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Help available for FSBO sellers

For the average home seller, making an end run around real estate agents is a risky business. Often overpriced and under-marketed, these homes, known in the industry as "for sale by owner," or FSBO, can languish unsold for months.

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But if you go into the process armed with the correct information and ready to put in the hours necessary to sell your home yourself, the result can be sweet: thousands of dollars saved in real estate commissions. In these days of spiraling home values, a 6-percent real estate commission isn't small change.

Buy a $350,000 home and you're looking at a commission of $21,000; a $600,000 home, $36,000. Do your own math and you can see why more sellers are at least considering doing the job themselves. As in many areas of life, the Internet has revolutionized home selling, giving both sellers and buyers access to information and home listings.

A number of FSBO services, both on and off the Internet, are challenging the iron grip that full-service realtors once had on home sales. Most provide a variety of services, from information about the nuts and bolts of the FSBO process to signs, Internet ads, real estate forms and even access to multiple listing services, or MLS.

Before signing on the dotted line with one of these outfits, take a deep breath and think about what help you need. "Which company and which services you need really depends on the amount of support you need and how comfortable you are with the selling process," says Marcia Layton Turner, co-author of the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Selling Your Own Home," due out later this year.

The Process
The first step in the FSBO process is to familiarize yourself with the process of how to research your market and sell your home. There are numerous books on the process, and many of the Internet-based FSBO firms offer free advice and booklets on the process, including "The Complete Guide to Buying and Selling Your Own Home" on ForSaleByOwner.com.

"The three most important aspects of selling your home yourself are pricing the home appropriately, marketing it and transferring the title," says Colby Sambrotto, chief executive officer of ForSaleByOwner.com. Foul up any one or all of these three and you may not only miss opportunities to sell your home, but also can get into legal trouble.

Turner advises sellers to be realistic about the time involved in selling a house. "It takes more time because you are doing all the marketing yourself," she says. "Agents have a built-in pool of buyers to bring to your home. You'll have to have more open houses, you have to give the tours yourself, you have to schedule the appointments and you need to do the follow-up."

The Options
In terms of securing FSBO assistance, there are basically two options: Internet-only Web sites and low-cost or discount real estate brokerages with both Web sites and brick-and-mortar offices. Not all firms with offices have a nationwide presence, so check out the various companies' Web sites to see which are in your area.

The Web-based firms offer a variety of packages. Virtually all include a listing of your home on their Web site for a specific period and yard signs. More complete packages include some advice, access to the Multiple Listing Service and special placements on the Web site. These firms include ForSaleByOwner.com, Owners.com and FSBO.com.

Most low-cost or discount real estate brokerages with offices offer a wider variety of services than Internet-only firms do. These include the signs and ads and extend into agents visiting your home and helping you set a price, as well as, customized brochures and ads placed in your local newspaper. Firms in this space include America's Choice, Help U Sell and Assist 2 Sell.

-- Posted: May 16, 2005

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