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COMMUNITY - MAY 14, 2003

Selling home without Realtor inspires launch of FSBOLansing

By Daniel Sturm

Karen and Ian Wylie were impressed when they learned that one in four Madison, Wis., homes are sold on a real estate Web site called “For Sale by Owner.” The sales are made directly by homeowners, with no real estate agents involved. The couple liked the idea so much that they sold their own home on the Web site before moving to Michigan.

After their successful sale, they liked the idea even more and decided to establish their own, independently owned Lansing area Web site, “For Sale by Owner,” at Now less then two months old, the site has 70 listings, including houses, mobile homes, farms, and commercial lots ranging from $9,500 to $569,000. The newly established Michigan entrepreneurs say that For Sale By Owner saves seller and buyer the costs of a real estate agent and allows potential sellers the opportunity to ask buyers questions directly.

Daniel Sturm/City Pulse
Karen and Ian Wylie (left) established their own, independently owned Lansing area Web site, “For Sale by Owner,” at The sales are made directly by homeowners, with no real estate agents involved. MSU physician Erik Walchak, a Haslett resident, became one of the Wylies’ first customers.

The Wylies charge a one-time fee to sellers of $190, which includes six months of continuous Web site listing and the use of a yard sign, which displays the home owner’s phone number, and “For Sale by Owner” in large, bold letters. The Wylies put the sign up themselves and remove it when homes are sold. They post up to five photos of each property on their Web site, which offers tips on buying and selling and how to make seller’s disclosure, as well as downloadable purchase forms. Finally the properties are also advertised in local newspapers.

(City Pulse offers sellers a classified listing for six months for $50 through the Web site.)

The owners of FSBOLansing and City Pulse will sponsor a free seminar Thursday, May 22, on selling your own real estate without an agent. It will be noon to 1 p.m. at the Creole Gallery, 1218 Turner St., in Lansing’s Old Town. A carryout lunch is available next door at Portable Feast & Friends. For more information, call (517) 333.1730 or email For more information on FSBOLansing, see

When the couple moved to Vanderbilt, Mich., three hours north of Lansing, they hadn’t planned to start a business in the Lansing area But Karen Wylie, a teacher and a professional pianist, said that a most synchronistic series of events eventually led them to begin this new career path.

She said they had always liked the idea of moving to Northern Michigan, where their 21-year old son, Zachary, worked as an audio engineer at a yoga retreat and where she and her husband had first met. When the natural food cooperative where Ian Wylie worked went bankrupt, they sold their house online for $155,000, which was $5,000 more than a real estate agent had estimated.

“We felt so positive about this experience that we arranged a meeting with the For Sale by Owner staff in Madison and kind of picked their brain,” Karen Wylie said. They looked for a place to offer the same service, and after several weeks of research they came up with the Greater Lansing area. Lansing seemed like an ideal place, because the FSBO domain name was still available and, more important, it seemed to be demographically very similar to Madison. “They are both capital cities, and both have major universities. We know that up to 25 percent of people want to sell their own homes,” said Ian Wylie.

The former warehouse manager was particularly struck by the fact that 36 percent of East Lansing residents had college degrees. The Wylies assumed that there would be enough room for business, because Lansing seemed to be like a place with a high mobility rate. They registered FSBO with all major search engines and started a leafleting and advertising campaign, hoping to quickly push forward their project.

After accepting a new position in Indianapolis, MSU physician Erik Walchak became one of the Wylie’s first customers. “FSBO Lansing offers a great service,” said Walchak, who lives with his family in Haslett. He is optimistic about being able to sell his home before July, because in the short time it’s been listed on the FSBO Web site, already 13 families had stopped by.

FSBO owners pointed out that the way a home appears from the street can have a big effect on the sale price. In preparation for potential buyers, Karen Wylie suggests making each room look like that of a well-run motel: clean, neat, with clear surfaces, and in good repair.

“We don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like to check into a well-run motel. It provides at least the temporary illusion of a serene, organized, uncluttered existence that leaves behind worries and cares and gives a pampered feeling to boot,” said Wylie. She also recalls having always made sure to have the smell of fresh coffee brewing when potential buyers came to view their Madison home.

She also suggests writing a detailed description of the things you love about your home, and putting it on the FSBO Web site. She believes it was the style of their own description that drew people to their home in Madison. Their message read: “This home sits on a beautiful lot of over ? acre, with majestic mature trees, a vegetable/flower garden on one side in the back and a picnic table on the other side, shaded by a cascading evergreen tree. The street is a quiet, tree-lined street across from the Monona golf course.”

Finally, the Web site business owners suggest using a lawyer to look over the final offer, and using a title company to help with the closing paperwork. The Wylies are in the process of putting together a service directory that will include the names of the major title companies, real estate attorneys, appraisers, inspectors and mortgage companies.

They say the average selling time for a home is 12 weeks, and they encourage Lansing residents to give their new virtual real estate market space a try. “We often think of the words of Yoda in ‘Star Wars’: ‘Try? There is no try. There is only do, or do not.’”

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