Challenging the NAR’s Anti-FSBO Campaign

For Sale By Owner (FSBO)

I Came across a great article by Economist John Wake on the Real Estate Decoded website titled, “FSBOs vs. Real Estate Agents. Do agents really sell homes for 13% more?”

In the article, Wake calls out a National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) campaign designed to malign the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) market, stuffed with unsubstantiated research, tabloid-esque graphics, and innuendo aimed at making it seem as though FSBO properties are less desirable, low-rent mobile homes and inferior backwoods properties in which buyers aren’t interested.

The campaign Wake challenges is only slightly more deceptive than many of the other anti-FSBO propaganda the NAR has littered all over the Internet. Incredulously, he asks readers if they’ve seen the NAR claim that “research shows real estate agents sell homes for 13 percent more than people who sell their homes themselves.”

For those who are FSBO-curious and looking into their options for selling their house, this is important.

The NAR’s 13 percent claim

“I wouldn’t be surprised if real estate agents sell homes for prices that are a few percentage points higher than homes sold directly by homeowners, but 13 percent didn’t seem plausible to me,” he writes. Can a real estate agent really sell your house for 13 percent more than you can?”

If so, according to Wake, a real estate agent could actually sell a house for 13 percent more than homeowners could themselves, then your decision is made,” he writes. “People would never sell their houses themselves if they knew a realtor could get more money—they’d always hire a real estate agent.”

However, if the NAR campaign’s 13 percent figure is, let’s say, not true, how can a person who is trying to make a fact-based decision about possibly selling their own home with disinformation and hype distorting the decision-making process? Well, the NAR is doing its best to make sure they can’t. If that 13 percent figure is an exaggeration, wouldn’t homeowners want to know that when they’re deciding whether to sell house on their own or hire an agent?

My only guess, as far as the NAR’ anti-FSBO campaign is concerned, is that the National Association of Realtors is feeling the squeeze of FSBO success, and it’s threatening their bottom line when homeowners make the decision to avoid hiring an agent and paying them a commission.

This is all nothing new, but one thing is certain—some sellers want to avoid the realtor’s commission because the equity in their home is so low, they need to keep as much money as possible from the sale of their home in their own pocket, and if the market is strong, they don’t think they need an agent.

Bottom line: Realtors want their commissions, and FSBO home sellers want them too!

Let’s face it, realtors do not want to miss out on a hefty commission, so they develop maneuvers to try and change the FSBO seller’s mind. The seller is likely to receive a multitude of calls from real estate agents anticipating the homeowner’s failure. Real estate agents sabotage FSBO seller success with incessant choruses of the same, tired old lines: “only a realtor is able to attract serious buyers,” or “realtors get higher offers on properties than FSBO sellers get,” or that “FSBO market trends are weak.” Then they throw around some statistics that lead sellers to believe a realtor can sell their home faster and get a higher percentage of the asking price than homeowners, all claims which have no basis in fact.

On average, realtors charge six percent of the home’s sales price for their fees, so a home that sells for $230,000 (the median value of a single-family house), commissions can reach upwards of $14,000. At that rate, the idea of doing without a realtor becomes very appealing to the homeowner, who can most likely make very good use of that kind of cash. Selling a home without a realtor has been estimated to save owners at least three percent in commission fees.

For Realtors, FSBO has become an unwelcome trend

Dennis Rodkin, residential real estate reporter for Crain’s in Chicago, recently published a story about the rise in FSBO listings on the web site titled, “For Realtors, an unwelcome trend.”

According to Rodkin, the no-agent FSBO strategy had been gaining popularity in Chicago, up 42 percent in the second quarter of 2014, up 42 percent over the same period in 2013.

When home prices rise steadily over several straight years, seller’s markets are cultivated in areas where demand is strongest. There is a renewed interest among home sellers in finding ways to pass on paying the traditional six percent commission that real estate brokerages charge and marketing their homes on their own.

During the current three-year old housing recovery, sale prices have risen about 20 percent, according to CoreLogic, and in several of the hottest markets, price increases are near or exceeding 10 percent in 2015 alone

Much lot has changed over the years, and the NAR’s may not be addressing the Internet’s influence to empower consumers to reduce the fees they pay real estate brokerages.

Traditional definitions of FSBO could be masking a growing trend among many sellers to do more of the marketing themselves with the help of the Internet and a new breed of FSBO websites like ListingDoor, taking for sale by owner tools to a new level, offering sophisticated advice and powerful tools to help homeowners with everything from pricing their properties to marketing and closing.

The number of residences sold without the assistance of real estate agents appears to be growing, but the trend is not being widely reported. That, combined with the NAR’s self-serving reports to the effect that the number of for sale by owner transactions are in decline, despite evidence contradicting that conclusion, means working harder to get the word out. FSBO is growing, and home sellers are reaping the benefits!

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