Bob: Hey, Dan. I saved $15,000 on a lawyer by representing myself!

Dan: Good for you! Let’s go out and celebrate!

Bob: Okay, but can you wait two years? I’m in jail right now.

Story continues below

You’ve heard the ads.

“Johnny hired ‘FSBO Inc.’ and saved over $15,000!”

Really? How does Johnny know he saved $15,000? How does he know he didn’t actually lose money by choosing not to hire an experienced, highly skilled agent?

Answer: Johnny doesn’t know, and he’ll never know because he’s already sold his home to some lucky buyer who cashed in on his massive naivety.

You’re a professional Realtor, so you know exactly what I’m talking about, right? But how do we explain this to the public?

How about simply telling them the straight-up truth?

(Note: You might need to tone down my snarkiness a smidge.)

Here’s the straight-up truth about FSBO Inc.:

1. They claim you’re going to get “professional representation” to help with all the paperwork, marketing and negotiating.

Ask yourself one simple question: If these people were actually good at what they do, why are they working for peanuts for FSBO Inc.?

2. When it comes to negotiating, you’re on your own (see #1 above).

So, how do you think you’re going to fare negotiating your first real estate transaction against a shark who does this for a living?

3. Despite the “rules,” most agents will avoid showing your property and will discourage buyers from writing an offer on it.

Why? First, there’s a high probability that it’s overpriced, based on the combination of the terrible advice you’ve received from the FSBO “agent” and your own “feelings” about what your home is worth.

Second, every professional Realtor knows that working directly with a FSBO seller is likely to be a painful experience compared to dealing with a professional. It’s usually twice as much work and three times as much stress.

Third, there are additional legal liability concerns because a FSBO is simply not held to the same reporting and disclosure standards compared to a professional real estate brokerage.

4. You really have no choice but to pay the buyer’s side of the commission anyway (you already know how to explain this.)

On top of that, there are listing costs from FSBO, Inc. that need to be paid up-front, whether you sell or not. So tell me again, how much are you going to “save”?

5. Quality of buyers.

There are three types of buyers. (1) Potential buyers – anyone who wants to buy a home. (2) Qualified buyers – those who have the ability to buy a home. (3) Serious buyers – those who are actively looking to buy a home.

But the only buyers who matter are both (2) qualified and (3) serious. You can have a serious buyer who isn’t qualified, or a qualified buyer who isn’t serious, right? So, guess what?

Almost all serious, qualified buyers are working with a professional real estate agent – the ones who want to avoid showing your FSBO!

The people who call you directly? Those are potential buyers, but are they qualified? Are they serious? How will you know? Have fun showing your home to a bunch of looky-loos who have no intention of ever buying.

Let’s expand on this and look at serious, qualified buyers from a different perspective. All of the following buyers are both serious and qualified:

‘A’ buyers

‘A’ buyers are every Realtor’s dream client. They’re getting transferred from a city where prices are significantly higher than in your market. For me (Calgary), this could mean they’re coming from Toronto or Vancouver. If you’re in one of those cities, maybe your buyer is international – Hong Kong or New York, for example.

These buyers are moving to your market area because they’re probably getting a promotion/raise, and they’ve got a pocket full of cash, having just sold their home in (expensive city). They’re working with a highly qualified agent referred by their trusted local agent, and they’re flying in on the weekend to look at 10 homes and choose the best one.

They can’t believe the “bargains” in your city! But guess what? The Realtor wants to make the most of the short time they have together, so they’re not going to waste valuable time looking at FSBOs.

No ‘A’ buyers for you!

‘B’ buyers

These buyers are local, but they’ve just sold their existing home. They’ve got a short window of opportunity to find their new home, and they’ve already developed trust and rapport with their agent, so guess what? This agent isn’t going to waste time with their valuable repeat-business clients looking at FSBOs.

No ‘B’ buyers for you!

‘C’ buyers

These are first-time buyers. They’re scared and they don’t know the process. They were referred to their agent by their parents or someone else they trust. The agent takes this responsibility seriously and will not risk getting into a messy deal with a FSBO.

No ‘C’ buyers for you!

‘D’ buyers

These are bargain hunters and investors. They know the market and they’re looking for people selling undervalue. They love working with FSBOs!

Congratulations! You get all the ‘D’ buyers!

You still think you “saved” $15,000, Johnny?

Thanks to my friend Pete for this simple A/B/C/D presentation. He does it on a whiteboard, overflowing with confidence, and he’s never once in his entire career NOT successfully converted a FSBO back to their senses.

Honestly, despite my snarkiness oozing in this article, the truth is:

I feel sorry for FSBOs.

I mean, how are they supposed to know, if you don’t explain it to them?

I completely understand how people can conclude that FSBO is the way to go, if they’ve had one or more bad experiences with an unskilled, unprofessional, apathetic agent, which – let’s be honest – is not a rarity.

