To FSBO or Not!!
By Suzanne Gwilliam
For those of you who don’t watch TV, surf the net or have 20 Realtor “friends” on Facebook, you may not be aware that there is a shortage of housing inventory. There just aren’t enough houses for sale to satisfy Buyer’s Demand. In light of this shortage, some savvy Sellers are deciding to have a go at selling their home themselves, aka FSBO: For Sale By Owner. How’s it going for them? You would think that with the severe shortage, anybody could put a sign on the lawn and have their house sold the next day, but sadly, that isn’t the case…not even close!
This past year, a few of my Buyer clients have requested to see FSBO’s. I have no problem showing them. But to date, none of my Buyers have purchased a house that was listed as a FSBO. Why, you ask? Several reasons, really, but it’s usually the seller that turns them off. Why is that? It seems that the FSBO Sellers feel the need to walk you through the property, room by room, and tell you everything they can about the house. They don’t understand that this is the buyer’s “first date” with the house and having mom and dad in the backseat is not going to help move things along.
At the first showing, Buyer’s are trying to see if the house “feels” right and fits their needs. When you have a Seller looming and lurking in the hall, and telling you how great the ethernet is (??), you are pretty much guaranteeing that the Buyer makes no connection with the house at all.
Looking at it from a Seller’s perspective, it’s easy to understand that you feel the need to welcome these strangers into your home and tell them about all the amenities. But that’s why we have the Seller’s Disclosure. The Seller needs to understand that their house is a commodity now and any personal attachment to it is NOT going to help sell it.
Imagine it like this, you’re going on your first date with someone whose profile you’ve read online. They seem to have a lot of things you are looking for and you’re very interested. But it all goes downhill, when, in an attempt to show you how great they are, they bust out their baby album and go through every year since birth!
When showing a house, it’s best for the Seller to just disappear so that the Buyer and the house can get acquainted. We need the Buyer to imagine themselves living in the house. Buying a house is a very emotional process. So much hinges on the Buyer’s perspective of what this house is going to do for them. Will my friends and family be impressed? Is the neighborhood good? Is it big enough for all my stuff??? In a nutshell, does this house meet the Buyer’s needs enough to go through the whole moving process? If the showing is all about the Seller, and all the improvements and modifications they made to fit their needs, chances are the Buyer is not going to make much of a connection or feel very comfortable.
Weird? Maybe, but the hard truth is that the more detached the Seller can get, the better. And yes, that means taking down your angel figurine collection and removing the piles of stuff you have in the closets! You want the Buyer to imagine their stuff in the house, not be overwhelmed by yours. And for God’s sake, pick up the dirty laundry!! Jeez!!!
Now this is all supposing you actually get a Buyer in the door. Zillow & Trulia will let you post your listing for free. Problem is, that most pre-qualified, Ready, Willing and ABLE (R, W&A) buyers are working with Realtors who practically spoon feed them new listings. Serious Buyers are plugged into the Multiple Listing and will not even see your house online!
Realtor.com is the most widely used Real Estate website and they don’t even advertise FSBO’s. So, pow-pow, there goes a ton of exposure and R,W&A buyers along with it! You’ll still get calls from “wishful” buyers and a few aggressive Realtors like me, but you’re really missing the majority of prepared buyers.
When I do try to show a FSBO, one of the most annoying things I run into, is that most of the Sellers do not answer the phone when I call or return the call after I’ve left a message! It boggles my mind. I have a Ready, Willing & Able buyer and you won’t let them in! I mean, how is that possible? Sales 101, answer the phone!!
Buyers want immediate attention or they are moving on to the next house. If we can’t set the initial visit then how is it going to go for the rest of the transaction? Not a good starting place, so answer the phone!!!
I think a lot of FSBO’s are missing the boat by not listing with a Realtor. Let’s say the house is in a hot-hot market and a bunch of people want to see it, will they be able to? Are you prepared for the call volume and do you have the flexibility to be home for every showing? Weekends don’t work for all Buyers, especially one’s with kids: sports, birthday parties, etc. It’s understandable that you don’t want to just let total strangers into your house without being there.
That brings me to the next question: How are you verifying that the people coming into your house are Ready, Willing and Able? One way to tell is if they are working with a Realtor. The first thing we as Realtors do, in qualifying a Buyer, is to get them pre-approved. If you don’t have the money, we ain’t going shopping!
Yeah, so if Sue & Lou, who aren’t working with an Agent, want to see your house on Wednesday because that’s their only day off, are you going to demand that they email you their pre-approval before you let them in the door? Not if you want to hear from them again!! But how do you know that they’re not just wasting your time…um, you don’t.
You, the Seller, do not have the ability to qualify a potential buyer. But your listing agent could certainly find out how R, W & A a buyer is before they waste your time. We will certainly ask to see the pre-approval if they aren’t working with another agent! Let us be the gatekeepers.
Another timesaver that Realtors have access to is the database of the thousands of Real Estate Agents in Bucks & Montgomery Counties and the greater Philadelphia area.
As a FSBO, there is no way for you to check the legitimacy of the so-called Realtor that wants to show your house. But a legitimate Realtor uses this nifty Showing Desk to schedule all of our appointments and verify that the agent is legit.
And just so you know, Buyer’s Agents have a fiduciary responsibility to Sellers. We will not let our Buyers destroy your house while you’re not there. But, if you can’t verify that an actual Realtor is showing the property, then it’s probably best that you take off work for every showing so you can be there to make sure nothing is stolen!
I could say more on all the things that FSBO’s do to impede the sale of their home. Price, presentation & promotion, or lack of it, are also issues that keep Buyers away. But I won’t say any more.
Instead I will strongly urge you to not go FSBO and to seriously consider letting a Realtor list your property. I speak for all Agents in our greater area when I say we would love to add your home to the inventory of viable homes for sale. We need you and your house, desperately!! So please, stop fudging and just hand it over so we can satisfy our Buyer’s demand and get you where you need to go!! Kapish? Good!