Avoiding For Sale By Owner Mistakes


Thinking of selling your home yourself and saving on real estate commissions?  According to Redfin, “one in five sellers forgo the help of a full service agent”.  Similarly, Sissy Lapin of ListingDoor.com states, 1 in 8 homes sold via For Sale By Owner (FSB0) in 2016.

Jordan Linville sold his last two houses via FSBO.  He states,

“Selling my house without a Realtor® was a lot of work.  I’d estimate it took +30 hours each time. However, I’ve saved over $25,000 in aggregate, so for me… FSBO was worth it.”

We asked several real estate professionals two questions. “What were some of the mistakes they saw sellers make when selling their home by owner?  And how can they fix them?”  These professionals included Realtors®, FSBO companies and real estate investors. We weeded out those who could only say, “You should always use a real estate agent” or “Price it right”.   We found 5 reoccurring mistakes that sellers wishing to sell their home on their own make.

Lack of Professionalism

Buyers and their agents are looking for responsive sellers.  Buyers are watching internet sites like Zillow.com, Realtor.com and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for houses that meet their buying criteria.  In hot or in-demand-markets where nice homes sell quickly, buyers are looking to see prospective houses as soon as they are listed for sale.  As a seller, you must quickly respond to inquiries.  Linville says, “If you or someone you know can’t respond to phone calls and emails quickly, for sale by owner may not be for you.  You’ve got to be quick and professional.”

“If you or someone you know can’t respond to phone calls and emails quickly, for sale by owner may not be for you.” – Jordan Linville

Bad Photos

Buyers today decide from the pictures they see online if they want to see your house.  Bad photos can make or break their opinion.  Linville says,

“Realtors spend a lot of time making sure your house looks great – you should, too.”

It can be tempting to pull out your phone and take your own pictures.  However, that may be the only time potential buyers ever look at your house.  It is well worth it to pay the money to have professional photographs taken.  Typically this costs less than $200.  I have a professional real estate friend who feels very strongly about professional photos.  She hires two different photographers to shoot pictures of every house she sells.  She then chooses from the best pictures for her listings.  Her thinking, “all it takes is one bad picture to turn a potential buyer away.”

Not Willing to pay Market Commissions to the Buyer’s Agent

Every listing in the MLS tells real estate agents what commission the buyer is willing to an agent for bringing them a buyer.  Market commissions can vary from region to region and between economic cycles.  If real estate agent sees a listing with below market commissions, they will be less inclined to show a house. Early White of HouseHeroes.com  says, “Buyer’s agents hesitate to show a house if they believe they will get below market rate commissions.  Explicitly state in the listing “3% commission to buyer’s agents” so buyer agents know they will be compensated at market rates.”

“Buyer’s agents hesitate to show a house if they believe they will get below market rate commissions.” – Earl White

Making Home Difficult to Show

Your goal is to get as many prospective buyers to see your house as possible.  This means allowing agents easy access to show the inside of your house.  Nathan Garret a real estate broker in Louisville, KY says you should “Always accommodate for showings. Don’t jeopardize losing a serious and motivated buyer because they were unable to see the property.”

“Don’t jeopardize losing a serious and motivated buyer because they were unable to see the property.” – Nathan Garret

Real estate salespeople use special Realtor lock boxes that allow them to get a key to show your home.  You can often obtain these through what is known as a flat fee listing service for a nominal fee.  In addition to the Realtor lockbox, flat fee listing services will also list your property for you in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  This service is subscribed to by real estate professionals and will be the first place your buyer’s agents will be looking for your home.

Not Communicating they are Willing to work with Realtors®

Many sellers believe that real estate agents are not willing to work with FSBOs.  Irene Keene with Coldwell Banker in Madison, WI states, “It’s a misconception that real estate salespersons are reluctant to work with homeowners who wish to sell on their own. Our fiduciary duty is to our clients.”

“Make a note in any online/printed ads that they are willing to work with agents” – Koki Adasi

Koki Adasi with Compass Real Estate, a real estate broker in Washington DC says that “owners should make a note in any online/printed ads that they are willing to work with agents.  They should also have the necessary agreements in place with commission and any other details stated that can be signed by both parties”.  If you use a flat fee listing service, be sure to have the service include this information in the MLS listing.