Nancy A. Wilson went in search of a different way to sell homes when she opened a small agency in Catonsville.
She may have found it. Traditional brokers dismiss her idea as the latest fad, but the question is what home sellers think.
Nearly a decade in the business told Ms. Wilson that sellers have as many unique needs as house hunters. Some need help negotiating a contract. Others have no time for open houses, but have the background to negotiate on their own.
Some need exposure on the Central Maryland Multiple Listing Service, but simply can't afford a real estate agent's commission, typically up to 7 percent of the home sale price.
So, a year after opening N. A. Wilson and Associates on Frederick Road, Ms. Wilson came up with individualized plans, a "menu" from which home sellers can pick and choose. She added it to her traditional and discount brokerage services. She started the menu service in August.
Her price list breaks traditional services into 15 categories. Do you want an agent to do no more than post a professional sign, take phone calls and make appointments? That'll be $100. Thirty highlight sheets in a brochure box will cost $50. A seller who wants to screen prospective buyers, with the buyer's consent, can get a credit report and lenders' review for $35. Or, for those sellers who'll be out of town, a Realtor could show a home for $20 a day.
Traditional brokers write off such menus as a flash in the pan, something new agencies attempt as they start out.
"Menus" have never caught on, they say, because they simply can't sell houses the way full-service real estate agents can.
"They try to get a foot in the door by promising lower fees, but to get the job done right they have to do all the things a traditional broker does," said D. R. Grempler, president of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc.
"Consumers will think that's all they need. But the reason traditional brokers are still around is we do the job and charge what it takes to do the job," he said.
Ms. Wilson concedes that the pick-and-choose method is not for everyone.
"You're not going to have all the benefits of a full-service plan, but if price is an issue it might be a way to help them sell," she said.
If a seller bought a home, say, four or five years ago, "prices have not risen like they had in the past," she said. "Some people are stuck as far as having to take a loss. If they need money for a new house, they may need to net so much to move or break even. If they were really tight on money, I'd suggest going this way."
Picking from among services is a good bet as well for someone who feels comfortable or has other experts or friends to help them negotiate the home-selling maze.
Ms. Wilson would suggest full service, though, for anyone with little time to put into selling or for someone whose house might be difficult to sell because of poor location or condition.
WHAT'S ON THE MENU
Services available at N.A. Wilson and Associates. An asterisk (*) means the fee is based on the value of the house; figures below are for a $150,000 house.
* 1. List house on MLS $450
* 2. Post sign, make appointments $100
* 3. Keybox on house $125
* 4. Show home $20/day
* 5. 20 highlight portfolios with color photos $75
* 6. Get feedback from buyers who've toured house *$150
* 7. Brochure box in yard $30
* 8. 30 highlight sheets for brochure box $50
* 9. Advertise in Central MD Home or Mid-MD Homebuyers Journal $50/issue
* 10. Hold open houses *$150
* 11. Rent open house signs $5/sign/weekend
* 12. Weekly written reports or advice on market conditions *$150
* 13. Get financial data from buyers and qualify them *$375
* 14. Get credit report on buyers $35/person
15. Prepare contract, hold deposit in escrow, negotiate terms of contract, follow up contract contingencies and arrange and attend settlement *$750