It’s safe to say most people selling their homes want to maximize their return on investment. For some determined sellers, this path is paved by listing homes for sale by owner (FSBO). By selling without a real estate agent, you can receive some great benefits – including saving on agent commissions.
Navigating the home sale process can be a challenge – confusing real estate vocabulary and legal paperwork may be intimidating. But as with anything, a little studying can help you feel confident. If you’re wondering how to sell your house yourself, this guide demystifies the FSBO process. You’ll learn everything you need to know, including:
Can I Sell My Own House Without A Real Estate Agent?
If you’d like to sell your home yourself without an agent, you can. There are no laws requiring buyers or sellers to use agents. Since there are technical steps involved in real estate transactions – like legal paperwork – many sellers choose to use an agent to make things easier. Not all sellers use an agent, though. Last year, about 7%of all home sales were FSBO.1
- Lower commission fees: In typical real estate transactions, 5% – 6% of the total sale price goes to agent commissions – half to the buyer’s agent and half to the seller’s agent. In FSBO transactions, commissions only need to pay the buyer’s agent. This can cut fees in half.
- Total control: When selling your house yourself, you have the last say on everything. Who you let into your home and when, what changes to make and whose offer to accept are all up to you.
- Insider knowledge: Buyers often want to know insider information like what the neighborhood is like or where the best restaurants are. As the homeowner, you can share details with each potential buyer that seller’s agents aren’t as likely to know.
Along with the benefits of selling your home yourself, there are a few downsides you may want to consider:
- Limited pricing data: Agents have access to market data not available to the public. They also see in real time what comparable homes are selling for. Without access to accurate pricing data, it can be difficult to set the correct market price for your home.
- Lack of knowledge: From staging tricks to legal paperwork, technical aspects of real estate transactions can be difficult without the appropriate knowledge.
- Reduced market pool: About 28% of buyers find their homes through real estate agents.1 This means if you market your home yourself, you may be missing out on almost one-third of the market pool.
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and want to sell your home yourself, it’s time to think about what steps the process involves. With this road map in mind, you’ll be prepared to navigate the home sale process from start to finish – no agent necessary!
1. Determine The Market Value
Before you can get the right price for your house, you need to know what the market price is. Incorrectly pricing your home can negatively impact its ability to sell. Your house may be worth more or less than you think, so it’s best to consult the data to find out your home’s true market value. You can do this in a few ways:
- Request a competitive market analysis from an agent. This report uses data from comparable properties and known market trends to produce an estimate. This service is usually free and gives a fairly accurate estimate. Plus, you may like the agent and decide not to go FSBO.
- Get an appraisal. Like with a competitive market analysis, an appraisal creates a report from a licensed professional who looks at comparable properties. By law, appraisals are done by neutral third parties. This means your estimate won’t be affected by biases and will be the true value of your home.
- Make an educated guess. The process for determining a home’s market value is generally the same no matter who does it: Look at comparable properties online, consider any unique features in the home and produce an estimate. You can do this process yourself if you feel comfortable.
2. Prepare Your Home To Sell
Once you know the basic market value of your home, you can start preparing your home to sell. In this part of the process, you’ll decide what changes, updates or cosmetic fixes you’ll perform to make your home market-ready.
Preparing your home for the market can be as big or small of an undertaking as you’d like. Just make sure whatever changes you make increase your home’s value. Remodeling the basement may sound like a good investment, for example, but on average it only recoups about 70% of its cost.2
On the other hand, something as small as mowing the lawn or pruning bushes can increase curb appeal. Having curb appeal can increase your home’s value up to 7%, so be sure your home’s exterior makes a good first impression on buyers!
3. Market Your Home Listing
Now that your home is ready for the market, it’s time to get the word out. Marketing your home is one of the most important steps in the home sale process. After all, the more potential buyers who know about your home, the more likely you are to get the offer you’re looking for.
