The Peril and Pleasure of Going it Alone
I love going it alone when I get out in the mountains. On a recent Saturday, I decided to go it solo while I climbed Mt. Massive. Mount Massive (14,421 feet) is a fourteener. It is the second highest peak (19 feet less than Mt. Elbert) in Colorado and the third highest in the continental United States. It’s adventurous, it’s fun, and it is relaxing not to speak to anyone for most of a day. I don’t have to coordinate with anyone. I can run at my schedule. And I don’t feel like I’m holding anyone back with my slow hiking.
It is also difficult and potentially dangerous. In the spring, the snow can be very slick. You can easily fall and twist an ankle or break a leg. There is always a chance you could get lost along the way because the snow hides the trail. And like on any 14er, you can easily suffer from high altitude sickness, loss of appetite, headaches, and extreme shortness of breath.
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So when I go solo, I really prepare. I check the weather. I scout out the route online. I try to find recent trip reports from other hikers so I can get a sense of what the conditions on the mountain are like. I take plenty of extra clothes, some food, and an emergency supply pack in case something goes wrong and I have to spend a night on the mountain. I tell my family exactly where I am going to be and tell them that if they don’t hear from me by a certain time to call for help.
In other words, I make sure I overprepare when I go it alone. I try to be ready for any contingency.
Sometimes, however, it’s not worth the effort to go it alone. It’s not the safe, smart or the best decision. When the trail up the mountain is really hard or the conditions are really sketchy, going it alone is just not a good idea.
You’ve got to make the same decision when you are trying to sell your house. Should you get an agent or go it alone? Selling For Sale By Owner (FSBO) can work fine for some people. It’s a challenge to be met. It can be quite the adventure. If you sell quickly, it can save you money. It saves you from taking the time to interview and hire a real estate agent. If the stars align, and you find a buyer, selling FSBO can be a great experience.
Here’s the thing, though. Most people don’t like climbing mountains solo. The risk is not worth the reward. That is also true about selling your house. The least risky, most efficient way to sell a house is with a Realtor. 90% of all homes that are for sale are on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Most buyers use a real estate agent.
Because most buyer’s are with an agent and looking at homes on the MLS, you are fighting an uphill battle when you sell FSBO. It can be done but you’ve got to be ready. (In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, over 80% of FSBO’s end up listing with a Realtor.) If you find that the uphill climb is just too much and you are getting high altitude sickness, you can always hire a Realtor later.
When you sell FSBO you need to turn yourself into a professional, with all the knowledge, experience and marketing tools that a good Realtor will have. That is what a typical buyer will expect. (A typical buyer is not an investor trying to take advantage of FSBO seller inexperience.)
If you are going to go it alone (i.e. sell FSBO), you need to make sure you are prepared to increase your chances of success. Here are five hurdles you are going to need to prepare for:
1. Price – You need to price the home properly. Don’t trust Zillow or Trulia or some other automated service. Find out what homes that are similar to yours have sold for in your area and price your home accordingly. You might need to get an appraisal to best determine the value.
2. Access – You are going to need to be available to show the house every time someone wants to see it. If you put a buyer off, they are likely to just go somewhere else.
3. Marketing – Finding a buyer can be hard with a FSBO. Most buyers use a real estate agent to help them find a house. It doesn’t cost them anything and they know they have a guide to help them through the process. Buyers who don’t have an agent are usually looking for a tremendous bargain. You will most likely get a lot of lookie-loos who have no intention of buying.
4. Loan - Make sure that your buyer has been prequalified before even engaging in the negotiation process. Banks are strict right now and you want to make sure that you don’t get bogged down with someone who will never be able to buy your house.
5. Closing – Engage a good title company early on, before you even have a contract. That way you will know that you have clear title to convey and can help insure that once you find a buyer, the closing can go smoothly.
The wilds of real estate are pretty wild these days. A good real estate agent, with a good marketing plan can make things go a lot more smoothly.