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Chapter 1
How to Sell Your House By Owner: Tips for Home Sellers

So you're ready to move. For whatever reason, you've got exciting places to be and exciting adventures ahead of you. Where do you start? How do you sell a house, so you can move? We're here to help you get started with selling your home, especially selling your home yourself.

You've probably seen signs in people's yards that say, "For sale by owner." Those signs indicate that the owner is selling their home without the help of a real estate agent. Believe it or not, it really is an option to sell your house without hiring a real estate agent. If you choose this option, you can avoid paying real estate commissions - which can add up to 5-6% of what you make off selling your home.

Of course, real estate agents do offer valuable insights and services, so before choosing the "For Sale By Owner" or "FSBO" option, you'll want to do so carefully. Consider the entirety of the home selling process, so you know what it entails. If the process looks like a lot to handle right now, you might want to choose to work with a real estate agent. If you've decided FSBO is for you, you're ready to get started selling your home. Read on to learn about the steps to selling a house and how to sell your house by owner.

7 Steps to Selling a House

The first step to selling your home is to figure out how you're going to sell it. Once you've settled on selling it yourself, you're ready to get started with the work that comes with selling your home.

select a price

The first step of how to sell a house by owner is to pick the price. Without a real estate agent, you won't have access to the same competitive market analysis database info, but you can still figure out the competitive price yourself with a few tips and tricks. Here's what you should look at to figure out your own competitive market analysis for your home:

  • The recent sales in your neighborhood. How much did your neighbor's house sell for? Is your neighborhood going for high prices right now and highly competitive, or are houses sitting on the market for a while? You'll want to know how recent sales in your neighborhood are going to determine how you can price your home.
  • Comparable houses in your area. What houses are similar to yours? What do they sell for in your city? Seeing what extremely similar homes sell for can help you determine what yours might sell for.
  • Market trends. Are housing prices going up or down? Are local sales increasing or decreasing in volume? Knowing what the market is doing and where it's likely to go will give you a good idea of how it might affect your own sale.
  • Amenities. Does your home have a multi-car garage? A pool? A massive deck? Amenities should be included in the price of your home, and generally, the more amenities you have, the higher you can price your home. Amenities are especially important to consider when comparing your home to comparable houses nearby.

You can use public records, home selling sites, or even a home appraiser to give you a good idea of what current trends are and what your house might be worth.

prepare your home

Once you pick your price, you need to prepare your home to be sold. Here are three ways you can prepare your home to be sold:

  • Declutter. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer and try to make your home feel as welcoming as possible. You can even begin the moving process and start storing extra stuff in a storage unit. Clean countertops, orderly shelves, and less crowded closets and cupboards will all help to make your home inviting and look good for potential buyers.
  • Decor. When you decorate your home to show to buyers, make sure you're keeping everything as neutral and pleasant as possible. Even using neutral colors has been shown to help buyers visualize a space as their own. Store any wild wall decor and tone down some eye-popping colors before you sell.
  • Maintenance. Make sure you patch any holes in walls, change the HVAC filter, and flush the water heater. Keeping your house well maintained will make it look nicer to potential buyers but also keep it ready to sell.
take quality listing photos

Photos are usually a potential buyer's first impression of your home, so it's worth taking the time to make sure they look nice. You'll need the photos prepared to list your house, so it's important to take quality photos before you're actually ready to list your home.

  • Wait for a sunny day. Take your photos when it is sunny because that will give you much better lighting.
  • Lighten up your home's interior. Make sure the lights are on and the curtains are open to light up your home as much as possible.
  • Show your home's best side. Make sure the photos are an honest reflection of your home but that they show your home in the best light possible—literally.
list your house

With your photos and price ready, it's time to list your house on the market officially. There are a variety of sites that will allow you to post a real estate listing; some will let you do it for free, while others will require a fee before you can post your home. There are some sites that are specifically designed for FSBO homes, but other popular sites like Zillow are also simple to use without a real estate agent.

market your home

Once your house is listed, it's not just going to sell itself, in most cases.

