FSBO: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Is FSBO right for home sellers in Madison WI You're about to list your home for sale, and you want to keep as much money in your pocket as possible once the transaction is done. Often, home sellers come to the conclusion that selling their homes themselves -- For Sale By Owner -- is the best way to go.

Sometimes, going the FSBO route can work out well. But for many home sellers, it's often fraught with some surprising challenges. We frequently work with home sellers who attempted FSBO and then decided to list their home with a Realtor when their homes didn't sell. And we've heard from others who sold their homes as FSBO but weren't completely happy with the end result.

Here are the lessons we've learned, about the pros and cons of going FSBO.

Selling your home as a FSBO might make sense for you when you have...

  • a lot of time. Selling a home takes time -- from staging, to showings, to open houses, to answering follow-up questions from potential buyers and showing agents, etc.
  • a thorough understanding of the real estate market. What does current market data suggest about the fair market value of your home? Choosing a reasonable listing price requires examining a whole host of data -- you need to know where to find it, how to interpret it, and how to use it when making the case with buyers that your home is worth that value.
  • top-notch writing, photography, and marketing skills. You want your home's photos and description to shine -- these are the first things most buyers see, and it's essential that your marketing materials make a strong first impression!
  • a wide network, and a willingness to use it. Selling a home requires more than posting an online ad and plopping a for-sale sign in the yard. You need to actively recruit potential buyers. Do you have the time, interest, and ability to network with your friends, neighbors and co-workers, to generate interested foot traffic?
  • strong negotiation skills. Getting top dollar for your property requires knowing how to negotiate with buyers. And knowing what buyers will pay a premium for requires a depth of knowledge about the real estate market in your city and neighborhood!

If you read the list above and think, "check, check, check!", then congrats! Selling your home as a FSBO might be a good option. But for many people, going FSBO soon leaves them feeling like their in over their heads. If that describes you, here's why working with a Realtor might be a good idea.

Listing your home with a Realtor...

...saves you time. A lot of sellers are surprised by the amount of research, preparation, and constant communication involved in listing a home. An experienced Realtor can make it look simple, but the truth is, there are a lot of moving parts involved! If you don't have the time to manage them all, it might make sense to list your home with a professional.

...saves you peace of mind. Your Realtor handles the hassles -- the phone calls, the emails, the back and forth with other agents. And your Realtor handles the checklist of legal documents and deadlines that come along with selling a home -- so you never need to worry about missing paperwork, missed deadlines, or other slip-ups that can derail an otherwise solid sale.

...instantly widens your network. We're constantly in communication with other Realtors, networking our listings to see if they match the needs of other buyers. This is the kind of highly customized exposure that an online ad and yard sign will simply never be able to attract.

...makes you more money. The most common reason sellers choose FSBO is to save commission fees. But an examination of local real estate data shows that FSBO sellers often walk away with less money than their homes are worth -- sometimes up to 13% less money! That's significantly more than they would have paid a professional Realtor in the first place. It's shocking and sad to see how much money FSBO sellers can leave on the table simply because they don't know any better.

...gets the job done right. Why do Realtors make you more money? Because a good Realtor knows the market inside and out. She can use her knowledge and experience to suggest the best possible listing price for your home, to market your home successfully and aggressively -- and to negotiate at top dollar.

And finally, an important note about contracts and negotiations...

Many FSBO sellers don't have a complete grasp of the contracts used to execute a sale. This can result in oversight regarding their contractual rights and obligations. This can mean wasted time, less profit, and unforeseen expenses, as well as missed opportunities for re-negotiations.

Most buyers and sellers aren't experts in the ever-changing world of lending and mortgages. Without the help of a professional, they don't always ask the right questions or require the proper documentation from the other party. One of the most common complaints we've heard from homeowners who've tried selling FSBO is that their deal fell apart because of buyer financing issues. Most of these scenarios could have been avoided with proper due diligence up front.

On a similar note, many sellers typically don't understand the implications of various loan programs, which can lead to deals falling apart far too often. Some loan programs simply do not match with some types of properties -- this is critical information for every buyer and seller to know.

So -- at the end of the day, is selling your home as a FSBO the right choice for you? It's smart to weigh the true pros and cons before making such a big decision. We'd be happy to answer any of your questions as you decide the best path for you, your family, and your home!