FSBO from an Inspector’s Point of View

Let’s start by defining FSBO (pronounced “Fizz-Bow”).  FSBO is an acronym for, “For Sale by Owner” and refers to a seller offering their home for sale without using a professional real estate agent.  This would usually be done when a seller wants to save the commission they pay a real estate professional to sell their home.

On the surface, selling a house seems like an easy enough thing.  Stick a sign in the yard, put up some flyers around the neighborhood and maybe post on Craigslist and Facebook.  After all, with a real estate agent typically charging between 4-6% of the home’s value, why not try to do it yourself?

Well, I could probably give you a hundred reasons why you should hire an agent but I’ll try to just focus on some that directly relate to my work as a professional Home Inspector.  To be honest, finding myself in the middle of a FSBO transaction is one of the less enjoyable things that happens to me.  I usually end up playing the role of a referee, financial advisor, phycologist and therapist, stuck between two very well-intentioned people who are both completely in over their head.  While trying to perform this inspection I’m bombarded with questions like, “Am I required to fix that?”, “Shouldn’t the seller fix this?”, “Who do we call for help with that?”  All these questions and many more are the reason to hire an agent.  They help you navigate the unfamiliar course for buying and selling a house.

Furthermore, since I’m the only person around with any professional qualifications I’m asked all kinds of questions that are completely outside my area of expertise.  Things about home loans, title insurance, seller disclosure documents, easements and lot lines, land use, school districts and more are commonlyasked of me.  Again, these are all things real estate agents deal with every day and will help you with.

As much as I hope all this chaos ends when I am done with the inspection, it usually doesnot.  I routinely end up getting phone calls or emails from my buyer and seller continuing to ask for more assistance with their transaction.  Somewhere along the way I can sense they start to realize why people usually hire a real estate agent.

As much of an annoyance as the problems in a FSBO transaction are to me as an inspector, the real problems are for the buyer and seller.  Theyhave no idea of just what they are being exposed to in terms of liability and how much money and time they might be losing.  The seller may think they are saving $10,000 by not hiring an agent but then lose 3X that with incorrect pricing, poor marketing, and poor negotiating.  

In case I still haven’t persuaded you that selling your house yourself is a bad idea, let me give you one final reason.  It doesn’t work.  I regularly find FSBO signs thrown beside a garage and a professional real estate company sign in the yard.  The fact that I’m called upon to inspect means the house is selling, something that didn’t happen with the FSBO sign. 

I’ve been involved in real estate transactions daily for the last 18 years and know more about the process than most people.  That being said, I’d never dream of trying to sell a house without the assistance of a professional real estate agent.  Like so many other things, there is just no substitute for hiring a professional that does something every day. 

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