Tips for FSBOs

persnicketydesignJuly 2, 2014

I was reading the thread about mistakes that FSBOs make and agree with everything that was said. It got me thinking that it might be nice to have a thread about how to help the folks selling their own homes.

We're in the middle of selling our fourth FSBO. All have been under contract in under a month. We chose to go FSBO the first time because we have relatives and friends that are agents and didn't want to cause hard feelings. The last three we've done FSBO because I love to do it!!!

1. Know your competition. Check the MLS daily for new listings in your neighborhood. Go to open houses to see your competition and then make your house look better! Keep track of the listing & selling prices of comps. Start doing this several months before you're ready to sell.

2. Get everything in tip top shape. Take care of all the little things that you let slip by during day-to-day life. Caulk that tub, scrub those baseboards, clean out the cabinets, etc. Declutter and pack away things you won't need for awhile. It's also a great opportunity to purge things you won't need at your new home.

3. Curb appeal is everything. Cut & edge the lawn, trim the shrubs, freshen the mulch, put pretty flowers in the pots, pressure wash everything (except the windows...clean those by hand). Touch up caulk & paint.

4. Keep it squeaky clean. Always. Adopt a new routine of getting the house taken care of first thing in the morning. You never know when you'll get a call! We had a couple call while they were parked in front of the house and we invited them in for a tour. The bought our home.

5. Photos. If you've got a good camera, by all means take your own. Do not take them with a cell phone or iPad. Make sure to take pictures of the entire rooms on days you have good lighting. If you aren't confident in your photography skills, hire someone to do it for you. If your pictures are bad, people won't even bother to make it in the door.

6. Price accordingly. If you've been keeping track of the info on the comps you have a pretty good idea what your home should sell for. Now take a few thousand off that price. Really!!! You're not paying a listing agent, so let your buyers feel that they're getting a good deal on the front end. You have to get your buyers in the door. When it comes to negotiating price later you can remind them that you're already priced lower than the comps.

7. Advertise. We use flat-fee services to get in to the MLS. This time it was $399. Our listing shows up everywhere that the realtor's listings do. We also list on Craigslist and with other free local advertisers.

8. Yard signs. DO NOT use the red & white signs you get at your local home improvement store. No matter how neat your penmanship may be, it always looks like a third grader wrote them. Design your own signs on Vista Print. They look great, are inexpensive and are delivered quickly.

9. Love the agents! Not only are they working to find a home for their buyers, they are bringing buyers to you. They deserve to get paid for their services. We offered 2.5% on this house and every showing that we had was through a realtor.

10. Make your home available. When an agent calls to show your home say yes. Since you're already "show ready" all you have to do is turn on some well placed lights and back out the door. We have never been there when an agent shows our home. We leave a few minutes before their arrival time and leave the door unlocked. Just be sure to ask them to lock the door when they go.

11. Unrepresented buyers. Get the rest of the family out of the house and turn off your TV! There's nothing more unprofessional than showing your home while a TV is blaring in the background. I do walk through the main floor of the house with them and point out things that they might not notice just by looking. For example I wouldn't mention the obvious things like granite counters and maple cabinets, but I would mention the appliance lifts and soft close drawers. Make sure your valuables have been locked up and are out of sight.

12. Negotiate. They want your house and you want to sell it. Don't get stuck over a trivial amount of money or an appliance so that you can "win". Be sure to ask your buyer for a pre-approval letter from their lender.

13. Contracts. If you've used a flat-fee listing service, they have all of your state's contracts available for you. Print them out and write them up. We use the same attorney for all of our real estate transactions. They happily look over our contracts for us (free of charge) since they know they'll be getting the closing for our new house....and usually the one we're selling too.

14. Inspections. Your buyers will be in your home for several hours with the inspector going through your home with a fine toothed comb. Take care of as many little things as you can before the inspection. That leaky faucet or wobbly toilet that's a 5 minute fix will go down as a "ding" on the inspection report. Too many "dings" and buyers get worried.

Phew! I didn't mean to make it that long of a post. :) These things might not help anyone, but they have worked well for us in the past. Anybody care to add things that worked for them?

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scrappykat

I also have sold 2 homes by myself within a month using no realtors---found my last buyer on Craigs List!!

You have an awesome list started. I will add:

1. Remove your pets and all traces of them, when showing the house and in the pics.

2. Turn on lots of lights, open curtains and blinds----you want lots of natural light.

3. Bake something in the oven---bread, cookies etc. You don't want your house to smell bad---horrible first impression. Or simmer cinnamon sticks on the stove---no fake air freshener smell tho.

