For Sale By Owner in a Vacuum

avatarthumbnail.jpgLet’s begin with a fairly basic disclaimer … I have no personal issue with those who attempt (and sometimes succeed) in selling their own homes without the use of a real estate agent. I also have no issue with people who can change their own oil – that gene was lost somewhere between my father and me.

But what I saw yesterday while driving through Corte Bella, a retirement community in Sun City West (but not part of Sun City West) along the south side of Loop 303, made next to no sense: a For Sale By Owner sign, identical in nearly every way to the several other dozen for sale signs.

Identical in appearance but not in representation. It’s possible, if not likely, that the owner also has advertised their own home sale in the newspaper or on an online site such as craigslist. At least, I really hope that’s the case. Because the sign itself is destined to be seen by virtually no one, and certainly far fewer people than would see any other for sale sign in the Phoenix real estate market.

Why? Because Corte Bella is a guard-gated community. Unless you have very specific business inside the development, you’re not going to get past the guards. So the notion of anyone finding the sign on a random drive and calling for information is dubious at best.

For sale signs aren’t the only way to sell a home, of course. In fact, they’re not even one of the most effective. For all of the supposed changes in the real estate industry over the past couple of years, agents working the MLS (and/or sending listings to their clients) and mega-sites such as Realtor.Com still are the dominant players.

One can argue the veracity of Alexa’s traffic rankings, but here’s what you have for Realtor.Com versus Trulia and Zillow, the websites most often cited as those that will force real estate agents out of business.


Zillow actually was ahead of for overall traffic, but from a listings standpoint it remains second-best since many who visit Zillow are less interested in what’s currently for sale than what their home (very) theoretically might be worth.

There also were For Sale by Owner signs up in Westbrook Village when I was showing homes on Friday. These didn’t get shown for the simple reason that I have no information on the properties to pass along – no fliers, no online data, nothing. With clients looking for a specific type of property, the guessing game isn’t usually worth the time.

How much more effective would it be to have the home displayed on a site just for that area that’s seen by buyers around the country as well as in Canada?  And yes, that’s a rhetorical question. Again, if your home’s data isn’t where the buyers are looking for it, it’s as if it’s not really for sale.

The question remains how best to communicate this information to the sellers without sounding condescending (a major drawback to most of the letters I’ve seen designed to be sent to those looking to sell without representation.)

People play roulette rather than or craps because it’s fun; the fact that the odds are stacked entirely against you essentially is irrelevant.

Selling your home isn’t something you do for fun, unless you happen to be a masochist. Since there’s no entertainment value and no free drinks being served, wouldn’t it seem logical to go for the play that gives you the best possible odds of success?

Yes, that was rhetorical as well.

[tags]Phoenix real estate, For Sale By Owner[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at