If you are thinking about selling your home without a professional realty agent, probably to save the sales commission, first read Robert Irwin’s new book “For Sale by Owner Kit, Fifth Edition.” It is the best of the “how to sell your home alone” books.
Every home seller should read and study this excellent new book, even if you know you will list your home for sale with a professional real estate agent. The author does a superb job of explaining the details of selling a home, with or without an agent.
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But real estate agents have nothing to fear from this book. Like most books that attempt to explain how to sell a home without a professional agent, it is incomplete because it omits the ultra-important tasks of explaining how to (1) overcome the lack of exposure to the local multiple listing service (MLS) and (2) getting a serious buyer to sign a binding purchase contract without having to go to a real estate lawyer’s office.
The book’s best chapter is the first one, which explains how a “do it yourself home seller” can obtain a quality “for sale by owner” (FSBO) lawn sign and post his/her listing on an Internet Web site for FSBOs. This strong beginning shows examples of FSBO Web site listings and even how to write sales copy that sells.
But then the book abruptly switches focus and goes back to the traditional do-it-yourself home-sales explanations. Surprisingly, primary attention is on defect disclosures and inspections, rather than how to attract prospective home buyers.
Robert Irwin admits pricing a do-it-yourself home is the most difficult chore the seller has. He explains several approaches to setting a realistic asking price, but warns that most FSBO sellers overprice their homes.
The author advises: “If you sell FSBO, you’re presumably saving on the commission and have some room to play with. So give the buyers the price discount they want, and you will probably sell your house faster and net more money. It all comes back to goals. Is your goal to save money? Or is it to sell your property?”
In the chapter about working with real estate agents, Irwin wisely says, “Remember, the agent is not the enemy. Your true enemy is time.” Then he proceeds to explain how to work with buyer’s agents, agreeing to pay their 2.5 percent or 3 percent sales commission in return for the buyer’s agent handling the details of the home sale.
Although the author suggests hiring a “fee for service” real estate agent, he neglects to explain how difficult it can be to find these agents. Although he mentions several nationwide discount brokerages, such as Assist2Sell and Help-U-Sell, they really aren’t fee-for-service realty agents.
But Irwin forgot to explain the real reason most realty agents don’t want to help FSBOs with sales tasks, such as providing a sales contract or arranging the sale closing, is the agent’s legal liability exposure for just a small fee.
“The MLS is without question the best and quickest way of finding a buyer for your home. Today, better than 90 percent of all home buyers work with agents. Remember, it doesn’t cost them anything because you’re paying the commission,” the author explains. But he fails to show how FSBO sellers can overcome these problems.
The book’s sections about preparing your house or condo for sale are excellent and should be followed by all home sellers. But the book is a bit light on how to handle showings, other than to advise to always have someone available to answer the phone, never show the home after dark, and always have two people present when showing the home. Those rules aren’t easy for most FSBO sellers to follow.
Chapter topics include “Selling Your Home Quickly Online”; “Getting to the Right Price”; “Advertising Your Home to Get Buyers”; “Listing with a Discount Broker”; “Dressing Your Home for Sale”; “Face-to-Face with a Buyer”; “How to Write the Sales Agreement”; “Should You Help with the Financing?” “Controlling the Final Walk-Through”; “Should You Consider an Auction?” and “What to Do If Your Home Won’t Sell.”
Although this is an excellent guidebook for do-it-yourself FSBO home sellers, emphasizing the pitfalls involved, it doesn’t overcome the major hurdles, such as preparing a binding sales contract and successfully getting the sale closed without the help of a professional realty agent. Primarily because it is the best of the how-to-sell-your-home-alone books, on my scale of one to 10, it rates a 10.
“For Sale By Owner Kit, Fifth Edition,” by Robert Irwin (Dearborn-Kaplan Publishing Co., Chicago), 2005, $19.95, 228 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.amazon.com.
(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center).
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