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Montana For Sale By Owner

Feb 28, 2008
While Montana is the fourth largest state by size, the population remains at slightly less than one million people. About 70 percent of the residents of the state own rather than lease their home. With mountain ranges, valleys, rivers and other scenic vistas, Montana's beauty is matched by few states. As such, many wealthy business leaders and celebrities have purchased farms and ranches in the state, which has in some cases influenced the price of real estate upwards. Additionally in recent years, homeowners' insurance rates have increased significantly. Finally, without a statewide sales tax, the Montana government relies heavily on property taxes as a source of funding for its operations. All of these factors make Montana homeowners very conscious of the need to save money when buying or selling homes in the state.

For Sale By Owner sales transactions have always taken place in real estate. The most common reason for selling by owner is that sellers do not want to pay the steep commissions typically involved in listing the property with a broker. Other reasons might include the desire to have more control over the marketing and sale of the home or the ability to negotiate one's own contract. In many cases, For Sale By Owner transactions take place between people who know each other and oftentimes the property is not formally marketed for sale. Several factors make it difficult to market a Montana property as a FSBO. For one, many people are relocating from out-of-state and are simply not going to be in the neighborhood driving around every day following new for sale signs as they pop up. Another factor is that newspaper classifieds, be it the Billings Gazette or the Missoulian, no longer benefit from the strong readership that they once had. There are simply too many alternative ways to get ones news (e.g. the Internet) and to find products and services to buy. Finally, FSBO properties do not benefit from the most powerful marketing tool ever created, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and the hundreds of websites such as Realtor.com that exclusively pull MLS data into their search results.

Realizing that the FSBO sales process can be difficult but still wanting to minimize commissions, more and more for sale by owner sellers in Billings and beyond have turned to flat fee MLS listings. Basically, rather than listing the property with a traditional agent, the FSBO seller instead lists the property with a flat fee listing company for a prepaid flat fee. The seller pays no listing commission at closing, however, continues to offer a selling commission to a buyer's agent in the event that they represent a buyer that closes escrow on the property (if no buyer's agent is involved, then the pay no commission whatsoever at closing). In this way, Montana sellers benefit from the best aspects of the For Sale By Owner marketing method as well as the exposure granted from listing a property on the MLS. Presently, there are few firms that offer this service beyond the Billings market. However, there will likely be more options available to For Sale By Owner sellers as this business model, and other Internet-powered business models take hold.
About the Author
Donald Plunkett is the President of Congress Realty, Inc., a $299 flat fee MLS listing company which serves Billings, Montana, and many other Western markets. His firm's services have been particularly popular among Montana For Sale By Owner homesellers.
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