For Sale By Owner (or, FSBO — often pronounced “fizz-bo”) is when the owner of the home decided not to hire a real estate agent to sell their house for them, and instead are taking on the responsibility themselves. It seems simple enough, but For Sale By Owner is much more complicated under the surface. Most people don’t have a fundamental grasp on just exactly how much goes into selling a home. There’s the marketing and advertising, taking photographs, listing, showing, appraisal and inspection processes, negotiations, paperwork, etc. But regardless, there are plenty of people who do choose to sell their house ‘By Owner.’ Here are some of the reasons why, followed by some obstacles someone like this might run into on their FSBO journey:
They are the top expert when it comes to their home.
No one knows the history, layout, and personality and charm of a home better than the homeowner. They can use this knowledge to dazzle buyers, really selling the personal touches they may have added over the years. Buyers may feel that they can trust the homeowner, a person who has actually lived in the home, more than a real estate agent paid to represent them.
BUT: A home has personal sentimental value to the homeowner, and they probably won’t be able to be objective.
To that same effect however, is the fact that their home might be so special to them that they let their emotions take the place of logic. It might be difficult to price their home based on factors that matter, such as size, location, comparables, when all they can think about are the priceless memories they shared in the home with their family.
They can trust in themselves.
Homeowners may find it hard to trust a real estate agent, especially if it’s the first one they are working with. They might wonder if they really have their best interests in mind, or if they’re just there to get a commission.
BUT: Negotiating is messy.
Let’s face it, most people aren’t the best negotiators. Especially when they’re bound to have personal biases get in the way and emotional ties to the object they are trying to barter for. Also, not only do they have to negotiate with the buyer, but also the buyer’s agent, appraisers, inspectors, mortgage bankers, etc. It helps to have someone who’s on their side, backing they up when they need it most.
They might just have what it takes to create the perfect strategy.
Some homeowners may have sales or marketing experience. If they do, they may have a leg up on other FSBOs. Real estate agents may be experts when it comes to the real estate market, but who knows who has some tricks up their sleeve of their own.
BUT: They may NOT be an expert at marketing their home.
Okay, so maybe not all homeowners have knowledge of marketing techniques. Or, they simply don’t know enough about real estate to use the skills they do have. After all, the real estate world is a completely different beast. Agents are highly trained in marketing and selling homes, so they’ll know exactly what works and what doesn’t.
They like being in control.
They can choose the price, who comes in and out of their home, and who they want to sell to. There’s no one else chirping in their ear saying “do this!” “don’t do that!”. they have the power, and they can use it to personalize the process.
BUT: Selling a home by themselves will take up a ton of their time.
While, yes FSBO gives homeowners a lot of freedom on how they choose to sell, with great freedom comes great responsibility. The stuff they’d usually just let their agent take care of (the marketing, document preparation, arranging and hosting tours, answering questions, negotiating, etc) is now on their plate. They have to factor this into their schedule and make time for buyers, otherwise selling their home will be a very drawn-out process, and likely cost them more in the long-term (in terms of not only money, but time)!
They don’t want to compromise on the price.
A real estate agent might push a homeowner to accept a lower offer in order to get their home sold quicker. Luckily, if they sell their home by owner, they can sell their home at whatever price they choose, because there’s no pressure to take certain offers.
BUT: They likely have little to no sales experience.
They might have the marketing skills, but are they also a sales expert? Real estate agents know more than anyone how to help buyers buy and sellers sell. They are familiar with how the market operates, they have access to pricing data, the legal standards and loopholes, and most importantly: they know exactly how to make their house sell, and sell fast!
They can take advantage of FSBO resources.
The ushering in of a new digital era means sellers can access resources for pretty much anything and everything at their fingertips. This, of course, includes tons of sites for FSBO. Websites like Craigslist, Facebook, Nextdoor, and more are all great places to advertise a home for sale. There are also sites specifically for listing FSBO properties, such as ForSaleByOwner.com, FSBO.com, and HomesByOwner.com.
BUT: They’ll have a lack of access to qualified buyers, and they may even get some sketchy characters popping in.
Real estate agents are able to screen interested buyers so that they are only inviting serious potentials to view a house. This prevents sketchy characters from entering a home, who might simply be looking to case the place.
They can leverage their digital network.
As we mentioned above, anyone can use their social media following and connections with friends and family to advertise their home and get the word out. They can easily ask people to share their posting with anyone who is looking to buy in the area.
BUT: Buyer’s agents may discourage buyers from looking at a home because it is FSBO.
Some FSBOs are disorganized, unprofessional, and quite simply the owner has no clue what they’re doing. This discourages agents from choosing these listings to show their clients, as they do not want to risk wasting the client’s time.
They can pay a FSBO website to list their home on a multiple listing service (MLS).
Homeowners don’t have to let their lack of a real estate license get in the way. Even though they personally may not have access to multiple listing services, there’s always a way to pay someone to list their home for they. This will increase the listing’s visibility to agents.
BUT: They have to put up with a slower selling process.
Because they are probably inexperienced and are taking on the full-time responsibility of selling their own home and all of the baggage that comes with it, they need to expect delays. Real estate agents are trained in the most effective, quick ways to get homes sold, and unfortunately they don’t come in already equipped with that knowledge.
There’s no commission fee.
Probably the main reason people choose to sell by owner is that they are able to pocket the commission fee that would otherwise go to a realtor. According to Redfin, while they can negotiate a commission, “typically, real estate commission is 5%–6% of the home’s sale price. In most areas the buyer’s agent receives 2.5%–3% in commission and the seller’s agent receives 2.5%-3% in commission.” So if they are selling a home, they have to pay a commission to both their agent and the buyer’s agent when their house closes.
BUT: …There’s also a chance of actually losing money.
They may be thinking, okay wow, maybe this FSBO thing is worth it if I don’t have to pay commission costs! But really, it’s not so black and white. Realtor.com says “statistics show that selling their home with the assistance of a professional real estate agent will garner they a higher profit, enough to cover the commission as well as put more money in their pocket.” And we can see the comparison in numbers gathered by the National Association of Realtor®’s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, which shows that the average FSBO sales price was $185,000, while the average price for a home represented by a real estate agent was $245,000. That’s a $60,000 difference!
Not to mention: Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork!
We’ve already mentioned the sunk cost of time, but did we really drive home the amount of legal paperwork that they’ll be responsible for? Not to mention, if they slip up and make a mistake, they might pay for it in the future — financially and legally.
Is FSBO for you?
It’s a lot to take in but it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into if you are considering doing FSBO. Phoenix real estate agent Steve Penate suggests, “If you are thinking about or planning on doing a for-sale-by-owner on the property you want to sell, I encourage you to find a real estate agent you can trust. Sit down with them, ask them hard questions. I guarantee that the whole process of selling your house will go so much smoother.” It doesn’t cost they anything to ask an agent questions, and if you do go the FSBO route, you’ll be empowered with even more knowledge than you came in with.