Perspectives: Some homeowners opting to try to sell without help

According to the National Association of Realtors, 4.65 million existing homes were sold last year, the highest number in five years. But not all of those sales were handled by a licensed real estate agent.

Nine percent of home sellers chose to sell their own home last year, saving the commission and fees that would have otherwise have gone to a realtor.

Marietta resident Chitra Sarpeshkar is currently selling her Janet Road home with the help of her good friend Helen Hirschi.

“We feel like we’ve had an excellent response,” said Hirschi.

Sarpeshkar has received about two dozen calls on the house since it was listed in the Bulletin Board five weeks ago, she said.

Because she has lived there 19 years, she is able to share facts about the house that a realtor just would not know, she said. For example, Sarpeshkar can tell potential buyers how the foundation was laid, when the sun room was built on or what flowers flourish in the backyard gardens.

“There are a lot of questions we can answer that a Realtor couldn’t,” said Hirschi.

Still, selling your own home is not without its challenges and risks.

One challenge for people selling on their own can simply be sorting through the buyers with real potential, said Lydia Donnelly, owner of Cranston Real Estate.

“Sometimes the pitfalls for people that sell on their own is making sure you are talking to qualified buyers,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly often sees customers who have attempted to sell their own home who have been targeted by scam artists. There are also simply people who are not financially qualified to buy a house.

“They might get halfway through the process only to see the buyer has bad credit or can’t get the loan, and they’ve turned down other offers in the meantime,” she said.

And showing the home to potential buyers can be a full-time job, she added.

That is something Sarpeshkar and Hirschi have encountered.

“To show a house, it is time consuming. We make an effort to be there when someone wants to be there. We always accommodate them,” said Hirschi.

And Sarpeshkar acknowledged that selling the home without the assistance of Hirschi, who only lives a mile away, would be difficult.

Sarpeshkar and Hirschi have already learned a lot from the process.

“I think signage is really important,” said Hirschi.

Added Sarpeshkar, “My neighbors suggested I put a sign down at the end of the road and I think a lot of people have seen that.”

The sign on busy Colegate Drive points out a “For Sale By Owner” house is hidden nearby in the quiet neighborhood, she said.

Another challenge for home sellers can be communicating with buyers without intimidating them, said Donnelly.

“Sellers have a tendency to take offers very personally. Whereas when you have a Realtor to negotiate, it not only lessens the stress on the seller, but it makes the buyer more comfortable, too,” she said.

Sarpeshkar and Hirschi said they do not want to delve into negotiating, but they do try to gage the potential buyer’s personality and let that guide their interactions.

“We sometimes do a guided tour of the house. Sometimes we can tell by their personality that they’d rather wander around,” said Hirschi.

They also strive to be very honest about things that buyers might see as limitations.

“For example, the property line goes back farther than the back fence. So instead of letting them guess why all of the property is not inside the fence line, we just explain that it was because there would have been a lot more trees to cut down and cost involved,” said Hirschi.

Sarpeshkar does have one thing she would not recommend doing.

“I got rid of my furniture to make it final,” said Sarpeshkar.

There is still enough for Sarpeshkar to live there while she makes the sale. But the lack of furniture makes it harder for buyers to see the potential in all the rooms, said Hirschi.

Still, said Sarpeshkar, that is another reason why being her own seller comes in handy.

“I can show them how I used the space,” she noted.

Working without a Realtor seems to be going well so far, said Sarpeshkar.

“This is a bad economy,” added Hirschi. “We wanted to pass the savings on to the potential buyer rather than a professional.”