  • Real estate agent. One of the biggest benefits of a real estate agent is that they do all the marketing for you and make sure your home listing is publicly visible. But that doesn't mean you can't do it yourself.
  • Craigslist and print ads. Take advantage of online sales sites like Craigslist ads and even consider taking out a few print ads.
  • Social media. Post your listing on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram to get more eyes on it.
  • Word of mouth. Make sure you tell all your friends and family that you're trying to sell. Some of the best home sale marketing comes through word of mouth.
hold showings

The more people who tour your home, the more offers you're likely to receive. There's something to be said for seeing a house in person and being able to visualize it as a real home. When you're selling by owner, you get to choose when you hold showings, and you get to give the tours yourself. You can show the potential buyers all of what you love about your home. You can also take advantage of getting to personally meet and talk with every potential buyer who's touring your home. FSBO homes often benefit from the personal interactions between buyers and sellers.

make the sale
  • Getting offers on your home. When you have offers, you get to be the one to make the sale of your home. This step can often be the trickiest to do all alone, so sometimes it's beneficial to hire a real estate attorney to help you draft the legal documents and navigate through the negotiation process. If you feel confident with the process or have sold homes before, you might not find this necessary.
  • Appraisals & contingencies. You'll want to be prepared for the appraisal processes—and contingencies that may arise. You might have a buyer who will complete the sale if something is fixed or adjusted.
  • Closing costs. You'll also need to be prepared to foot some of the closing costs. All of the costs the seller is responsible for will need to be paid, but paying additional closing costs might be necessary if you're doing so to help a sale go through or in a highly competitive market. Make sure you're ready to cover your portion at the closing.

Pros and Cons of Selling By Owner

Selling by owner has its advantages and disadvantages, and they're worth considering before you decide how you're going to sell your own home.

Pros

  • You don't have to pay commission for a real estate agent. Commission can add up, so you can save about 5-6% of your asking price by selling your home yourself.
  • You get full control of the showings, listing, and pricing. Since you're doing all the home-selling steps yourself, you get to decide exactly what will happen and do everything on your own timeline.
  • You get to interact with your potential buyers. Like most customer service representatives know, interacting one-on-one with a potential buyer can improve the memorability of your showing experience. Buyers love getting to see the owners of the home and getting to interact with them.

Cons

  • Selling your house is more work. While you may get full control through the whole process, you will have to put forth all the work to sell your home yourself. From marketing to showings, it will all be your responsibility.
  • There's a learning curve. If you're selling a home for the first time, you might not know the ins and outs of the process, and not having a professional real estate agent to guide you can leave you trying to navigate a steep learning curve.
  • Less accessibility to resources. Agents have access to databases, marketing channels, and competitive market analyses. To find similar information and channels, you'll need to put in more effort.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should I sell my house now?

The right time to sell depends on many factors. Consider why you want to move. If you need to move for work or another opportunity, it may be the right time to sell regardless of other factors. You'll also want to consider the current housing market, especially how it plays out in your area. A competitive market might not be the time to sell, but a super slow winter market might also not be the right time. You'll want to balance the timing carefully.

Do I need a real estate agent?

You don't have to have a real estate agent to sell your home. If you feel comfortable doing the work of selling your home yourself, “for sale by owner,” can be a great option to sell your house.

Do I need to hire a real estate attorney?

In some states, a lawyer is required for all real estate transactions, and you'll have to hire one to sell your house. Even if an attorney isn't required, it could still be beneficial to have a legal professional help you with closing a sale. If you feel comfortable on your own and an attorney isn't required, you don't have to hire one.

Where do I start with the house selling process?

Knowing where to start can be tricky. In general, begin the process by determining how much you could list your house for and begin the process of preparing your house to list, show, and sell. Luckily, you don't have to go through the entire process alone. Here at SOLD.com, we're here to help! Take our seller quiz to get your personalized report for selling your home.