Should you do For Sale by Owner (FSBO)?

Four out of five homeowners use the services of a real estate agent to list and sell their home. Twenty percent will try to do a For Sale by Owner — should you?

I think that if you have the time, patience and real estate transaction experience – absolutely. I sold my last house as a FSBO before I became a Real Estate Agent. But…I also had extensive experience as a result of 7 or 8 transactions in a 5 year period through investment real estate. I also had my own company with an experienced staff so I had the time for marketing the home, showings and follow up to make sure the deal went through. But it’s harder work than most realize. According to statistics from the National Association of Realtors, eighty percent of people who do try to sell their home FSBO will eventually list with a realtor

I think part of the reason people are compelled to sell FSBO is the perception that realtors just list your house on the MLS, print a few flyers and that’s it. Unfortunately, the reality probably matches the perception in a lot of cases. A good professional will do so much more than that. From helping you accurately price your home, being available day or night to answer your questions and those of potential buyers, to making sure you get the right buyer who can actually close the deal – there’s a lot of work a professional realtor performs if they are doing their jobs correctly.

I’m curious as to other people’s experience in this area. Any bad FSBO experiences? (Aside from the pushy suede-shoe, old-school realtors that kept trying to convince you there is no way you can do this with out them). Success stories? Those who started FSBO and eventually listed — what was the compelling reason? Any stories in defense of realtors?

Robert Gray Smith

14 thoughts on “Should you do For Sale by Owner (FSBO)?

  1. I know a lovely “old” gent, professer at Udub, and his wife, who for sale by owner their investment properties. I sold one of them (I had a buyer client) and I did an unusual thing.

    He, the seller, represented himself during the negotiations. I represented the buyer. When we had “a meeting of the minds” as to price and terms, which were quite different in this case, I became a Dual Agent for the Escrow phase only. I discussed why I needed to do that, with both the buyer and the seller, and they agreed it was best for all.

    So the buyer did pay the buyer agent fee and a slight flat fee for representing him during escrow. I think we added a portion of that to the sale price and that was agreed to by all parties. This was a four-plex in Ballard.

    So For Sale By Owners can indeed be successful. But if there is no agent, the buyer is often whipped around by an aggressive seller, if the buyer doesn’t have their own representation in the negotiations. Or conversely, the seller has no control over knowing if the buyer can actually get a loan, other than that piece of paper most think means something.


  2. I know a couple of folks who sat with their home on the FSBO market for years in the late 80s. They still live there. I assume that times have changed.

  3. I am an attorney who started my own practice in July of that year, focusing in part on FSBO transactions. Since then, I’ve helped several people sell their homes FSBO. All of my clients have been able to sell their homes within a few weeks without the assistance of an agent. Most of the potential pitfalls associated with FSBO, such as those mentioned by Ardell, can be addressed by retaining an attorney to assist with the transaction — and the attorney will cost a lot less than an agent.

  4. I absolutely agree Craig. Though I don’t think attorneys go to home inspections 🙂 Twice last year I all but begged a consumer to get an attorney involved and even offered to pay the attorney myself. They were more afraid of attorneys than they were of me. Their concern being that the attorney would over complicate things.

    One I had to put with an attorney near the end. It was an estate sale and one of the heirs was cutting out the rest and also not necessarily competent from a mental standpoint. She was homeless and owned a burned out house left to her and her brothers years ago. Problem was one of the brothers was dead and had many children with many women.

    She was very angry when I got an estate attorney involved, but I try to sleep at night knowing that this homeless woman, who was roaming the streets, walked off at the end with her fair share of $250,000.

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