real estate

Should you sell home without agent?

If the buyer does use an agent, homeowners should consider offering that agent the typical commission, which would be about 3 percent of the sales price, says Leslie Tyler, vice president of marketing for ZipRealty, an Emeryville, Calif.-based realty company.

Sellers who decide not to offer to pay the commission will probably shrink their pool of potential purchasers, because buyer's agents would not have an incentive to show their clients the seller's home.

3. Will I take charge of sales and marketing responsibilities?

Some FSBO sellers underestimate the amount of effort it takes to market their home, Nichole says. Sellers should be prepared to keep the home clean, clutter-free and "show ready" at all times.

"Prepare the look of your home, both inside and out," Nichole says.

Other steps sellers should take include:

  • Take good photos of their property and write effective sales descriptions.
  • Buy and install a "for sale" yard sign with promotional fliers that include contact information.
  • List the property in multiple classified ads and real estate Web sites.

Placing the home in the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, is another important way to market the home, Tyler says. The MLS is a database of homes for sale offered by brokers.

FSBO sellers can't submit to an MLS, but some companies have brokers who will list the seller's home in the MLS for a flat fee, Tyler says. Sellers may pay a few hundred dollars for this service.

Before paying any money to a third-party company, research to determine if it has been in business for a while, has a good reputation and has earned favorable reviews, Nichole says.

In addition to marketing their own property, FSBO sellers often need to find and hire people to help them complete the sales process, Siegel says. These professionals include real estate attorneys (to review contracts and offer advice), appraisers and contractors (to make any necessary home repairs).

4. Can I bear criticism of my home?

The emotional aspect of selling a home is often overlooked, but it's an important part of the selling process, Tyler says. Owners will probably hear a lot about their home's shortcomings from buyers trying to negotiate a lower sales price. Or worse, they may not receive any interest in their home, especially if the price is too high.

You have a better chance of being a successful seller if you don't take negative feedback personally, Tyler says.

"If you don't live in your home and you don't have an emotional attachment to it, it's a little easier to sell FSBO," she says. "You can have a more objective view of the home's value."

5. Am I willing to screen potential buyers?

It may seem pushy, but FSBO sellers must be willing to screen their own buyers, Siegel says.

"You don't want to take your house off the market to negotiate with someone who was never qualified for the home in the first place," she says.

Before you sign a contract with a buyer, make sure the purchaser will be able to come up with the necessary funds, Siegel says.

"It's harder to get a mortgage these days because the bar is higher," Siegel says. "Applicants need better credit, higher salaries and a bigger money reserve than they needed just three years ago."

Before accepting an offer, ask for a current pre-approval letter from a reputable lender, Siegel says. The preapproval letter should show that the buyer spoke to the lender and has been preapproved for the purchase price of the home, she says.

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