With home prices still dropping in many markets, and neighborhoods nationwide suffering from a surplus of real estate owned (REO) homes available for the choosing, home sellers have important decisions to make. One of those decisions involves how to list and market a house for sale. Selling a home on your own without using a real estate agent - generally referred to as "for sale by owner" (FSBO) - can be an attractive option, most notably because it eliminates the need to pay a real estate agent's commission. However the trade-off for trying to pocket a tidy sum of cash is that you're responsible for marketing the property and securing a buyer on your own. Listing your property online is an increasingly effective way of doing both. (Investing in this kind of real estate takes capital, time and careful planning. Learn more in Foreclosure Investing Not A Get-Rich-Quick Venture.)

By the Numbers
An overwhelming number of home buyers are using the internet to find homes locally or long-distance. According to a 2007 Appleton-Young/California Association of Realtors (CAR) study, 70% of buyers surveyed said they used the internet as an important part of their home-buying and selection process. That's up from 28% in 2000 - a 150% increase in seven years. And 100% of all buyers surveyed went online to find a home before they searched for a real estate agent to help in the buying process.

Knowing that buyers are using the internet, the question is how can you get your property online and what are the potential drawbacks of challenges to doing so? First, you need to realize what you're up against when you're marketing your home online as a FSBO property. One tool that realtors have at their disposal to attract buyers and market properties is the online Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Realtors nationwide post their listings and share other agents' listings with their buyers. If you have ever used a real estate agent's website, you're viewing homes on your local MLS, and even other realty sites use the national MLS. Real estate agents and CAR pay dues to maintain both the local and national MLS.

Listing on MLS
Don't be discouraged by the MLS presence. It is possible to market your home online as an owner-seller - you can even get your property on MLS. However, you can't post your home on MLS by yourself. You will need to work with either an individual agent or an organization serving FSBOs that will charge a flat fee and/or a reduced commission to get your home on the local and/or national MLS. Getting your listing on MLS does not guarantee other marketing services a traditional real estate agent employs. Scores of real estate companies serving FSBOs offer an a la carte menu of supportive marketing services for owner-sellers, including development of your own website with unique URL, creation of print flyers and lawn signs, etc. In addition to the MLS, there are sites to specifically engage buyers that are looking for a FSBO property.
The Pros and Cons of Listing Your Property Online


  • You are more likely to connect with a prepared buyer. The Appleton-Young/CAR study found that internet buyers spent, on average, nearly five weeks doing research while a traditional buyer (one relying on print marketing materials only) undertook less than two weeks of research.
  • You can reach a wider scope of buyers. The survey also revealed that internet-using home buyers searched an average radius of 242 miles from their current residence for a new home, while traditional buyers' new home purchase was only 25 miles from their current residence.


  • Your listing may go unnoticed. One of the primary benefits of FSBO is that you do not have to pay a real estate agent commission. However, that's also why many agents simply will not share FSBO online listings they find with their buyers. Unless you note that agents are welcome (meaning that you are willing to pay a portion of the buyers' agent commission, which typically average 2.5-3% of the home selling price), you may miss out on connecting with qualified buyers that are working with agents.
  • You may not get other, needed support. Just getting your home online may not be enough to attract a buyer. Depending on your local market conditions (the number of other local properties at your price point), you may need to employ more aggressive marketing tools, such as search engine optimization (SEO), website development, listing on locally-focused sites and national sites.

Buyers are searching for homes online and in a buyers' market it can pay to make sure your property is on their radar screen. Do a little research to find the best, most affordable service to help you effectively market your property online. (Find out if the house you're eyeing is really a good deal. Find out more in Foreclosures: Bargains Or Money Pits?)

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    Buying a House Before an Interest Rate Hike

    Find out how a Fed rate hike would impact aspiring homebuyers, why rates increase, and whether now is the right time to buy a house.
  2. Home & Auto

    6 Neighborhood Red Flags

    There are some qualities you can’t discover about a neighborhood until after you’ve moved in. But there are ways to scout out red flags ahead of time.
  3. Retirement

    5 Ways to Use Your Home to Retire

    Retirement is going to cost a lot, and for homeowners who face a shortfall, their home can be a source of income. From downsizing to renting, here's how.
  4. Home & Auto

    5 Luxurious Ways to Boost Your Home's Resale Value

    Not all renovations are created equal. Here are five that are most likely to make a property appreciate (and be appreciated by househunters).
  5. Personal Finance

    The 6 Most Expensive Apartments in New York City

    A look into the high, high, high end of New York City real estate.
  6. Personal Finance

    3 Castles That Cost Less Than a NYC Apartment

    Did you know you can rent an entire château, and that it might cost less than your New York pad?
  7. Home & Auto

    Read This Before Buying a Vacation Home with Friends

    Going in with friends to buy a vacation home will save you on the mortgage and expenses. But if there's conflict, it could end up costing your more.
  8. Investing Basics

    Pros & Cons of Investing in a Condo with Friends

    Buying a beach house or big-city pied-à-terre with friends can save money and make sense, but only if you set it up right. Here's how to avoid trouble. thoroughly research and discuss potential ...
  9. Home & Auto

    The Most Expensive Neighborhoods in London

    Understand what makes London such a desirable place to live and why it is so expensive. Learn about the top five most expensive neighborhoods in London.
  10. Investing

    Costs New Investors in Real Estate Do Not Consider

    As lucrative as real estate investment can be, there are a multitude of costs that new real estate investors must consider.
  1. Can I borrow from my annuity to put a down payment on a house?

    You can borrow from your annuity to put a down payment on a house, but be prepared to pay an assortment of fees and penalties. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can I take my 401(k) to buy a house?

    Once you reach 59.5, you can use the funds in your 401(k) retirement savings account to buy a house or any other expense ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Can I take my 401(k) to buy a house for my children?

    Under the standard regulations for 401(k) retirement savings plans, you may elect to withdraw funds from your 401(k) for ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How is market value determined in the real estate market?

    Anyone who has ever tried to purchase or sell a home has probably heard a lot about the property's fair market value, or ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What does the American Dream mean to different generations?

    The American Dream at its core is the belief that every generation should enjoy greater prosperity than the generation before ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. When should a real estate broker release earnest money deposit funds?

    As soon as an agent or broker accepts an earnest money deposit, he becomes an escrow agent. This means that, in most cases, ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!