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Selling by Owner = Saving by Owner?

According to the National Association of Realtors, For Sale By Owner (FSBO) home sellers comprised nearly 14% of all home sales in the United States in 2003. The Boston Globe reported that nearly 25% of homes sold in that area during that same time period were FSBOs.

Although many FSBO home sellers have saved thousands of dollars in commissions, many others have lost money, and current statistics show that 80% of FSBOs will eventually list their homes after unsuccessfully trying to sell their homes themselves. However, if you're thinking of trying to sell your home without the aid of a real estate agent, here are a few tips for getting the most from the experience:

Leave Your Emotions Out of Your Sales Process

Selling your home often can be a painful experience, so it's important to emotionally detach yourself from your house and try to think of it as an investment in your future. Try not to be affected by unkind remarks you may hear from prospective buyers trying to get you to lower your price by attacking various features of your house. And although you should call your house a "home" to prospective buyers, think of it as just a "house."

Set the Right Sales Price

Of course, you want to get the highest price possible, but pricing your home too high will keep it on the market too long, which will lead people to think there's something wrong with your house. Look at the other homes being offered for sale in your market and compare them to yours, in terms of square footage, number of bedrooms, lot size, and other features that are similar to yours. Be objective, and then price your home according to your findings. You might consider setting a price range, instead of a fixed price, if you're considering helping potential buyers with their closing costs.


Signs: Pick up directional signs at a home improvement store, list your phone number and the address of your home on them, and then display the signs in prominent places around your neighborhood. Most buyers use the services of a Realtor to look for a new home, but if your home's in a desirable neighborhood where other houses are also for sale, potential buyers may see your signs and come back later to visit your home. Place a professional-looking sign in your front yard, featuring your phone number in print large enough to be easily read from the street.

Flyers: Think like a marketing guru and create a sizzling sales flyer, listing all the benefits and features of your home.

Newspapers: Pick up copies of all the newspapers and advertisers in your area, and look at them, imagining that you're the one looking for a home in your area. Then create an ad of your own, copying ads that most attract your eye. Make sure to list benefits to potential buyers and not just the features of your home.

Showing and safety: Ask prospective buyers for their phone numbers before you give out your address over the phone, and then call them back to verify the information. Also, make sure to have someone with you when you're showing your home to strangers.

If you find that you need to turn to an agent for help, here are some tips for finding the right one to sell your home:

Bear in mind that many real estate agents will make unreasonable promises to sell your home for a high price, but they're only hoping to get the listing. Like buying anything else, you need to be informed, so it's important to compare services. Interview several agents, ask for referrals from satisfied clients, and then call those home sellers.

Saving On Real Estate Agent Fees

You also have the right to negotiate the broker's commission. Since most homes are sold by a selling agent, rather than the listing agent, why pay 3% to the listing agent for just listing the home? Ask for a 1% listing commission if the agent does little to market your home. You might also offer to pay less to the selling agent--2.5% is a common percentage in high- priced areas--or point out to potential listing agents that since your equity is less than the selling price, you want to pay a percentage based on that figure, rather than on the sales price.

Most areas also have flat-fee brokers. Some will charge a percentage of the sales price, while others may charge as little as a flat $395 to list your home with the Multiple Listing Service. Decide which services you're actually going to need, such as yard signs, showing help, and contract preparation, and then match your needs to the services offered.

Selling your home yourself should mean that you save money on real estate fees. But if you're not a savvy salesperson, you could actually make more money and sell your home faster by hiring a go-getter real estate agent.

(c) Copyright 2005 Jeanette J. Fisher. All rights reserved.

Professor Jeanette Fisher, author of Doghouse to Dollhouse for Dollars, Sell Your Home for Top Dollar--FAST, Home Staging, and other books teaches Real Estate Investing and Design Psychology. For more articles, tips, reports, and newsletters, see

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