Over half of buyers find their homes through the internet, so creating online listings is a great first step. Create listings for your home in as many online spaces as possible, such as:
- The MLS database
- Social media platforms
- Online classified ads
- FSBO websites (jump link to FSBO website section below)
While only real estate professionals can create MLS listings, there is a work around. You can pay participating brokerages a flat-rate fee to create an MLS listing for you. It’s likely worth it – many agents find homes to show buyers through the MLS service, and about one-third of buyers find homes through an agent. Not creating an MLS listing for your home means you’ll likely miss out on a huge part of the market.
While listing your home online, be sure to get great photos of your home. It may take some additional time or money, but staging your home can lead to major benefits:
- 80% of real estate agents said staging helped buyers picture themselves in the home.4
- 23%t of agents said staged homes received offers 1% – 5% higher than non-staged homes.4
- Staged homes sell 33% – 50% faster than non-staged homes.5
4. Adjust As Needed
With your home officially on the market, the next step is making any necessary adjustments. This step requires you to think like a real estate agent. Ask yourself the following questions to see where your strategy may need to shift:
- Has your home been on the market for too long with no offers?
- Do you need to lower your price?
- Is your marketing not turning out any leads?
- Do you need to just wait and see what happens?
- How are other homes in your area selling? How quickly and for what price?
Homes that sit longer on the market tend to sell for less, so it’s important to watch your listing’s performance in the first month or so. Be quick to make necessary adjustments to avoid your listing going stale.
5. Negotiate An Offer
Receiving your first offer can be exciting! If you’d like to change the terms of sale put forth in the offer, you can negotiate and respond with a counteroffer. While negotiating your offer, confirm a few key matters first:
- Ensure the buyer is qualified (do they have a preapproval letter?)
- Make sure everything is in writing
- Ensure all documents are signed
With these basics out of the way, you can consider negotiation tactics. One of the best things you can do is find out what the other party wants. Whether it’s a faster close, kitchen appliances or something else – knowing what the buyer wants puts you in a powerful position. Offer them something they want and include something you want in the contract. This could be giving them a faster close in exchange for a temporary rent-back while you find new housing.
Try not to get too emotionally involved in any one offer. This can cloud your judgment and lead you to sell yourself short. The right offer will come to you, even if it takes some time.
6. Close On The Sale
Closing can feel stressful if you don’t know what to expect. But with the right steps, you can have your home sold in no time.
- Sign the finalized purchase agreement. After negotiating offer terms, get everything finalized in a real estate purchase contract (REPC). If your buyer has an agent, they may facilitate this process. Otherwise, you can get a template from your local association of REALTORSⓇ. (A quick Google search should do the trick.)
- Find a title company. After the purchase contract is signed, the buyer will deposit earnest money with a title company that you, the seller, select. Earnest money protects you in case the buyer backs out after the contracted deadline.
- Provide disclosures. You must provide any information relevant to the sale to the buyer. This includes roof damage, leaks, pests, structural issues or anything else that could affect the buyer’s decision.
- Make your home available for inspection. Most lenders require inspections, so your buyer will almost always need access to your home for inspection. Make your home available so as not to miss any deadlines that could kill the sale.
- Run a preliminary title report. This report shows whether the title is clear and also provides relevant information on how to transfer property ownership to the buyer. You can use the same title company you found to hold earnest money.
- Sign documents at settlement. The title company will facilitate signing documents to transfer ownership and record the sale with the county. Congratulations, your home is sold!
When selling your home, most of what you’ll need to do legally involves paperwork. It may seem like a hassle, but having the proper paperwork protects both you and the buyer throughout the sale process. Incorrect paperwork can lead to problematic loopholes – like the one a California seller used to squat rent-free in a sold home for over a year.
Real estate attorneys aren’t required in every state, but you may decide you want one anyway to make sure everything’s squared away. With or without an attorney, here’s the legal paperwork you’ll need to sell your house:
- Mortgage loan documentation: You’ll be required to provide information on your current mortgage, like account details or the payoff amount. You can request this documentation from your lender.
