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11 reasons for sale by owner is a terrible idea
- FSBOs are more costly than homeowners realize — including lower sales prices and hidden fees.
- Selling a home is a complicated transaction — sellers and buyers alike can get burned with FSBOs.
- Time costs money — a FSBO costs the seller valuable time, and it takes longer to sell.
Frank, a smart and tech-savvy Denver homeowner, thought he’d skip the agent commission and sell his house himself.
He researched his home’s property value, found a buyer and got the house under contract. It seemed like a done deal.
Until he realized in a panic that he had seriously undervalued the property — by more than $100,000. Frank had misunderstood the report he’d pulled and incorrectly valued the house.
The error cost him $30,000 to get out of the contract.
In my dealings with potential sellers, I run into people who will question the worth of an agent. No wants to pay for something they don’t think is worth it, or that they can handle themselves. Here are a few ideas as to WHY Realtors earn what they do, and why it’s in your best interest to use one.
- Scams happen
Judy (not her real name) in North Carolina, fell in love with a FSBO home. She agreed not to use an agent and paid the homeowner $3,000 in earnest money.
Then the homeowner changed his mind. With no contract signed and no receipt, Judy lost all her earnest money. She trusted the homeowner when she should have trusted an agent.
FSBO scams happen to both buyers and sellers with little recourse besides hiring an attorney.
Common scams include fraudulent papers (appraisals, loan documentation), foreign buyer deposits (scammer sends too much in a bad check and then requests a refund), purchases through a third-party (a fake attorney, etc.) and asking for personal information.
- Liability is all on the seller
Everyone makes mistakes. A seller (or buyer) who doesn’t have the representation of a licensed agent pays for those mistakes. Attorneys can close a real estate transaction, but they don’t carry errors and omissions (E&O) insurance.
So if homeowner Sandy lists “hardwood floors” as a feature and the buyer discovers it’s just a wood veneer, chances are Sandy is going to pay for that mistake.
An agent would have either caught the mistake or covered it with E&O insurance. Let’s face it: this is a litigious society, so what homeowner wants to be a target for lawsuits?
- Paperwork is daunting
The 2015 National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers showed that understanding paperwork was one of the most difficult tasks for FSBOs.
Depending on the state, there are a variety of legal forms that are needed, including but not limited to a sales contract, property disclosures, occupancy agreements and lead paint records. Texas has a lot of paperwork.
Sure, ready-made contracts can be downloaded easily enough. But does an untrained seller understand what all that means? Would the seller know how to customize that one-size-fits-all contract? If you use an attorney, there’s another big fee. And they have no fidelity to you, to look out for YOUR best interests, nor do they have a close ear on the market to make sure what you’re agreeing to is sound for you.
Understanding paperwork was one of the most difficult tasks for FSBOs.
- Sellers can get stuck in a bad deal
Like Frank, FSBOs who sign on the dotted line and then realize an error are stuck. They have to pay the buyer (if they’re willing) to get out of or just take the deal.
A good Realtor can save you from that headache.
- FSBOs sell for less
In 2015, FSBOs lost about 16 percent of the sales price with a median selling price of $210,000 (agent-assisted homes sold for $249,000).
Homeowners selling by themselves simply don’t have the time to devote to the process, don’t know the market value, don’t understand market reports and don’t properly market the property.
If the FSBO seller sold to someone he or she knew, the median dropped to $151,900 (because cousin Sue is doing them a favor and expects a deal).
If the 2015 FSBOs sold to someone they knew, the median dropped from $210,000 to $151,900.
- FSBOs spend more time on the market
Unless the seller knows someone who wants to buy the home, FSBOs take longer to sell than homes listed with an agent. For the same reasons, they can’t get the right selling price.
No one is “behind the curtain” running the marketing show. On average, 18 percent of FSBOs were unable to sell within their chosen time frame last year.
- FSBOs lack representation
There’s no one looking out for the homeowners who sell on their own. They have no one to call if they have a problem or a question.
Dave found this out when he sold his Colorado home himself. Studying for his real estate license, Dave felt confident he could handle the contracts. Then the unexpected happened.
When his house was under contract, a state patrol car pursuing a speeding motorist crashed into a downstairs bedroom. Repairs threatened to push back closing, and suddenly, the buyer was asking for a storage unit, the cost of temporary housing and more.
He was lucky enough to have an agent friend who could step in, but a homeowner with no representation could have been out thousands of dollars unnecessarily.
