For Sale by Owner: Answer These 5 Questions First

for sale by owner
for sale by owner

When John Ullman wanted to sell his Portland, Ore. home 20 years ago, he knew he was going to have trouble selling it through conventional channels. "My wife was a potter, and we had a kiln in the backyard," he recalled. "By anyone's standards, that's a liability."

By anyone's standards except another potter. So rather than use a local real estate agent, who Ullman was sure would suggest that they spend money to tear out the kiln, he advertised it himself in Ceramics Monthly magazine. He found a buyer. "They even paid us extra for the kiln," he said. And a side career was born. Ullman, who runs a performing artists management agency, has since sold two other homes by himself.

Learning how to execute a "For Sale by Owner" (or FSBO), said Ullman, isn't for everyone. It takes a certain "mavericky" type of person, he said, to ignore the real estate agents who will try to convince you that only the pros can navigate the long road to selling a house.

The main reason that people take this on is simple: Homeowners can keep more of the money from home sales if they don't have to pay real estate agents' 6 percent commission. But it's not for everyone, experts warn.