Real Estate Q&A: Selling by owner |

Real Estate Q&A: Selling by owner

Doug Van Etten
Free Press Real Estate Columnist

Q. My husband and I are planning to sell our house this year. Recently we have talked with friends about how to market the house since we are planning to sell on our own. We have heard about Facebook, Craigslist, newspapers, open houses, flyers out on the “for sale” sign, etc. Please give us your thoughts on these or other ways we may market the house.

A. The more people I see putting their houses up for sale, on their own or with a Realtor, the more I hope they are able to sell homes for least a break-even or a profitable price. Over the past three years many owners have not sold due to being underwater with what they owe on the mortgage. In your case, if you are selling on your own because you are near that break-even point, it’s understandable.

To go through the marketing tools and techniques, let’s start with Facebook. Since you would be marketing your own private home, to the best of my knowledge Facebook does not have any rules prohibiting or even governing that. As a Realtor, we have to restrict most of our Facebook marketing to our “business” pages, but you should be good to go. You may want to read the fine print in their terms of service agreement to be sure. As you know about Facebook, things scroll by quickly so think about posting at times you expect the most readers to be online.

Craigslist has become a popular tool for Realtors as well. Like Facebook, postings get pushed down the page very quickly. If you want to keep your home in front of possible buyers you will want to re-post your advertisement one or even two times per week to keep it near the top of all homes for sale.

For many years, newspaper classified or display ads were the home selling mainstay. The National Association of Realtors data over the past decade had shown a sharp decline in newspaper advertising as a way to reach buyers. NAR’s newest data, which I received in a seminar just last week, shows newspaper advertising and its effectiveness on an upswing. This past year, Craigslist revised the way it can be used for home-sales advertising; that may be causing the pendulum to swing back to newspapers.

Open houses are another of those home-marketing tools that may be used differently by you than by a Realtor. For you, an open house serves the sole purpose of getting prospective buyers through your front door. Be sure to have open-house visitors write down their names and contact information.

A “for sale” sign in front of the house, and maybe one or two pointing in the direction of your house, is another must-have tool.

As far as flyers, the jury is still out. While this may give prospective buyers and interested neighbors information about the house, you may lose as much interest as you gain if people read “disqualifiers” on the flyer. A disqualifier might be to tell them you have a three-bedroom house when they think they need or want four bedrooms. Think carefully about how much information you want to give out on the flyer. I have seen four-page for-sale-by-owner flyers, and I have seen others with almost no information beyond “for sale,” address and contact information.

A large part of selling houses for successful Realtors is making sure other Realtors know about the house for sale. To that end there is a lot of networking among Realtors promoting one another’s listings. For you, networking may be at work, at your kids sports practices or games, at church, and even at the auto shop.

Broad-based Internet exposure is another key marketing tool in today’s home sales market. Many of the large home-sales websites scour the MLS databases for listing to post. Since you cannot count on them finding your house, you may want to specifically contact Zillow, Trulia and other real estate Web portals to let them know your home is for sale.

Selling a home is not rocket science, though getting enough exposure to find that one right person to buy it can be one of a home owner’s or Realtor’s greatest challenges. Then, in the long run, price — the right price — at which a buyer will make a purchase offer, is the number one predictor of marketing success.

GJ Free Press columnist Doug Van Etten is a local Realtor with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty. He has been helping buyers, sellers and investors with their real estate needs since the early 1990s— first in Anchorage, Alaska, and for the last three years in the Grand Valley. To submit a question for this column or for your personal real estate needs, contact Van Etten through his website

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