• This conversation can be avoided with the right pre-listing consult.
  • Every real estate agent should be confident with this conversation.
  • Learn to build trust and opportunity for future business and referrals.

Your listing — your official signed listing — calls in a bit of a panic or emails you to avoid the conversation (and document the request) and says he or she wants to FSBO (for sale by owner).

We are going to walk through some effective responses.

Before we dive into the topic, make sure you know the legalities in your state and your broker’s policy for sellers who want out of their agreement.

The situations that can lead to this FSBO conversation are many and varied. Did this happen 24 hours after signing the listing agreement or after 120 days with no offers and little communication from the agent?

Both have implications with the agent. First, let’s talk about preventive medicine — because in many cases, this could have been avoided.


In the 24-hour scenario, how thorough was your pre-list consult? In your pre-listing appointment, did you:

  • Thoroughly consult?
  • Thoroughly establish your value including National Association of Realtor stats that 89 percent of buyers are working with agents and what this means to the seller?
  • Show them how your system is designed to get top dollar, save them money and reduce risk?
  • Show them your 140-point seller checklist?
  • Ask if they are considering selling on their own? “The reason I ask is that many sellers have, and I like to address that upfront. Let’s look at a couple of things … “

Take a close, honest look at your listing consult, and ask yourself (and a few other real estate agents whom you have asked to critique your presentation) if you have objection handling built in and throughout your consultation.

The best objection-handler is the one that was handled before the objection materialized. If your response to this type of situation easily falls in the “give-up” or “let-’em-go” categories, you might need to improve your objection handling and your listing consult.

Ask questions

Let’s get back to the seller who wants to go FSBO and wants out of the agreement. Do your best to either get him or her on the phone or to talk in person.

Start asking questions — lots of questions:

  • “What’s going on?”
  • “What has changed?”
  • “What is most important to you in this transaction?”
  • “If I could show you that I might actually save you money, would you continue with our agreement?”

And dig deeper; do not fully accept their first answer. This is Psychology 101, so you want to find the answer behind the answer, the words behind the words:

  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “And that’s because?“
  • “So your main concern is financial. What else? And what else?”

If it’s a friend client:

  • “I do a lot of business with friends, which is an honor and a big exercise in trust and professionalism. Our friendship is very important to me, to us. We are going to work this out. Tell me more of what is going on, why the change?”

Use powerful questions in the conversation

  • “How do you plan to market the property?”
  • “What is your plan to accommodate buyer showings?”
  • “89 percent of buyers in our town are working with real estate agents. Are you willing to pay a 3 percent buyer agent fee?”
  • “If I had a qualified buyer who wanted to make an offer on your property, would you want to look at that offer? And would you be willing to pay my 3 percent fee?”
  • (If he or she says yes.) “So you realize you would be paying me, or another agent who had a buyer, to negotiate against you? Who is going to negotiate on your behalf?”
  • “I don’t mean to scare you, but what if the buyer financing falls through a week before closing and you have to go back on the market and possibly cancel your contract on your next home?”
  • “You realize that x percent of homes in this area/price range do not sell. What is your plan if the house doesn’t sell?”
  • “My job is to help families and friends create solutions in their lives.”

Close with grace

Hopefully, you got the client back in your camp. Either way, here are a few graceful closings:

  • Follow-up plan: Let clients know you are going to keep following up to see how things are going. And that when they’re ready to go back with full representation, you’re ready. If they sell, great. “I am a resource. I figure I am good for a couple questions from any FSBO because I genuinely want to make sure people are not confused or at risk with their real estate sales.”
  • Have them sign a listing agreement that starts in three weeks: If the sellers are pending, tear up the agreement.
  • Don’t forget a nice setup for potential referrals: “Call me with questions. I figure I am good for a couple questions from any FSBO. If you have a friend who is selling FSBO, and they have a question, have them call me. I promise I’ll help. I help primarily for two reasons: one is my passion for people doing real estate right with minimal risk, and two is because my business is primarily referral from my friends, neighbors, past clients — and I would be honored to earn your referrals. Call me any time.”

Look at what other agents are doing

I found this professional response online that I think is worth sharing from Jon Hogue, sales agent, the Gunnarson Group with HER Realtors in Circleville, Ohio:

“Kathy, I’m good at selling houses, and I want to do a good job selling your house. We’re going to have ups and downs in this listing, but I’m absolutely positive you are going to get the best result with me at your side. I’m really good at this.

“But you have to make me a promise. If I agree to keep your listing, this issue is resolved. You have to promise that you’re committed to this process and that you’re certain about your decision.

“I have other houses I could spend my time on, and I only want to keep your listing if you are all in. Are you all in?”

What would you do?

Julie Nelson is the chief success officer at The Nelson Project, Keller Williams Realty in Austin, Texas. You can follow her on YouTube or Twitter

Email Julie Nelson.

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