Are LA homeowners too timid?

ForSaleByOwner.com, one of many for-sale-by-owner Web sites, released some statistics today that suggested New York City home sellers may be braver than their Los Angeles counterparts when it comes to going FSBO, a move that can save a potential $60,000 in sales commission on a million-dollar home.

ForSaleByOwner.com, a subsidiary of Los Angeles Times corporate parent Tribune Co., said listings located in the New York City metropolitan region accounted for 12.7 percent of all homes for sale on the Web site during the first half of 2007. Tribune Co.'s hometown of Chicago ranked second with less than half the New York total, 5.1 percent. But Los Angeles, trendsetter or no, didn't appear until No. 5 with 2.3 percent:

Top Cities in 2007
1. New York, NY (12.7%)
2. Chicago, IL (5.1%)
3. Washington, DC (3.2%)
4. Miami, FL (2.6%)
5. Los Angeles, CA (2.3%)
6. Norfolk, VA (2.1%)
7. Atlanta, GA (2.0%)
8. Salt Lake City, UT (1.8%)
9. Dallas, TX (1.7%)
10. Tampa, FL (1.6%)

ForSaleByOwner.com claims to be the leading FSBO Web site, which, if true, adds some weight to the data, though not as much as the August 2007 Northwestern University study added to the whole concept of do-it-yourself online sales. (The ForSaleByOwner.com news release also mentioned the Northwestern study.)

The Northwestern effort looked at a Wisconsin FSBO Web site and arrived at what Northwestern's media relations folks touted as a "provocative" conclusion, probably because it suggested something real estate agents dread (and often dismiss as blather):

"... that sellers who joined a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) Web site got at least as much for their homes as sellers who did their real estate business through the use of an agent and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Houses sold through the MLS were more likely to sell faster.

The recent study shows that the FSBO sellers ended up with a significantly enhanced net sale price because they didn't have to pay the brokerage commission that real estate agents charge sellers, generally six percent of a house's sale price -- $12,000 for a $200,000 home.

(The Northwestern study is available online at this PDF link)

I wrote a story in 2006 for the Los Angeles Times about FSBOs and explained why it's difficult, if not impossible, to determine what percentage of the home sales market has been claimed by the DIY subculture:

Determining exactly how many homeowners sell using this method can be difficult, as the parties that track such numbers have a stake in the answer.

One recent study released by the National Assn. of Realtors purports that by-owner sellers represented a record low 13% share of the market [in 2005].

Yet there is no shortage of websites that provide services to people selling their own homes [SNIP ...]

ForSaleByOwner.com [SNIP ...] said its client base has nearly doubled every year for the last several years. The site logged 24,299 listings in 2003, more than twice that the following year and 108,022 in 2005.


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