Which Way Do I Go : Realtor® or FSBO?

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In Search of The Truth

One of the most hotly debated topics in real estate is whether or not selling FSBO or with a Realtor® will make you more money.

The Realtor® camp pumps out numbers stating that if you sell FSBO you will make less money. The FSBO camp is littered with stories of people who successfully sold FSBO. In 2007, the NBER published a study that said there was a 0% difference in the price sold between Realtors® and FSBOs. So what is the truth?

The truth is that there is not one absolute truth. There is enough data to support either side and enough data to discredit either too. The truth lies somewhere in between. The truth also depends on person’s perspective, their experiences selling FSBO or with a Realtor® and which way they are leaning toward to sell their home at the present moment. If you seek, you shall find the data to support what you believe.

Quality over Quantity

So if it is impossible to decide on a absolute truth using just numbers, how do you decide if selling FSBO or using a Realtor® is better for you? I suggest looking at the quality of the home selling experience and what you as an individual homeowner are looking for as you embark on your home selling adventure.

Finding Your Truth : Questions and Considerations

This post asks you to honestly contemplate different aspects of the For Sale by Owner process so that you can find out whether it is better to sell FSBO or better to hire a Realtor®. It is my sincere hope that after reading this post you find your truth. Because the truth is that only you know what is best for you and your family.

Tip: You can skip to the Questions and Considerations part of each section to find your truth more quickly 😉

Playing it Safe

Once you let the danger in you may not be able to control what happens.

There is probably not one sane or reasonable person that would open their door to a stranger and just let them in. Our homes and our families are sacred. However, when you are selling For Sale by Owner this common sense goes out the door.

When a potential buyer calls or knocks on your door, you have no idea who that person is. In order to sell your home you disarm yourself of all common sense and willingly open the door to strangers and invite them in! The FSBO sign doesn’t make you immune to those dangers, it makes you and your family much more vulnerable to them.

Questions and Considerations

You wouldn’t normally let strangers in your home because you know how dangerous and risky it is. So ask yourself why am I willing to run the risk now? Why is it not dangerous all of a sudden? How do I screen who comes into my home? How do I know they are not vetting my home for a burglary, home invasion or worse? How can I insure mine and my family’s safety? Is selling FSBO worth what could happen if I let the wrong person into my home?

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

When you sell your home For Sale By Owner you have complete control over the sale. From pricing it, to getting it ready for showings, to open houses, to evaluating offers to negotiating the price, you are the one in control. While this may seem great, it has its drawbacks too. You have to live, breathe, eat and sleep the sale of your home in order to get it sold.

“We haven’t had a free Sunday in four months…” Read more about Kathy and Rob’s  FSBO experience at FSBO Diaries

Questions and Considerations

Ask yourself, do I really want to have all this power and responsibility just because I can? Or is it worth the cost to delegate it to someone else so I can focus on my family, my life and my move?

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Time Keeps on Slipping into the Future

Do you have time for one more thing in your busy life?

In order to have and exercise total control over the sale of your property you also have to have the time. If you work full-time or have a crazy schedule, like most people do today, consider if you are going to have time to answer phone calls in a timely manner and accommodate buyers’ varying schedules.

In real estate time is of the essence. I cannot underscore this point enough. If someone is hot to buy a property, your response needs to be fast and swift or they will move on.  And by fast and swift, I mean within minutes. If you call hours later, in Buyers’ time, it might as well be weeks or even months later. 

Questions and Considerations

Ask yourself, do I have the time to add one more very time consuming task to my life? Do I have the time to talk to different buyers’ and answer all their questions? Do I have the time to accommodate different buyers’ schedules? Am I willing to give up activities with my friends and family in order to show my home and get it sold?

Got Skill? Got Experience?

Do you have what it takes to negotiate ?

Part of selling a home requires negotiating with the buyer or their agent. It takes skill to negotiate a deal that is favorable to you. Once the contract is signed it does not mean that the negotiating is done. There may be other instances along the journey that require you to negotiate. You may run into snags with the inspection, appraisal, title, requirements from the lender and the like and you may have to negotiate through them to keep the deal alive. Can you do it?

Questions and Considerations

Do you have the skill and experience to successfully navigate through the problems that may arise? Are you confident you can successfully negotiate in your favor given your experience level?  Do you really have what it takes to get this deal done?

Risky Business

Are you prepared to put yourself at risk?

The next thing you must seriously consider is the your lack of knowledge and experience in selling real estate. This can make selling FSBO risky business. FSBO screams to unscrupulous individuals “easy prey”. Brace yourself because all types of characters will appear at your doorstep with some sort of questionable deal. Be wary of them all. Caveat Venditor!

“I’d lost all control of my home for five years with all my equity tied up in it… I’ve since learned that ‘creative investor’ can be a code word for trouble!”
– Jay Seier, Fort Collins, CO
Read More….

Another risk of selling FSBO is making a contractual mistake. A contractual mistake can cost you the deal or even worse cost you money. Depending on how bad the mistake is it can be lots and lots of money. You may even open yourself up to a lawsuit. Is that what you really want?

