What it takes to sell your home without a real estate agent
The biggest advantage of selling your home yourself is the savings in sales commissions.
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If you’re ready to sell your home and want full control over the process, you can sell your home as “for sale by owner,” or FSBO. With this strategy, you won't hire a real estate agent, so you won't have to pay a commission, but you’ll be responsible for a lot of the work that an agent would typically do.
A good real estate agent does a lot to earn their commission, from helping you determine the right listing price to negotiating offers and everything in between. But the process can be time-consuming and expensive: sellers’ agents generally get paid around 2% to 3% of the home price at closing.
If you want to save time or money, there are options out there to sell your home yourself. But it’s important to know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
Here’s how to sell your house as FSBO.
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It’s important to set the right price for your home. Overpricing your home will extend the time it takes to sell, and you may end up having to lower your price. You could also run into issues when the home is appraised by a lender and they determine it isn’t worth what the buyer offered.
Normally a real estate agent would help you determine the right price using a comparative market analysis, also known as “running the comps” in your area. When selling your home yourself, you’ll need to use public records and recently sold homes to determine the right asking price.
Websites like Trulia and Zillow can give you a quick estimate of the potential value of your property, said Martin Orefice, founder at Rent To Own Labs. “Just to be sure, get a real estate agent to run a competitive market analysis for you or hire an appraiser to get the best estimate of your property,” he said.
Step into the shoes of the buyer and ask yourself questions like, ‘Is this home the right fit for me? What does it lack? Are the design and other elements fine?’ The answer to these questions will help you spot any possible bottlenecks.
“Check for repairs, sanitize it, do necessary touch-ups, and make the whole home presentable for the buyer,” said Orefice.
You can boost the curb appeal by working on landscaping, lawn maintenance and cleaning the exterior of your home. On the inside, make your home sparkle by shampooing carpets, scrubbing tiles, washing windows, cleaning countertops, removing personal items and hiding valuables or putting them in storage.
Fix major issues that will come up in inspections and scare off buyers as well as minor cosmetic issues like scuffed walls or sticky doors, unless you’re selling your home as is. If you have the funds, hire a professional stager to make every room look welcoming.
The vast majority of home buyers start their search by shopping online. This means that your home’s online listing will be your first opportunity to make a great first impression with potential buyers. Start by preparing the listing, then branch out to other markets to make sure your home has all the visibility it can get.
First, take good pictures of your house — this is the first thing buyers look at. Consider hiring a professional photographer to make your home stand out. Next, write a concise listing description that includes an engaging headline and opening statement. Make sure to include the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, lot size, standout features and neighborhood details.
When you’re ready, publish the listing as a FSBO sale on Zillow, FSBO.com and other sites. Only real estate agents can post listings on the MLS, the official real estate database that trickles down to other sites, but you can pay a licensed agent a flat fee to list your home for you.
Don’t forget to put up a for sale sign in your yard so neighbors and passersby know your home is on the market. For a marketing boost, share your listing on local community websites and social media pages. You can also advertise your home with a listing in the real estate section of the local paper.
“Create flyers and brochures with an attractive copy to entice the buyers,” said Orefice. “If you’re active on social media, leverage platforms like Facebook and Instagram to advertise your home and gain the attention of prospective buyers.”
Now it’s time to do the work of selling your home. You should be ready for agents to call you about your home at any time. Most agents work evenings and weekends, so keep your phone nearby. Be ready to vacate your home on short notice to let buyers in. You may want to consider setting up a lockbox with a key to give agents easy access. To get a maximum number of showings in a short time, schedule an open house on a weekend.
When you receive feedback or criticism of your home, don’t take it personally. Make note of comments on listing price, home condition and features. If your home is listed for several weeks and you don’t get any offers, you may need to lower the price.
You must be prepared to review offers and negotiate with buyers’ agents. Agents will present offers in the form of a standard contract, so make sure to read them carefully. The buyers will need to provide a check for an earnest money deposit and provide a pre-approval letter from a lender (unless they’re paying in cash).
In most cases, the buyer will come with an offer that is below your asking price. That’s where negotiation steps in. Establish a two-way conversation by listing your needs and requirements as well as why you think the price justifies your claim, said Orefice.
“Be an active listener and give space to the buyers to understand their side of the story. This contributes to better engagement and increases your chances of closing a better deal,” he said.
Make sure you are familiar with the disclosure requirements in your state. You may be required to disclose such things as structural problems, past flooding issues and more. If you leave something out of the disclosure forms, your buyer could potentially sue you for not disclosing an issue.
Consider hiring a real estate attorney for help. Some states require attorneys to be present at closing to protect your interests, but you may want one on hand through the entire sale process to help you review and complete legal documents.
“Contact a closing attorney to crystallize the closing decision. Before that, align your documents to reduce any possible hassle in the process and execute the whole process with ease,” said Orefice.
The biggest advantage of selling FSBO is the savings in sales commissions, which would normally come directly out of any profits you receive from selling your home.
But FSBO isn’t for everyone. The time and effort, logistics, and legal and regulatory hoops you have to jump through are a big commitment. An agents would help you through most of this, but instead you will be responsible for getting your home in showing condition, reviewing offers and completing paperwork.
It's up to you to determine if saving the sales commission is worth the extra time and effort you'll need to put in to sell your home on your own.
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Image: Thomas Barwick | Getty