- Inspections are problematic
Sellers who don’t know the rules can get stuck with unnecessary and costly repairs. When Sue sold her 10-year-old Colorado home, after the inspection, the inspector said she needed to change the stairs from the garage to the house because the code had changed.
He listed other code changes, and the buyer began to demand these be done. Surprisingly, the inspector didn’t know that because these items were to code when the house was built, the seller wasn’t responsible for these changes.
- Marketing is limited
FSBOs have limited resources to market their home. The 2015 NAR Profile of Home Byers and Sellers showed 42 percent rely on a yard sign, 32 percent rely on friends and family, and about 15 percent use social media.
Relying on the neighbors and Uncle Bob’s second cousin has its limitations.
Even paying for the MLS listing won’t be enough because there’s no incentive for an agent to bring a buyer to a FSBO.
- Hidden costs add up
The mindset for most FSBOs is saving money. Chances are, you are being nickeled and dimed into a pretty big chunk of change.
You’re paying for a lot of extras: signage, flyers, photography, MLS listing, attorney (required in multiple states for FSBOs), home warranty (optional but hard to sell without one), home inspection, a wood destroying pest inspection, credit report for buyers (if applicable), contracts and the list goes on.
- Time costs the seller money
The biggest cost to a homeowner is their time. You might hear the argument that it doesn’t take an agent that much time to sell a house. And honestly, given the technology at our disposal, that’s true — to an extent.
But it will take a homeowner a whole lot longer. They don’t have the expertise or the access to the resources agents have. What is their own time worth to them? How much time will you spend researching the market and contracts? Are you going to leave work to unlock the house each time there’s a showing?
FSBOs don’t have the expertise or the access to the resources agents have.
Chris Rediger is the co-founder and president of Redefy Real Estate.
It’s a Seller’s Market. Your home should sell by simply planting a sign in your front yard, right? Maybe. I can’t deny that people do sell “FSBO”. Does that mean it’s simple? Probably not. Does it save you some money? Maybe not. Have you been following your market trends for the last year? Do you have knowledge of sales prices and ‘seller concessions’ on those properties? How about real property condition knowledge? That house LOOKS like yours, but it could hold issues or upgrades yours doesn’t have. Pricing your home with your heart may not compare to what the market value truly is. That can result in hurt feelings on lower offers, emotional distress when you learn the market is not where you thought it was. Not to mention a long, drawn out sales process involving a lot of interacting with strangers, professionals and documentation you are not familiar with, or may understand all the ramifications of.
Everyone wants to pay as little as possible in a real estate transaction, even your Buyers. The vast majority of those Buyers will have a Realtor helping them wade through the choices and negotiate with a Seller or agent. They WILL have the market expert advantage on a FSBO seller. There’s a Buyer for every home, true enough. It’s the PRICE and other incentives that find that perfect Buyer. A Realtor will help you even the playing field quickly, and get YOUR Buyer faster than you can alone. In selling a home with a mortgage, time IS really money.
A good Realtor is an expert negotiator who is bound by ethics and fidelity to assure your wishes and needs in the transaction are carried out to the very highest of return to you.
That translates to “Happy Seller” in our jargon. I want YOU to be a Happy Seller.
TRUST is the biggest issue I think most people have when they consider using a Realtor. Realtors depend on referrals from those we’ve helped previously, and also from people who already know and trust us. My goal is your satisfaction, and your ability to share your positive experience with others who may be looking for a Realtor they can trust.
Trust means you believe I can listen to your needs closely and help you make an intelligent choice on homes we will view together.
Trust means you believe I know the market & can help you will pay a fair price for your new home. I will handle all the details required to close the deal in your favor, whether it’s a previously loved home, or a shiny new construction home.
Trust doesn’t mean I will become your ‘BFF’ after the sale. Certainly I’d like to be your friend, but this is a professional relationship that I take seriously for your benefit. I can best serve you in this mission by managing all aspects in the most businesslike way I can, while ensuring that you receive the personal attention you need while navigating through the unfamiliar real estate transaction.
My job is to make it as easy as possible for you, and to make it happen FOR you.
My client is my priority. This could be YOU!
ABOUT FATHOM REALTY
Fathom Realty is a real estate company you can trust to place your interests first, a company that values honesty and integrity throughout the entire organization.
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Real Estate. The Right Way.
© Hilary Meader, YourTexasDream.com