4. To get an idea of a list price, invite at least 2 realtors to give you a free analysis.

5. If the weather is cooperating, open all the windows for a bit to get some fresh air in.

Hope these tips help----they saved me thousands of dollars in realtor fees!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 8:50AM
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weedyacres

Good list. Some additional things we did:
1. Agree with the professional sign. They're pretty cheap online.
2. Make a website with your address (123Main.com) and put up your photos, descriptions, floor plan, etc. on there. List the website address on your flyers and yard sign. You can create a web site for free (and easy with templates) on weebly.com, and buy a domain on godaddy.com for $10. It's much better to have a web site to refer people to than just a phone number for them to call and ask questions. Give them the same online preview they'd have if it was on the MLS. (Note: we didn't have a flat fee MLS in our area, so didn't have access).
3. Get an appraisal to help you price it. I watched the comps as well, but an appraiser knows the ins and outs of how adjustments are made and cost us $150.
4. Put a lockbox on the house for realtors to use and give them the combination when they make the appointment. That makes it so it can be shown even if you're out of town.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 2:00PM
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Mmmbeeer

All good tips and very helpful thread.

What worked for us was a tip I read in a book years ago that suggested you have a weekend long Open House from 10:00am to 6:00 pm Sat. And Sun. We priced to sell which got them in the door and gave the second look people a chance to be able to take another look or bring a spouse back to show them the home. It wasnt unusual to have many people at the Open House (people will generally jump at the chance when they are looking for homes to be able to get in to see them without the hassle of getting ahold of a Realtor and having to schedule an appointment when a home first hits the market) and that worked to our advantage as it made our home seem desirable. All our buyers were generated from our Open Houses--we had to schedule very few showings because most buyers tried to get their second look in during the weekend we scheduled for the Open House. Obviously, you have to choose a weekend where there are no special activities going on in your town. We've never used an agent and if, Heaven forbid, we ever have to sell again, we will use this same strategy.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:20PM
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lizzie_nh

Good tips. Most of these are things ALL sellers SHOULD be doing (but many don't.) Taking active control is a good way to overcome a bad/incompetent seller's agent, too. (Although then it's frustrating because then you wonder why you're even paying a commission.) We did not go FSBO, but given the lack of guidance/advice/communication from our realtor, I feel like we did.

I would add... possible in lieu of an appraisal, actively watch the MLS for a good period of time (preferably months, at least) prior to listing your house. Not all MLSs are the same, but ours has a public side which has sale prices, and of course there are a lot of other sites out there which can give you generally accurate information about days on market, etc.. And, if you're looking at listings on a near-daily basis, either on your local MLS or a good local aggregator, you'll likely become familiar with the properties and develop an encyclopedic knowledge of their features, when they were listed, when they went under contract, etc.... The aim is to become almost as familiar with the local market as a good realtor would be. Are homes almost always selling for under assessed value? Over? Are a lot of listings expiring? We found, for instance, that although there are a lot of higher-priced homes in our market, almost without exception the houses which are selling are selling for at least 10% under the tax assessment. This was true almost across the board... didn't matter if they were higher-end or lower-end homes. Most successful sales have started out at prices that low, or rapidly and decisively dropped their price to that level. So we aimed to start even lower than that, despite the higher price our realtor suggested. It's tough, especially because it meant a loss for us, but it got the job done, and done quickly. No languishing on the market with multiple price reductions.

FSBO need to be as realistic about pricing, unless they don't really want to move. They need information in order to be realistic. Don't be led astray by all the houses asking high prices. Find out what things are actually selling for, and how many listings never sell at all. Also be conscious of the fact that as FSBO while you can probably gain access to sold prices, you won't have insight into seller concessions, so what looks like a high selling price may actually include closing costs rolled into the loan, etc..

This post was edited by lizzie_nh on Mon, Jul 7, 14 at 11:58

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 11:48AM
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dreamgarden

"What worked for us was a tip I read in a book years ago that suggested you have a weekend long Open House from 10:00am to 6:00 pm Sat. And Sun. "

I agree. That is how we purchased our house.

I don't like making appointments to see houses. If I'm not seriously interested in a house then I feel uncomfortable taking up people's time. Especially since it costs both agents time and gas to meet potential buyers.

I don't like being asked what I think, or how I plan to purchase. I'd rather look at a place without someone breathing down my back.

Our seller was great. He had an realtor but was very proactive in getting it on the market with as many buyers coming through as possible.

