The Mysteriously Disappearing FSBO

One of the less-remarked developments in today’s housing market is the relative absence of FSBO’s (“for sale by owner” homes).

As recently as two years ago, more than 10% of all listings were; now, I’d guess that number is less than 5%. (Note: there are actually two kinds of FSBO’s: the “pure,” sign-in-the-yard, no commission-to-anyone kind; and the FSBO offering a “payout,” i.e., a commission to the Buyer’s Realtor, but bypassing the listing agent, and typically paying a flat fee to list on MLS).

What accounts for the shrinking number of FSBO’s?

Maybe it’s because if the pro’s (professional Realtors) are having a hard time selling homes, the odds of an amateur succeeding are pretty low.

The fact is, selling a home involves dozens of judgement calls concerning marketing, pricing, negotiating, etc. A FSBO seller just needs to make one mistake to more than offset any money they may have saved on commission.

Realtor Tips

So what’s an example of something that a Realtor knows that a “layman” wouldn’t?

Yesterday, a client just about to put his house on the market wanted me to take photos while (the previous night’s) fresh snow framed his home. His logic was that the snow made the home look more aesthetic — especially compared to the brown grass underneath.

While he’s undoubtedly right, the problem is that the Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”) is cluttered with literally thousands of “stale” listings now — homes that have been on for months (in some cases, years) without attracting a Buyer.

How can you tell? Amongst other things, they have out-of-season photos (many quite flattering, by the way).

I told my client to use the less flattering — but seasonal — photos to avoid the negative association, and not risk losing prospective Buyers.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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