did you successfully sell your house fsbo? tell me what worked!

disneyrshJune 7, 2008

Ok, I'm tossing around the idea of selling our house and moving one town over. Since I'm now putting the shoe on the other foot, I'm asking for opinions rather than dishing it out ;)

I'd like to try selling this house FSBO first, and for those of you who've SUCCESSFULLY done it, what do you think helped you to sell your house?

Please, no horror stories on this thread, I'm looking for successes only. I've already read through almost all of the 270 saved FSBO threads, so I'm trying to parse it down to what works. I already have read a lot about what doesn't...

So, fire away, tell me your FSBO success stories and what you think the key ingredient was that helped you sell.


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Hey, I see we have the same birthday, never noticed that lol

Were you in NJ? If so, what part because I think that would have something to do with success or failure.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 8:55AM
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Yes, I sold my house to the first person who walked in through the door during an "Open House".
I had an agent in mind in case things wouldn't work out. For personal reasons, I listed it myself with a limited broker service, where I would have owed a buyer/broker a commission, but not a listing commission. I was in better control of the showings. I've sold FSBO before.

I sold it FSBO, so no commission was owed.

Anywhoo, the limited broker (cost-$395, included a sign, listing on their site & MLS listing only for 6 months)sent me a sign which I stuck in the yard on Thursday, ran an Open House ad in the paper Sunday. I had 3 parties interested, with approx 15-16 people coming thru.

Here's what I did:
1. Decluttered the entire house, including the basement.
2.I listed it lower than the comps. REAs ( I met with 3 just in case)were all over the place with pricing. However, I knew the market so I listed it for 20k less than what I thought was a normal price. The commission on my house would have been 35k, so I did well without a REA.
3.I staged it.
4.Held an Open House.

If your house is spotless, priced well & staged it will sell, providing there are buyers. If there are no buyers, nothing will help.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 8:57AM
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I have sold numerous homes FSBO and donate my services to help FSBO sellers. Here are the top things that I've seen work.

1. OPEN HOUSES WORK! People like to be able to come without appointments and casually walk through without realtors shadowing their every step. Rehearse your presentation. Pointing out those features you believe are particuarly attractive about your home. Don't be shy, be excited about those lovely cabinets and how great it is to have shelving in the garage, etc.

2. You know those weekend OPEN HOUSE pages of the newspapers that appear to only be listing realtor open houses? Well, 9 out of 10 newspapers will allow you to post your open house ad right along side of theirs. In our area the ads are generally 1" high by 2" wide, have a color photo at the top, and a basic description at the bottom. Be sure to include a phone #, the homes address, and the date/time of the open house. Here they run about $75. If you run the ad on saturday, you may want to word it something like "OPEN SAT & SUN 1-5PM" and kill 2 birds with one ad.

3. Curb appeal is so important. Set out some planters with colorful flowers near the door or walkway which will draw people into the home. Once inside, have cookie dough in the oven at a very low temp so you don't have to worry about it burning, but allow the smell of fresh baked cookies to flow through the house. Make sure all TVs radios etc are turned off. You want the buyers to focus on your home and what you are saying.

4. Get a good photo of the home and design an attractive flyer. Use premium presentation paper to print your flyers on. DO NOT USE STANDARD COPY PAPER as the ink runs if moisture gets into the flyer box. Since you are living in the home, only put 3-5 flyers in the box at a time. You don't want the realtors who are upset at not getting the listing to pull $20 worth of premium flyers out of your box and trash them. Believe me..... they do this.

5. If you are planning on holding the home open on weekends, be sure to put that in the flyer. If a drive by picks up your flyer, they may hesitate to set up a private appointment with an individual, but they will make a mental note that the home will be open this weekend..."so let's stop by".

6. Of course the standard rules apply, make the home as attractive as possible, if you have children send them over to a friends or grandmas, if you have a dog that barks at strangers, remove him from the premises, etc.

