Selling It Yourself? Think again.

By David S. Jones

For every homebuyer, there is a seller. And for every seller, there is someone who has — however briefly — thought about selling his or her own real estate. In real estate circles, property listed by owners is referred to as "fizz-bo," the pronounciation of the acronym FSBO, which stands for "for sale by owner."

Obviously owners can and do sell their own property. There are Internet sites, offering all manner of tips and suggestions designed to help you sell your home. But hints to sellers on how to spruce up a home to help it sell are usually good ideas for every seller — even those who elect to use a professional real estate agent. The fact that the do-it-yourself sites feel it necessary to have articles on "contingencies," "credit scoring," "locking-in interest rates," "buy downs" and "home inspections," speaks volumes about the need for a professional to handle your transaction.

Sellers deny themselves the benefit of using a real estate professional because they want to "save" money. If selling it yourself is such a good idea, why are FSBO transactions only 16 percent of home listings nationwide?

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced an advertising campaign recently in which they hope to persuade FSBOs to use a Realtor. The FSBO spot illustrates the convenience and expertise Realtors bring to complex transactions. It makes side-by-side comparisons between selling a home with and without Realtor expertise and lets viewers draw their own conclusions about which method is preferable.

Despite the sellers’ markets in many locales and predictions the Internet would diminish the role of agents, a recent NAR study found only 16 percent of homes were sold directly by owners in 1999, even fewer than the 18 percent in 1997. Also, the survey revealed the median selling price of a home sold directly by an owner was $113,000, while the median sales price of a home sold using an agent was $129,900.

What’s even more telling, however, is that of those homeowners who did successfully sell their home without a professional’s help, 50 percent vowed they would never do it again. They cited these complexities and hassles:

  • holding open houses, arranging for appraisals and inspections
  • understanding and filing paperwork
  • helping buyers obtain financing
  • having time to do it all.

Again, it should be emphasized that it is possible to save commission costs by selling a home on your own or using discount firms. You must understand, however, the trade-offs involved. Namely, you deny yourself access to someone trained in real estate terminology and practices, which can be most advantageous.

Experienced real estate agents are able to provide up-to-date reports on comparable sales in your neighborhood. Because they work in the local market daily, they have a much better understanding of what is happening there and what financing options are available. If the agent is a Realtor, they can provide more exposure, via the Multiple Listing Service, than most homeowners can obtain on their own. In most cases, it takes less time to use a licensed real estate professional to sell your home.

If you do elect to use a licensed real estate agent, how do you know which one to pick? The Texas Association of Realtors offers these guidelines to help find the broker that’s right for you.

Choose your agent with care — as you would a lawyer or doctor. Talk with friends, neighbors and co-workers who have recently bought or sold a home in the area. What kind of service did they receive? Would they use the same broker or company next time?

Attend an open house. Observe the salespersons in action, and judge their expertise. Were you shown the home in a professional manner? Had they done their homework so they were familiar with the property?

Focus on real estate companies that specialize in residential sales. Look for "sold" signs around town and in your neighborhood. A successful track record warrants your consideration.

Read the real estate section of your newspaper for listings of homes in the same price range as yours. This will help you identify companies that market homes similar to yours. And, you can see how your home stacks up against the competition.

Contact potential listing companies for an interview. Look for salespersons that take copious notes.  When you visit the prospective listing companies, here are some questions you should consider asking the real estate broker:

  • How long have you been licensed? 
  • How long have you actively worked in the Brazos Valley?
  • How many home sales have you closed in the last three months?
  • Do you work full time as a real estate professional?
  • Can you give me names of three references whose homes you’ve sold recently?
  • How will you work to actively seek buyers for my home?
  • Will you participate in a cooperative listing service?
  • Have you earned any specialty professional real estate designations? If so, which ones?
  • What professional courses or training sessions have you attended recently?

Any good real estate broker keeps the clients’ interest in mind at all times, provides frequent status reports and has a clear understanding of the housing market and financing terms. To maximize exposure and minimize problems, enlist the services of a broker. Your peace of mind and a great deal of money are at stake. With professional assistance, the home-selling process can be much easier.

Copyright© 2002, David S..Jones. All right reserved. David S. Jones is Senior Editor and Director of Communication for the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. For additional information,  contact the FrogPond at 800.704.FROG(3764) or email
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