Sissy Lappin, a veteran real estate agent in Houston, wrote the book “Simple and Sold to help buyers and sellers take an active role in real estate transactions. CONTRIBUTED BY Sissy Lappin

Homeowners take bigger role in selling their houses

The explosion of the DIY movement has left few home-related subjects untouched. Whether it’s refinishing the kitchen cabinets, laying a tile patio or designing an entire house, more people are tackling projects themselves. So when it comes to buying or selling, homeowners and buyers also want to be actively engaged in the process.

“DIY is everywhere, from TurboTax to E-Trade, so it was only a matter of time before it started happening in the real estate industry,” said Sissy Lappin, a Houston-based agent with 20 years in the business and author of “Simple and Sold,” a guide to DIY home selling. “Americans now have access to the same information as an agent. You can get details on the value of your home and the neighbor’s, too, in a couple of clicks. Something that used to be complicated can be broken down to easy, actionable steps. You don’t need experience; you just need a good dose of common sense.”

Lappin wrote her book last year with millennials in mind, but it’s become a favorite across the generational divide, she said. “Ninety-percent of people who buy it are over the age of 50. They’re part of the consumer group that has confidence. They’re on (price-tracking website) Zillow; they’re watching HGTV for tips on how to stage a house. They’re seeing that there’s not even that much to negotiate on the contract.”

Lappin takes readers through the steps to create a marketing package with advice on how to set a price, attract buyers and negotiate a deal. And she offers plenty of don’ts: Don’t go with the generic red-and-white sale sign with a phone number Sharpie-d in; don’t underestimate the value of decluttering; don’t take your own photos.

“Everyone with an iPhone thinks they’re a photographer,” she said. “Get professional photos. And don’t be afraid of the paperwork. If you are, hire a real estate attorney for a few hundred dollars. And most important, be sure to price the home based on what’s sold. So many times, people price it on active sales, but the appraiser will only look at what’s sold.”

Buyers and sellers who want to be hands-on in the process will also find support from, an Atlanta-based national brokerage that offers flat- and no-fee services. Managing broker Phil Karp said the company offers a menu of options, including rebates to buyers who work with agents and a mobile app that does everything from finding for-sale properties to making offers.

“Years ago, selling meant an agent put out a sign and maybe placed an ad in the paper,” he said. “Only local and drive-by prospects saw it was selling. This program is nationwide, so it allows a person in Minneapolis moving to Atlanta the chance to see the product. It also gives owners the tools to market a property on their own.”

The firm’s goal is to give consumers back some of the power in the process, said Karp. “Before, consumers didn’t have the tools they needed. But the internet has changed that. Our goal is to figure out what the seller needs. Not everybody needs an agent or an MLS (Multiple Listing Service) listing.”

The firm’s options include having the seller show the property and work directly with agents who bring prospective buyers; letting the seller manage the marketing with an MLS listing as well; or having a professional agent handle all of the particulars. There’s also a program that gives buyers access to listings so they can visit only the properties they’ve screened in advance.

“In the last five or six years, I’ve had more clients telling me what they want to buy, and they know because they’ve looked at many search engines,” he said. “The majority of buyers nowadays are taking an average of three or four months to narrow down neighborhood, school district, the price of home. They don’t waste time seeing 15 or 20 houses. But we can jump in, show the homes they want to see, negotiate an educated offer based on market statistics and put them in a position so the offer is competitive, then follow the transaction through.”

Lappin isn’t surprised that today’s consumers want a more active role in the buying-and-selling process. “After all,” she said, “it’s not the formula to Coca-Cola.”

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