Getty Images/Julie Denesha Andy Vitch's sold six properties in the St. Catharines area to three different buyers, all through the popular online site Kijiji.

When it comes to the high-stakes world of real estate, Andy Vitch is a DIY kind of guy.

Just since January he’s sold six properties in the St. Catharines area to three different buyers, all through the popular online site Kijiji.

Vitch estimates he saved more than $70,000 in realtor commissions selling the $1.7 million worth of triplexes, fourplexes and even his own home via the site.

While the sales got their start in cyberspace, the deals were penned over coffee at Tim Hortons after Vitch, 50, had personally vetted who seemed the best fit for his buildings and their tenants.

“I’d sold properties through realtors in the past and I just found things really went well when I stepped in and was involved in the negotiations. I didn’t want to give up control or have a realtor just showing the buildings to anyone who called them up and disturbing the tenants.

“Plus, there was the commissions …”

Vitch spent hours on email with would-be buyers like Jacqueline Paradisi — looking to purchase her first investment property — making sure she and the triplex she later purchased for $233,000 were a good fit.

“I’d never even been on Kijiji before,” says Paradisi, 41, who found out about it as a real estate tool during an investment course she took last fall.

While Paradisi had three realtors looking for properties, Vitch’s seemed the perfect fit. He even helped her sketch out a deal to take to a lawyer, although Paradisi paid one of her realtors to review it.

“The whole point here is that I’ve been able to sell all my properties by going directly to the buyer and just talking to them,” says Vitch, who spends most of his time now running a seasonal business, Sunny Point Resort, in Parry Sound.

A new survey released Tuesday by alternative realty company PropertyGuys.com found that 74 per cent of homeowners surveyed would consider an alternative to conventional realtors to sell their home as a way of saving money.

Only 19 per cent of the 1,000 adults surveyed by Angus Reid said they felt their realtor was worth the commission paid.

But less than 10 per cent of PropertyGuys’ clients seem willing to go it completely on their own, says the company’s director of partnerships.

In fact, PropertyGuys — which helps homeowners sell for a flat fee (on average of about $2,000 in the GTA) — has actually been adding services at the request of clients.

“It’s not that people are saying ‘get the realtors out of my living room and give me a computer’ — they’re just saying there’s got to be a better, cheaper way to sell my house.

“It’s just not second nature for most people.”

It can also be risky, says Richard Silver of the Toronto Real Estate Board. He’s just finalizing a deal right now with a homeowner who had agreed to sell to a neighbour for $500,000. When financing fell apart, the house went on MLS for $549,000 and sold in a bidding war for well over asking, says Silver.

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