These agents are the seagulls of the bird world – obnoxiously loud, squawking scavengers who serve no useful purpose, at least to the untrained ornithological eye. I’m sure seagulls are good for something.

No wonder people turn to FSBO companies. They think we’re ALL seagulls.

Are you a seagull? Or are you an eagle?

Be an eagle. If we were all eagles, FSBO Inc. would not even exist.

I always knew how to demonstrate my value. As a result, I attracted high-quality clients who trusted me as a professional and would never even consider selling their own home, or represent themselves in court, for that matter.

If you really want to convince people not to go FSBO, demonstrate your value with actions, not words. It’s not as difficult as it sounds.

Be an eagle.


  1. Engaging in private conversations with colleagues over the years ***
    “The FSBO often had no clue what goes on behind the scenes. I listed many FSBOs. But I never asked for the listing. I didn’t make a nuisance of myself in any way. I provided a suitable set of comps, many showing I had listed and or sold, with all the details, and invited the FSBO to compare their own property to the comps. Many FSBO’s were genuinely surprised to see that the comps didn’t always match street neighbour gossip.”
    === ***

    I discovered colleagues were surprised when I enquired if agents compared taxes on subject property comps. 99 out of a hundred said no they did not.

    I always found the property tax amount to be a good common denominator / barometer. Not that the city tax numbers were always correct but more often than not the taxes were relatable when putting together comps that were nearest in value to the subject property whether FSBO or not.

    Back in 1980 I contacted the city with a specific property question. I was fortunate to engage with a city employee tax expert who advised me of important information I used throughout my whole career.

    New agents in particular might find a call to the tax department where the subject property is located willing to share information that an agent might not know to ask.

    One such call to the city taught me that a specific square footage (presented as a percentage) of a given subject footprint was permitted and if a new owner planned on enlarging the footprint he for sure ought to check with the city before buying (even if it looks like there is plenty of useable land available; he might find he needs an appointment with the committee of adjustments and learn he cannot do as he had planned. (And it might take a couple of years to get an answer. )

    Carolyne L 🍁

  2. We definitely need to find a way to create awareness surrounding this issue. CREA,RECO and Regional Boards should cough up some AD dollars for this.

    And what about those turkeys promoting 2% total commission (1 to them and 1 to co-broker). How can they justify that to the seller. They are assuming that the industry as a whole will tolerate a substantial reduction in fees. What a joke.

    • Very welcome, Nelson. The intent was not to outshine the author about whom I know absolutely nothing. Just sharing with readers what worked for me over the years. The REM forum is odd in some respects such as this where it’s sometimes difficult to know how to post and where.

      Carolyne L 🍁

  3. Changes are a-coming to the real estate business – when I look at a purchase contract and the blank for the showing date says “Online” and the commission for the buyer’s Realtor says $500 if the buyer’s agent didn’t introduce to the property on the first showing – this says to me that Realtors might become redundant in the future.
    As for the price, it seems that the open market is in play, as prices get bid up 10’s and 100’s of thousands over list – so I ask myself – is the listing Realtor listing the property at the best price for the seller?

  4. Houses sell in 24 hours for $1M plus and NO Agent is worth $50K for that. Ask your surgeon who trained for years if they make $50K per day? Lower your fees and gain more FSBO. Let the seagulls shit on the hood of your Mercedes. Need more honest people like Carolyne L.

    Ted Greenhough must suffer from small man syndrome listing is his annual income. Sad indeed.

    • Thank you for your kind reference, Joey. Not being familiar with your name, I offer if you would like to discuss any real estate topic, feel free to connect. There are many articles on my site you might find useful in your career, that although they are old, still reflect standards that are useful today. Best wishes.

      You might find this youtube interesting: “Napoleon Hill – Think and grow rich with peace of mind”


      If you are new to REM and happen to enjoy cooking, you can find my exclusive gourmet cooking column for the past decade at:

      Carolyne L 🍁

    • In a situation like this I often negotiate my commission in favour of my client and take enough to cover my time and expenses. Especially if it’s a long standing client. Nonetheless, the care and fiduciary duties remain the same to protect the clients interest. Please understand the liabilities and responsibilities undertaken by the Realtor. Negative actions by the client could cost the Realtor down the road. They earn their keep in most scenarios.
      PS: Hot Markets don’t last – they come and go.

  5. If you are the same Caroline L. I came across some 35 years ago, I have another story to tell.
    To Brian Martindale, I loved your reply and agree with you 110% all the way.
    But they will churn out many more of those money hungry puppies.

    • I agree with your concluding statement, Peter. Money talks…with a louder voice than that possessed by any sales-organization’s ethics decrees. The day this business evolves into one of consultation and guidance based upon a non-commission way of earning a living for its professionals will be a good day for everyone…including the new-day pros. The better one will be at one’s job the more one will earn going forward. The slippery factor will be erased from the equation. There will be no more need for slipperiness.

