Is It Easy Or Hard To Sell Your Own Home?
What You Will Read In This Article
The concept of making a home “for sale by owner” or “FSBO” has an obvious appeal. Commission fees on a home sale typically run about 6% of the final sale price, with roughly half of that commission going to each of the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent.
For that reason, a seller may see an opportunity for savings if they cut out the agent entirely. The logic is sound. No one knows a house better than the person living in it and wouldn’t they be the best person to sell it? However, the process has much more going on behind the scenes than many people realize. Which leaves the question all FSBO find themselves asking is “how hard is it to sell your own house?”
Finding buyers, pricing the home, interpreting the legalese behind real estate law, and having that certain aesthetic sense for preparing showings and marketing materials all play a role in selling real estate. While anyone can do it, not everyone can do it well – at least not without a little training.
That said, with the right level of commitment, you can successfully pull off an “FSBO.” The trick lies in knowing all the little details, having a little patience, and understanding that the process will take some work. In this article, we’ll go over some of the rationales behind selling your own home, as well as some tips to improve the experience.
Do You Want To Sell A Home And Save On Commissions?
Did you know that we can help you save a lot of money when selling your house? Money that you can put towards moving, buying a new house, paying off debt, a much needed vacation or anything else you want. ISoldMyHouse.com has 3 ways for you to sell your house and NOT pay high commissions.
- Sell It Yourself With Our Flat Fee MLS Listings
- Sell With Top Local Agents With Negotiated Discounts on Commissions
- Sell To A Pre-Qualified Cash Buyer
How To Decide If Selling By Owner Is For You
People have many reasons to try the FSBO route when selling their home, primarily saving on agent fees and getting more value out of their home. The math has a few more variables than that, though.
Time is money. It takes time to work through a home sale. When you decide to sell your own home, you essentially take on all the work a real estate agent does – making your home look good in pictures and real life for showings, making sure the legal side like inspections and title transfers go smoothly, and more.
If the extra time it takes to handle those elements offsets the commission cost on your home, then doing a for sale by owner might be a good fit.
Real estate agents – and countless blogs and articles about FSBO – often claim they negotiate a higher price for homes, more than offsetting the commission costs. While that may hold in some markets and for some homes, circumstances exist that make FSBO an especially good choice.
- You already have an interested buyer, which will minimize the marketing needed to sell the home.
- You live in a seller’s market, i.e., one with high demand and increasing home prices.
- You have the time to handle all of the logistics, from marketing to preparing for and organizing showings to negotiating contracts and keeping up with the paperwork.
- You have the ability to show patience, attention to detail and fully commit to the FSBO process.
Long story short, if you have confidence in your ability to achieve proper value for your home and you have the time to commit to selling it, then you can sell your own house.
- Set your terms, from marketing to pricing and scheduling showings.
- Can save a lot money when done properly
- You know your home best and can sell it properly
- Requires a significant time investment
- You likely have less experience than an agent.
- Hard to match a professional’s reach in terms of marketing (without the right marketing, more below)
Process Of Selling Your Own Home
With a better sense of what it takes to sell your own home, you’ll need to start thinking about how the process works. How hard is it to sell your own house? Not impossible, if you follow the steps below.
Step 1: Determine The Fair Market Value
Without a doubt, this step will prove the most important to successfully selling your home. Priced too high, and you’ll struggle to find a buyer. Priced too low, and you throw away the value you’ve saved by foregoing an agent.
Fortunately, the internet has revolutionized the process of real estate pricing like it has virtually revolutionized everything else.
To find a fair market value, you’ll want to get a reasonable baseline (not a final price) on your home first using an online home valuation service. Several calculators exist online using existing property data to give a rough estimate, often including the last known sale figures. Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, and Realtor.com have some of the most respected calculations, but the story doesn’t stop there.
You’ll also want to look at comparable homes in your neighborhood. Zillow, in particular, has a robust data set with an easy-to-use interface that will help you take a look at the home prices in the surrounding area. Re/max even goes a step further by incorporating data about local schools and the cost of living factors.
Last but not least, use those figures to determine your own needs. Perhaps you have a certain baseline in mind to fund the next phase of your life. Maybe you need to move your home faster with less concern about profit so that you can aim at the low end.
If you don’t have confidence in your pricing ability, you can always bring in a professional for this particular part of the process. An appraiser can give you an official opinion of value from a qualified professional.
