Wednesday, July 05, 2006


How many FSBO sellers eventually list with agents?

Author Robert Irwin, in Tips and Traps When Buying a Home, writes that "[a]lmost 90 percent of sellers who start out trying to sell FSBO eventually give up and sell using an agent." A pdf-formatted article by realestatecoach.com puts the figure at 84%. Steven Poscente, in a 1998 Realty Times article, wrote that "studies show that 70% eventually hire a Realtor." (He also claims, without providing evidence, that "80% of those who don’t say, 'Next time I hire a Realtor.'")

Are any of these statistics accurate or even plausible?

I decided to investigate by looking at the Massachusetts Association of Realtors 2005 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. It's drawn from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2005 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers and contains lots of national data. It also has the advantage of being freely available on the web; the NAR charges non-members $125 for its version of the report.

According to the Massachusetts report, the NAR found that 13% of successful property transactions in the US in 2005 were FSBOs. The only way that 70% of FSBO sellers could have given up and listed with an agent is for 43% of all home sales to have started as FSBOs. But according to the NAR, only 4% of agent-assisted transactions in 2005 were originally listed as FSBOs.

The 84% figure and 90% figure are also implausible. For 84% of FSBOs to have given up, 81% of all home sales would have had to start out as FSBOs. For 90% of FSBOs to have given up, 130% of all home sales would have had to start out as FSBOs--a clear impossibility.

How about Poscente's claim that 80% of FSBO sellers who succeed in selling on their own would hire a realtor the next time? The NAR's 2005 study also calls that into question. In their survey, FSBO sellers reported the highest level of satisfaction with the selling process, with 80% "very satisfied" and only 3% "very dissatisfied." Of those who sold their homes through a real estate agent/broker, only 65% were "very satisfied" while 5% were "very dissatisfied."


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