What you should know about selling on your own

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Written by Mary Umberger On Real Estate   

July 15, 2011


Real estate journalists from around the country sat in last month on a friendly-rivals debate between two real estate industry veterans and a for-sale-by-owner advocate.

On one side were Dwight Hale, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors, and Michael Crowley, a broker from Spokane, Wash., and president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents. On the other sat Eddie Tyner, general manager of ForSaleByOwner.com (a unit of Tribune Co., parent of the Chicago Tribune).

Tyner told attendees at the conference of the National Association of Real Estate Editors in San Antonio that the by-owner strategy can be very successful but cautioned that it's not for everyone.

"(The selling process) is a lot of work; we tell them that," Tyner said. Nonetheless, technology has empowered consumers to do the research and marketing chores needed to sell a house, he said.

Tyner reeled off a list of characteristics that ForSaleByOwner.com regards as the ideal candidate for selling by owner. That would be someone who:

  • Has enough Internet savvy for pricing and other research and marketing.
  • Has realistic expectations about how long the process might take.
  • Can find a qualified appraiser to help determine an asking price and an attorney to cover the legal aspects.
  • Has a realistic view of changes and updates to the house that might be needed to make it appeal to the broadest pool of buyers and is willing to call in a professional stager if needed.
  • Isn't so emotionally tied to the house that he or she can't approach the sale with a businesslike attitude.
  • Knows when problems have made the process too complex and it's time to call in a pro.

But Hale said the problem with such a list is that "you don't know what you don't know — experience has a payback."

Real estate transactions can be full of sticking points — some of them unforeseeable, especially for someone who hasn't had a lot of experience with the home-selling process, Hale said. They can seem minor but be deal-busters nonetheless, he said.

"For example, if you don't know that, say, Veterans Administration loans require that a house have window screens, and the seller, says no, I won't pay to install them (to make the sale go through), you're done," he said.

Further, he said, the hardest part in many sales today is not finding a buyer, but making sure the buyer's financing doesn't fall apart.

"The No. 1 difference out there that all Realtors are experiencing these days is the mortgage morass we're in," he said. "The challenge is getting the buyer through the lending process," and, he said, professional real estate agents have the skills to help resolve these issues.

"If you only sell one home every five, seven, or 10 years, there are going to be problems, and we solve problems," Crowley said.

"For instance, if you need to get the furnace repaired (to get the house sold), an agent might get you to the right contractor, which might make a difference of thousands of dollars."

But Tyner said the two most important tasks are getting the price right and getting the right marketing mix.

"There are enough technology tools out there that they can do it on their own," he said.

"There's a lot of work to it, yes, we tell them that. But if people are willing to put forth the time and effort, they have a good chance of success."

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Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune
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