If you’ve ever tried to sell your home yourself without hiring a real estate agent (called “for-sale-by-owner” or FSBO, in the biz), you were likely overwhelmed by the number of phone calls you got from real estate agents trying to get you to hire them. It’s a huge hassle. Fielding sales calls from real estate agents is an unfortunate, but very real, cost of selling your home directly. But now technology can help.

Pestering Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents  who “work FSBOs” as they say, take a couple of different approaches to pitching for-sale-by-owner home sellers.

Direct approach. In the direct approach, an agent calls and tries to scare the hell out of a home seller by listing all the reasons the home seller will fail and how real estate agents sell homes for more money anyway so it’s foolish for anyone to try and sell a home themselves when they can actually make more money by using a real estate agent to sell their home. Supposedly. Of course, it’s easy for home sellers to hang up on those phone calls so agents have evolved a more complex strategy.

Indirect approach. In the indirect approach, the goal of an agent’s call is to set up an in-person meeting between the seller and the agent to get their foot in the door. That way the agent can give their sales pitch to the home seller in person where the seller can’t hung up and where the agent’s salesmanship can shine.

So how do agents get sellers to agree to an in-person sales call meeting? Well, the more ethical of these agents will ask the seller if they can preview the home for their clients and then during the showing they pitch the seller.

The less ethical of these agents will say they actually have a flesh and blood client who is interested in the home but they would like to preview the home without the client. There usually is no client. The agent is just trying to get some face time with the home seller to start a relationship / make a sales pitch.

Pain in the neck. All of these sales phone calls from agents, whether they take the direct or indirect approach, are a huge pain in the neck for most FSBO home sellers.

A real estate agent friend of mine, for example, called 30 to 40 sellers who had their homes listed in Zillow as for-sale-by-owners. Most of the sellers hung up on him immediately when he said he was a real estate agent. Apparently, many FSBO home sellers felt a lot of animosity toward phone calls from real estate agents.

Your Information is Sold to Real Estate Agents

Sold! Did you know with today’s online information technology real estate agents can buy daily lists of the latest for-sale-by-owner homes to hit the market, including phone numbers and contact information for the sellers? Yep, a whole mini-industry helps real estate agents sell to FSBOs.

That’s one reason why you, Mr. and Mrs. FSBO Seller, started getting so many calls from real estate agents immediately after you put your home up for sale – your information was sold to a bunch of real estate agents.

The real estate agents may even call you on phone numbers that weren’t in the ad! That’s because the companies that sell the FSBO lists collect all the phone numbers they can find that are associated in any way at all with the home’s address or the homeowners’ names.

A New Idea

Bad time to call. FSBO sellers have a huge dilemma, they want to talk to serious home buyers but they don’t want to waste their time constantly fielding calls from salespeople. Selling a home is already a crazy time of life what with getting the house ready to sell, buying another house, getting ready to move and so on. It would be a huge convenience if for-sale-by-owner home sellers were able to cut out sales calls and focus their energy on real potential buyers.

One new strategy that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere before and that should help winnow out the sales calls from the authentic buyer calls would be for the FSBO home sellers to use burner phone numbers instead of their real phone numbers in all of their signs and advertising when selling homes.

Burner Phone Numbers

Disposable. Burner phone numbers are temporary, disposable phone numbers you rent. They take their nickname from the disposable, “burner” phones you see on TV and in movies being used by drug dealers and other bad guys. Burner phone numbers, aren’t  physical phones, they’re phone numbers you rent and then cancel or “burn” when you’re done using them.

Cheaper. Burner phone numbers are a lot cheaper and more convenient than buying a physical burner phone. The burner phone number will ring on your own phone, at least temporarily, as well as the phone’s real number, of course. You don’t have to carry another phone or learn the quirks of a new phone. When you’re done with the project, it’s easy to “burn” the phone number and stop paying for it.

Some places where people give out burner phone numbers are on Craigslist, when dating, on Airbnb, to car dealers, and at work. FSBOs should be added to that list.

Advantages of Disposible Numbers When Selling FSBO

Privacy. You’re not pasting your phone number all over the internet. All calls from legit buyers should come to the burner number.

Voicemail to instruct callers. Some of the burner phone number services have voicemail. One of the biggest advantages to using a burner phone number is that you can create a custom voicemail message specifically tailored to calls that come in on the home.

Voicemail to screen callers. This is the other huge advantage. You can let all incoming calls roll over to voicemail where callers can leave their messages. Then you’re in control, you decide who you want to call back. It lets you untangle your personal calls from the calls about the house.

Example. Your voicemail message might be along these lines, “Thanks for calling about 123 Oak St. It is priced at $X. We will have an open house this Sunday from 1-4. If you would like a private showing before then and you’re already pre-approved for a loan, please leave a message after the tone. If you’re not a real estate agent, please say so in the message and I’ll call you back a lot faster. Real estate agents, please leave your brokerage name when leaving a message. We are not currently offering a co-broke to buyer’s agents.” Or whatever you want.

How to Get a Burner Phone Number

Burner and Hushed. You have several products to choose from. They’re all apps you download onto your iPhone or Android phone. A company called Burner seems to be the leader in this space. Another one I played with briefly and liked was Hushed. Here are some others.

Prices. Pricing is extremely confusing with Burner but it seems to cost about $7 to add 90 days + 270 texts + 90 minutes call time to the life of a number (the first 7 days are free). You can add an additional 180 texts + 60 minutes call time for about $4. So, it’s pretty cheap. But remember that’s just the cost to rent the disposable phone number, you still have to pay your normal cell phone costs for texts, call minutes and so on.

Burner App Screenshot

Installation. I was able to quickly get Burner working on my wife’s phone, I like the interface a lot, but on my own phone I couldn’t get the custom voicemail working… yet. Hushed worked fine on my phone and it had a couple of additional options that were cool like having the calls automatically go to voicemail. If you use any of them when selling your home FSBO, I would love it if you would leave a comment below with your recommendations.

Warning. All these companies reuse their phone numbers pretty quickly. That means you might get calls from people who are calling for someone who used to have the number. If you get too many stray calls you can always get a new number. But that means before you put a burner phone number on something that would be a pain to change, like a yard sign, you probably want to own the number for a few days to see if it’s a clean one. You don’t want to be in this situation.

New technology made it easier for real estate agents to pester FSBO home sellers but now new technology is helping FSBO home sellers take back control.