Dear BuyOwner.com, Thanks for Absolutely Nothing
You see the commercials on television all the time. A couple just sold their home using BuyOwner.com and saved $24,000. But are you really getting a truthful story. Would it suprise you to know that in order for that couple to have saved $24,000, their home would have had to sell for almost $890,000? And would it surpise you to learn that only about 10% of For Sale by Owners actually succeed in selling their homes? And lastly, wouldn't you be shocked to learn that homes sold For Sale by Owner sell for an average of 13% less than those sold by qualified Realtors?
There's a reason BuyOwner.com doesn't tell you these statistics... because it's goes counter to everything they're trying to sell. According to BuyOwner.com, you put a listing on their website, throw a sign in the yard, and the buyers will come running. This simply isn't the truth anymore. The 10% success rate shows us that. The problem is that selling a home is a full time job - and that job requires a professional that has been trained, and understands the nuances involved in getting a sale from a signed contract to an actual closing. Many times finding the buyer is the easy part. You see, one of the biggest problems with these types of deals is that if you're paying the agent up front - what motive do they have to help you sell your home. Their sign in your yard is advertising for them.
The letter copied below is from one of our clients who tried to sell their home FSBO to begin with. The letter was written to BuyOwner.com requesting a refund for services that were never performed. Oddly enough, many of the things they described in the letter were specific benefits of using a Realtor. As you can read, it didn't go very well and they had to end up calling us to help them sell their home. They wasted $2500 UP FRONT and received no discernable results from it.
6500 Beltline Road, Suite 100
Irving, TX 75063
We are sending this letter to inform you that we are formally disputing the fees associated with our listing (DAL15735). We believe BuyOwner has provided unsatisfactory and ineffective service that is not commensurate with the premium charged for said service. A written billing dispute with our enclosed list of unsatisfactory items has been formally submitted to Fidelity MasterCard for resolution.
You charged us $2649 on 7/8/2005 for your services. We are willing to negotiate a small portion of the "disputed" amount of $2649.00 to cover:
- BuyOwner's photography fees (not to exceed $200)
- BuyOwner's fees for their sales "verbiage" (not to exceed $100)
We expect all other fees associated with their "advertising service" (in the amount of $2349) to be reimbursed to us. We believe this amount is fair and reasonable given the short length of time and lack of traffic we've received using BuyOwner's services.
Please NOTE: We recognize you specify a strict "no refund" policy within your manual - HOWEVER - in our case,
- We were NOT made aware of this policy at ANYTIME prior to or during the sale.
- This policy was similarly unavailable on your website.
- We only received said "policy" approximately 4 days following the posting date on our credit card when we received the "A Better Way to Sell Your Home" manual.
The following aspects of BuyOwner's Service Quality we find unsatisfactory:
HUNDREDS OF VIEWS BUT NOT ONE INTERESTED BUYER
According to your website, our property has been viewed online at buyowner.com, and of all those views not a single one has resulted in a qualified showing. All 25 buyers who HAVE physically been shown our home have been the result of: word of mouth, external realtors, our open houses, and custom marketing we invested in (third party websites, custom flyers, and our purchase of "open house" signage)
BUYOWNER FLYER QUALITY
The BuyOwner PDF flyer produced from your website lacks critical information about our property (like square footage) and is not editable. In addition, the BuyOwner flyer does not format correctly (we had a sentence run into our pictures) thereby appearing unprofessional to prospective buyers. There is no ability to correct this and we were forced to create our own custom flyer.
There were multiple problems with the photography alone: The 360 degree photos BuyOwner commissioned were washed out and lacked clarity. The images don't appear to match the functionality of other BuyOwner listings (e.g. some other BuyOwner.com listings appear to have better quality 360s than ours). The images were never confirmed with us prior to advertising and only 6 photographs were taken at all and again, their quality was never confirmed with us prior to posting.
The BuyOwner photographer seemed in a "big rush" to get in and out. Since photographic representation of a home is a critical aspect of selling the home, we feel this service was unsatisfactory. That said, we recognize this is a "sunk cost" and are willing to compensate BuyOwner accordingly.
The BuyOwner.com website has generated only 1 call since July 7th (July 10th) or approximately 2 weeks of advertising. The 1 person who did call, did so through the 1-800 number, but was not pre-qualified (as promised during the BuyOwner sales pitch. Our ability to access the BuyOwner.com website [as a seller] required 2 calls to customer service even though during the BuyOwner sales pitch we were made to believe we would be contacted immediately following the sale.
The BuyOwner.com "visitor" statistics are very misleading. They do not capture unique hits. In other words, their statistics record a "view" of your home each time the same person views the page. This artificially inflates the statistics and is deceiving to the seller. BuyOwner's statistics also include the seller's viewing of their own page. In our case, this has artificially inflated our "view" statistics by at least 20-25% and is likewise deceiving to the seller. One of our biggest concerns is that no other detailed traffic statistics are provided for consumer.
During the original BuyOwner sales pitch, we were told that there was an option to advertise open houses on your website. We still to this day have been unable to locate this feature, and no one on your customer service line seems to know how to do this either. In addition, we feel that there is inadequate factual information on the website regarding our home (e.g. compare the fact-based information from BuyOwner to that of MLS). There is little to no ability for the customer to modify their listing information (beyond price, email address and some 30 word captions under the pictures).
BuyOwner.com provides no step-wise process (or even basic information) on how a potential buyer should proceed if they want to make an offer. Directing open house visitors to BuyOwner has caused confusion because there is *no* information for them on how to make an offer. Determining how to educate buyers on the "buying process" is left entirely to the home owner to sort out (though this "buyer education" was part of the sales pitch).
Lastly, the BuyOwner picture "expansion" is too small. In other words, when buyer's click the pictures, the "big" versions are still so small, prospective buyers can't see many details. As a result, we were forced to setup our own website to ensure sufficient pictorial detail.
We were never contacted by BuyOwner (unless we called them) after they "closed the sale" (though this was promised during the BuyOwner sales pitch). We asked for and were promised a 2nd [Virtual Tour] photo shoot (to correct the washed out problems in our 1st shoot). This was never performed (as promised by the BuyOwner customer service in Cypress, TX). The sales price of our home was suggested, but not substantiated by facts or comps. An MLS report was provided by BuyOwner approximately 4 days later, but by then the sales price had been established and printed & distributed on flyers.
The BuyOwner-provided yard signs are small and arguably unprofessional in appearance when compared with the competition. As a result, we are being forced to invest in our own "custom-made" yard signs. BuyOwner provided no specific "Open House" signs (only directional signs were provided). We were forced to purchase our own.
CONTRACTS AND FORMS
The contract forms provided by BuyOwner are commonly available for FREE from the TREC website. BuyOwner should not represent "reprinting" FREE documents as an asset of their paid-for service. The provided contract forms are effectively useless anyway, since they are perforated on the edge with binding holes. This forces the customer to download the same forms to print "clean" copies (for faxing, etc.). The BuyOwner's materials provide little or no direction for filling out required forms (as we were expecting based on the sales pitch).
Texas and most Title companies require certain forms to accompany a completed contract. Only one of these was provided by BuyOwner:
- Seller's Disclosure (provided)
- Addendum for Property Subject to Mandatory Membership in an Owners' Association (not provided)
- Third Party Financing Condition Addendum (not provided)
As a result, we have researched and completed each of these independently. There does not appear to be any additional contract support or advice within provided documentation (e.g. how a buyer or seller should fill the contracts out, though this was likewise promised during the BuyOwner sales pitch).