7. Have copies of your FSBO contract and home disclosure made up ahead of time. This way interested parties pick up the documents and read through them at their leisure, or have their attorney go over it, etc. This way if they want to proceed, they are informed and prepared to talk business.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 10:30AM
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I tried FSBO for a very short time before I went for a realtor. After I got some calls from weird to inconsiderate people I bailed.
I'd just like to add to the above "if your house is spotless" comment. If your house is desirable and an easy sell try FSBO. I.e. I would be much more inclined to try FSBO if I had a house with a known good market and could comfortably go with an aggressive (low) price - i.e. family house in a desirable family neighborhood, good school district etc. etc. If (as I had) you have a house that is a bit different - acreage, you've put in a lot of money which affects the pricing, its the biggest most expensive in the neighborhood, the oldest in the neighborhood, whatever, its going to be hard unless you can price low.
I guess a short way to say it - is if a realtor would have an easy time of selling your house due to house/price then you probably will too. If your house has an issue or normal price vs. low then a realtor and you will have a harder time.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 10:39AM
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One other thing. Like dabunch said, consider how much a realtor will cost and price your home attractively. Less than comparable properties in the area which have the REA commission built in. Don't try to sell your home for the same thing as the others cause people are going to consider you greedy when they know you are selling FSBO without the fee.

If you want help designing your flyers or ads, drop me a line at this blind email and I'll help you out. No charge.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 10:56AM
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I sold 3 FSBOs.

The first was in 1991. I had a garage sale at my aunt's house. We put a small cardboard sign in the front bay window and sold the house in the first 10 minutes.

The second one I sold was my uncle's Sister's house in 1994. I hammered in the "For Sale" sign and drove 10 minutes back to my house. The light was blinking on my answering machine. I returned the call and got back into my car to show the house to this interested party. I sold it 15 minutes after the showing.

Both of the above sales were no mortgage needed. Both homes were completely empty and interiors painted off white.

The third one was in 2004 which was my father's house. This one took 1 month to sell and required a mortgage.

My father owned the house for almost 60 years before selling it but the home has since been up for sale 3 times by 3 different owners since he sold it. How times change!

A 4th home which was my own was not a successful FSBO sale as the market was beginning to tank in late 2005 and most of the buyers had little to no money down. I tried for 3 months but eventually turned to a realtor and sold it almost a year later to a "no mortgage" buyer.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 11:17AM
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Hi roselvr-I say it's your birthday, it's my birthday too yeah!

I have two very close friends who share my same birthdate and year. Freaky! Now there's more!

No, not NJ. Atlanta. The guy up the street sold his house FSBO last July with nothing but a sign in the yard. No website, no flyers, nothing. And for a HUGE amount. I'm not expecting anywhere near that number. But seeing that sell made me think that it was possible. So, here I am, gathering info...

(Which my DH tells me I will then proceed to ignore and do it the way I want to anyway...)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 8:39PM
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Seasoned Seller, where did you find a FSBO contract to have sitting out for the sellers?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 8:41PM
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Disney, from what I'm reading on the NJ board of Citydata, Atlanta is pretty hot right now. They say you can get a lot of house for the money. If you haven't checked realty times, the link is below. From what I scanned, it is a buyers market.

If you want to make your own fliers ahead of time, you can go to the microsft site for flier templates, click on for rent or sale. The one I used was here. All of the boxes can be adjusted, I added more pics to the top, in one version I had the larger pic then 4 below. If you'd like me to email you a copy of my flier so that you can see what you can do to it, email me from my member page, I'd be happy to send it to you. It took me about a week to get it the way I wanted it & I wish I did this in the beginning.

One lady on the NJ board (citydata) used the Microsoft Live site to make a web page of her house. Maybe that's something you'd like to look into? If you do FSBO with an MLS number, you can add it to the web site you make.

Make sure you go to Zillow and get your page set up, so that you are ready.

Do you have a real estate attorney? If not, you might want to find one. They can make a contract for you. Easier to get everything together now so that you will be ready.

It isn't often I meet anyone with my birthday, most are the day before or after.

Here is a link that might be useful: Realty times - Atlanta

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 8:38AM
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My parents did it successfully with their 3 BR condo, but it was before the market declined in our area (2 years ago). They made sure the place was very, very clean and decluttered, and that's it. They had painted most rooms within the past couple of years. They did not take down wallpaper (just half-walls in the dining room) which seems to be a standard recommendation here.

They sold in one weekend (location, location, location) and took the offer to their real estate attorney, who wrote up a contract.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 10:09PM
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We sold FSBO, over our asking price, within a week. My tips are:

1. Do your homework. Some people are leery of FSBO sellers; others think they can pull one over on you. So be familiar with the entire process so that you can comfortably discuss contract terms, inspections, title company, etc. And have a contract form handy in case someone wants to make an offer right away.

2. Make sure you have a decent flyer, and keep your box stocked. The people who made offers on our house all received flyers from friends who knew they were looking for a house.

3. Share your savings on the commission. People who buy FSBO generally expect to get a price break since they know you aren't paying a realtor. We priced lower than our competition, but still walked away with much more than if we'd used a realtor.

