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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 « Back to the Press Room
Wall_Street_Journal

House Talk: Advice on Selling a Home Without a Real-Estate Agent

Question: I have a two-bedroom condo for sale in Lake City, Minn., a resort area. I'm selling it myself, without a real estate agent, to save commission costs. It's only 2 years old, with a lake view, and I've upgraded the flooring and put in a new black granite fireplace. My asking price is less than that of other nearby units, and I've advertised on Craigslist and in nearby metropolitan and local newspapers. Still, I'm having trouble getting a showing. What should I do?

-- Jackie Stanley, Burnsville, Minn.

Answer: You have my sympathies, Jackie. Your place sounds lovely. But with sales of vacation homes down 31% last year compared to the year before, you're facing a lot of competition.

Fortunately, you're selling a condo, and they're selling much better than other types of homes. And you're clearly being realistic about the most important factor motivating buyers these days: Price.

In a better market, your sales strategy of low price, curb appeal and local advertising might well have brought you a buyer by now. But in this market, that's not enough.

Since most buyers begin their home search on the Web, you need a strong presence there. That means creating your own Web site - something that's fairly easy to do these days using online sites like Freewebs.com or Web.com -- with helpful statistics like maps and sales statistics. (Real estate site Trulia.com lets you add theirs for free.)

Because real estate ads can be lost in the crowd in general online classified sites like Craigslist, it's also helpful to advertise on one of the many for-sale-by-owner sites, like ByOwner.com, ForSaleByOwner.com, or FSBO.com. One of my favorite sites, Owners.com, provides a bare-bones listing at no cost; for a few hundred dollars, the site will also put your place on the multiple listing service and give limited help from a real estate agent. Listings on Zillow.com, another Web site popular with home shoppers, are also free.

Since you own a resort property, and the dollar remains weak, you also should investigate the international market. Winnipeg, the closest Canadian city to your condo, is one logical target, so you might try the local newspapers, the Winnipeg Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press. (But don't hold out too much hope; Winnipeg has its own lakefront resorts nearby, and is more than an eight-hour drive from Lake City.)

Alternatively, you might try advertising south of the U.S./Mexico border, or in southern Europe, emphasizing how cool Minnesota is in the summer, and pointing out the closest airports.

I'm all for attempting to sell your home yourself -- as long as nothing compels you don't need to sell quickly, you know a good real estate lawyer and you have the support of a home-watcher or rental agent who can show the house when you're not there. It's worth a try for a few months, especially since selling for-sale-by-owner helps you to under-price the competition. Offering furnishings and seller financing are also good sales strategies.

Don't expect a lot of cooperation from local agents, however, even if you offer to pay a fee if someone brings you a buyer. Many agents won't show homes that aren't listed by a full-service brokerage, because they don't want the hassle of dealing with do-it-yourselfers and flat-fee agencies - and also because they feel their profession is under siege by them.

Original Article URL: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120881415371832565.html