Questions and Considerations

Do I want to put myself in such a risky position? Can I handle the stress that comes with dealing with a lawsuit? What will it cost me in legal fees if I make a mistake?  Consider what it is worth to you to have someone else take on the risk.

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Self-Representation

We all pretty much know what Abraham Lincoln said about defendants that represent themselves in court. It is the same concept in real estate. If you are drawing a blank on what Honest Abe said then read on to the end of this section.

It is no secret that as humans our emotions can cloud our judgement and objectivity. This is true regardless of every single one of us. When you are dealing with something that is your own, especially such an important asset as your home, it is impossible to be objective. But because the sale of a home is an objective endeavor you have honestly to ask yourself if you can emotionally detach yourself enough to get the home sold.

Questions and Considerations

Think about how you will feel when you get low ball offers. And you will get many! Consider how you will feel when a buyer doesn’t place value on the custom kitchen you installed. And then to add insult to injury makes snarky comments about it to try to get you to agree to a lower price.  How is all that going to make you feel? Will you able to keep your cool and rationally and objectively negotiate terms with them? Will anger and rage get the best of you? What will this do to your stress level?

Final but Important Consideration

Lastly be sure to consider this within the context of everything else you have going on in life. This is not going to happen independently of everything else, it is going to happen right along with everything else. Can you handle it? Are you prepared to be the professional ‘who represents himself and has a fool for a client”?

Marketing Mania

Do you have the time and the skill to develop your online web presence?

These days about 90% of people start their home search online. Your web presence has to be very strong and broad. You have to post it on different websites, and social media and you have to post it constantly. It would also help to have a website that showcases your property. Any pictures you take also have to have a certain resolution so that they are not grainy when you print them and not fuzzy when you publish them online.

Questions and Considerations

Ask yourself, do I have the time to take pictures? Make videos? Can I design an attractive flyer?  Do I have time to pass out the flyer? How many people am I really going to call ? Do I have the knowledge to develop a website that will beautifully showcase my property? Do I have the time to post my property and manage the posts on umpteen different real estate websites? Am I able to post constantly and consistently on social media to keep my house in front of people? Do I have the time for one more thing right now?

Under Pressure

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Can you handle the pressure?

Today the majority of us have a busy life with our share of responsibilities and pressures. These pressures are constantly exerting themselves on us. When you opt to sell FSBO you are putting more pressure on yourself.

I am confident that most people, if they did not have so much pressure on them already, could sell their home themselves. But a pressure-less life is like unicorn, it would appear it exists, but someone has yet to find one.

Questions and Considerations

So on top of all the pressure you already have, think about what it will do to you to add more pressure to your life. What will the added pressure do to your life? To your family? To your ability to work? To your tranquility? To your ability to enjoy life? Will you explode under the pressure, or can you handle it?

Final Considerations

I hope that by now you have arrived at or are close to find the truth that works for you. If you are on the edge and not quite sure yet, you may be thinking you want to try FSBO for a little and see what happens. In that case, I say go for it! I firmly believe we can learn from any experience, whether it is good or bad.

Trying out FSBO

Selling FSBO requires you initially invest time and money to get your enterprise going. So make sure you want to make this investment so you don’t end up spending your precious time and money only to turn around and hire a Realtor® a few weeks later. If you have something to prove to yourself, do it! If you are more practical, just cut to the chase and hire a professional to get your home sold.

If You Choose a Realtor®, Choose the Right Realtor® for You

Not all Realtors® are made the same. So when you choose to hire a Realtor® it is important you choose a Realtor® that fits your needs and has the appropriate skill set to sell your home.  A great Realtor’s® experience and knowledge is invaluable during the sales process.

In addition to experience and knowledge, look for Realtor® that has skills that set them apart. For example, I speak five languages fluently. In addition to English I speak Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian. This is priceless here in South Florida. I am able communicate with 95% of the population without missing a beat.  I can’t even begin to tell you how valuable this is when trying to close a deal!

Look for skills like these that differentiate one Realtor® from another and that will add value to the sales process. You are paying for someone with knowledge and experience to be your proxy, and you are paying them well, so choose well!

Final Thought

It is clear that it is hard to determine beyond reasonable doubt if selling FSBO or with a Realtor® will make you more money. However, beyond the quantity of money it is important to consider the quality of the experience you will have when selling your home.

I hope this article gave you an opportunity to really think about which option will work best for you and your family and helped you make an informed decision. Whichever option you choose best of luck on the sale of your home!

Once you begin your FSBO adventure, share your story with others so they can learn from your experience. Click here to submit your story to the FSBO Survival Guide. 

Happy Selling!
-Désirée Ávila

Désirée Ávila was an award winning teacher for 10 years and has a doctoral level education in Educational Technology. Désirée is now a licensed Florida Realtor and committed to a high-level of professionalism and to helping others with their real estate endeavors through education.

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