Also, as a safety note, plan ahead how you will show your home. Ask for bank references and job verification before letting people in your house. Our house was small, and I had purged it of any valuables, so I felt OK letting people walk through while I hung out on the neighbor's porch - they could usually zip through it pretty fast.

Good luck if you try it - it definitey worked out well for us. It does take a considerable amount of time and effort, but the savings was worth it. Also, I have small children, so I really liked being in control of setting up appointments.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 7:03AM
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Thank you everyone for such great info!

I'm still mulling it over. My DH says that the price that we list the house FSBO at would have to reflect a 6% reduction in the price because we're not using a realtor and people will expect to get a better deal with a FSBO house.

If that's true, then isn't it better to use a realtor and use that 6% instead of throwing it away with a lower house point?

We do have a real estate attorney we like and have used several times in the past, so we're good there.

The Zillow page for my house is pretty interesting. It thinks our house is worth about 100k more than I think it will sell for, and on top of that when I corrected some info on it (garage is detached and single, not attached and double) the price increased another 33k and it should not have. So, I'm not sure how valuable that website really is other than to peek at what your neighbors paid...

So, I'm not sure about the whole pricing thing...

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 8:04AM
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I don't think you have to knock the entire commission off the list price. After all, the house is still worth the same, whether or not you use a realtor. I just think buyers expect the price to be somewhat lower (maybe for the perceived hassle of working with a FSBO, or because they think you can afford it??) And if you are willing to accept offers from buyers with realtors, you will have to subtract the buyer's realtor's commission from your sale price.

We priced our house at about 96% of our competition. We ended up selling over our list price, but some of that was because the buyers asked us to leave several items that we had specifically excluded from the listing (large playset, extra furnace in garage, appliances).

We received an offer from someone with a buyer's realtor, but didn't take it because another offer, though lower, netted us more because the buyers did not use a realtor.

Since the standard realtor fee here is 7%, I feel we came out significantly better. The houses in our neighborhood were all pretty similar, so I feel fairly confident that a realtor could not have sold the house for much more than we did.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 8:52AM
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I believe freezetag hit the point that most fsbo's don't think about: have a blank contract ready so the prospect can make an offer. And be ready to explain any language in it.

Most buyers don't know how to make an offer without an agent to write it up. Also, you want to know what's in the contract (and if it's your contract, you will). You can get a "standard" contract from your local or state real estate association (probably on their web site) but you should read it carefully and make any changes you want (and make a new clean contract that has any changes you made - don't use a marked up copy). Your buyer can, of course, make their own changes to the contract as part of their offer, and you can accept those changes or not as you see fit.

If the buyer has to go away and find a contract to make an offer, you stand a good chance of losing the sale. Make it simple for the buyer.

And don't forget the cookies - bake some cookies before your open house and walk around the house with the cookie sheet right out of the oven!!

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 1:44PM
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I sold 2 FSBOs - one of them in a very heavy buyers market.

One thing that you need when you FSBO is confidence. Confidence that you can do this and do what is necessary to do it professionally without making some of the typical FSBO mistakes.

If you think you are going to "try" FSBO, but then go to an agent soon, just go with the agent now because you already don't have the confidence needed to do FSBO.

Another thing I did was get a professional appraisal done on the home and price it correctly for the given market. And you must know your local market like the back of your hand.

I created a custom For Sale sign that had my phone number, the basic points of the home (# bed/bath, main features such as pool, golf lot, basement, 3/4 acre lot, etc.). Answer your phone and if someone has to leave a VM, call them back asap, never longer than one day later. Don't get mean or short with the buyers no matter what. Meet them on their schedule, their time is important. DON'T talk too much. Show the home and stay out of the way! Don't make small talk and such. You might say too much. be available on short notice. Yes - have a contract available. Also fill out a disclosure form if required in your state.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 1:59PM
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I'm not selling, but I was helping my MIL find a townhouse 6 months ago. The problem with the FSBOs, is that a lot of them were priced about $10-20,000 higher than the realtor ones. For the hassle, it wasn't worth it, especially since many of them were "firm" with the price.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 8:01AM
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Other things for FSBO sellers to do:

*Create a web site for the home. Include approx 5-10 nice photos that showcase the strong points of the home. Don't include photos of ugly or small rooms or of yards with toys or junk.

*Make sure your sign has the phone number clear and large. Many FSBOs buy the standard FSBO signs and then write their tel# with magic marker. Often this is written too small or often the marker fades bady. You can get a nice custom sign by most local sign shops for well under $100, often around $30-$50 for a basic sign with your phone number included.