A real estate agent can also give you a comparative market analysis (CMA). While writing up the CMA can generate a little value for the agent, ethically, you shouldn’t take up an agent’s time on this if you do not intend to employ them on the sale.
Step 2: Preparing Your Home For The Market
It’s important to prepare your home for the market. The following steps are a great way to jump into this.
Preparing your home for a sale requires walking a fine tightrope. You want to make repairs that will cost less than the value they’ll add to a sale. Start with the low hanging fruit.
Knock all the little things off your to-do list. Fixing things like dead outlets, burnt out bulbs, faulty latches, and the like will help your home appear well-maintained without requiring a huge investment
While major overhauls like brand-new water heaters may make a prospective buyer smile and nod, they might not net the requisite value to make it worthwhile.
Likewise, make sure to clean the little corners that go ignored. Dusty corners, bits of debris between the counter and the fridge, and smudgy windows all clean up quickly and dramatically improve any prospective buyer’s first impression.
From there, you can start looking at some slightly more involved improvements. Change a countertop, replace worn carpets or put it in new cabinet handles. Change the backsplash behind the sink or change a set of drapes. Minor replacements give your home a touch of “new” that can enchant during a showing.
Freshening up involves patching little things like nail holes or paint scuffs. You might also prepare your home to cast a wider net; put neutral colors over a bold paint job.
Staging your home for sale can be an exhausting process. Decluttering is definitely different from cleaning. While dust or stains look obvious, not everyone may realize that an abundance of knick-knacks, coffee table books, or pet toys can reduce the appeal of your home.
Depersonalize your home so other people can imagine living there. Get a head start on packing by putting away family photos and personalized decorations.
Scent generates an extraordinary emotional response. Take steps to neutralize odors by squeezing lemon in the sink, disinfecting cooking surfaces, and shampooing carpets and furniture.
Define rooms. Make sure the kitchen looks like a kitchen and not a kitchen/junk mail processing facility. More defined rooms make a home feel more spacious.
Make your home bright. Turn on the lights, and use as much natural lighting as possible. Again, make sure any fixtures have all their bulbs working correctly and remove any dust or grime.
People will see the outside of your home before anything else, which makes proper landscaping paramount to a good showing. Edge and pull all the weeds, prune the shrubs (if seasonally appropriate), mow the lawn, and sweep the sidewalks. A well-landscaped exterior sets the tone for the whole showing.
Step 3: List Your Home For Sale & Market It Everywhere
Once you’ve prepared your home for sale, you’ll need to make people aware they can buy it.
In the old days, sellers had little more to work with than a “for sale by owner” sign in the yard and perhaps a couple of dozen words in the classified section.
These days, countless websites exist on which to post your home. The more, the merrier. Some homes charge a fee to host your listing, while others will allow FSBO for free, including some major players like Zillow and Facebook.
Your marketing will depend on your market and your needs from the sale. If you have a seller’s market with lots of prospective buyers driving up the prices, you may not have to post very far and wide. Conversely, if you live in a less active market, you may have to take some extra steps to get your home out there.
Since marketing can take a lot of time, energy, and perhaps even a little political wrangling, some sellers use a flat-fee multiple listing service or flat-fee MLS to gain access to more robust real-estate markets. We’ll cover that in just a bit.
Step 4: Negotiate With Interested Buyers
Some people squirm at the idea of negotiations. Others kind of enjoy the challenge. Whatever the case, you need to keep in mind a few basic principles.
- Stay focused on the sale. Don’t let emotions get in the way of the task at hand.
- Try to keep to three or fewer counters. Every exchange becomes more contentious.
- Be responsive. Get back to the buyer within 24 hours of their offer, less if possible.
- Get everything in writing. That means their offer and your counter.
- Wait until the final bell. Don’t celebrate until the last of the paperwork gets filed.
- Always get something in return for a concession.
Remember, you have a lot of control. You know what you need, but you also know that the buyer needs something from you.
Step 5: Work Through Escrow and Closing
Escrow refers to an agreed-upon amount provided as a deposit prior to closing the sale. The buyer puts the money into a trust controlled by neither the home buyer nor the seller. Upon closing the sale, that money will go from escrow to the seller, and the buyer will pay the balance.
If the closing fails, the buyer may get the deposit back, or the seller may get it for breach of contract. It all depends on the terms of the agreement, upon which the buyer and seller must agree before entering into escrow.
