If you are thinking about selling your house or condo without a professional real estate agent, first read “For Sale by Owner” by Steve Berges. It will alert you to the pros and cons of selling alone, presumably because you want to save the sales commission.
Author Steve Berges is an experienced home builder and real estate broker with more than 25 years experience selling homes. He obviously knows what he writes about. His many examples used throughout the book not only illustrate his topics, but also show his considerable background.
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Not only is this a positive book with a theme of showing home sellers how to sell without a professional agent, but it is also very realistic. Berges highly emphasizes the importance of the Internet to today’s home sales. He explains how do-it-yourself home sellers can get their listings on the local MLS (multiple listing service) and on www.realtor.com where more than 70 percent of today’s home buyers start their quest.
The author tackles the tough topic of how to work with local real estate agents who offer either discount services or fee-for-service pricing. However, he completely neglects the subject of how for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) home sellers should handle buyer’s agents who want half of a typical sales commission (3 percent) for a sale to the agent’s buyer.
The book’s best chapter, by far, deals with negotiations with prospective buyers who are seriously interested in purchasing. Berges explains the signals he has observed from serious buyers. His emphasis on the buyer’s hands is unique. He says if the buyer rubs his/her hands over surfaces, such as kitchen counters, that indicates a serious interest.
Especially valuable to do-it-yourself sellers, or any home seller, are the chapters about how to prepare a home for sale. The author emphasizes the importance of first impressions from the exterior. He also explains how to create interiors that make high impacts. “Is the inside of your house bright and cheery, or dark and dreary?” he asks.
One major oversight is the author’s failure to include the major Internet “for sale by owner” Web sites where home sellers can present their listings for nominal fees. Instead, he favors listing with a discount realty agent who has access to the local MLS and www.realtor.com.
In the chapter about showing the home, Berges says sellers should ask phone callers for the prospect’s name, current address, telephone number, place of employment, driver’s license number, and who will accompany the caller, such as spouse, children, and relatives. If you were responding to a FSBO ad, would you supply all that information? Probably not.
Chapter topics include “The FSBO’s Home Preparation Checklist”; “Exterior Home Preparation”; “Interior Home Preparation”; “Home Valuation: How to Price Your House to Sell for Maximum Value in Minimum Time”; “Third-Party Reports and Legal Forms”; “Seven Smart Ways to Sell Your Home”; “Discount Brokerage Services”; “How to Show Your Home to Qualified Buyers”; “Negotiating Strategies”; “Formalizing the Sale: How to Use Sales Contracts and Purchase Agreements to Protect Your Legal Interests”; and the “FSBO’s Closing Checklist.”
This ambitious book, written by an expert who has written seven other real estate books, disappoints because the author seems to be holding back by making do-it-yourself home selling seem easy, carefully overlooking the frequent problems. He doesn’t even mention, for example, the importance of written home seller defect disclosures to thwart buyer lawsuits. On my scale of one to 10, this disappointing book from a superb realty writer, rates only a seven.
“For Sale By Owner,” by Steve Berges (McGraw-Hill, New York), 2005, $17.95, 164 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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