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FSBO - How to Sell by Owner

I apologize for the tardiness of this post.  With the move, starting a new job and the untimely death of my hard drive I've been neglecting the blog.  I'll try to change that.

Our home in Butte was the third home we've sold, but the first one we've sold without a realtor.  Our decision was financially motivated.  Our first house sold in 1 day, the second in 2 days but in both cases the realtors walked away with thousands of dollars for almost no work.  Why not keep that money for ourselves?

We listed our home on July 11th.  Because the local MLS blacklists FSBO homes we did not bother using a listing service.  Instead we advertised on Craigslist and Zillow as well as at our respective employers. I also ordered banners for the front of the house and a realtor-style box to hold flyers for the house.  Although were selling by owner, we wanted a professional look instead of the standard red and white yard signs.

Our marketing expenses added up as follows:
 Craigslist, Zillow and Website - Free
Newspaper (Open House Announcement) - $32.50
Banners - $36
Realtor's Display Box - $15
Flyers - $5

 Marketing Recommendations:

Online Marketing - Yes.
Most of our showing came through Craigslist.  We only received a few showings through Zillow, but it's a free service and provides lots of information to potential buyers.  I set up a website through Blogger than provided a flyer for the house and a photo tour.  It wasn't elaborate but we received several showings from people who viewed the photo tour and wanted to see it in person.

Newspaper - No.
The newspaper was a complete waste of money.  Not a single person who attended the open house saw our ad in the paper.  Plus they were a day late in posting the ad and never put in a picture even though it was part of the ad package. 

Banners - Yes.
I ordered large, professionally printed banners for our front fence.  Although they did not contribute directly to the sale we had quite a few people stop to take a flyer when they saw the banners.  Also, the couple who bought our house were from out of town and the banners made it easier for them to find the house.

Display Box - Yes.
Again, the presence of a display box did not directly contribute to the sale of the house.  There are three other homes for sale within a few blocks but ours was the only home with flyers readily available.  The other homes just had signs and contact information for their realtors. I don't know about you, but I want the information readily available without having to call a realtor.

Flyers - Yes.
We are in the digital age but every single person who looked at the house took a paper flyer.  This is not the time to cut corners.  Use a quality paper so the color photos don't bleed through.  Take the time to do a nice layout with quality photos and useful information.  I designed our flyers in Publisher using a pre-loaded template but we still received numerous compliments on how professional they looked.  If you cannot do this for yourself, find someone to make the flyers for you.  It's well worth the expense.

My Tips (learned mostly from trial-and-error)

  • Set up an e-mail account just for selling the house.  I used this account on all our advertising and shut it down after we closed.  This will protect your regular email address from spammers.
  • Keep a calendar and list the showings.  It helps you keep tracking of scheduled showings and prevents those awkward moments when you get a call from someone who says they saw the house last Thursday and you have no idea who they are.
  • Have your answers ready.  Potential buyers will want to know about taxes, utilities and even insurance.  Are you willing to work with a realtor?  How soon can you be out of the house?  What is the lowest price you will accept?  Even though you are selling be prepared for calls about rentals.  People will want to rent the house or rent to own.  I had one woman call me repeatedly and get upset that I wouldn't consider a lease. 
  • Have the documents ready.  Our title company provided the buy/sell agreement and I downloaded a disclosure form.  I also had copies of our property taxes and utility bills. 
  • Google the people who will be looking at your house.  Luke lived out of town during the week so I tried to weed out serial killers and people in foreclosure.  I carry a knife whether or not I'm showing the house but you may want to consider mace or a taser.
  • Be careful.  Showing your home exposes all your belongings and personal information to the world.  Keep personal papers in a locked file cabinet to prevent ID theft.  Keep your electronics, jewelry, medications and guns out of sight.  Because our tools are more valuable than anything in the house, Luke and I emptied the garage and put all our tools in a storage unit.
  • Give the potential buyers some space.  I would typically take the interested parties through a guided tour of the house so I could point out features but after they saw the whole house I would step into the back yard and let them poke around the house without me looking over their shoulder.  You can also use this time to note their license plate number.
  • Be hospitable.  The above list makes it look like everyone is out to kill or rob you, but somewhere in the crowd of maniacs is a buyer and you want them to be comfortable and to linger.  Have chilled water and beverages ready on hot days.  Keep your pets out of the way during showings.  If they want to meet the pets, they will ask (and several people did ask to meet Atlas).
  • Be genuine.  Many people don't like dealing with realtors because of their reputation as weasels who will say anything to get the sale.  This is your chance to connect with the people on a personal level and allay their concerns by being honest.  I told every person how the house had frozen and flooded the basement.  I also got to tell them how we had gutted the basement to the block walls and started fresh.  This formed trust between us and potential buyers and prevented any unpleasant surprises when they viewed the disclosure.
  • Be patient.  It took eighteen showings in sixteen days before we received an offer. Then suddenly we received five offers in 24 hours.  Once the purchase agreement was signed it took another five weeks to complete the sale.

Was it stressful and a lot of work?  Yes.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Even though we paid for marketing costs out of pocket we saved over $11K by not using a realtor.  When it's time to sell our house in Helena I fully intend to try For Sale By Owner again.

I'm sure I've left out many details so if you have any questions about the process please feel free to contact me.


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