Going it Alone with FSBO -For Sale by Owner

In tough economic times, it may be tempting to sell your home privately, thereby bypassing the commission paid to a realtor...

Jeff Gingerich, a sale representative at Century 21 Home Realty Inc. in Waterloo, ON, shares his anecdotes from last decade's tough market that points out the risk inherent in this approach.

Several of his clients selling in the early '90s had bought in a private sale during boom years in the '80s - overpaying considerably for their home in the late '80s and/or at a location less than desirable for resale. Then they were forced to sell in the tough market, and it wasn't easy.

"A decision to buy a home is often filled with emotion," Gingerich notes. "A private seller can prey upon these emotions...

"But a realtor is bound by the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Real Estate Association. When acting for a buyer client, the agent is obligated to work in the buyer client's best interests."

He adds that it's the realtor's job to add logic to the equation; this includes a duty to disclose any known defects about the home. A private seller is under no such obligation.

A realtor also considers information that a private seller can't - or won't - provide:

  • What have similar homes sold for in recent months?
  • What did those homes have that this one doesn't and vice-versa?
  • Why is the seller selling?
  • What do we know about the history of the home and the neighbourhood/area?

"Clients are often surprised when I tell them the results of my research into the homes they're interested in," says Gingerich. "One such search revealed that the home had sold three times in four years! Contrast that with the peace of mind of a buyer who just purchased a one-owner home built in 1954!"

How Long Can You Afford to Wait?

Selling your home FSBO takes longer than using a realtor - you have to book showings that suit your schedule as no one else can let the prospective buyers in. And just how long can you afford to wait for the home to sell, especially in a bad economy? The longer you are on the market, the more your home's value drops.

How Secure Do You Feel Showing on Your Own?

A group blog post on Trulia.com - six U.S. agents contributed - titled "Thinking About Doing a FSBO?" brought up the interesting point of home and personal security. They ask of home sellers: "How comfortable and secure do you feel about allowing strangers into your home for showings?" For women, this could take the form of potential assault by a stranger alone with you in your home; for everyone there's the very real possibility of theft of your belongings at an open house or showing.

Wisconsin agent Guy Lofts - blogging at Realtor.com, the official site of the National Association of Realtors in the US - says about FSBO "I prefer to call them 'unrepresented sellers.' I am really confused as to why someone would take the legal and safety risk of going it alone...

"Yes, it was popular three years ago when homes were selling like hot cakes. Now is not then. Even mediocre agents are not selling; it really takes the very best." He gives the analogy: "If you were being sued for the value of your home, would you hire an attorney, or defend yourself?"

Ontario realtor Jeff Gingerich sums it up well: "In short, using a realtor to help you buy a home is always prudent - particularly in times of uncertainty."

Have you or anyone you know tried For Sale By Owner? How did it go? We want to know; please leave your comments below.

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1 Comment
November 5, 2009
4:15 PM

We have a website for people who are selling their homes privately in Saskatchewan, and have had thousands of successful customers in the past ten plus years.

Most of our sellers have told us that selling their own home was easy, and enjoyable, and that they had no trouble at all handling their own negotiations..

To suggest that only realtors use logic when buying or selling a home is a bit ridiculous, and to suggest that you risk over-paying for a house unless you use a realtor is a bit ridiculous too. Isn't the realtor who is representing the seller supposed to be getting as much as possible for the house he or she is selling?

To try to strike fear into sellers by warning them that they could be attacked by potential buyers if they try to sell on their own is baseless and nothing short of fear-mongering, and Items could be stolen at a realtor's open house just as easily as at a private open house. But as you know, it very rarely happens in either circumstance.

As for a legal risk of selling on your own? All sellers need to use a lawyer after they have reached an agreement with a buyer, and that is true whether you use a real estate agent or not. The agent doesn't provide any legal protection - the lawyer does.

Yes, many sellers do require the services of a realtor to sell their homes, but don't sell private sellers short. The vast majority of people are quite capable of selling on their own, and trying to convince them they aren't by using the arguments above will just drive more of them to trying it on their own.

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