling your home on your own doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up with more money in the end. You might, but you might not. More and more buyers see sellers trying to sell on their own and will try to bargain for a lower price than they would if the home was listed with a real estate agent. Other for-sale-by-owner sellers overprice their homes from the start and kill their chances of getting a good price from buyers.

There’s a reason that good real estate agents stay in business: If they truly know what they are doing, they get a home sold.