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Help available for FSBO sellers -- Page 2

Naturally, the more services you want, the more you pay. Turner notes that those with experience selling or with more time available can go with the no-frills plans offered by the Web-only companies, while those new to the process may want to deal with a company that has a local office and can do more hand-holding. She notes that paying an extra fee for a MLS listing will usually help your home sell faster, but points out that you may have to pay a commission or fee to any real estate agents that bring buyers to you.

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Services
Services are usually tiered or a la carte, and can include the following:

  • Photo and ad on the Internet: These can range from one or more photos of the home to a full-blown tour with more than 20 photos and a detailed description. For an extra fee, many sites will place your home in a preferred or featured section of the site.
  • Yard signs: These range from the basic, which lists your phone number, to a more informative sign. Some services also provide a personal toll-free phone number that takes messages for you, protecting your privacy.
  • Access to the Multiple Listing Service: The MLS is a database of homes in your area. Turner believes that an MLS listing is critical to getting buyers into your home.
  • Customized ads placed for you in the local newspaper.
  • Phone or in-person support during the selling process: Brokers with local offices may come to your home or be available by local phone to answer questions. Web-based services may offer a toll-free phone number to handle your questions.
  • Assistance from a real estate agent in preparing a purchase contract and other paperwork.
  • Legal forms or actual assistance from an attorney or title company.
  • Customized brochures depicting your home.
  • Assistance in setting an asking price.
  • Costs
    Costs vary widely. ForSaleByOwner.com's least-expensive plan runs $79.95 a month and includes six color photos of your home on their site, a virtual tour and a 3,000 word description of your home. Prices go up from there. The highest-priced plan is the Platinum Package, which includes yard signs, a listing on the Web site until the home is sold, unlimited access to a toll-free real estate consultation line, as well as special placement on the Web site, all for $699.

    Owners.com has a rock-bottom basic listing package of $14.95 for a listing of five photos on the Web site. They add in yard signs, a virtual tour taken by a professional photographer, and other perks for a one-time fee of $99.95. Listing in your area's MLS for six months is available for a flat fee of $499. FSBO.com offers various packages including ads and basic signs, running from $69.95 to $199.95. The flat fee MLS package costs $499.95.

    Mary Ann Brugnoni, a homeowner in Rochester, N.Y., went with America's Choice. She paid $900 for a package of services that included ads in her local newspaper, yard signs, custom-designed brochures, ads on the America's Choice Web site and consultations with local America's Choice Realtors. Costs for America's Choice depend on the services you pick and the office location. Assist 2 Sell offers several packages, including an MLS package and a paperwork-only package. Like America's Choice and Help-U-Sell, prices vary depending on location.

    Although her house hasn't sold yet, Brugnoni is pleased with America's Choice. "Working with America's Choice has been great," she says. "They are very responsive to any questions or concerns. Keeping your house show-ready to accommodate buyers is the toughest part of selling. That is work and has to be done whether selling on your own or with an agent."

    Biggest Mistakes
    Regardless of which service you sign on with, here are some common gaffes experts advise you to avoid:

    • Bad Pricing. To price your home to sell, you need to get some hard data on the selling prices of similar homes in your neighborhood. Too many FSBO sellers fall into the trap of looking at asking prices rather than selling prices and end up pricing their homes too aggressively, leading to the painful process of repeatedly lowering the price of the home over and over again until you hit the sweet spot where the home is realistically priced. Steve Hatton, owner of HomeOwners Advantage in Chicago, www.affordablelistings.com, recommends that sellers take several steps to appropriately price their home, including surfing Web sites such as Realtor.com, www.realtor.com, the official site of the National Association of Realtors, getting a free market analysis from a local Realtor, and looking in the local newspaper to see what other nearby and comparable homes have sold for. Lastly, hard-core sellers can go down to the local courthouse and peruse home-sale records.
    • Overestimating the value of your home. Many sellers overestimate the value of their home based on what they've put into the home over the years, says Bob Irwin, author of "The For Sale By Owner Kit." "Pricing your home too high is the single biggest mistake that sellers make," he says. "You know how much blood, sweat and tears you've put into the house over the years and you want to get it all back. But the value of your home is determined by the marketplace. If your home is selling for a higher price than the competition, it simply won't sell."
    • Undermarketing. For FSBOs, marketing your home is a continual process. Brugnoni recommends that FSBO sellers do as much networking as possible. She says, "Tell your friends, relatives and clients that you have a great house on the market." Other savvy sellers put together fact sheets about their house, pay a fee to get their home listed in the MLS, hold numerous open houses, and follow up with interested buyers.
    • Quitting too soon. Many sellers underestimate the time it takes to sell a home, Turner says. "Too many people quit after a month or so and get a real estate agent," she says. "If you price the house reasonably and get the word out, the house will sell. Just don't give up too soon."
     
     
    -- Posted: May 16, 2005
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