For Sale by Owner: Does it work in Manhattan?

BY MARTHA WILKIE | “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO for short) is a rarity in Manhattan when it comes to homes. In the outer boroughs, it’s more common. Although with Queens and Brooklyn being such hot markets now, it’s changing.

Manhattan buyers might look for an apartment without a real estate broker, but few will brave selling a place that way.

In the pre-Internet days, buyers and sellers used newspaper classified ads, and realtors had their own sources. Today, almost everything is available online, so you’d think it’d be easy to sell your own apartment. But it’s not.

If you’re selling, you could place an ad in The New York Times or on Craigslist, but if you’re not in the realtors’ listing service, you won’t get much exposure.

One hurdle for buyers in co-ops is preparing the board package. As anyone who has done this knows, you must present a cubic ton of paperwork, undergo great scrutiny, endure an awkward interview, and then promise your firstborn.

My husband and I sold an apartment ourselves, but it was difficult and we were lucky enough to find a buyer who already owned in the building. My husband had been president of our co-op board for more than a decade, so he knew the ropes.

Rema Mixon Parachini is an agent with Stribling. Surprisingly, she’s open to work as a buyer’s agent on an FSBO.

“I’d absolutely work with a buyer on a For Sale by Owner,” she said. “To help a buyer find a home is a pleasure and exciting and always a learning experience.

But, she’s realistic.

“Pricing is everything in Manhattan real estate,” she said. “If not priced correctly, the apartment will not move. Sellers need a broker’s expertise to analyze active and recent closed comparables and recommend a competitive price.

“The intangibles of ambience, location, building, light, view, floor and floor plan all contribute to the sale,” Parachini added. “The scope of a real estate’s firm ability to market and advertise on a multitude of platforms locally, nationally and through international partnerships is a valuable benefit to a seller.”

Here are four apartments for sale this week — two FSBOs and two from agencies:

Just steps from Washington Square Park, this apartment at 24 Fifth Ave. is For Sale by Owner.

24 Fifth Avenue at Ninth St., an FSBO offers a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment on the sixth floor in a landmarked building. $850,000. (


This Upper East Side apartment features a sleek bathroom.

An FSBO at 120 E. 90th St. features a studio (could be converted to a one-bedroom) near Central Park. Sunny, with a newly renovated bathroom, in a doorman building. $640,000.



This Kips Bay rooftop deck and its sweeping view come with a one-bedroom apartment currently on the market.

In Kips Bay, a one-bedroom, one-bath in a full-service doorman building has a gorgeous roof deck with wonderful views. It features sleek bamboo floors and four closets. $699,000.



The kitchen in this Sutton House unit, with its lime-green cabinets and cupboards, has a cheery feeling.

At Sutton House, at 415 E. 52nd St., a two-bedroom in a doorman building is on the market. Features include clever built-ins with two drop-down beds, and a lovely kitchen with marble counters. $549,000.


3 Responses to For Sale by Owner: Does it work in Manhattan?

  1. Hey guys, traditional FSBO listings may be rare in the city, but Agent Assisted FSBO listings are quite common actually. Essentially, a seller goes through a company like Hauseit and pairs up with a traditional broker who's willing to discreetly offer a flat fee MLS listing. The seller gets his or her property on the MLS and all relevant websites, and only pays a buyer agent fee if the buyer is represented. If the buyer doesn't have an agent, the seller saves all 6%. The trick with this method is having enough time to show properties, schedule, negotiate etc. by yourself. But if you work from home and aren't afraid to talk to people, it's a real game changer.

  2. I just helped a couple purchase a FSBO in Park Slope. It was easy in parts, but complications arose (just like all residential transactions, really). As much as there's a lot of good and helpful information available for the consumer (hauseit, streeteasy, etc), most buyers and sellers could still benefit from the insight, experience, and knowledge of a trustworthy agent or broker. Searching is easy, getting to the finish line can pose expensive or time-consuming challenges.

    Everyone hopes for a smooth transaction, but when the all-too-unavoidable hiccups come up, a good team behind you (agent, banker, lawyer, etc) becomes essential.

    For those that go it alone, more power to you. And good luck! A penny saved is a penny earned, after all.

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