Monday, December 24, 2007

The For Sale by Owner Conundrum

I've been talking to quite a few For Sale by Owner property owners recently and I thought I would provide some interesting information and a quick story from the past year. First the statistics taken from the NAR database so they are not tainted by my possible bias as a Realtor.

Average sales price w/Realtor - $247,000

Average sales price FSBO - $187,200

Realtors obtain an average 32% higher sales price than a FSBO on an identical property.

FSBO Methods used to market home

* Yard Sign....................51%

* Friends/neighbors....53%

* Newspaper ad...........31%

* Open house...............29%

* Internet.....................22%

Most difficult tasks for FSBO sellers

* Getting the right price.....................11%

* Understanding paperwork..............16%

* Preparing home for sale...................18%

* Attracting potential buyers............. 9%

* Time management relating to sale...9%

So what does it all mean? I suppose it depends on your viewpoint and my guess is that if you asked a hundred people you would get a hundred different viewpoints.

Now the story. I was representing a buyer earlier this year and he wanted to buy a FSBO property. So I happily scheduled a meeting with the seller and we visited her home. She greeted me at the door and quickly explained that she didn't need a Realtor because she had an attorney. I thought that was a great idea and told her that I was acting as a buyers agent on behalf of my buyer and that my interest was that of my buyer and I would do everything in my power to get the best deal possible for my buyer. She agreed that I would be a buyers agent and she would be a FSBO with a local attorney as her counsel. She agreed to pay me a buyers agent fee and we signed a statement outlining our roles.

We then sat down at the kitchen table and started to negotiate the sale of her house. Of course her attorney wasn't present (it was 7:30 in the evening) and I continually reminded her that I was representing my buyer quite possibly at her expense. She kept telling me not to worry that she had a great local attorney that would handle everything on her behalf. We kept negotiating until we had hammered out a very favorable contract filled with numerous items to help my buyer. She very happily signed the offer and asked for 24 hours for her attorney to review it. I granted the 24 hours knowing that the contract would come back drastically changed after the attorney's review.

The next day the attorney called me and asked me to pick up the executed contract that he had approved with her consent. A bit surprised I headed over to the office and picked up the contract without a single change to it.

I called the buyer and told him it was time to implement all of the items we requested in the contract. To shorten the story a bit, we did as we promised in the contract and the seller kept calling me asking why we wanted or needed to do a variety of things that she thought we shouldn't address. I reminded her that she had signed a legally binding contract that allowed us the options we were requesting, and oh by the way, she would get to pay for some of it as well. She called her attorney about the matter and the attorney explained to her that we could do the things requested, and in fact, we were not asking for anything unethical or illegal. We were simply asking for things that any excellent buyers agent would ask for on behalf of his client.

I'll never forget the final walk-through the day before closing. The seller was present and pulled me aside as the proud new buyer walked through the house prior to closing. She said to me and I'm paraphrasing but the point was very clear, "You have cost me more in this transaction than if I had hired a Realtor to represent my interests. I really think that you asked me to pay for items that you shouldn't have and I wished I had retained the services of a sellers agent but I didn't know you would cost me so much money."

The truth is I did an excellent job representing my buyer and her attorney didn't really pay attention to much of the detail nor did he explain things to her as they were happening. She ended up spending more than she would have saved on commissions with a sellers agent. I love attorney's and have several that are very good friends but they don't do this every day and it cost the seller real dollars.


Anonymous said...

You should really be so proud to have taken advantage of stupidity...

Anonymous said...

If you were sick, would you try to do your own surgery? If you were in legal trouble, would you represent yourself? If you are selling your most expensive asset, do you hire a professional who does this every day or do you wing it? I'm not a realtor, but I've moved around alot. I've bought and sold 8 homes in the last 20 years and everyone was represented by a realtor. Even though I now know pretty much what happens and what is expected, I don't know the market like these people do and don't trust myself to get the best price. Plus, I don't want strangers going thought my house when I'm home alone. I don't know who these people are or if they are pre-approved. It's scary. Just my thoughts....