But Don’t I Need To Use a Multiple Listing Service?

First, you should understand what MLS is. It was not designed as a marketing venue for homes; instead, it's a simple way for brokers to negotiate compensation with each other, so that Real Estate Agent A can tell Real Estate Agent B, "Sell my listing and I will pay you X." Period.

My local MLS, which was named #1 in the country, is still way behind the times. It allows me to upload approximately eight tiny (two-by-two-inch) pictures and about three sentences of description. I'm not even allowed to link to anything. How is that a viable marketing tool?

Look at Zillow, Trulia, and Yahoo! Real Estate and you'll see how much the MLS has been eclipsed. It's become just an outdated method for real estate agents to protect their turf. Some systems aren't even Mac compatible.

If you're selling your home yourself, don't worry about a Multiple Listing Service. You can put your home up for viewing on hundreds of websites, and you can add up to thirty-six large, high-definition photos in your listing. You can have paragraphs of description about your home. You can attach listing brochures and other files, which interested buyers can view online or download. You can add background music or a voice-over about your property's features.

In short, MLS is a tool. Not even a great tool. You can do so much better on your own.

You Both Have Choices!

The post-inspection period is often a source of confusion for buyers and sellers working without an agent. It can also be a traumatic period. For the seller, the report reads like a laundry list of reasons the house shouldn't be sold, and for the buyer it looks like prophecy of problems yet-to-come.

Just remember: No house is perfect, the inspection report is not a contract, it's not a wish list, it's just a way to let the buyer know what they're getting before they commit. 

So, you have the inspection report -- regardless of whether you're buying or selling, you have some choices.

If you are the buyer, you have four basic choices after an inspection report. You can-- 

  1. ask the seller to make their requested repairs;
  2. ask for a reduction in sales price in lieu of repairs;
  3. request no repairs at all;
  4. decline to buy the property.

Those are really the only powers you have. You can't force the seller to make repairs, but you do hold the ultimate power of walking away from the sale if you can't live with their decisions on repairs.

As the seller, you have three choices. You can--

  1. agree to the buyer's request and make all repairs;
  2. agree to part of the request and make some of the repairs, or create an allowance for repairs and stipulate in the contract that the house is being sold 'as is';
  3. agree to make no repairs or credits at all.

If negotiations are getting tricky, I suggest figuring out the amount you'd have to pay for the buyer's list of repairs and comparing that with the various costs in not selling your home. If you know it will take a few more months to get to this point with another buyer, factor this into your response to the buyer's requests.

3 Golden Rules of Pricing

Yesterday, I talked about the way your photos can sabotage your FSBO efforts before you've even made it out of the gate. But nothing can stop a sale in its tracks like an ill-conceived pricing.

When I’m evaluating a home and setting its asking price, there are three things I keep in mind in every single one of my transactions. These three concepts are the secret of my success, and the reason countless realtors and customers have called me over the years to ask, “How did you get that listing to sell?”

The three concepts (I call them the three “-tions”) are simple and vital for anyone who wants to understand how real estate pricing works.



A home seller might try to inflate their home’s price, thinking that they need to set the bar high before they negotiate. Or they might have a real estate agent who wants the listing so badly that she’ll tell them whatever they want to hear. But in doing this, that home seller is putting himself at a severe competitive disadvantage.

It’s like a football game: you simply must know the competition. How many homes in your price range are on the market? If there are several homes in your neighborhood waiting to sell, you must price your home aggressively—read: a little less than you might have liked—in order to get the buyers.

Keep in mind, the amount you come down in price is probably equal to or less than a month’s worth of carrying costs, which is the amount you’ll pay if you hold the home for longer.

If there are fewer homes in your neighborhood for sale, then you can shoot for a price that’s right on the market.



So now that you know how many homes in your price range are available, find out how many of those homes have been selling per month for the last three to six months. This will give you what is called the “absorption rate” or rate of attrition. With this number, you can get a clear picture of what to expect as far as the time it will likely take to sell your home. It’s no guessing game; it’s a business calculation.



How does your home’s condition compare to other homes on the market and to those that have sold? Be realistic. What is the condition of the landscaping? How about the exterior paint or updates? What’s the condition of the carpet, flooring, appliances, roof, and interior paint?

In a buyer’s market—and today’s market is certainly a buyer’s market—updated homes sell faster than those that need updating. “Updated” means that your house has been redone in the past five to six years and the updates should be comparable to recent construction.


Bottom Line: You've done a great job marketing your house, and your high-quality pictures are bringing in tons of callers. So, evaluate your home the way a picky buyer would. Have realistic expectations. This way, you don't find yourself stuck in a rut just as things get going.

Putting Your Best Photo Forward

So, you've decided to sell your home, and you're doing it without an agent. You've talked to your friends, scoured the internet for tips, checked out your competition, and come up with an accurate appraisal of your home. In short, you were feeling confident. But, for some reason, your house just isn't selling.

The calls aren't coming in, and you can't figure out why. You live in a good area. Plenty of houses are selling around you, and they're even priced higher than yours. So what's the deal?

Well, it could be the photographs.

Amy, a friend of mine, had looked at hundreds of houses, but she kept going back to the one that had been on the market for 240 days. The pictures of the house were awful--everything looked dark and smudgy and drab.

But Amy has great taste, and even better instinct. So, after brushing off the idea for months, she finally decided to see the house in person. It was great. Just the place they were looking for.

The asking price was $950,000 -- but there had been no offers. No one else had even asked to see it. Amy offered $750,000 and she got the house for $775,000.

Now here's the punchline: Three years later, Amy and her husband decided they wanted to be closer to their kids' school, so they put their house on the market -- with great photographs. It sold for $1.3 million.

Long story short: great photos are absolutely crucial to selling your home.

Unsure of what makes a great photo? Worried you're forgetting something? Here's a few of tips to get your pictures in tip-top shape.

      1. Clean up all clutter. This is the most important thing you can do.
      2. Have good light. Turn on lamps, open your drapes, and make sure all bulbs are working.
      3. Turn off ceiling fans. They can bake distracting blurs in your photographs.
      4. Put away all personal items when you photograph your bathroom.
      5. Take everything off your counters, take the magnets off your fridge, and hide the pet bowls when you   photograph your kitchen. Hide your pets too!
      6. If you have workout equipment in the living room, remove it!
      7. If you have young children, their stuff is probably everywhere. Unfortunately, you have to remove all of this stuff (high chairs, baby gates) before you take photos.
      8. Before you photograph the exterior, trim your trees, mow your lawn, and blow away the fallen leaves. Put away your hoses, trashcans, and recycling, and hide the sign for your security company. Move your car if it's parked in front of the house.
      9. Clean up your pool if you have one. Make sure no toys are lying around.
      10. If you have anything overtly political or seasonal in plain view, put it away before anyone shoots the photos.