Ah, the FSBO

Posted by Kris Lindahl on Monday, January 4th, 2016 at 5:49am.


 A couple of months ago I was tooling around the MLS, searching for homes for sale in Bloomington for a client. I came across an interesting listing that just happened to be one of the lowest price homes in the Bloomington real estate market. It was being sold by the homeowner, which is commonly known as a for-sale-by-owner, or FSBO, for short.

Not too long ago, FSBOs weren’t allowed to use the MLS but today there are companies that will sell a homeowner a listing on it. It’s a pity they don’t also counsel these people on how to actually use the MLS effectively. Instead, it’s pathetically easy to tell which homes are FSBOs without even looking for a listing agent on the site.

There is some truth to the opinion most in the industry have that without an MLS listing a property just won’t sell. But, just as marketing a home so that it brings in the highest offer possible takes more than a sign in the yard, it also takes more than an MLS listing.  Selling a home isn’t one of those “build it and they will come” type of things.

Here’s the proof: The home I mentioned above had been on the market for almost one year, in a market where the average home sells within 79 days -- 3.5 times longer than it should!

Now, I don’t know the homeowners nor do I know anything about their situation and their motivation to sell. What I do know is that they aren’t effectively marketing the home which is probably a big part of the reason the home hasn’t sold.

Marketing a Bloomington Home

The very first thing I noticed – and which most potential buyers will notice – was the dearth of photos of the home. Photos are what bring in buyers. Those that were posted in the FSBO’s MLS listing were pretty nasty. The first photo was a blurry shot of the exterior of the house. Taken from too far away, it did not do justice to the home.

The second shot was one of what I assumed was the living room – a long, narrow room that truly needed staging. In the photo, it’s empty. The kitchen wasn’t very attractive (or was it just a bad photo?) so I would’ve staged that room as well. This photo was quite dark as well, giving the kitchen an overall gloomy look.

 Next I found a swell photo of a pool table. Yes, a pool table. The final photo was of the bathroom, complete with the shower curtain left open and the toilet seat up and it suffered the same gloominess of the kitchen photo.

Lack of information

Now, nobody expects homeowners to be professional photographers. I certainly am not a pro, which is why the Lindahl Team has a professional photographer on our team. ALL of our listing photos are sharp, crisp and compelling. It’s not that expensive to have a pro come out and snap the photos. And there should be far more than five photos if the FSBO expects to attract buyers.

Staging, on the other hand can be expensive (we offer free staging to some of our listing clients) but there are plenty of DIY solutions available to FSBOs on a budget.

The second thing that jumped out at me about this listing is that the homeowner didn’t leave any remarks about the home. None. Listing descriptions complement the photos and should be enticing to buyers.

Determining an appropriate list price

Finally, something very interesting is going on with this homeowner and the price of the home. Two months after the home was listed almost one year ago, he or she dropped the price $10,000. Now that’s a savvy move when a home isn’t selling. I, personally, would have suggested the homeowner spiff up the MLS listing and create some additional marketing  for the home before dropping the price. Lacking that knowledge, however, the homeowner did the right thing.

Then, two months later, the price dropped again, another $10,000. Here’s the kicker – four months later the homeowner RAISED the price back up $10,000. That was three months ago and the house still sits, languishing on the Bloomington housing market.

Sadly, at this point the home is stigmatized. Buyers tend to steer clear of homes that have been on the market this long, assuming there is something wrong with them.

For about $29,000 more, the home listed next to it in the MLS is far more attractive to buyers. The listing photos are compelling, the home is furnished and/or staged, it’s larger and sits on a larger lot. It stands head and shoulders above the FSBO in every way, including how it’s marketed.

Now, I know that what we do isn’t rocket science, but it does take experience to market a home effectively. It also takes a hefty marketing budget and an agent that isn’t afraid to spend the money it takes to get his client’s home sold. What is unfortunate is that I would never dream to assume that I could walk into anyone else’s line of work and instantly be successful, yet homeowners feel they can do so with mine and, sadly, they typically pay a price.

Sure, I completely understand why a homeowner would want to sell a home without the aid of a professional real estate team. The lure of saving money snares many FSBOs. The fact remains, however (and this home is a perfect example) that many FSBOs don’t save money and, in fact, lose money when trying to do it themselves.

Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic





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