For Sale by Owner: Worth the Risk?

by Aimee Kniceley-Barnes 08/30/2020

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

For Sale by Owner (FSBO) can be an extremely tempting prospect for home sellers. If you don't have to pay the real estate commission, you can put more of the money from the house sale directly into your pocket. But it takes more of a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude to successfully complete a home sale. We'll look at why the risks typically outweigh the rewards. 

Can It Be Done?

Before going any further, it's important to acknowledge that selling a home without the help of a real estate agent can be done. In fact, some sellers will tell you it's the best decision they've ever made. You'll need to research your state and local laws before starting the paperwork, but owners have successfully sold their own homes in the past. 

The Downsides 

There are more than a few downsides when it comes to selling a home on your own, and they typically all boil down to time and money. An agent already has a good idea of how much homes are selling for in your area, who's buying them, and why certain ones are in high demand. They know how to price the home high enough so it doesn't set the wrong anchor, but low enough to inspire interest. 

The Paperwork 

From contingencies to appraisals to closing costs, the paperwork for a home sale has become unbearably lengthy for most sellers. In the past, homes might be sold with nothing more than a few sheets of signed documents. Today, the stack continues to grow with every passing year.

Most of the paperwork is an attempt to address liability. For example, if a seller failed to disclose that the property was in dispute by an ex-spouse, the buyer wouldn't have to enter into a lengthy legal battle after escrow was completed. Each neighborhood has its own restrictions and rules for buyers and sellers, and it's difficult to follow them all if you're not familiar with the local codes. 

Limited Reach 

A good real estate agent knows how to pull in buyers from a number of backgrounds. Rather than relying on an Open House sign, they use everything from social media to their own networks to get more people interested in the property. They also know how to showcase the property in a way that appeals to the common buyer. For example, they might stage your home for young families rather than retirees (or vice versa). 

The truth is that FSBO is an option, it's just often not a very good one. While you may be able to successfully sell your home, the odds of making a mistake can land you in a hot water (which can ultimately end in court). 

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Aimee Kniceley-Barnes

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