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Solo home sellers find FSBO help online

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"It's more or less a level playing field with something an agent would offer," Irwin says.

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FSBO companies also offer telephone or Web-based guidance to sellers who are marketing their homes on their own. Other FSBO products include yard signs, brochure dispensers and downloadable fliers.

Perhaps most importantly, many FSBO companies offer access to a multiple listing service without requiring the seller to pay a full listing agent's commission. When a home is listed in the MLS, it might also show up on major Web sites, such as Realtor.com, the official site of the National Association of Realtors.

"When your home appears on Realtor.com, it is open for anyone to look at -- potential buyers who are working with agents as well as those who are not," says Irwin. "Your listing could also be picked up by the real estate pages of other sites like Yahoo and AOL."

FSBO company services:
Access to a multiple listing service.
Space for add on company Web site.
Phone and Web-based help.
Marketing products (ie, yard signs, brochure dispensers).

Special rules may apply before a listing can be uploaded to a major site. For example, you may not be able to include "FSBO" in your advertising. If you are working with a FSBO company to get an MLS listing, make sure you understand the requirements upfront.

FSBO companies are able to place homes in an MLS because they work with licensed real estate brokers who have access to the system. These brokers, along with the company, charge a discounted rate, usually a flat fee. As a result of this lower fee, the brokers don't typically offer full face-to-face service to the seller.

The cost
The prices FSBO companies charge vary widely. Some let you put your listing on their site for free. Others charge monthly rates that are as high as $100 for a similar benefit.

These companies also offer flat-rate prices that generally range from $200 to more than $1,000, depending on the services provided.

If all you want is the MLS listing without the extras, you can probably get it done for a flat fee of around $400. Some companies may offer this basic service for free. As a comparison, a full-service listing agent's commission on the sale of a $200,000 home would be around $6,000.

It's important to note that although sellers can save through a FSBO approach, they may not escape all fees.

For example, if a buyer finds your house on a multiple listing service, there's a chance that the buyer will have a buyer's agent. To make the sale, you'll probably have to pay the commission of the buyer's agent. For a $200,000 home, that fee would be about $6,000.

Add that total to the flat fee you pay to list the housing in the MLS, and you end up with a good-sized chunk of change.

However, the amount is still less than the combined $12,000 in commissions you'd likely pay to traditional real estate listing and buyer's agents.

Seller's responsibilities
The FSBO process involves a lot of extra work for the seller. It's not as easy as simply scribbling "for sale" on a piece of poster board and sticking the sign in your front yard.

"If you don't show much effort, you probably won't attract serious buyers," says Michael T. Malkasian, president of FSBO.com.

First off, sellers planning to use the FSBO process must make sure they aren't under any prohibitive agreements with a real estate agent.

Next: "... Homes took longer to sell, but got higher prices."
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