Every year, a small percentage of homeowners try to sell their own property without using a real estate agent. It’s called FSBO, or For Sale By Owner. There are a handful of reasons you would take this task on yourself instead of heading for the nearest realtor: Maybe you’ve interviewed real estate agents and didn’t find one you liked, or maybe you want a way to “test the waters” to see if you’d like a career in real estate.
It could just be a way of saving yourself the commission money. Once decided, it's time to clean out your closets, take flattering photos, write a killer ad, and price your property so that it will sell.
As an agent who sells properties (including some of my own), let me give you three warnings:
1. Know Your Property.
A broker expects to be asked about traffic, the financial health of a condo building or municipality, the zoning of the empty lot down the street and who the possible tenants would be—and so should you! Many buyers will have questions about the house’s history in terms of asbestos, mice, termites, and lead paint, so be prepared to answer them. Allot some time to finding answers you won’t know off the top of your head. When I sold my house, there was a question about the appropriate zoning of my back porch and my real estate lawyer had lost the appropriate documents, so I had to trot to City Hall to get new ones.
2. Be Professional.
You might be selling your own place because you’re unemployed, or home with a baby, but you still need to treat this as a job. Set aside times when you can show the house, and try not to reschedule appointments. Wear work clothes when you greet potential buyers. You don’t have to buy a Chanel suit, but looking like you take the transaction seriously will make buyers take you seriously. I went to one FSBO open house where the doormen didn’t know that there was an open house, or even that the sellers were home. It was probably the seller’s fault, but made me second-guess my interest in a building with possibly negligent doormen.
3. Be Ready For First-Time Buyers.
Newbie customers can be some of the most nervous people on earth, so they need a lot of hand-holding and a lot of education about what it means to own a property. Be ready to explain some basic concepts like when property taxes get billed and how much your utility bills are (extra points for providing copies of your winter heating and summer cooling bills). Being able to provide the number of a local plumber and a local handyman helps too. Most of all, be patient. Try to reach back in your memory and think of all the questions you would have asked yourself. You might even find you enjoy the process of talking about the property—while you’re doing the work of selling, you might have a little fun, too.