Frankly Speaking
Why For Sale by Owner (FSBO) Homes are Hard to Sell

We all can agree, homes have become a new lifestyle of function.

Working from home is the new norm, and may never go away. We learned to function better with two or more split offices, aka Zoom walls, ideally with views and sound protection. Home gyms have become a must. Private court yards and balconies have redefined a new definition of luxury necessity. We have also noticed that the demand for new homes has increased overnight. Single family rent roll increased by 40-50% as that inventory shrunk due to a stronger selling market activity across the nation. It’s extremely tempting for sellers to stick a sign in the ground to find out what they can obtain for their home without an extra real estate servicing fee. Most claim, “It’ll practically sell on its own.”

Well, after a few weeks or a months, when the buyers don’t come running in, for-sale-by-owners (FSBOs) begin to wonder what’s happening! It’s a proven fact: Self representation is typically much riskier and often costlier than one can imagine, ask folks who have lived through it.

FSBOs fail is due to lack of marketing, whereby the extent of marketing is limited to Zillow and a sign pitched on the front yard. The presentation, even with great photography, is often weak. What’s essential in any sales is building interest, good momentum and systematic follow up are all key. Preparing the home for showings is a must, not just with good staging, but also with the idea that “everything must be in-check” with all our four major senses activated. The home must smell well, look and sound well, and, of course, touch well. Zoom or FaceTime showings are the new norm, and they should be handled appropriately. The person behind the device should know enough about the best features and benefits of the home in order to portray the home accurately.

Median sale prices up 18%
Inventory down 61%
Luxury sales over $3M up 140%

Another common mistake made by FSBOs is overpricing the home. Properties offered above their trading range (not in-line with market value) help other properties to sell. A classic FSBO seller tends to wrongfully place a value on features that buyers are not willing to pay premium for, ultimately over inflating the home’s value. A local real estate professional knows all about the competing inventory and should recommend a listing value to be perceived as “the next best buy in its class.” It’s best not to help competing homes to be perceived as a better buy as they would then sell before us.

A poorly exposed property will be missed by thousands of agents who are working with that “willing and able” buyer. By getting overlooked, either through that or by not knowing the right keywords to attract buyers, it can hurt the sell. There are other vital information that may be overlooked or not communicated at the right time that might also cause a failing sell.

Timely access and response is key. Delays to inquiries in this fast-moving world can cause an easy loss of sale. Buyers simply move on to the homes they can access in peace and with good karma where they like to feel welcomed. Most FSBOs don’t have a showing system in place. Their initial “we don’t have to sell” stance in most cases will work against them. They are missing that refined, secure and trackable follow-up system. They ignore safety concerns when allowing unvetted strangers into their homes. They are busy overselling at hello, often disallowing the buyer the chance to take it all in. We have learned that buyers do pay premium when they value the best features and benefits of a home by envisioning themselves living in the space. The FSBO’s sense of urgency is typically far removed from a potential buyer, whereby this magnetic force may not spark a sell.

Money talks, looky-loo’s walk. Sizing up a willing and able buyer takes talent, practice and experience. You have to ask the right questions at the right time, without offending anyone. Best to listen well, vetting sincerity, motivation and financial ability to move forward is part of the qualifying process. Avoid losing your prospects altogether is an art of good salesmanship, an expert converts a low offer into an equitable transaction. A seasoned real estate professional can remedy buyers’ questions or objections by acknowledging or recommending alternative solutions clearing that concern or hesitation. To craft a solid contract, you must be well vast in negotiation terms, contract conditions, clear title policy conditions, financing, appraisal(s) and inspections. HOA and inspection repairs can often open up litigation and closing delays. To fund timely and accurately without a dispute is beyond valuable. Negotiating on your own behalf can be challenging. Self-represented sellers typically leave money on the table and they miss negotiating terms that may hurt them down the road.

In reality, self representation comes with a great deal of risks and cost. A smart broker and agent should avoid taking on the additional liability of stepping into an unrepresented seller’s situation. Agents who do advice
without representation rights can put themselves in a precarious professional position. Unfortunately, most sellers regret going through self representation partly as it exposes a greater number of liabilities against them. They often lose on closing the transaction, causing the home to sell later in time. If the home is empty, the carrying cost can accumulate and the home often ends up selling at a greater loss and market value. We welcome your comments and questions.

–Frank Aazami, Russ Lyon | Sotheby’s International Realty Private Client Group

To speak with Frank Aazami, please call 480.266.0240 or email

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