In 2010, some 9 percent of the homes sold in the U.S. were sold FSBO — For Sale By Owner — according to the National Association of Realtors. The fact that the strong majority of homes are sold by real estate agents is evidence, I believe, that selling real estate is harder than it looks. (I’ve been a working agent for a few years now, and I still feel like I have a lot to learn.) However, by the numbers, more than 400,000 properties were sold last year by people who are pretty much new to selling real estate.
So if you want to “do it yourself,” take heart — and take some tips from a pro. You’ve probably already read about the basics, like de-cluttering your house and putting in new light bulbs, so let’s focus on three ways you can reach out to other people.
Invite In an Outsider. This doesn’t have to be a broker (though brokers will usually do a walk-through for free in hopes that your FSBO effort will collapse and that you will turn to them in the end). You just need a fresh set of eyes on your place to tell you things you don’t notice anymore — like “that wall needs a new coat of paint.” A fresh nose is helpful too, especially if you have pets. You get used to the smells of Fifi and Fido, so make sure that you have a non-pet-owning friend walk through to make sure your property doesn’t smell too much of kitty, pooch or cover-up air freshener.
Use your networks. How do you find out whether a new movie is good, or if a neighbor is moving in down the street? Whatever your own word-of-mouth networks, use them to market your property. I’m not just talking general “social media” here — I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a story of someone selling real estate through LinkedIn — but rather college alumni networks, local chat boards (a.k.a. “mom boards”), or just a good solid email chain to your friends where you request that they send the email on to their friends.
Two often overlooked pieces of this strategy are to be very direct (“Our three-bedroom townhouse with a small private garden is on the market for $800,000) and to follow-up (“Three months ago, we mentioned our $800,000 townhouse sale — after having had an offer fall through, we wanted to remind you again”). Also, though it might feel awkward to approach your neighbors if you’re not already close with them, let them know your place is for sale. The best cheerleaders for an apartment building or a micro-neighborhood are people who already live there and know how special it is.
Contact the brokers who specialize in your area. I acknowledge that by doing this, you are opening yourself up to a world of spam. You probably wanted to go FSBO because you thought that brokers were pushy, and here I am telling you to give them your contact information. However, the brokers who work an area are also fairly likely to know potential buyers, so I think that the pluses of getting tapped into that network balance the negatives of having to endure some extra broker marketing pitches. The typical way to do this is to offer a commission for brokers who bring in buyers. If you don’t know who in your area is good, then simply reach out to any broker in your network — perhaps someone a friend recommends — and ask them who they trust in your area.
For example, I have a friend who forwarded me her friend’s Brooklyn Heights FSBO listing. I specialize in Manhattan, so I don’t have the right client list to bring in a buyer for that listing. I do, however, know another broker I trust in that area, and I can hook the FSBO seller up with that Brooklyn Heights specialist. Everybody wins: My friend thinks of me as a good networker, so she keeps giving me real estate leads. The Brooklyn Heights broker thinks fondly of me and may repay me in kind when she can. And not least, the FSBO seller, who started out not knowing any brokers in her area, makes contact with someone who is good who might bring in a buyer for her property.