Tuesday, July 29, 2014

By-Owner Sellers Share the Secrets to FSBO Success

Saving the 6 percent commission they would have paid a real estate agent is a major factor in why so many people are satisfied they took the FSBO approach in selling their home. But there are other reasons why by-owner sellers embraced online services like ForSaleByOwner.com.

Here by-owner sellers share the secrets to their success and why selling their homes without an agent proved to be such a rewarding experience.

1. Use the Power of MLS. Fully 80 percent of buyers find their home through an MLS listing. Less than 24 hours after listing his five-bedroom, four-bathroom house in Frisco, Texas, Jeff LoParo had a buyer who met his $370,000 asking price.

2. Your Buyer Is Someone Like You. Roberta Billings says dogs have always been a huge part of her life, so much so that when Billings moves into a new residence, she makes sure to accommodate her two Great Danes and collie. When selling a home, Billings looks for dog-friendly buyers. Within a week of listing her latest home, she had an offer.

3. Make the Most of Your Space. Fort Myers, Florida, resident Laura Brown and her husband loved their roomy dining table. An agent contracted to sell the home ordered them to remove it. When the agent's contract expired, the Browns listed their home for sale by owner and returned the table to its place of prominence. The woman who bought the home loved that table so much that she asked that it be included in the sale.

4. First Impressions Count. Marcia Bennett knew when selling her home in Ocala, Florida, to be mindful of what consumers look for when inspecting used goods — so she gave her house a thorough once-over worthy of even the most exhaustive home inspection. "That's a powerful selling point," she says.

5. Sniff Out Buyers. Kathleen Henon knew from experience that pleasant smells captivate prospective buyers. Many years ago when she and her husband were looking for a home, they were entranced by one that smelled of chocolate chip cookies. They lost out on that house, but Henon realized she'd found a great selling tool.

6. Learn From Agent Mistakes. Gloria Menendez of Dayton, Ohio, has sold three homes. She used agents for the first two and learned she could have earned thousands more. So when she sold that third house, Menendez went the FSBO route. "There's so much information out there when it comes to pricing, showing and selling your home. You just have to do your research and trust your gut."

7. Cater to Special Tastes. Agents told foodies Linda Albright and her husband that when it came time to sell their Dallas home, highlighting its $85,000 custom kitchen was a half-baked idea. But the Albrights knew better. The house was bought by a young couple who loved to cook and used the dream kitchen as inspiration to start a catering business.

8. Spread the Word. Peter Fiore didn't even list on his local MLS because he knew he could get every penny of his asking price of about $1.5 million for his Manhattan apartment on his own. He found buyers through word of mouth and social media — and sold his home in a little more than a month for even more than his asking price. Fiore says he saved at least $75,000.

9. Accentuate the Positive. Thomas Nyle also owned a place in Manhattan: a studio in Greenwich Village. Like Fiore, this by-owner seller targeted his market with laser precision, but to buyers who don't own cars. He sold the studio to a schoolteacher who takes public transportation (or bikes or skates) around town.

10. Work It Out. Aaron Stanton customized his home to create the office of his dreams and used it as a selling point for like-minded individuals. Ironically, FSBO seller Stanton sold his home to a … wait for it … real estate agent who loved the office space.

11. Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up. Paula Ramos of Tampa, Florida, ignored conventional agent wisdom and shared with prospective buyers all the ways they could customize her home. A retired New York City cop bought Ramos' home — and turned the garage into his ultimate man cave.

12. Set Your Own Timetable and Be Flexible. Paul Lopez realized he was breaking many agents' rules by listing his Indianapolis ranch in the middle of winter. But the power of FSBO did not fail him and he sold in just four weeks. He also appreciated the flexibility that a by-owner seller has. He worked out an agreement with the new owners to move out gradually over the course of three months and even ended up selling them his old hot rod in the process.

13. Look Out for No. 1. Brianna Walker went the FSBO route and placed her two-bedroom Omaha, Nebraska, condo on the MLS after being less than impressed by the prospect of dealing with agents. Walker's winning strategy: "You have to be in constant contact with people because you never know which phone call or email is from the person who's going to buy your house." She sold her condo within three months for the exact price she wanted.

14. Break Rules When It Makes Sense. Paula Tiller broke them to her advantage when selling a two-bedroom home in a Cape Coral, Florida, retirement community. Tiller decided to keep her personal items on display. In fact, she says she went out of her way to place photos of her grandchildren on the mantle, the bookshelves and the nightstands. Her strategy worked: A couple moving south from New Jersey bought her home.

15. Understand What's Wrong With Your Picture. Accumulated stuff in unopened boxes from previous moves caused prospective buyers to hit a speed bump when touring FSBO seller Kathryn Vaughn's home. So she called a local women's social services agency and a junk removal company. "They came on the same day," she says. "I went from living like Fred Sanford to living like a normal person." She sold her (now neat and organized) home for her exact asking price.

16. Realize That It's Just Business. Risa Martinez of Milwaukee learned a valuable lesson as a by-owner seller. You can clean your home to within an inch of its life, you can point out its many attributes, but sometimes it just won't immediately click with buyers. "They are not rejecting you," Martinez says. "They just don't necessarily like what you're offering them. There's a perfect buyer out there, they just have to find you." Her perfect buyer found Martinez's home after it had been listed on the MLS for about five months.

17. Don't Fool Yourself. Erin Walton learned a lot selling four houses in the past 10 years — the first two with a real estate agent, the last two on her own. The biggest lesson: Be honest with yourself. When Walton listed a home in Joliet, Illinois, the house had some serious foundation problems. She offered to reduce her asking price to prospective buyers, but none would accept those terms. It was only after she fixed the issue that she received a concrete offer less than eight weeks later.

18. Sell at a Distance. Dustin Sullivan and his wife needed to sell their vacation condo in Sugar Mountain, North Carolina. They lived six hours away, so they put a lock on the door and provided the combination to agents who saw their MLS listing. After six months and a cash offer on their condo, the Sullivans bought a boat.

19. Improve the Odds. To sell their Las Vegas home, Rita Carr and her husband avoided the gambling motif so prevalent in area homes and instead focused their home-staging efforts on strategically placed floral arrangements. The second offer, which came from a buyer who appreciated the blooms, topped the Carrs' asking price.

And the biggest lesson...

20. Make the Connection. A recurring theme through all of these homeowners' stories is that they were able to make a personal connection with potential buyers better than any real estate agent could. That's where the power of FSBO came in and allowed these empowered sellers to reach like-minded buyers looking for just the right home.

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