A real-estate broker or firm often handles escrow and closing but, in cases of an owner selling without an agent, another entity will need to fill that role. The titling company handling the closing will typically offer escrow services free of charge, and many lawyers have a trust account for such matters.
Tools To Help You Sell
In the ever-changing landscape of real estate, a wide range of services have sprung up to facilitate the FSBO experience.
Flat-fee MLS, mentioned earlier, allows sellers to access the markets and strategies of traditional real estate brokers while retaining full control over the actual selling process. Rather than charging the commission, a brokerage may offer a set cost – a “flat fee” – to allow sellers to list on their local multiple listing service and retain the right to sell FSBO. When the home is sold a listing commission is not paid to the list broker but you still have to pay a buyers agent if one is involved in the sale. So you typically save at least 50% of the commissions.
In other words, the flat-fee MLS service allows a FSBO to list their house for sale on the MLS, Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin, etc. just like a professional real estate agent would but without the high selling costs or losing control of selling the home directly.
We put together the video below for you to watch that shows you everything you need to know about how to list your house on the MLS without a Realtor.
Professional Real Estate Photos
Professional real estate photos make your home pop in an online listing or printed flyer. The right photographer will dramatically increase the engagement with your listing. In doing so, they offset their own costs by driving up the sale price of your home.
Online Home Value Websites
Using home value websites just makes sense. Many of the same websites that buyers use to find homes like Zillow or Trulia also have home value calculators, so you know the price buyers see will align pretty neatly with the estimate they give you.
But it can mean shopping around a little bit to settle on a price you find palatable. Some sites can give drastically different pricing depending on the proprietary formulas they use to determine value. Essentially, no website can give you an iron-clad value but used in blindly, they can give you a meaningful range or a solid starting point for further analysis.
Flat-fee MLS has taken a decent bite out of the pure FSBO market by expanding access in a crowded marketplace for a minimal fee. Similarly, the increase and improvement of online marketing has blurred the lines between traditional FSBO and traditional brokerage.
Perhaps most importantly, this shifting landscape has driven down commissions among real estate agents to keep them competitive. The rapid increase in home prices – more than doubling in many markets over the last 30 years – has also allowed brokers to make similar money on smaller commissions.
Real Estate Agents
Real estate agents can be extremely helpful and resourceful. You can choose from different types of agents to get what you’re looking for when posting your home for sale. These are professionals, and they know the ins and outs of the trade, so utilizing their expertise is nothing to be frowned upon.
Top Rated Local Realtors
Finding the best local realtor can require a lot of searching. Talk to your network of friends, relatives, coworkers, and any other people who have bought or sold a home and see what experiences they can share.
When searching online, be aware that manipulating – or at least carefully curating – reviews can be fairly trivial. Take a close look at the number of reviews a broker has; more reviews generally mean a richer data set.
Discount Real Estate Brokers
Discount real estate brokers can bridge the gap between the labor-intensive FSBO experience and the financial considerations of a traditional agent.
These low commission agents have a few ways to provide savings. They may offer a flat fee instead of a percentage-derived commission or a really low percentage such as 1%, possibly following a negotiation. Typically they will make up the difference in overall profit from one sale by making many sales. That has its own pros and cons – motivated sellers move fast, but they have more plates to balance.
A discount real estate broker may also offer fewer services during the sale. They may not, for example, offer help with staging or repairs. However, so long as they maintain outstanding communication with the buyer and seller, determine the price using a solid quantitative market analysis, list the property on the MLS and help close the deal, they can have excellent value.
Sell Fast For Cash
Sometimes, you might want to sell a home for cash. Perhaps you came into an extra property following the death of a relative, or you have moved into a new place and have had enough of trying to sell the old one.
Enter the sell-for-cash model. Several companies exist that promise fast cash for homes. A new crop of iBuyers has put a technological spin on the process. Large companies like Zillow and Opendoor have developed models and algorithms to generate cash offers on homes directly from sellers that they can then turn around and sell.
Finally, local investors might put up cash to acquire an extra lot or use the property for other development.
Selling for cash gets at the same underpinnings as selling your own house. Know the value, know the process, know the law, and you can have an amazing experience.
About the Author: Kris Lippi is the owner of ISoldMyHouse.com, the broker of Get LISTED Realty and an official member of the Forbes Real Estate Council. He actively writes about real estate related topics such as buying and selling homes, how-to guides for around the house and home product recommendations. He has been featured in Inman, Readers Digest, Fox News, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as other major websites. Read more about us here.