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Can I Sell My Own Apartment?

That depends who you are and how much you’re prepared to put up with. Take a look in the mirror when you are at your most Zen like and ask whether you’re willing to put up with crazy people parading through your apartment, criticizing every decorating decision you’ve made, opening your closets and test flushing your toilet, asking you ridiculous questions, and offering less than you paid for your place.  If the answer is anything less than an unqualified “yes,” forget about it. FSBO is not for you.

If you think you have the necessary fortitude, read on.

1.  Set the right price: This may be emotionally difficult in a market where you may actually have to face the reality that your apartment is worth less than you paid for it.  Denial will only dig you into a deeper hole, as potential buyers likely will pass by your place, forcing you ultimately to sell for even less. 

It’s easier than ever to get comparable prices by logging onto Streeteasy or Blockshopper, but don’t forget to factor in differing apartment conditions into the price calculation.

2. Target the low hanging fruit — the potential buyers in your building who may want to trade up or down or purchase the adjacent unit.  For there purposes it doesn’t matter if they’re friend or enemy so long as they have the money.

3. Prepare a slick one page brochure  – with color photos and basic data about the apartment, and put one under everyone’s door. Such apartment information is an exceptions to the do not stuff anything under the door rule (see, Deliver De Letter.) because it is viewed as an invitation, not a confrontation.

4. Arrange for an open listing. This is best done by contacting the sales directors of several brokerage firms so that the arrangement is institutionally sanctioned.  You don’t sign any contract, you market the apartment yourself, and only pay a commission (usually 3% as opposed to the usual 6%) if a broker brings the buyer to the deal.  If the buyer comes on his own or you find him, there’s no commission.

5.  Hold an open house:  In this market probably more than one. It’s the best way to get the most people to see the apartment with the least effort.  Some buildings don’t allow open houses (see, Closed Houses)which can make it much more difficult to sell on your own because unlike brokers you don’t have a built-in customer base.

6.  Be prepared to answer questions about the building: Topics most often asked about are sublet policy, cash reserves, renovations, and finances. It’s a good idea to have the offering plan and amendments available.

7. Piggyback on other open houses: You don’t have to advertise every week.  Just find out if anyone else in the building is having an open house, and ask the doormen to invite all comers to visit your apartment as well. Once would-be buyers are there, they tend to look at all available apartments.

8,  Avoid unpleasant surprises: Before you proceed to contract, insist on seeing  enough financial data so that you are confident the buyer meets the building’s financial requirements, otherwise you may have to start the whole process all over again, which can take months. Just because the buyer is pre-approved by the bank, doesn’t guarantee he’ll be blessed by the board.

9.  Make sure the application is right:  If there’s no broker involved in the transaction, it’s up to you to help fill the void by making sure the buyer’s application is complete and correct before it’s submitted to the board.  If numbers aren’t your thing, you may consider getting help from your lawyer or accountant to be sure everything is in order the first time round.

10. Take a step down role:  Not ready to sell on your own, especially in this market?  There are still things you can do   Even if you decide to sign an exclusive listing agreement, try to add an exclusion if you bring in the buyer from the building.  In addition, many resident brokers are more prone to negotiate a notch down in their commission rate because it may take them less work to make the sale than an outsider.


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