FSBO- So Easy Even a Caveman Can Do it!

“It’s so easy even a caveman can do it.” Do you remember those old commercials from years ago with that tagline?  I’ve been hearing from a fair amount of people interested in selling that feel they can throw up a sign in front of their house or toss it on Craigslist and voila magical offers of $100k over asking price with a one week deal and they are done.  It sells itself and they don’t have to do anything else but pack.  So simple even a caveman can do it!

I am a local real estate agent that services areas around central Vermont.  I came into the real estate industry through years of working in the Commercial Construction industry. I also sold three homes of my own For Sale By Owner (FSBO) before my real estate agent career started. I am here to tell you, it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.  In hindsight, I made some huge mistakes, learned some harsh lessons, and likely left a fair amount of money (and sleep from all the stress!) on the table.

 Here are some lessons I learned in my FSBO experience.

1)      Commissions:  The number one thing I hear from sellers is they are trying to save money by not paying a commission.  Typically, in Vermont commissions are 5-6% for listing a home.  This number is split 50/50 between the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent.  If you are selling the home yourself, and an agent comes in representing a buyer they will need to get paid, and you will be paying that percentage.  So, if you have a $300,000 house you will be paying a buyer’s agent about $9,000 and you will be doing all the work yourself.  90% of home buyers are looking at homes with an agent.  On the flip side, if you refuse to pay a buyer’s agent commission, it is unlikely the agent will show your home, or a buyer may be required to pay their commission. From a buyer’s perspective, they may not be able to afford it, or it may leave a bad taste in their mouth.

 2)      House Pricing:  Most sellers believe the value of their house is higher than it is.  My zestimate shows my house is $X.  I heard the house down the street sold for $$$$ so my house must be worth more than their house.  Real Estate Agents are trained to research comps and adjust based on the market, and comparable houses in the area.  The house down the street may not be a comp for your house.  The zestimate would reflect that in their pricing and skew your overall number.  

 Here is the thing, in today’s low inventory market a seller jumping on the first offer may not yield them the best contract or the best price.  When I hear the house down the street sold on craigslist in 24 hours, it makes me think, they priced it too low and missed the mark.

 3)      Contracts and Vetting Buyer Offers:

 Here is my horror story.  We had purchased our first condo with an agent when we were 22 years old. We took advantage of the market and listed our condo a few years later FSBO. We were under contract to buy a new home with an agent and were very excited.  We put up our sign and had a little open house (which was chaotic and stressful in itself). The first person that walked through our house put in a full priced offer and we excitedly accepted it. We didn’t even think about the fact that she had a house to sell, or to give her a timeline to have her house under contract.  We were just excited that we had a contract.  As the weeks ticked by and she still hadn’t sold her house we had no way of dealing with it.   We were on the brink of losing the house we wanted to buy. It finally took getting attorneys to send letters requesting she let us out of the contract to finally release us.  In the end, we closed 2 months later in the middle of a blizzard—the moving truck got stuck and we ended up taking an offer for $20,000 less than we originally under contract for because the market was shifting and we were no longer listed on Picket Fence as Pending. 

 4)      Time and Security:  I am assuming you have a full-time job, maybe a child or two, possibly a dog to add to the mix.   Reality check----showings, open houses, inspections, appraisals all take time.  Are you prepared to leave work for a 9 am showing and then again for a 2 pm showing?   Two weeks later you have to leave work again for 3 hours for an inspection. Then the bank needs to have an appraisal a couple weeks later.  Guess who is missing all of those hours of work. On the flip side, if you decide to only show your house from 6-7 pm because it doesn’t disrupt your work, you are missing out on showing your home to the majority of buyers that can’t see it then.

 As your agent, we are the ones setting up showings, coordinating those details, the houses are shown with other agents so you don’t have to leave work.  During the inspection and appraisal we are opening the door, not the seller. Your saved money starts to dwindle very quickly for each hour missed at work. We also have E-Keys that allow us access to your home so the listing agent can see exactly which agent showed a home.

 True story: We were selling our farm house and had a sign at the end of our driveway.  To some potential buyers that see a sign they assume it is free range and they can come anytime they like. One Saturday we went to the grocery store and were unloading our groceries when a car pulled in.  We assumed someone was doing a drive by so we waved politely and kept at our chore.  A minute later I heard our dog growling at a woman---in my entry--- yell “Get your dog he is growling at me”.  Mind you, this person did NOT have an appointment and just entered my house without knocking or talking to us while we were outside.  I was flustered and told her my dog was acting appropriately since she just entered my home unannounced.  I grudgingly walked them through my house because it could potentially be a buyer.  Years later and we are still talking about the rude couple.

 5)      Paperwork: How organized are you and how savvy are you at contracts, disclosures, etc?  If someone wants to buy your home, do you know what you need to use for a contract?

6)      Marketing, Staging and Professional Photos:  90% of buyers are looking at homes with an agent, which means they are looking online at homes sent by their agent.  People show with their eyes so photos matter.  I have seen far too many photos with piles of laundry on the floor, cleaning products on sinks, cat boxes in pictures. Everyone has a cell phone now so taking photos is easy. Perfect for a FSBO right, not necessarily showing your home in the best light.

 We use professional photographers that are used to taking home photos. They use proper lighting, the best angle to show off the room and even drone photos.  As an agent, I go in ahead of the photographer and make sure there is no clutter (i.e. piles of dirty laundry) sitting in the middle of the room. We also do light staging to add pops of color and charm to your photos.

 As for marketing, how are you as a homeowner planning on marketing your home? Throwing up a sign and hoping someone drives by? Good old Zillow with the trusty zestimates? As an agent we list your home in MLS, send out Instagram and Facebook campaigns, send your listings to potential buyers on our websites, and push your home in our newsletters, to other agents on our team, and in the area, as well as to our clients. A FSBO can’t get nearly the marketing reach that we are able to through our multiple channels and trusted relationships.

 7)      Emotional vs Business Transaction: This was a big one for me personally.  We poured our hearts into our home with updates and loved our quaint built-ins, rustic pine floors and beautiful remodeled kitchen that included a hickory butcher block countertops that I meticulously oiled.  We bought the house when my son was a baby and had pictures of his first Christmas, first birthday and so many memories wrapped up in it. 

We had a buyer that I toured around my beloved home pointing out the trim work, recent remodels and perennial gardens I spent so much time in.  At the end of the tour the woman stopped me and said, “I hate your house. I hate your kitchen. I would have to tear out the wide pine boards, rip your home to the studs, and dump $150,000 into it to barely make it livable.” She left and I sat in my home crying.

To you as a FSBO your home is a memory lane, an emotional journey.  We as agents allow you to enjoy your memories and we take care of the business part of the deal. We hear the comments and constructively accept them in reference to pricing or why a home isn’t selling. You don’t have to hear someone bash your beloved custom-built in. 

 Selling your home may work for you and your situation but be prepared it could end up costing you money or a breakdown or two cause as you know, selling a home by yourself is so easy, even a caveman can do it, right!

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