FSBO, Web 2.0 style

I went to two open houses yesterday. My sister and her partner are looking for a place. The homes we looked at were on the same street in Oakland. One was listed by an agent with Pacific Union, a prominent Bay Area brokerage company; the other was a FSBO.

The first home, the one listed with a broker, is marketed adequately. It seems to be priced right. The listing appears on pacunion.com, Realtor.com, and Trulia. There are eight photos. Not enough, but better than some.

The second home, the FSBO, is more interesting. It too seems to be priced properly. The owner paid this company, (yikes, what a crappy site!) one of those flat-fee posting "brokers", to get the home into the MLS and thus onto everyone’s IDX display, including that of Pacific Union. No big deal — that’s been done for ten years. And, as we know, it produces results less than 20% of the time.

But … this homeowner also set up a Blog for his home. With 47 photos. He also took the time to list it for sale on Zillow, adding a bunch of photos there.

There are lots of things he did not do with the blog that he should have. He chose the wrong platform. And the photography is not exactly inspiring. But he still did a better job marketing his property online, where it really counts, than the pro down the street did.

It made me think about the impact Web 2.0 will have on the FSBO market. Despite more than a decade of Realtor bashing and consumer empowerment, the percentage of homes sold without an agent has remained flat. But will that continue now that consumers have access to the same free or nearly free Web 2.0 applications Realtors are just starting to adopt? Now that it’s cheap and easy to get listings into the MLS, and most public listings websites no longer view placing FSBOs next to their broker listings taboo? Now that forking over big bucks for print advertising is no longer necessary?

I don’t think so.

The entry of generations X and Y into the real estate market has been talked about a great deal — usually in relation to practitioners’ level of preparedness to "deal" with them. But many of these consumers, whose FSBO parents fumbled with useless "FSBO kits" and homemade yard signs, will look at the bounty of Web 2.0 applications — from blogs to video editing and sharing tools — and think long and hard before they pay 6% to have their property marketed just adequately.

Web 2.0 will empower Realtors with the desire and skills to master its practice. It will do the same for the FSBO-inclined consumer. With each coming year, an increasing number professionals who ignore this reality will be left in the lurch.

I think we’re going to see a significant increase in FSBO’s in the coming years. What do you think?

Brian Boero