Step 6: Show the Home
“For Sale By Owner” (FSBO) sellers must be prepared immediately to begin fielding calls from, and showing the home to, prospective buyers and real estate agents from the moment they list a home for sale. FSBO sellers thus should not wait to develop a plan for showing the home. In this regard, FSBO sellers need to determine their availability for all showings and open houses, the applicable laws governing showings, how to field inquiries from prospective buyers, talking points and information to be conveyed during showings, and how to present the home in a professional manner. As discussed in Step 7: Offers and Negotiations, FSBO sellers also should determine their negotiation positions and rehearse their sales pitch to prospective buyers.
Seller Availability during Showings
FSBO sellers need to determine whether they are comfortable allowing prospective buyers to access the home when they are not present, whether a prospective buyer must be accompanied by a real estate agent, whether to be present at the home for all showings, and whether to limit access to scheduled open houses. FSBO sellers who prefer to be available during showings should inform prospective buyers of the specific days and times when showings are to occur.
Nestseller recommends that FSBO sellers make themselves available for all showings and open houses. Alternatively, FSBO sellers should arrange to have a trusted friend or family member present if they cannot attend themselves. FSBO sellers also should decide if they are comfortable allowing licensed real estate agents to show the home to prospective buyers on their behalf. If so, FSBO sellers can facilitate showings by storing copies of keys needed to access the home in an exterior lock box. There are several different types of lock boxes available to FSBO sellers, the most common of which are combination lock boxes and Supra electronic lock boxes.
Combination lock boxes can be purchased online and at most home hardware stores (and at large home goods stores like Home Depot or Lowes). FSBO sellers never should give the access code over the phone or e-mail; rather, FSBO sellers should refer agents to the “realtor remarks” section (which is not publicly available) section of the MLS listing. (Agents who do not have this information on hand should contact their office to obtain the access code; unrepresented buyers will need to schedule showings when the FSBO seller is present.) Many FSBO sellers take the added precaution of changing the access code frequently and removing the keys at night.
Supra electronic lock boxes (which typically cost around $100) allow FSBO sellers to monitor access to the lock box contents by tracking each agent’s unique key codes. Supra electronic lock boxes also guard against thieves posing as agents to gain access to combination lock boxes. The challenge to FSBO sellers of using Supra electronic lock boxes is that they are available only to licensed agents, although they may be leased and operated by certain flat-fee MLS services for a low fee. FSBO sellers should look into this option, as Supra lock boxes provide an extra layer of security to the home.
Comply with the Law
Prior to all showings and open houses, FSBO sellers should ensure that they are in compliance with all applicable laws. All home sales are governed by the Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap (disability), familial status, or national origin. FSBO sellers also should familiarize themselves with state and local fair housing laws, all of which can be found online at http://www.civilrights.org/fairhousing/laws/state-laws.html.
Responding to Buyer and Real Estate Agent Inquiries
As part of FSBO sellers’ plans for showing the home, they will need to consider how to respond to inquiries from prospective buyers and how to handle showings and open houses. Each interaction with a buyer or real estate agent necessitates a high degree of professionalism on the part of the FSBO seller. Prospective buyers typically will be much more willing to work with a seller who maintains a high degree of professionalism throughout the FSBO sales process. An FSBO seller thus should handle each of the following interactions with prospective buyers with objectivity, poise, and enthusiasm:
- Phone conversations. FSBO sellers using personal phones to handle inquiries from prospective buyers should answer all phone calls from unknown numbers with a formal greeting.
- E-mails. FSBO sellers should take care to ensure that all e-mail communications are formal, professional, and proofread for proper spelling and grammar.
- Voicemail greetings. FSBO sellers should change their voicemail message greeting to a professional greeting that includes information on the home.
- In-person greetings. FSBO sellers should dress and communicate with all prospective buyers and agents in a professional manner.
Showings and Open Houses
Although FSBO sellers up through this step likely have spent a good deal of time and effort preparing their homes for sale, perhaps the most crucial step in the sales process is showing the home to prospective buyers (as outlined in the Nestseller “Checklist for Showings and Open Houses”). As a result, FSBO sellers should consider showing the home by appointment and/or scheduling one or more open houses designed to capture multiple prospective buyers.
FSBO sellers who are planning an open house first should decide on an appropriate date and time, preferably on a weekend afternoon when a significant number of prospective buyers are more likely to be available to attend (accounting for factors such as holidays and weather). Most open houses are held on Sunday afternoons and can range in duration from two to five hours. FSBO sellers also should make sure to advertise their open houses by updating their MLS listings, marketing through other methods (e.g., newspapers, Craigslist, social media, and word of mouth), and installing a “for sale” sign and brochure box outside of the home.
Before any showing or open house, FSBO sellers should ensure that their home is in pristine condition, family members and pets are away from the home, and unwanted odors are eliminated. FSBO sellers also should take care to protect their privacy by removing personal photographs, diplomas, and important documents and mail from tables, drawers, and closets. Other planning considerations include buying or preparing any refreshments to be served at the open house, rehearsing talking points about the home, and assembling sign-in sheets, brochures, and flyers.
On the day of the showing or open house, FSBO sellers should make a final run-through of the home to make sure all of the rooms are clean and organized, lights are turned on, refreshments are prepared, and informational materials are set out. FSBO sellers also should design professional-looking sign-in sheets, brochures, and sales flyers, and make each item available for all showings and open houses. A sign-in sheet should require real estate agents and prospective buyers to provide, at a minimum, their name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Brochures and sales flyers should highlight the asking price and positive attributes of the home, provide a handful of photographs, and set forth brief descriptions of pertinent costs, fees, expenses, and items within the home that prospective buyers may overlook during showings and open houses. Brochures and sales flyers also should be designed to be placed outside of the home in a brochure box attached to the “for sale” sign.
FSBO sellers should remember to maintain a professional demeanor and answer all questions from agents and prospective buyers. FSBO sellers also should determine if prospective buyers are pre-approved for a mortgage at an amount commensurate with the asking price of the home before spending significant time catering to specific individuals (and have a list of mortgage lenders available to provide to serious buyers). Finally, FSBO sellers should follow up with each person who attended the showing or open house to gauge their interest in the home, answer questions, and solicit feedback.
Step 6 Premium Content
• Checklist for Showings and Open Houses
• Working with Buyers
• Buyer FAQs
• Fair Housing Laws