Realtors need to embrace FSBO

I knew once we placed in ad in the paper, as we did this weekend for our open house, the real estate agents would start calling. And they have.

This wouldn’t be notable, except for the package I just received in the mail from Jason Gillies. The headline: “How To Sell Your Home Yourself, For The Highest Possible Price, And Avoid Paying A Big Commission.”

It’s a twenty page report. The cover letter proclaims: “I’M NOT GOING TO BUG YOU.” Gillies notes that he has a B.S. in marketing. I think it shows. His presentation is well done, well written, full of useful information and smart. For the naive homeowner who might think FSBO is an easy path to saved money, Gillies’ report should dissuade all but the hard headed.

FSBO is not easy. It takes a lot of planning, work and caution. Gillies correctly notes that 90 percent of all FSBOs wind up with an agent.

Which is why I’ve never understood local MLS boards’ insane practice of not letting newspaper Web sites mix classified FSBOs with the regular MLS listings. Old-line Realtors are absolutely nuts when it comes to the subject of FSBO. They throw temper tantrums when the subject is raised. Still, no matter how hard they try to ignore FSBO, FSBO is never going to go away. Preventing a newspaper site from building a comprehensive, one-stop source for real estate listings makes no sense. It’s hostile to home buyers, drives FSBO traffic to alternative sources, and only serves to perpetuate an image of Realtors as greedy. When six percent of a home’s sales price goes to people who, from a consumer prospective, have a very easy job, it tends to breed resentment. I understand all the justifications Realtors throw up for the fees, but when Realtors operate with old-media think about FSBOs, the Internet and a growing DYI culture, they harm themselves and the newspapers they partner with.

Gillies strikes me as an agent who gets it. His approach is quite a contrast to the facile self-promotion of the local MLS. He is willing to embrace FSBOs, knowing that because of his open-door policy, enough business will flow his way that a free brochure here, a free consultation there and a lack of hostility toward FSBOs has more rewards than limitations. Sure, his brochure is a slick bit of reverse psychology, but it also offers help without telling sellers they are idiots to not use a Realtor.

We have no choice but to go FSBO for financial reasons, but FSBO isn’t for everybody, and Gillies’ brochure will give sellers the ability to more rationally evaluate whether going it alone is the right option.

His Web site needs some work — it lacks the same spirit of openness (like, why isn’t this same FSBO report easily available the site? And why do I have to surrender my e-mail address for a report on preparing my home for sale?) — but that seems to be more Coldwell driven limitation than his decision, so far (though it’s also easily fixable).

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