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How to Be a FSBO-Listing Machine

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says 87 percent of all for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) listings in Florida end up working with a Realtor. Here's how one sales associate converts these private sellers into clients.

Eddie Tybuszynski
When I got my license in 2003, I was a sponge for information—every time someone gave me a tip, I’d write it down—and I quickly filled five legal pads with notes. My objective was to figure out which part of our fast-paced market offered the most potential. The for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) market seemed like a great opportunity. First of all, 70 percent never sell as FSBOs. And sooner or later, I figured, the majority would give up and sign with a real estate professional.

Why, then, did it take so long for sales associates to list FSBOs? After all, they’re telling you their house is for sale by placing a big For Sale sign in the yard.

I started calling every FSBO in the newspaper—I practically lived on the phone—sending them letters and even leaving my business cards at their door. (Before contacting people, make sure you’re in compliance with the state and federal do not call laws by calling only numbers that aren’t on either do not call list.)

You name it; I did it. But, after months of no listings, it was clear that my plan of attack wasn’t working. Then, I reached my six-month anniversary in the business, and all of a sudden I listed seven FSBOs in a row. What was I doing differently? Nothing out of the ordinary—except that my fear of rejection seemed to disappear after I got my first listing. My confidence went through the roof, and I became super aggressive yet professional. [Within a couple years] 80 percent of my business came through the FSBO market.

Here are five major steps that changed my career:

1. Make Personal Contact
How many sales associates drive up to a FSBO, quickly jot down the phone number and drive off, telling themselves they’ll call later? I never leave a FSBO without knocking on the door. If the owner answers and we talk outside, great. But my main objective is to get inside and find that kitchen table!

Of course, before I approach any FSBO I check to see if the neighborhood (or the local municipality) prohibits door-to-door solicitations or if the neighborhood association has posted “No Trespassing” signs.

The more FSBOs you meet face to face, the better your chances of getting the listing. If you’re one of the lucky few who get an appointment by phone, that’s great. But don’t pass up an opportunity to knock on the door. If no one is home, leave your business card or other promotional materials—just don’t leave anything in the mailbox because it’s illegal.

Personal contact extends beyond FSBOs. Work it into your everyday routine. One day I was talking with the woman who was cutting ham for me at my local Publix supermarket, and she gave me a lead for a FSBO that turned into a listing that I sold for $450,000.

I created a script and rehearsed it until I became comfortable with what I was going to say. Most people don’t like to talk to strangers, but for me, it’s not about “location, location, location” as much as it is “personal contact, personal contact, personal contact.”

2. Exude Professionalism
Research shows that people make up their minds about whether they would hire you within 20 seconds of meeting you, so first impressions are important. If you’re walking up to the door of a FSBO with a fresh haircut, wearing shined shoes and a power suit, you’re headed in the right direction. Second, always follow the Realtor® Code of Ethics so there’s never any question about whether you’ll be regarded as a true professional.

Knowing when to talk and when to listen is also important because it can often make or break a sale. Don’t waste the listing presentation trying to sell you. Ask questions to find out what your prospects need. Don’t assume anything. Let them know you’re always ready to answer your phone, to solve any problems or answer any questions, and that your main objective is to get them to the closing table ASAP.

3. Win Friends
Take extra steps to make a friend, because it will not only enhance your quality of life but also will boost your referrals. When the closing is over and they write you a testimonial letter and invite you to their family barbeque, you know you’ve made a difference in their lives.

I’m a musician and I play the guitar. One day my wife, Carol, introduced me to pop musician Pablo Perez. He was a banking client of hers and also an attorney. Turns out, we’re both Beatles fans, and I’ve since played guitar with him several times. I even sold him a house in Coral Gables. He has a title company, so we’ve developed a business relationship as well.

Not all your transactions will turn into friendships. But the math is simple: the more friends you make, the more your business will multiply.

I use the slogan “I treat all my clients like they’re family and that’s what makes the difference.”

4. Give Personal Service
Everybody claims to give good customer service, but a recent consumer report* said nine in ten of Americans surveyed (93%) say that companies fail to exceed their service expectations. What is personal service? Is it having your phone on 24/7? Is it following through on something that you said you would do?

Taking customer service to the next level is something I always try to do. For example, the day before an open house, we still hadn’t found a painter to fix and paint a bedroom wall. Knowing that the house needed to be immaculate for showing, I told my seller I would be there the next morning to do it myself. I fixed and painted the wall, and the sellers were happy with my contribution to the success of their open house.

I worked in construction for more than 20 years, so I had the skills to do the job. But even if you don’t have handyman skills, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and do what’s needed to make the transaction close. Your clients will love you for it.

5. Never Cut Your Commission
Let sellers know that you provide above-and-beyond service and that their home will sell faster and for more money because of it. If theyask for a discount and you give in, you’re telling them you’re not worth the money.

Considering the time and money you spend on marketing your listings, you are worth every penny of your commission, so don’t give it away. If you’re new in the business, find yourself a company that has a good training program so they can give you the tools, technology and coaching to help you obtain listings at full commission.

* 2012 American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer


Eddie Tybuszynski is a sales associate with The Keyes Co./REALTORS in Palm Beach Gardens.