- Seller disclosures: Laws vary by state regarding what exactly needs to be disclosed. It’s wise to disclose any issues you know about to avoid renegotiation if the inspection finds undisclosed problems. One mandatory disclosure across the U.S. is the lead-based paint disclosure.
- Deed: You’ll need the original deed to your house that you received when you bought the property. If you can’t find it, you can request a copy at your local recorder’s office.
- Property tax documentation: This documentation will be used to give buyers an estimate of how much tax they will pay on the property yearly.
- Identification: Like any official transaction, you’ll need to verify your identity to close on the home sale. This is usually done by showing a photo ID during settlement.
- Purchase and sale agreement: After negotiating an offer, the final contract outlines all matters associated with the sale, including earnest money amount, contingencies, deadlines and more.
With all the appropriate paperwork, your home sale should go off without a hitch.
Sell Your Home Yourself: Websites And Apps
The most prevalent way buyers find homes is through the internet, so having a strong online presence for your home sale is key. Where should you be posting your home, though? The easiest way to show up in as many places as possible with the least time commitment is to create an MLS listing.
Technically, only real estate professionals can create MLS listings, but FSBO sellers can pay brokerages a flat listing fee or use an FSBO site that offers an MLS listing option. Many sites like Redfin syndicate their data from the MLS database, which means one MLS listing can turn into several listings across the internet.
Most real estate agents use the MLS database to find homes to show buyers. So not only does an MLS listing get your home advertising on multiple syndication sites, but it also gets advertising from agents.
Many of these sites come with apps you can download to make managing your listing on mobile easier. There are also additional apps you may find useful that can help you through different parts of the selling process:
- Houzz: This app can help you prepare your home for market and includes helpful tips on home updates, staging and design.
- Family Handyman DIY Tip Genius: Another great tool for making your home market-ready, this app offers time- and money-saving tips for DIY home projects.
- MagicPlan: Create a floor plan for your listing by simply taking photos as you walk through your home. MagicPlan will take the photos and convert them into a quality floor plan image.
- 360 Panorama: Want to offer a virtual tour of your home without paying a premium price? This app turns your phone into a fully featured panoramic camera.
- Evernote: There’s a lot to remember throughout the home sale process. Evernote can help you stay organized while you collect images, ideas and notes in one place.
Now that you’ve navigated the home sale process on your own, why not take it one step further? Becoming a real estate agent can be a great full- or part-time career path. As a real estate agent, you can enjoy high income potential, a flexible schedule, meeting new people and seeing incredible homes.
If you’d like to pursue a career in real estate, here’s how you can do it:
- Research state requirements: Different states have different requirements for licensure, including age, necessary education, exams and fees. You can find this information on your state’s real estate regulatory office website.
- Take a pre-licensing course: You’ll need to complete a pre-licensing course from an accredited real estate school before you can sit for your licensure exam. Prices for courses vary, but $350 is a fair estimate.
- Take the licensing exam: Your licensing exam covers both national and state-specific questions. The exam price ranges from $100 – $300.
- File your application: With a passing exam score, you can file for licensure at your local real estate regulatory office. The office will review your application and, if everything’s in order, approve your request. Your license will become active.
- Join a brokerage: Real estate professionals work under a state-licensed brokerage that oversees real estate transactions to make sure legal and ethical standards are upheld. Once you find a brokerage, you’ll be ready to act as a professional agent.
Like any small business, real estate agents would be wise to invest in a marketing strategy. This can help you find the right clients to represent and keep your bottom line growing. For tips on marketing yourself as a real estate agent or small business, download our infographic below.
Selling your home yourself may feel challenging at first, whether through FSBO or through a real estate agent, but with this road map, you’ll be celebrating closing in no time. And any equity you receive from the sale can go straight toward securing your new home.
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