I answered the phone the other day, and a somewhat familiar voice was on the other end of the line singing: “You made me call you. I didn’t wanna do it, I didn’t wanna do it.”
Now for those of you too young to remember, or not a lover of old movies, he was singing that to the tune of ‘You Made Me Love You’. As I sat there a little stunned, and couldn’t help but giggle (because he was very off-key), he explained why he was calling.
After tying up his home for over three months with a buyer he had secured himself, an acquaintance of mine from college called to ask me to come and list his home. Seems he had tried the FOR SALE BY OWNER route, and the deal had fallen apart.
As I looked over the contract he copied from a website, I could see immediately that this was a train wreck waiting to happen. There were so many important elements missing from the contract that, had it been written properly, could have gotten him successfully to the closing table.
The story does have a happy ending however: I listed his home, it sold in just two weeks, and he ended up netting more money than he would have walked away from the table with if the FOR SALE BY OWNER contract had closed. The reason?
It Pays To Put Something As Important As The Sale Of Your Home In The Hands Of A Full-Service Professional.
I realize this blog is coming from a professional realtor who makes her living listing and selling homes. But the statement is just as true as with any major financial endeavor. Just as you can indeed invest in the stock market yourself, you have to ask yourself if that is the wisest choice, or if you should just turn it over to a pro.
Before You Place A ‘For Sale By Owner’ Sign In Your Yard, Ask Yourself The Following Questions:
Do I Know What My Home Is Worth In Today’s Market?
You need to be prepared to do a lot of research yourself. And trust me, there are many layers that need to be pulled back to arrive at right pricing for your home. I typically spend a minimum of 8 hours of researching our MLS (Multiple Listing Service) for comparable homes still actively on the market, homes that are sale pending, homes that have successfully sold in the last 12 months, and homes that failed to sell. I look at much more than just comparing square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. I call each Realtor and ask a lot of questions. When I see a home that SOLD extremely well, or one that SOLD under market, I want to know why. Each home sale has a story.
You can get a rough idea of what your home is worth by going to online home search sites such as Zillow.com or Trulia.com, but when it is all said and done, this is all computer generated, and one very low or very high sale and throw the numbers off kilter by quite a bit. The computer doesn’t know how to adjust for that.
The next step would be to bring in a professional appraiser. But keep this in mind: an appraiser is giving you “perfect world” numbers: in other words, the number is what the home is worth, but not necessarily what a buyer will pay for it. Don’t get overly enamoured with a high number and price your home higher than the market will bear.
Can I Be There For Every Home Showing?
If you have a home office or a very flexible schedule this might not be such a challenge, but if you work some distance away from your home and/or can’t leave during normal working hours, you may lose one or more opportunities to show your home to potential buyers. And trust me on this: Buyers want to see a home around their schedule, not yours. I always caution my clients to have their home ready at a moment’s notice. When you decline a showing, you are risking the possibility of that buyer being “the one that got away”.
Another key reason that most homes fail to sell FOR SALE BY OWNER is the very fact that you are there to show the home. My Seller clients are never home for the showings simply because it is – well – awkward. If you are there, the Buyers tend to race through the home, thinking they are imposing. It is also difficult for Buyers to picture themselves in the home when you are there. When the Sellers are not in the home it is much easier for the Buyers to feel comfortable looking as long as they like, speaking freely about what they like and don’t like about the home, etc. In other words, it’s much easier to fall in love when they can “see” themselves living there.
Can I Handle All The Marketing Responsibilities?
Today that is not so daunting a task because there are FOR SALE BY OWNER websites that make it easy to upload photos, add a description of your home, even help you communicate with potential buyers through email and phone.
If it were just that easy, however, as the FOR SALE BY OWNER sites would have you believe, we Realtors would have been put out of business years ago. Getting the phones to ring and making appointments to see your home is the easy part. And actually, getting an offer put together is also relatively easy. The tricky part is holding the sale together.
Can I Negotiate Through The Maze Of Paperwork?
There is a big difference between the contracts we Realtors use and the much abbreviated version of the For Sale By Owner contracts that you can copy or purchase online. Are you sure that all the right protective language is in there? Do you have an attorney you can hire to help you with the negotiations, or look over the contract to make sure you are protected?
We Realtors here in Louisville, KY are required to complete many hours of continuing education each year. A minimum of half that amount of time is spent making sure we know the existing and constantly changing world of real estate law.
Living in a very litigious society, lawsuits over real estate transactions gone wrong is a thriving business for attorneys. It is super important to know how to best protect yourself against the possibility of a being sued.
Am I Willing To Work With A Buyers’ Agent?
Most Buyers have a relationship with a Realtor, and have hired the agent to help them find a home and represent them all the way to closing, from writing the offer to helping them find a great lender, to helping them through the home inspection process – and all points in between – all the way to closing. Are you willing to pay the usual and customary commission to the Buyers’ agent?
The Bottom Line
As I mentioned earlier, you absolutely can sell your home yourself. But are you really saving money? Is it worth the legal risks? Is it worth the hassle and the headache? Selling your home is stressful enough, so why not just let the Realtor handle all the details: from making sure it is priced right, to helping you get the home ready for prime time, to getting it professionally staged, present it in its most positive light through great photography and marketing, to helping you net top achievable dollar for your home.