  6. I’ve been in the business for more than the average but I’ve never had an issue with FSBOs and at one time I was called the FSBO queen. I always go into the situation with respect and lots of information. If they don’t hire me that’s ok with me. I will always show FSBOs when I’m working with Buyers afterall they deserve my full co-operation and respect. If there’s no fee then I still show it. We’re all professionals – aren’t we???

    • You’ve shown that you’re a professional, Barb. But no, we’re not all professionals. I realize your concluding comment was tongue-in-cheek. The message was sent.

    • ROFL!!!

      If I was incontinent I would have peed my pants laughing, PED:-)

      Seriously though, Ted said something profound: “They…” (the general public) “…think we’re ALL seagulls.”

      We can thank ORE’s churn-’em-out puppy-mill system that turns out the never ending supply of instant professionals for the significance of Ted’s truthful comment. Just add water (or booze), stir, and presto, a new, likely failure-in-waiting awaits your naive trust. Where are the real professionals in this business who put up with working with, or against, the plethora of amateurs on a daily basis? I guess it’s something like being a defensive driver; you must allow for the stupid mistakes of others on the road and make up for them yourself to avoid the crashes. So then, the pros get better at what they do and the amateurs get covered off by the pros, rendering the amateurs dummies for life…or until they flame out…whichever occurs first. But the dues? They just keep on a’comin’ into ORE’s coffers. There’s always a new crop of dummies, cash in hand, ready for the games to begin.

      I’m not saying all OREcrats are initially corrupt by nature, but the upper crusters inevitably become so by keeping their heads firmly stuck in the sand regarding what the state of affairs is out there in the field of real estate commission dreams. They actually silently condone the never-ending stream of failures whilst publicly claiming to be fighting against it. They’re actually politicians posing as guardians of the public interest, when in fact they guard against any intrusion against their power base…and their power base is money…lots of it…gleaned from the here-today-gone-tomorrow “professionals”. The real professionals’ dues make up only a sliver of the dues-pot tree of plenty. So who’s interests are being protected by ORE? Follow the money! They’re the same as union bosses who don’t give a wit about the public interest. Their power base is their membership, but ultimately, they think only of their own personal positions within the hierarchy of leadership. We have a bunch of eagles transmogrified into seagulls, methinks, at the helm(s) of disparate ORE offices….and they don’t even realize what’s happened to them. They’re not bad people…just badly misled…and indoctrinated into the group-thinking culture existing within the various organizations. Wanna keep your job? Keep your head down and your mouth shut.

      Jonathan Livingston Seagull: Ya missed your calling.

    • We live in a very changed different world in recent years. There’s no figuring it out when it’s in permanent (change) motion.

      I never had a problem working with FSBO’s. I offered to help them (and generally advised them before doing anything at all, to engage with a lawyer).

      I had pre-prepared packages from various law offices. Copies of relevant forms so the FSBO could see what went on in the process. (Read the forms fine print and use a magic marker to highlight any material not understood; call me any time.) No question is too small or insignificant. Or contact a lawyer. This builds trust.

      The FSBO often had no clue what goes on behind the scenes. I listed many FSBOs. But I never asked for the listing. I didn’t make a nuisance of myself in any way. I provided a suitable set of comps, many showing I had listed and or sold, with all the details, and invited the FSBO to compare their own property to the comps. Many FSBO’s were genuinely surprised to see that the comps didn’t always match street neighbour gossip.

      I often engaged in working with hard to sell properties at reasonable prices that generated a sold sign (mine). And my sold signs often had babies. (More listings.)

      I was often told by the FSBO that they were inundated by agents who straight up insisted the agent had a prequalified buyer (but word on the street was that some agents had brought a relative or friend as a phoney would be buyer). All the while trying to convince the seller to list.

      In the packages I provided some of my printed articles, charts and graphs and copies of my marketing materials; of course oversize scratch pads, book marks, my custom tent calendars (articles later on line) printed out prior to the mid 1990’s Net world.

      Sometimes I dropped off the uninvited materials in a plain brown envelope marked important real estate documents, other times I had FedEx deliver such important helpful information, requiring a received adult signature.

      Apparently no one else did what I did. A large percentage of FSBO’s who eventually listed, listed with me. It started in subagency days and later continued as my representing actual would-be buyers.

      Because I kept huge numbers of files and copious notes, if FSBO’s decided not to sell currently, I kept them in my contact files. Sometimes the files fit perfectly when a real live buyer was actively looking needing the particular area, months or even years later, so I sought permission to sell the old FSBO from a couple years back. Good fit. Sold sign.

      Now I had a seller who became a buyer. And the circle went round again. No FSBO ever asked me to cut commission.

      Of course today we live in a very different world. I never ever asked the FSBO to list. I brought a live pre-qualified buyer and used a board supplied letter called “permission to sell” that spelled out details as to how this would work.

      Another sold sign that netted me the opportunity to add the address to my cache. It was a wonderful real estate world back then.

      Carolyne L 🍁


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