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Selling your home online
By Fiona Wagner
After putting up their own for-sale sign, bought at a hardware store, a visit from the couple's local PropertyGuys.com franchise owner convinced them to try his For Sale By Owner (FSBO) services. A few hundred dollars bought them a professional lawn sign that directed interested buyers to an Internet listing complete with photos and a detailed property description. Four open houses later, the house sold for its asking price, netting the couple $15,000 in saved commissions. Not bad for two and a half weeks of work.
What is FSBO?
"The most attractive aspect of selling yourself is you take on the role of the Realtor and pay yourself their commission for promoting your property," says Michael Lawrence, marketing director for PropertySold.ca. "If your house sells for $300,000, that's $15,000 that you can put straight into your pocket."
That's not all. Being your own agent means you maintain total control of the sale. "You can schedule appointments when you want, change the pricing if you want -- things you can't do if you sign a contract with an agent," says Walter Melanson, director of partnerships for PropertyGuys.com.
While marketing methods for private home sales were once limited to yard signs and newspaper ads, the Internet has changed the way buyers search for properties. According to the U.S. National Association of Realtors, 77 percent of buyers in 2005 used the Internet to search for a house, up from only two percent in 1995.
While approximately 85 percent of all home sales in Canada are initiated through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a proprietary database of online listings reserved for sellers working with licensed agents, FSBO websites are quickly gaining exposure and popularity. For example, PropertyGuys.com reportedly logged 27 million hits from more than 200,000 unique visitors this past June.
With this kind of online competition, it's no surprise that agents are quick to dismiss the FSBO way, arguing that selling real estate online is not like selling a car, and private vendors don't have the experience or market knowledge to value and price their homes properly, the time to file ads, arrange viewings and complete paperwork or the network to connect with potential buyers.
Not true, argues Lawrence, Melanson and dozens of other national FSBO marketing and service sites such as ByTheOwner.com, CanadianHomes4Sale.com, FSBO.ca and Ottawa's Grape Vine Home Marketing Consultants, which offer people the exposure and tools needed to sell online successfully.
"There are 100,000 agents in this country telling us we can't do it," says Melanson. But people are doing it: the Canadian Real Estate Association reports approximately 25 percent of real estate transactions are completed without a real estate agent. "If you've got the skill set to talk to people, make yourself available and follow a system, it can be done."
How it works
While these services provide the tools to sell your home, there are some steps you can take to get the most out of your FSBO experience.
And remember, you can always retain the services of a real estate agent if you find the FSBO method isn't for you. "I would definitely suggest you try it," says Crausen. "What have you got to lose?"
Fiona Wagner is a freelance writer in Georgetown, Ontario.
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