He had open houses five weekends in a row. I attended three of them. His realtor happened to be out of town the weekend we made our offer. It was nice to be able to speak to him directly instead of the nosy agents. They knew virtually nothing about the house, but were very interested in asking us questions about our financial status.

We learned from the seller that he wanted to buy a lake front lot that had just come on the market. He had to sell our house before he could buy it. We would have never known this if we'd only talked to his agent.

The house was immaculate. Freshly painted inside/out, and beautifully landscaped. After we complimented him on all the work he had done to the house, we asked him how much he would need to make the sale happen. He gave us a price, we made a cash offer and shook hands. His agent was irritated because we used our own contract. We had our lawyer do the rest of the deal so we wouldn't have to deal with them.

We are glad it worked out this way. Open houses definitely work.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 12:33PM
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ncrealestateguy

Scrappykat, it would be very inconsiderate to waste several agents time and energy if you know all along that you are selling FSBO.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 6:51PM
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louislinus

I just sold our house FSBO and I learned a lot. Primarily that finding a buyer is the easy part! Realtors really earn their money after the contract is signed. 2 major mistakes I made:

1) I stopped showing my house once I was under contract.
2) I didn't provide the appraiser with comps. He was an out of town appraiser who used 9 month old comps from a different area of town. We got no credit for our location and our location is prime and very important. The appraisal came in $25k under the selling price. If I'd kept showing my house I could have taken a backup offer and had a second appraisal through a different bank.

Very expensive lesson learned.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 7:37PM
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Mmmbeeer

"We are glad it worked out this way. Open houses definitely work."

I'm glad it worked out for you, Dreamgarden. This is SO similar to how we sold our homes. We kept anything we had to say about our home short and sweet and let our home inspection speak for itself. That strategy actually helped people feel more comfortable to open up to us and the best thing we could do was listen to them more than talk. Doesn't make sense to go on and on bragging about your large backyard only to find out that what your potential buyer really wants is a home with less yard work.

I feel like Open Houses are the secret strategy that very few FISBOs use to their advantage.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:29PM
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eggshellfinish

"6. Price accordingly. If you've been keeping track of the info on the comps you have a pretty good idea what your home should sell for. Now take a few thousand off that price. Really!!! You're not paying a listing agent, so let your buyers feel that they're getting a good deal on the front end."

"12. Negotiate...Don't get stuck over a trivial amount of money or an appliance so that you can "win."

These are the most important points, IMO.
Sellers, price your house reasonably; don't look to make a killing on the deal! And so often price comes down to a pissing match....take the offer and run with it!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 3:50PM
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karyn

Open Houses might work well for some markets, but in our case we are in the higher end and do not want to just open our doors to the public and have masses of nosy people trod all over our new wood floors and carpets etc...

We'll be going with a website, photo gallery, virtual tour and show by appointment only. Again, different markets. Listing on the MLS and paying broker co-op are better ways to reach buyers who wouldn't otherwise even know your house exists.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:19AM
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Mmmbeeer

Well, I've never claimed to have tailor made specific advice for every scenario. It's common sense that every market is different. But the vast majority of people in every market are not living in higher end homes and aren't in danger of priceless artifacts being secreted out of their homes. Most homes are more in danger of having their meds stolen than anything else.

I disagree about the MLS. If you have a typical middle class home that doesn't have any odd defects or is an overly personal design, and is priced to sell, all you need is good marketing that points to your listing on Zillow, to name one example. If you're a savvy seller, there's almost no need for a Realtor now. Not knocking Realtors at all, because if everyone could sell their home, they would. Just saying that if you plan on doing a lot of homework, are knowledgeable about your market and price and market to a broad audience, you won't need MLS in many markets because the vast majority start their home search online whether they have a Realtor or not.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:05AM
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dekeoboe

I disagree about the MLS. If you have a typical middle class home that doesn't have any odd defects or is an overly personal design, and is priced to sell, all you need is good marketing that points to your listing on Zillow, to name one example.

Not sure I agree with this. Our neighbor's house is for sale and listed on the MLS. It does not show up on Zillow, so I am not thinking Zillow is very effective in our area. Redfin doesn't show our zip code.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:22PM
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Mmmbeeer

"Not sure I agree with this. Our neighbor's house is for sale and listed on the MLS. It does not show up on Zillow, so I am not thinking Zillow is very effective in our area. Redfin doesn't show our zip code."

Redfin doesn't show up in our zip either. Your home will only show up on Zillow if you take the time to post it there. Then, you have to make sure your marketing points people to see your listing on Zillow. Same for Craig's List. But many people scan those websites all the time to see if anything slips past the radar of the MLS during their house hunt.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:35PM
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