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FSBOs (for sale by owner) are NFE (not for everyone)

Sell a house, buy a real-estate agent a car.

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That's how a lot of the burgeoning cadre of do-it-yourself house-sellers think. They're selling their homes without the help of a real-estate broker because they don't want to pay commissions.

Just how hefty do commissions get? Nationwide, they average about 6 percent, so if you sell your house for $200,000, you'll pay $12,000 in commission. That's more than the cost of a base-model Hyundai Accent.

In a world where the commission on the sale of a middle-class home can buy a subcompact, it's no wonder that lots of homeowners try to sell their houses on their own. In real-estate terminology, these houses and sellers are called FSBOs (pronounced FIZZ-bo), which stands for "for sale by owner."

By selling your home yourself you can save a pile of money by not paying a commission. But the savings come at a price: You have to do the time-consuming work that real-estate brokers do for other sellers.

FSBOs are NFE (Not For Everyone)
Going the "for sale by owner" route is not for everyone. If you get nervous at the thought of showing your house to strangers, negotiating directly with the buyer, and working with title agents, you must either get past your discomfort or list the house with a broker.

"A lot of people just don't want to deal with the confrontation of negotiating a sale," says Lee Burbidge, author of "For Sale By Owner: How To Sell Your Home Yourself and Save Thousands of Dollars in Real Estate Commissions," a book and tape package. "But a lot of people relish it."

And selling your house on your own takes work. You have to find a title agent, and it's a good idea to hire an attorney. You'll take care of marketing the house, and that includes showing it to prospective buyers. The amount of work might seem daunting, but Burbidge believes that many sellers find the effort worthwhile. Take, for example, a region where real-estate agents take a 6 percent commission.

"If it's a $100,000 house, it's going to save you $6,000," he says. "How hard are you going to work for $6,000?"

Besides saving money, selling your house yourself allows you to remain in control of how you advertise it and when you show it. That's why Hans Koch, head of, prefers the phrase "self-directed real-estate market."

"It's a broader term for what was traditionally a by-owner market," Koch says, and the phrase acknowledges that sellers have wide latitude over how much work they do themselves and how much work they farm out to hired experts.

Four steps to success
Experts such as Burbidge list four main steps to selling your own house:

Four main steps:

Determine the house's worth
The biggest mistake people make when trying to sell their own home is "not being realistic to values," Burbidge says.

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