*If you put flyers in a box out front, make sure this doesn't go empty. Put the price in bold near the top so buyers can see the price immediately. DO include at least one photo on the flyer so buyers can remember your home from the dozen others they saw. Also put your web site on the flyer and note that they can see more photos at this web site. THIS WILL CUT DOWN ON NOSY NEIGHBORS WANTING TO TOUR THE HOME!. They will see the photos on the web site and be satisfied.

*In my case, I offered a set amount (percentage or flat dollar amount) as a realtor's commission. This way anywhere from 1.5% to 3% (I sold 2 FSBOs and did 1.5% on one of them due to a sellers market...did 3% for other home in the buyers market). For buyers without a realtor, I immediately took this amount off the asking price of the home. For both of my FSBOs, I sold to buyers without realtors. Both sales went smooth.

*Advertise on Craigslist. Always include at least one photo (4 are allowed, I always posted 4 photos). Redo your craigslist add a few times a month. I found that I would get new calls/emails usually within 2 days of posting new Craigslist ads, even when the old ad was the same. Folks just look at the top page in most cases, I guess.

*When I showed the home, I would usually allow the lookers free access to tour themselves, and I would go on the back deck and let them know I would be there if they had any questions. But if you want them to linger on the back deck(good view that you want them to see without the seller in the way, etc), then you might pick another area for you to go in order to get out of their way.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 10:47AM
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Like Yoda (and Sweet Tea) says "Do. Or Do Not. There Is No Try."

Once we get the house ready, we'll Do it.

I'll have this thread to go by, and I'll have a plan worked out in advance.

The garage is coming down as I type this, so Step 1 has started...

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 7:47AM
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I've never sold a home FSBO, but have thought about it. (That's why I read all the information on this site.)

One thing I know I would do if I were selling FSBO is to set up a virtual phone number just for the sale, to avoid giving out any of my own numbers. (A virtual number is a phone number that doesn't really connect to a physical line. It's set to automatically forward to a number you specify, so that people could, for example, call the new virtual number and the call would ring on your cell phone or home phone.)

They're about $25-$40 to set up and $5-$10 per month. I'm hesitant to give my number out, so I know I would do this. If you have a VoIP phone, you can easily set up a virtual number from your provider's website, or search Google under "virtual phone."

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 1:54PM
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I've both sold and bought FSBO. And I prefer it that way since the principals must work out the details, or there is no deal. Well-intentioned adults can solve anything if they've a mind to.

I agree on the pricing strategy, your FSBO buyers (if they aren't represented by a buyers' agent) will be expecting a share of the "saved" commission. You should decide if you are willing to pay a buyers' agent's portion of a commission should a BA bring you a buyer. Not likely, but it may happen and you should think that out ahead of time. And for the buyer a full FSBO is a somewhat more work than having an agent working for them so that's why they may feel entitled to a bit of a price break.

Of course you need an experienced real estate attorney to make sure you comply with all local laws about sales and to review any contract offered by the buyers. Indeed, the buyers may not even know how to get a contract drawn up, so you should be prepared to do that, too.

The one piece of advice that I would offer is that you will have to gird yourself to ask a lot of questions of your potential buyers that in other contexts would be rude or intrusive; namely about their finances and ability to obtain financing. If you were using realtors all around these questions would be passing through the professionals so you wouldn't be dealing with them directly, but if you're FSBO then they'll be squarely on your plate. Your attorney can advise you about what sorts of things are customary, then just have at it. I actually advised one of my potential buyers not to go forward since it was clear what they were proposing wouldn't work.

One other thing, I think FSBOs can attract buyers who feel intimidated by realtors and so you may have above average number of looky-loos who would have been screened out by professionals. They can be tedious, but not the end of the world and you'll get better over time in weeding them out from the start.

If you're showing the house by yourself for some reason, always have your cell at hand and have an "escape plan" if things go badly - even if it's just to your neighbor's house. Don't let your interest in selling over-ride your natural sense of danger, even if you think it may look foolish.

I wish you good luck; I personally would always start with a FSBO since economics aside, I think it's a better way to sell and buy real estate.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 7:20PM
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Thanks, Molly, good advice.

Luckily I have great neighbors who will be there for me if I need extra support during a daytime showing (she can watch the kids, he can be in the house with me) and DH can be around in the evenings.

Is it appropriate to ask lookers to show some sort of pre-qual letter before they see the house?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 9:57PM
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