An excellent source of new listings can be found in the For Sale By Owner. Some of my favorite past clients came from this system, and to this day I cannot drive by a For Sale By Owner sign without feeling a desire to pull over and take down the number. Even my kids still point out those signs, because they knew the drill.
It can be intimidating to approach these sellers if you have never tried, but the system I will share with you is tried, true, and one that you will likely feel very confident in executing. Team members have already had success with it.
What have you got to lose? And there is so much to gain.
Quick tip: If you ever have a buyer that wants to buy a home with an unrepresented seller, essentially a For Sale By Owner, CLICK HERE.
The following are the steps to working the For Sale By Owner (FSBO):
Finding the For Sale By Owner Listings
There are services that you can subscribe to so that you can get updated information about local For Sale By Owners. But, good news. Love them or hate them, you have a free resource in Zillow. Zillow is aggregating from several FSBO websites, in addition to the fact that sellers can list their home directly on Zillow.
There are two direct-from-seller listing types on Zillow. One is as a ‘For Sale By Owner’ and the other is ‘Make Me Move’ or MMM. How is a Make Me Move listing different from a FSBO listing? In general a MMM seller is one that may not be as serious about selling right now. If they got their price, however they would in fact sell. I would pursue both, but you may find that the MMM seller may be a bit longer of a selling cycle.
So how do you find these listings? Follow this photo tutorial.
1. Go to Zillow.com and search the city and/or zip code you are going to work. After entering the area, click the magnifying glass in green.
2. At the top secondary navigation bar, you’ll see ‘Listing Type’. When you click on that, it will open the menu to select which listing type you want to have displayed on the map and in the list. You will want to check ‘By Owner’ and ‘Make Me Move’. The results will then display.
3. The properties will be displayed on the map, and then again in list format to the right of the map. Notice the information on the list display. You’ll find days on market, any price reduction, property details, and number of photos (if any).
You can tell when you have a serious seller on your hands. They tend to take better care to post more thorough listings, with better photographs.
But, be careful not to assume if they are overpriced, or only have one photo, that it’s not worth pursuing. If they are considering selling enough to list it on Zillow, it is only a matter of time before they become serious. It’s the person that has taken the time to build a relationship that will win that future business.
4. When you open up the listing detail, you will see a contact form on the left side of the listing. It often will contain the seller’s phone number. It also may say that the seller is willing to work with a buyer’s agent. This always has said to me that they are almost there, almost ready to list.
You can use the contact form, but most people have far more luck by calling. Part of a successful FSBO system is showing up as a resource and building a relationship. That is best done face to face, or over the phone. Don’t hide behind emails.
Don’t forget to check the MLS to see if the property has since been listed.
Wondering what to say when you call? Not to worry. See Step 2.
Setting The Appointment
I’ve seen plenty of scripts for setting an appointment to preview the home. In my opinion, it’s best not to mislead a seller into thinking you have a buyer if you in fact do not. There are several strategies, so it’s best to find the one that works for you! Here is mine:
AGENT: Hi! My name is Linsey Ehle with Better Homes & Gardens Gary Greene. I’m calling about 123 Main Street. Is that your property?
SELLER: Yes, it is.
AGENT: Great! I would love to see if I could set up a time to preview your home.
SELLER: Do you have a buyer?
AGENT: I’d have to take a look at it. Our office may have a buyer, but I would need to take a look first. Part of my job is to make sure that I’m aware of all the potential opportunities for not only the buyers I’m working with today, but also the buyers that I will come across in the coming weeks.
I saw your listing on Zillow and that you were open to working with a buyer’s agent. I would definitely love to take a look at it. Are evenings or daytimes better for you.
SELLER: Well, as long as you know, we aren’t going to be listing it with an agent, that would be fine. Tonight would work for us. 6:00?
AGENT: Great! I look forward to meeting you.
It’s All About Plan B
Part of the reason I have always loved FSBO’s, and probably part of the reason I succeeded with them, is that I genuinely came to them appreciating what they were trying to do. Who doesn’t want to save a buck? And, it’s a few big bucks. I get it.
The important thing for me is to align myself with their intention. They want to net the most money they can. I never make them wrong or start listing all the reasons that it won’t work. They’ll get sued … they won’t sell it … they don’t know all the complicated paperwork … the real estate God will send them to hell … you know the drill.
For many agents that suggest all the risks the FSBO seller faces, they run the very real risk of creating an adversarial environment. This isn’t the best way to establish the kind of trust relationship that will earn you the business. And, yet many agents take this approach. Good news for us!
The goal is to establish yourself as The Plan B. If selling on their own doesn’t work, offer to be their Plan B. Here’s the script to make that happen:
AGENT: Mr. Seller, I can completely understand your desire to sell the property on your own and potentially save some of the commission. But, let me ask you, if you find that you aren’t having success finding the right buyer, can you share with me, what will be your Plan B?
The seller will likely give you one of the following 3 answers:
SELLER: I’m going to list with my mother/brother/best friend from church. (Okay, cool. Not likely an opportunity for us.)
SELLER: I’ll just take it off the market. I won’t sell it all. (They’re probably still going to sell. I will consider it a cool prospect for now.)
SELLER: I’m going to continue to go it on my own for the next 3 weeks, and then I’m going to interview agents. (My new hot prospect!)
AGENT: Super. I’ll keep an eye open for a potential buyer. Should you get to that point, obviously I would love an opportunity to earn your business.
In the meantime, if you would like a lender to review the qualifications of any buyer that brings you an offer, I’ve got someone that I work with that would be happy to do that. Consider me a resource.
Now you have a prospect. Sometimes you will find that the process goes quickly and you have a listing within a day. They liked you, there’s a trust relationship established, and you didn’t make them wrong.
Other times, this will be a longer process. The key to earning that business is to act as if you are going to become their Realtor … until you are. Let me explain.
Act As If
Many agents that prospect FSBO’s are either one-hit wonders (preview and disappear), or the only follow-up consists of calls that amount to nothing more than, “Are you ready to list?”
Your approach is to act like their agent until you become just that. What does that look like? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Set up a auto-search for their neighborhood. You can have it email the seller, but I prefer it comes to you so that you can call or swing by the listing with an update. I want it to come from you! The conversation is a great opportunity to reconnect and find out how things are going for them.
2. Notify them of updates in market conditions. Is inventory in their price range increasing? Are days on market increasing? Have interest rates gone up? All of these are pieces of information that they need to make decisions about their property. Be that resource.
3. Call on Monday to find out about how their weekend traffic shaped up. Was it slow for them? Busy? You might share your experience from your open house that weekend.
4. Ask how they arrived at their price. Offer a customized CMA if they haven’t had access to the sold information. We all know if they relied on Zillow for their pricing, they are likely off.
You Got This!
Block some time and set up the FSBO searches in Zillow and have them automatically notify you when there is a new listing.
Call, call, call. Set preview appointments every week!
Be the master of stellar follow up. Be the one person that continues to follow up, and show up as if you were already their Realtor.
Take lots of listings! Go get ’em!