To FSBO or not to FSBO
If you’ve ever considered eliminating the real estate agent out of the home selling process you’ve probably found yourself looking into resources available to help you with the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) process. You started by searching the web, reading articles, and visiting sites whose main purpose is to convince you that agents are overpaid and really you can just DIY – do it yourself (provided that you sign up to the website’s service, pay money, and hope for the best).
I know this process a little too well because, many years ago, before I got my real estate license, I too had a property I tried to sell FSBO. I figured it really can’t be that complicated – get my house into the perfect sell-able condition, throw some ads on the Internet, run some flyers at the local Kinkos, stick a lawn sign in front of the house and wait for the bidding wars to commence. Right? WRONG! Nothing could have prepared me for the events that came next.
Agents REALLY want to help with FSBO’s
Almost immediately after getting the lawn sign installed in the yard I had a call from a local real estate agent. She wanted to know how much I was asking for the home and if I would consider paying an agent if they bring a buyer. Feeling pretty optimistic that I would find the buyer on my own, but not wanting to be disagreeable, I informed her that I would be willing to pay 2% commission. I knew the market was hot, the inventory was extremely low, and if she found a buyer 2% would be a fair compensation (IMHO). She asked if she could preview my home and set an appointment for the following day.
Little did I know that before I would even get a chance to show the home to this Realtor there would be another 14 phone calls that all were identical to this one. I finally decided that rather than having 14 different appointments I would just have them all over at the same time and show the home at once. The next day, when the Realtors came to look at the home they all “pitched” me on listing the home with them. Some of them even used scare tactics: “you really should work with a Realtor since there is a lot of law you need to know when selling a home, and you don’t want to get sued.” I wasn’t fazed by fear-mongering but I was rather annoyed because it seemed that they only came by the house to offer their services not because they actually had any buyers. This experience convinced me further that I was NOT going to work with an agent!
There are some shysters out there
The phone kept ringing – I knew I was on to something! People were interested – some even talked about submitting an offer! I was happy knowing that I was on the right track. One day I got a letter from someone claiming that they were a relative of one of my neighbors and was interested in purchasing my home. I was thrilled! Of course it makes sense that relatives want to live near each other and the home was in a very charming neighborhood. I contacted the “buyer” we set a time for him to preview the home. When the day came he canceled blaming a sudden business trip. We rescheduled but something came up again. He finally told me that he would send a friend who was familiar with the area to view the home. I thought this was odd but he seemed genuine so I agreed.
The game goes on
The “friend” came to the house and spent a long time looking around and taking photos with his camera (this was before smart phones). He didn’t ask a lot of questions about the house which I chalked up to the fact that he is not the one buying the home. When I touched base with the “buyer” but he indicated he was quite busy and would call me when he had a bit more time. I didn’t hear from him for about a week when he called me right before a three-day weekend.
The buyer wanted to come over that Saturday to look at the home and talk in person. I explained to him that I would be out of town but would be happy to meet him right after the long weekend. We set a time and I left for my mini-vacation to visit family. About half-way through the weekend I received a call from my neighbor asking me if I hired movers to be at my house. Movers?!? I told the neighbor to call the police because clearly this is a robbery in progress. By the time the police arrived the moving van was gone. Fortunately the neighbor took down the license plate before they left and the cops caught up with it a few hours later. Needless to say my “buyer” never made it to our appointment. Perhaps he was unable to post bail?
Low-ballers are annoying
After this treacherous experience I was a bit more gun shy but still determined to sell the home FSBO. I continued to receive calls but was apprehensive about letting people into my home which obviously makes it a little challenging to sell. Over the course of the next month I received 3 offers. They were ALL way under my asking price. If I accepted any of them I would be netting less than if I had hired a Realtor and paid 6% commission. I countered the offers but the buyers all walked.
Finally an offer I could live with
After the home was on the market for 70 days I received an offer from a buyer represented by an agent. It wasn’t the best offer: several contingencies, a small down payment, a lower than asking price, and a 2% commission. I agreed because I just wanted the process to be over. Escrow was opened. Inspections and appraisal were performed. The items called out on the inspection were minor but the buyer wanted them all done. The buyer’s property that needed to sell in order for her to purchase my place fell out of escrow as I was finishing up the repairs. The agent called to let me know that they are going to relist my buyer’s home. At this point I’d had enough! I pulled the plug, refunded the earnest money from escrow and walked away.