Self-sellers: Consider all factors

MARIETTA – In front yards and car windows, “For Sale By Owner” signs can be seen in nearly every neighborhood.

Thanks to an expanding array of websites, appraisal tools and advertising mediums, people are more capable than ever of selling their homes, cars and valuables without the help of a professional.

It is important to consider all of the factors when deciding whether to sell on your own, say the experts, since time constraints, legal know-how and more can all affect how smoothly self-selling will go.

“I think one of the biggest problems trying to sell something on your own in today’s world is what sort of clientele there is,” said auctioneer Keelan McLeish.

As the owners of McLeish Auction Services, McLeish and his father, Charlie, have been selling everything from property to antiques to cars for almost 30 years.

Self-sellers can be targets for people trying to run a scam by taking advantage of their lack of experience, explained Keelan McLeish.

Wading through all the callers who were not serious buyers was one of the biggest hassles Marietta resident Myron Callihan said he experienced when he and his wife sold their Lowell home on their own last year.

“Ninety percent of the people who called us wanted to do a land contract. We weren’t interested in doing a land contract,” said Callihan.

Land contracts are similar to lease-to-own type agreements, where the buyer would make payments to the seller until the home was paid in full.

Additionally, owners selling their own property may not have as much time to put into showing their home to prospective buyers.

The process of staging a house – making it look good to prospective buyers – can take a lot of time, said McLeish.

And “for sale by owner” (FSBO) sellers do not have the same advertising reach.

According to the website for the National Association of Realtors, most realtors will not show FSBO houses.

In addition, FSBO homes are not allowed to be listed on multiple listing systems, which show houses from all registered realtors, said the site.

There are websites, such as, that allow sellers to list their own homes for a fee. However, the Callihans chose to advertise the good old fashioned way – with a yard sign and occasional listings in the Bulletin Board.

“We didn’t get as much exposure to the market as if we had gotten a realtor,” Callihan agreed.

But for the Callihans, who had no hard timeframe for selling their house, the benefits of not having to deal with a realtor or pay a typical 6 percent realtor commission outweighed the convenience of a fast sale.

“We weren’t in a hurry to sell it. I don’t see the need to get a realtor involved if you don’t have a timeframe,” he said.

And Callihan would be willing to sell a home on his own again.

“I find it much simpler to deal with the lending institution and the people you’re selling to,” he said.

But some people find the opposite is true. Marietta resident Carol Pore is selling her home on Harmar Hill with the assistance of realtor Allison Donahue of Cranston Real Estate because she finds it much easier.

“I wouldn’t want to do it myself. Let the experts handle it,” said Pore.

Pore went through a realtor to sell her home in Florida and was very pleased with the experience, she said.

“It went faster than expected,” she said.

Realtors can help home buyers sell faster by giving them tips to stage the house, like decluttering, and leaving just the right amount of personal effects to help potential buyers envision their own personal life being played out there, said Donahue.

Another way people are sidestepping the professionals is by selling their own vehicle.

Marietta resident Justin McElroy, 19, recently sold his 2002 Chevy Impala on Craigslist after several local dealerships offered him much less than what his car was worth, he said.

“I just didn’t want to get lowballed by some of the businesses around here. I knew I could do it on my own,” he said.

McElroy listed his car on the free classified advertisements website for the first time five or six months ago, but didn’t get any serious offers, he said.

He listed it again last week, realizing people would soon be getting tax returns, and the response was almost immediate, he said.

“I listed it Wednesday night, got a call Thursday morning and met (the buyer) that night, and she bought it on Friday,” said McElroy.

He was able to get almost double what the local dealerships had offered.

However, said McElroy, it is important to keep one’s guard up for potential fraud schemes.

“It seems like every time you get on there you are going to get at least one to two scam responses,” he said.

When he sold his boat on Craigslist last summer, McElroy got a call from a man claiming to be in the military.

He wanted to send McElroy a check for the boat, but refused to talk to him on the phone.

“You always have to make a face-to-face transaction,” McElroy said.

Sellers who sell to other individuals can face liability issues, warned McLeish.

“Your car, it could run perfect for you for years, and the first time you sell it to someone else it breaks down,” noted McLeish, who holds a vehicle auction every month.

When a dealership buys the car, they have the expertise to check all of the mechanics, and the responsibility falls on them. But individual buyers might not have that know-how, and sellers have to be very careful not to hide or misrepresent anything, said McLeish.

“If we advertise something, we have to take responsibility that we researched it and are telling the truth,” he noted.

When it comes to getting rid of smaller items, garage sales have been around since, well, garages. But the advent of online sales sites like eBay and Craigslist have made it easy for people to market their unwanted household items to exactly the right audience.

Marietta resident Erica Brisker, 25, and her husband have been using Craigslist for around six years.

The website has such a wide audience that responses from potential buyers are almost instant, said Brisker, who has sold everything from cars to phones and from furniture to baby items on the site.

“You get some wheelers and dealers. You have to wade through the offers,” warned Brisker. “But it’s a good way of putting an ad out there.”

Brisker’s husband also uses eBay, which unlike Craigslist, takes a small percentage of the proceeds from a sale.

“For smaller items, it is a very little amount,” she said.

The benefit of eBay is that is has a secure payment system, it closely monitors both buyers and sellers for fraudulent behavior, and it allows you to sell items to people who live far away, said Brisker.