We decided to go with a flat-fee self-service real estate agency called mls4owners.com. The benefits of this were: we would be listed in the MLS where the vast majority of home buyers are looking for houses. Real estate agents would not be hesitant to show our house because we have clearly stated what their commission is in the MLS listing. And finally, by foregoing an agent we would save about $6000.
There were a few other companies with similar services, but I decided on this one because I liked their selling statistics section on their website and I could find their listings on all the other real-estate search engines I used. Mls4owners provided us with a lockbox for our door, a professional sign for our house, listing in the Northwest MLS, and the legal forms we needed. The lockbox came one day after the house was listed, our sign was installed (and uninstalled) for us very quickly.
Filling out the forms was pretty easy. Some forms were filled out online while others needed to be faxed. I highly recommend purchasing a fax. I went to a used computer store and got one for $20. At first I kept on going to Staples, but they charge a $1 a page and some things are 10 – 20 pages and sometimes faxes don’t go through. It was much easier having one at home.
We were allowed to post 12 pictures. I highly recommend posting the maximum number of pictures as I personally did not feel inclined to visit houses that did not have many pictures. For my camera I bought a fairly inexpensive wide-angle lens to take the pictures and then used Photoshop to touch them up a bit. The key in taking pictures with the wide angle lens is to include as much of the room as possible in the picture, but not to distort the picture so much that the room looks a lot larger than it is. Distorted pictures may upset potential buyers if they feel lied to by the advertisement. There are different techniques you can use in Photoshop to make the pictures pop. Many agents use these techniques to emphasize and call attention to the listing, but I chose to forego that technique, and go for the most natural look, as I found it a bit distracting as a buyer looking at the unnatural pictures.
I also made a simple color flyer to put in the display box on the sign. While the flyers were probably mostly taken by nosy neighbors I do think having a nice color flyer aids in the overall positive impression of the house.
We had two young children and a dog at the time so it was hard for me to have the house in a presentable state at all times so I emailed mls4owners and explained that I wanted a note in the MLS listing that agents should call at least 2 hours ahead of time on weekdays before showing up. On the weekends we stayed at my parents. We only ended up having 2 people viewing on Friday so it worked out quite well.
The other item of note in the MLS listing is the agent fee. You are allowed to list at a flat fee of $500 or more, or as a percentage. The traditional percentage for a buyer’s agent is 3% so we went with that. We did not want to risk having an agent try to talk their buyers into not buying our house because that agent wanted to collect a larger fee.
I also listed our house on craigslist in the for-sale-by-owner section. We were hoping that we could attract a buyer without an agent and split the savings of the agent fee with the buyer. Unfortunately the only interest we got from craigslist were some “investment” people who initially posed as a family looking to buy but in the end revealed that they were looking to buy houses that were on the verge of foreclosure. That whole situation was pretty annoying.
If you find these posts useful and wish to offer monetary reciprocation I would gladly accept paypal donations or amazon.com gift certificates. Even just a dollar would be nice. ;)