By Debbie Hanlon

When the “gentleman” in pyjama pants and a strap t-shirt, holding a beer in one hand and cigarette in the other, told me to get off his property before slamming the door in my face, I figured it was time to rethink my approach to For Sale By Owners. That was during my first year in real estate and I knew that if I couldn’t come up with a way to work FSBOs, I’d be missing out on a lot of potential business.

So, I started with what I knew about them:

  1. They want to sell their house.
  2. They don’t want to pay full commission and some don’t want to pay any commission at all.

I also knew that a whole lot of other real estate salespeople were after their business too.



That meant I had to come up with a way that not only engaged the FSBO, but also stood out from everything else that was coming their way.

While a lot of agents were content to make contact and ask for a walk through to get the business, I decided to go a little further and kick it up another notch. Instead of pinning my hopes on a one-visit stand, I’d get into a relationship with them. And that, as we all know, is what every real estate transaction is, it’s a relationship between you and your clients. Just like in the real world, not all those relationships run smoothly or end well.

In our business, you’ll often notice when two or more salespeople get together, they end up talking about their ex’s, or their lost FSBO, and you hear their lamentation, oh, if only I had tried harder, or it was their fault they were so unreasonable. Listen for it the next time you’re around the water cooler or at the watering hole. It’s total hogwash. Truth is, all that FSBO wants to do is sell their home. As agents, we are by far the best catalyst to get the job done, so they need us. Knowing how to get that message through to them will turn the FSBOs into YBFs – your biggest fans!

With money in mind and none in the bank, I developed a For Sale By Owner System based on the psychology of selling. Now, most salespeople come at FSBOs with facts – “on average it’ll take them this much longer to sell”, “they’ll lose this much money”, “agents won’t show their property”, blah blah. Some sales reps come riding in on a white horse claiming they have a buyer when they don’t. We all know sales reps like that, don’t we? Don’t be one of those wanna-be white knight salespeople. They only make it harder on all of us.

The truth is, people don’t make decisions based on facts; they make them based on emotions and then justify them with facts. So, I threw facts and statistics out the window and concentrated instead on how it must feel to try and sell your own home.

“That’s where you raised your kids, had holiday dinners, entertained friends and lived your life with all its ups and downs. That was your home, and again very importantly, that was your hard-earned equity. Every cent of it was not just another house to go on the market.”

All of that doesn’t stir up facts, it stirs up emotions. Working this emotional angle also allowed me to empathize with them and let them know I felt their frustration, their fear, their headaches and stress. So instead of standing on my side of the river and yelling for them to come over, I went across to them.

I also knew that people are egocentric; they want to know what’s in it for them and how it will help them. So, I made my FSBO system all about them. This wasn’t me bragging about what a great agent I was or how many houses I’d sold, this was about the emotional roller coaster they were on as they tried to sell their own home. This was me letting them know I felt their pain and that I was there for them and would work as hard as I could to get them maximum dollar. If they decided to list with a Realtor, I wanted that Realtor to be me.

Back when I started in this crazy industry, Facebook did not exist, so one thing I’ve done with my systems is adapt them to work on social platforms. Yet, even back before social media I knew that people think in terms of people, not facts and figures. So, my system also had to show them what kind of person I was. Did I have a sense of humour? (That one depends who you ask.) Was I savvy to new technology? Was I someone they’d be interested in having a relationship with?

With those three factors in mind, I developed a seven-step FSBO system that became so successful I named my bird FSBO after it. This year alone I have listed 11 FSBOs, five of which have sold, six have referred more listings and several have converted into buyers and that’s not even mentioning the business I have grown from those listings. Let’s say my BFs are growing like weeds, pretty weeds at that!

In my next column, we’ll go a little deeper into my FSBO system and the psychology behind it that made me lots of money without having to work like the early bird.  If you want to know how I did it please contact me at debbie@debbiehanlon.com or like my page on Facebook Debbie Hanlon Real Estate. Come on, let’s be BFs! Happy selling.