After you’ve placed an ad for your home (listed it), then you will start to receive phone calls and/or emails about it.
Screening Phone Calls and Emails
Interested buyers may call or email directly, or you may get calls/emails from realtors. Some of the calls from realtors are just phishing (solicitation) calls and others are legitimate calls.
- Legitimate Calls. While you are talking on the phone, ask how this buyer or agent learned your house was available. And here’s the general info you’d like to learn about the buyer before a showing: whether the buyer is local or from out of town, whether they have kids, if they have family in the area, what are their jobs, are they renting or owning right now, have they pre-qualified with a lender. The buyer or agent should also be willing to provide you the buyer’s name and agent’s or buyer’s phone number. Likewise, you as the seller should also be prepared to answer basic questions about the property condition, property history, and also why you are moving. Tell the truth.
- Phishing Calls from Realtors. Expect some of your initial calls to be solicitation attempts from local real estate agents who want to help you sell the house for a seller’s commission – you can just advise them that you are okay and confident proceeding as a FSBO. If they try to convince you FSBOs are less effective, then perhaps they haven’t considered why FSBOs are so common with intelligent sellers, and also why it is also common to have a closing attorney (such as myself) assist with all the paperwork and disclosures. In any case, if the realtor on the phone is unable to present you with a specific buyer’s name, then you are likely receiving an unsolicited phishing call, so you should not feel guilty by respectfully declining any meeting or showing. Indeed, some of my clients have been treated very rudely during phishing calls, and have even had realtors claim they will not bring ‘their buyer’ to see the property unless the seller will first agree to allow that realtor to represent both parties (dual agency). Don’t fall for the trick – the realtor is already professionally obligated to their buyer clients to show them homes in good faith.
- Suspicious Calls. If you have a suspicious feeling about the person’s moral character or identity during the initial call, just don’t schedule anything – simply take down their information, and advise them that you are managing the long process of receiving inquiries so you will log this inquiry and talk it over with your family members before next steps. Trust your instincts and don’t show the home to anyone suspicious – there’s a reason for the phrase ‘better safe than sorry’. Your home is naturally a private place.
Assuming your home is physically ready, you can begin to set appointments and show the place. Generally, you want to allot about an hour or so for the tour. You should keep a list of everyone who tours your home, including at least their name and phone number. If you have security concerns, try to schedule tours at a time when there will be an adult male family member or neighbor in the home. Some neighbors are happy to pre-screen buyers…
Calm and comfortable is generally what you’re going for here. If you like, bake organic bread before/during the tour because the aroma is warm and comforting. Fresh flowers can add a nice feeling too. A well-lit home is often more attractive…
You can let the buyer tour the house freely if you like, but it is conventional advice that most buyers prefer a guided or semi-guided tour. In addition to added security, this provides the seller an opportunity to point out the many features of the home, the property history, the neighborhood, and so forth. Along these lines, try to remember what first attracted you to this house. Talk about what has been updated or recently replaced and emphasize what you have done to maintain the home. Discuss the advantages of the location, the neighborhood, close proximity to schools, parks, the local book store. Perhaps you want your prospect to envision living in the home. A positive attitude is very important toward that end.
Some more conventional advice is that unless your prospective buyer is bringing their children, you may wish for your own kids to stay at Grandma’s. For example, if your child is watching television, the buyer may feel intrusive in touring that room. I think it depends – you can generally gauge interested buyers during your initial phone call. I like to think that most people enjoy seeing a home in some organized action, with the dog running in the back yard, the kids playing, dad reading or working in the garage. There’s no right answer here in my book.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back from a prospective buyer – there are a lot of window shoppers out there. Consider waiting a couple of days before following up with a call or email. All you really need to ask when following up is if they have decided on a home yet. If they haven’t, then you should ask whether your home is one they are considering. This gives the buyer the opportunity to talk about your home. You can generally gauge their interest from the specifics they provide.
Generally the next step is negotiation of the purchase contract’s essential terms: price and timing. Here’s my article on the FSBO process: http://norcalfsbo.com/2012/06/18/fsbo-process-a-helpful-list-of-steps/
And I intend to write many articles here at NorCal FSBO about purchase contract logistics and standard practices. Thanks for reading.
Greg Glaser, Attorney at Law
Serving all of California
Flat Fee Packages Available for Buyers and Sellers Without a Realtor