Everybody likes the idea of a little DIY. Whether that means unclogging your own sink drain or putting in a few shelves in your pantry, there’s a lot of satisfaction that goes along with doing it yourself. Maybe this is why homeowners often seriously consider selling their homes on their own. Although going FSBO has the potential to save a few bucks, there’s a lot to know before jumping in.
What is a FSBO?
In real estate agent speak, “Fiz-Bows” are homes that are being sold and marketed by their owners; it’s short for For Sale By Owner. These sellers may negotiate with Buyer’s Agents to sell their house, but more often negotiate with the buyer directly. This buyer is either someone that the seller knows or it’s a complete stranger who called off of some kind of advertising for the home in question.
As you might imagine, this situation is just peachy until it’s not.
A Few Points to Ponder Before Going FSBO
The decision to sell your home yourself is not one that you should make lightly. There are a lot of things that must be done in order to execute a real estate contract and even seasoned real estate agents sometimes make serious mistakes. So, before you take the leap, keep these items in mind (just for starters):
Real estate agents carry errors and omissions insurance for a reason. There is no perfect contract and the more complicated they get, the higher the risk of something being accidentally recorded incorrectly. When that mistake is a high dollar issue, E&O kicks in to help resolve it. Generally speaking, if you’re selling your own home by yourself, your errors and omissions are on you.
Marketing matters. Even in a seller’s market, it’s fairly unlikely that plopping a “For Sale” sign on your lawn will attract the right buyers. Sure, you might get the neighbors popping by for a look, but they’re really just comparing their home to yours, they’re not generally serious buyers. This is going to be one of your biggest expenses, and marketing doesn’t come cheap.
You can’t just list your home on one site, you need to be putting your marketing where the people are — that means social media, local FSBO sites, the MLS (if you can access it where you live) and other outlets. This is where knowing your audience (your buyers) is really important. It’ll help you narrow your focus so you don’t spend as much on marketing as you could if you took a scattershot approach.
Contracts. You can’t sell a house with a handshake agreement. Well, you CAN in most states, but it’s not advised. Makes it real hard for the bank to finance and so forth. First thing’s first, do you have a contract you can use or a lawyer who will draft one for you? Any existing contracts should be checked over by a real estate attorney to ensure that you are protected.
Handling Offers. We all expect that contracts will come in at full price and also include nice notes about how our kitchen is amazing and the buyer can already smell the bubble bath in the master suite. That’s not always reality, though. What will you do when an offer comes in that’s insultingly low? The emotional weight can be massive. Most of the time, these things go off without a hitch, but there are some trouble contracts here and there. Are you confident enough to stake your equity on this gamble?
There’s nothing wrong with selling your house yourself, but if you choose to do this, you have to realize that it’s a huge commitment, as well as essentially being a second job. You have to be ready to show your house any time a potential buyer appears. You need to monitor the market so you can see when a price change is going to be necessary. Most importantly, you have to know how to respond when there’s a problem.
There Are No Perfect Houses
Anybody can sell a house that’s perfect. There’s no question about it. But in the real world, all homes have some kind of flaw. They’re structures made of thousands of different parts, after all. That one knotty stud with the bent nail under the drywall makes your house totally unique, even when compared with other homes that are the same floor plan.
The thing with all this uniqueness is that when a home inspector comes to inspect the home, they’re likely to find something wrong. As an owner, not having a lot of experience looking at inspection reports, you may think you’re being unfairly attacked or just feel generally insulted by the findings. After all, you wired up that outlet or plumbed that tub yourself.
If you can see your home the way your buyer does, you may have the stomach for selling it yourself. You have to be fair-minded, otherwise everything will blow up during the inspection period, if you make it that far.