Voorhees FSBO Gives Up, Hires Up

By Dave Fratello | August 7th, 2013

It's no mystery why people would try to sell a home themselves in this market.

Looks easy, buyers are crawling over one another to grab every house available, so why pay agents?

They ran a brief experiment over at 1757 Voorhees (4br/3ba, 2450 sq. ft.) recently, and then gave up. It's now listed with a local agent.

To be clear, the sellers here tried first to list the property solo with a pledge to "cooperate," which is to say, to pay buyers' agents the full, standard 2.5% commission. Still, they wanted to save on the listing side, to maximize their net.

1757 Voorhees emerged on July 22 at $1.495M. They used a service to post it on the MLS, so they weren't lacking for exposure, ostensibly.

But now, just 2 weeks later, they're back on the market, re-listed as "new" with (gulp) a realtor listing it.

And the price is down – a bunch – to $1.425M.

With the $70K price cut and the listing agent's commissions, that could be nearly a $100K net difference from that (ambitious) start. But they bit the bullet.

We'll recount a little bit about the house here, before we tell you what realtors really think of FSBOs.

In our late-July "Sunday Opens" post, we called this "a 70s house with a big yard." In greater detail, we said:

You have to view 1757 Voorhees as a remodel in waiting. The basic bones are fine – though the step-down living room is a dated feature.

All bedrooms are up, all common spaces down. The kitchen's fairly open to the dining area. Yard is almost huge.

There's a lot to work with here, if you don't mind a project. You may want to redo it all – kitchen, baths, flooring, exterior, maybe even drywall in spots. At 35 years old, it's all asking for a refresh.

Yes, it all needs a refresh. Even if the new agent is now calling it "fantastic," "gorgeous," and even "stupendous." No. It needs a lot. (Doesn't the use of the word "stupendous," in itself, tell you that they're reaching?)

Now, how did these sellers first get the idea they could sell without paying commissioned intermediaries?

They looked across the street, where lightning had just struck.

1748 Voorhees (4br/4ba, 2900 sq. ft.) was a FSBO that hit the jackpot.

It's recently remodeled, though, er, different, and sold in early July at $1.675M.

That was $80K over asking, and – not incidentally – far above the $1.430M sale price from... eek, June 2012. A year ago.

Did they really get 17% more a year later? Who the heck was the buyers' agent?

Agents sometimes speak casually about "double-ended" deals (listing agent representing the buyers, too), but, well, this was a FSBO dream sale – a publicly listed property (on the MLS) in which both the sellers and buyers represented themselves.

What to call that? A double selfie?

Say what you may about that sale – it was inspirational to 1757 Voorhees. For a bit.

When we first dropped in on the brokers' open for 1757 Voorhees, a couple weeks ago, it was like a ghost town. Maybe it was the house, maybe it was the location, maybe the time of day, but probably it was the FSBO aspect. Give agents a choice of where to go, and they're going to skip the FSBOs on principle.

Some agents have a kind of prepackaged approach to try to cultivate FSBO sellers as clients. We recently heard a top-tier broker (from Seattle) lay out his canned spiel to a would-be FSBO seller, which boiled down to this: You've got a 1 in 200 chance, go ahead and try, otherwise, if you're smart, you'll hire me. (He had charts and graphs. It was compelling.)

Also, Zillow tells agents to comb through the "make me move" listings on the site and harangue possible "would-be sellers" to list with them.

In sum, no surprise, the working agent community views a FSBO listing as a potential "real" listing. They cheer for a FSBO's failure and hope a buddy somewhere will harvest the fruits of that failure. Because, really, everyone prefers a "normal" market sale, with agents on both sides and the MLS in the middle.

Unless you want to talk about off-market or "pocket" listings, where it seems everyone's views change completely. But that's another story.

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