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Home shoppers now can log onto and see for-sale-by-owner homes in the Baton Rouge, La., area. And if any of those prospective home buyers want to apply for a mortgage, that’s easy enough to do. United Companies Mortgage Corp., after all, owns the site.

Homeowners wanting to sell their homes themselves can list them on the Web site for free, complete with photos and virtual tours.

The site is one example of a new product that lets FSBO homeowners get free marketing through mortgage brokers. Mortgage brokers in turn hope that exposure will spur home buyers to use their services. FSBOs may be taboo for real estate agents, but not for mortgage brokers who want nothing more than to make loans to anyone who qualifies.

The product was designed for mortgage brokers looking for ways to expand their businesses given dropping refinance volumes, said Warren Myer, CEO of Myers Internet, the company that provides the technology. Mortgage brokers own the sites and can upload pictures of FSBO properties, add links to virtual tours and provide detailed property descriptions. By doing so, they can market those properties to prospective home buyers, pre-qualify home buyers interested in those houses and potentially originate a mortgage for the next home the seller buys.

Securing future clients was United Companies’ main hope in providing the JungleListings Web site, said Leigh Ann Fuentes, chief operations officer of United Companies Mortgage Corp.

“The only thing we really get out of it is if they’re satisfied how we’ve handled everything, they would hopefully refer their buyers to us,” Fuentes said.

FSBO owners’ reactions so far have been positive, Fuentes said. They’ve appreciated the free publicity and some have referred buyers to United Companies. The company “absolutely plans to continue” the service, she said.

Although some real estate agents do market to FSBO owners, it’s not a marketing technique that many mortgage brokers have considered, Myer said.

Myer estimates mortgage brokers can generate as many as 20 to 50 leads per FSBO home listing. With the program, Myer said, mortgage brokers are simply providing more exposure to those properties, which aren’t normally marketed beyond newspapers, yard signs and a few FSBO specific Web sites.

Owners of FSBO properties also benefit from having pre-qualified potential borrowers viewing their homes, not simply anyone off the street, Myer said. That can help establish a relationship and may lead to the owners using those mortgage brokers when they’re looking to buy another home.

And if the FSBO owners aren’t able to sell their houses on their own, as often happens, the mortgage broker can refer them to real estate agents. That’s a big reason why Myer doesn’t view the Web site as something realty agents should see as competition.

Besides, he said, since FSBO owners are going to try and sell their houses on their own anyway, it only makes sense to tap into that market.

Myer has only just begun marketing the new service, which has been available for about the past three months to select mortgage brokers. He’s promoting it at trade shows and informing the company’s 4,000 owners of mortgage broker Web sites.

The FSBO/mortgage broker Web site has a $199 set-up fee and a monthly fee of $199. Brokers also can sign up for a $39 a month service that provides them with a daily list of new FSBO listings, including the name, phone number and address. After receiving that information, it’s up to the brokers to contact the owners about listing their house on the Web site.

Brokers also can opt to find the listings themselves and then contact the owner.

Fuentes said United Companies wanted to tap he for-sale-by-owner market as one more potential revenue stream. They’d been thinking about the idea for awhile and about two months ago finally launched their Web site.

“As much business as we can get, we’re going to try and get,” Fuentes said. “That was just something out there that a lot of companies do not explore and so we decided to do it.”


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