What is a
House For Sale By Owner?

A house for sale by owner (FSBO or 'fizzbo'), technically speaking, is every residential property for sale anywhere because ...

Only an owner can sell their own home

Okay, with all kidding aside, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. One is when a mortgage company, which has gained possession of a property because the mortgagor (owner) defaulted on at least one of the terms of the mortgage registered on title, subsequently markets it for sale and sells it. This is definitely not a house for sale by owner. Visit my page on the power-of-sale and foreclosure processes for a more detailed explanation of the processes involved.

The other exception occurs when the actual titled owner, if unavailable or incapacitated, assigns the right to sell their property to another party by way of a power-of-attorney. Or after the owner has passed away, by way of a Last Will and Testament in an estate sale. It's a common misconception that realty agents sell real property when in reality, they act as agents for homeowners who sell their own property. A Realtor® is effectively just a facilitator.

Do you think you've the best, worst, funniest or most embarrassing story to tell about a private sale? Here's your chance to share tips and maybe learn from and celebrate (or commiserate) with other guests. Click here.

If you're thinking about starting down the long and winding house for sale by owner path, you do so privately, that is without professional assistance, except maybe for a lawyer, appraiser, stager, banker, photographer and marketer. Did I say without potentially expensive professional help? When compared to the huge volume of property sold everywhere all the time, successful private sales are a rarity.

A tiny number of frugal would-be sellers try the private route and an even tinier number succeed. However, the vast majority of homeowners acquire the ...

Services of an Professional Realty Agent

If you want to sell your own house, you can install a for sale sign on the lawn and place an ad in the local paper, or online. You can also replace your own roof, install a swimming pool and pave your driveway too. There's nothing to stop you, except of course - common sense. If you're not an expert, the job performance will likely be amateurish.

There are also a few "house for sale by owner" companies that charge a flat fee. They typically provide a basic guide, a lawn sign and include your property "listing" on their marketing website. The rest is up to you. 

More recently, a few brave real estate brokerages have sprung up that will list your home on the Multiple Listing Service® MLS® system of the local real estate board and charge a flat nominal fee in exchange for minimal service. Some may provide a menu of other optional services, but the fees obviously increase.

To remain in business, such brokerages depend on huge volume. So, don't expect the same level of attention and service you would typically receive through a full service real estate brokerage. You get what you pay for.

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House for Sale by Owner

In my experience, a house for sale by owner is an exercise in futility. The vast majority of homeowners who set out to sell their own home end up listing their property with a full service agent. Just like construction contractors, lawyers, landscapers, auto mechanics or any other profession or trade, there are certain skills and specialized knowledge necessary to achieve success, and selling your own house is no different. It can be done, but the results may not be the best you could have achieved with expert - and trustworthy - assistance.

A former client once called to say they wanted to upgrade to a larger home, but preferred to try a private sale first. They said they had 3 serious prospective buyers who had previously expressed interest in buying their home. Therefore, they wanted to explore the possibility of saving the commission. Obviously, I suggested they pursue that avenue and to call me if they needed help, and to advise me of the results of their efforts.

Less than a week later, they reported that the first party, though still interested, couldn't make a move at that time. The second buyer said the price was too high for them to afford. And the third buyer actually submitted an offer drafted by their lawyer. Needless to say, when they all anxiously sat down at the dining table, they immediately discovered that the offered price was very low, so low that my clients were insulted. The buyer apparently attempted to justify their low price by claiming that since there was no commission involved, the sellers should accept their offer. And of course, being insensitive amateurs, the buyers knocked the house and property in their misguided attempt to convince the proud homeowners of the lower value of their home.

Later that same day, my client invited me to list their home for sale. I sold it within one week - for full price - which netted them more money after commission than what they would have cleared if they'd accepted the private offer.

Check out the competition listed on the MLS System - Canadian MLS and American MLS.

If you're adamant about selling your own house, think about it first. I invite you to explore this website for more information before you commit to the home for sale by owner route. Click here to learn about determining an ask price. And here to learn about home market value. And here to learn about properly preparing your home for market. And here to learn about the art of negotiation. There are plenty of other pages as well on various topics about the house for sale by owner process.

I understand you must follow your instincts. Give it a try. And if you're unsuccessful and frustrated by the process, I invite you to contact me with any questions. I may be able to recommend a good agent for you.

If you're considering selling your house - with or without an agent - check out my book The Happy Agent. Learn how to effectively evaluate your home, how to prepare it for market, including basic staging and renovations to enhance its value, how to advertise, how to handle showings and open houses like a pro, how to successfully negotiate an offer - and when it's time to throw in the towel and hire a professional.

When you consider the huge potential savings in real estate commission, the investment of a small amount of your time could prove quite worthwhile. At the very least, you'll be encouraged to try it alone. Remember - knowledge is power.

Available virtually everywhere print and e-books are sold.

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Have a Great Story About a Private Sale Attempt?

Have you ever tried to privately sell your own home without professional assistance? Do you think you've got the best, worst, funniest or most embarrassing story to tell? Here's your chance to compare notes, share tips and maybe learn from and commiserate or celebrate with other guests.

Why did you choose that route? Did you hire a private for sale by owner company? Without specifically naming it, how was that experience for you? Do you feel your needs were taken care of professionally?

Did you succeed either way, whether solo or with a marketing company? Did you get the price you hoped for? How did you determine the market value of your home? What A to Z steps did you take to achieve your goal? Did you hold open houses? What type of response did you get to newspaper advertising? Did you suffer through any "no shows"? Any funny experiences along the way?

Do you feel you made any mistakes? Any frustrations associated with your effort? If your attempt failed, what do you think went wrong? For how long did you try? How did you handle the failure? Did you finally surrender and stay put, or hire a realty agent? And if you decided to seek professional help, how did you find your agent and did you finally achieve a sale?

I invite you to submit your story, article, commentary or questions about your private sale experience - successful or otherwise.

This support forum is not intended as an opportunity to complain. It's a chance to express yourself and hopefully help others who may be faced with similar challenging situations. Maybe they can learn from your story. Please provide respectful remarks and advice only. Profanity, disrespectful or abusive comments will not be tolerated.

I implore you to treat this as a soft place for friendly people to land, share and learn from each other. I'll do my best to respond when appropriate in a supportive and encouraging manner, and answer any questions within the realm of my expertise.

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