A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Decisions (Part 3.1)- The Business of Buying

I did not think that I would be writing a post on this topic so soon, but a conversation with a loan officer gave me cause to think of an aspect of this subject which I did not consider. The conversation dealt with data about how people buy a home, and who is buying a home.

When I looked at these assist to sell your home firms, I was examining them from the point of view of a person considering how to place his home on the market; however, there is the flip side of this coin: the person looking for a home. Most people find their new home by using a Realtor, closely followed by using the internet. A Realtor finds homes being offered through the MLS (multiple listing service). This implies that a person not using a Realtor and who has gone to an assistance agency should pay for having their home on the MLS, if they want to be effective in selling their home.

But what about the internet? And how effective is the marketing provided by firms like ForSaleByOwner.com? I decided to start a search for a home, making two assumptions: 1) I am more comfortable speaking Spanish; and 2) I primarily use English. Why would I take this tact? Hispanics are now the largest ethnic group in Houston, and many are more comfortable using Spanish. Hispanics also present the largest growth potential for the real estate market here. I looked at how I would search the internet using both languages, and then I looked at where I would find magazines about homes for sale. A decidedly impromptu approach, but I think it is relevant to how a consumer would find a home.

I went to different search engines typing phrases in Spanish and English indicating that I was looking for a home in Houston. The results came back with Realtor sites listing houses for sale. One site was a firm that pays Realtors salaries instead of working by commission, but for the first several pages my results were all sites connected in some way to a Realtor. I had to specifically request houses listed for sale by the homeowner to obtain sites of these assist to sell firms. As a buyer, I have to be motivated to go after a home in this category, if I am going to purchase from the homeowner. I feel that this is a real strike against these firms, giving a Realtor a clear advantage. A curious note was the website for Unvision. This firm has caught my attention for a while, and I know that Spanish speakers have come to my main site through their search feature. For phrases in Spanish, Univision’s site kept coming up close to the top of the list. A marketer wanting to develop sales to the Hispanic community may want to consider ways of working with this site.

As for the publications, I discovered that going to a grocery store catering to a middle class, Caucasian neighborhood will put me in contact with the magazines of homes for sale. Going to a store catering to Hispanics gives me access to publications that offer a host of services (mainly lawyers). These publications have sections on real estate that are filled with ads for apartments. It really seems that the market which offers the most growth opportunity is not being sought.

I do not think my findings put the nail in the coffin to using an assist to sell agency; these discoveries should give you pause about how you will proceed with selling your home. There are savings that you could gain by not using a Realtor, but you have to weigh the work that you will need to put into marketing your home. You should really pay the extra money to have your home listed on the MLS when using an FSBO specialty firm. If you are using a Realtor or assistance agency, be prepared to sit tight for some time. Drive-by selling does work, but this accounts for less than ten percent of the homes sold. Plus, you need to make your home and signage stand out to catch the attention of passers-by.

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