Essential Guide To Listing Your House On Zillow For Sale By Owner
Table of Contents
Every time the topic of Zillow comes up, I say the exact same thing.
Zillow is a powerhouse of a website.
There is no way to know the exact traffic a website gets, unless they make that information public but there are some tools out there that do some pretty good “guesstimates” based on search engine rankings.
At the time of the writing of this post, Zillow has a “guesstimate” of about 39 million unique visitors to the website per month! That is just search traffic (Google) and doesn’t include direct, email, social or even mobile app traffic!
To give you some context, Realtor.com has 17 million, Trulia.com has 5.7 million and Redfin has 3.9 million unique visitors per month coming via search engines.
So what does this mean for a home seller?
You 100% NEED to have your home listed on Zillow if you are trying to sell.
If you are serious about selling your property, here is my top 5 ranking of places you need to list your home for sale on.
- Your Local MLS
I put “Your Local MLS” as #1 because of the power of the buyers agents that use the MLS for their clients. This is the primary source of home for sale for agents and most buyers are working with an agent.
However, in order for your home to be listed in the MLS, you need to list with a Realtor and pay a high commission.
Well, unless you use the service we provide here at ISoldMyHouse.com.
Check Out What We Do Here At ISoldMyHouse.com
If you want to save at least 50% of the Realtor commissions, check out our article about How a Flat Fee MLS Listing saved James & Mary $9,450!
Back to Zillow, my #2 choice on the top places to list your home for sale. And when I say for sale, that is either with or without a real estate agent.
Did you know Zillow allows you to list your house on their website and mobile app as a for sale by owner?
That’s right… They do.
Check out how to sell a house on Zillow below.
How To List On Zillow
Below are the 5 steps you need to follow to post your property for sale by owner on Zillow.
- Step 1 – Sign In (or Create An Account)
- Step 2 – Find Your Property on Zillow
- Step 3 – Claim the Property and Unlock the Owner Dashboard
- Step 4 – Create the For Sale By Owner Listing
- Step 5 – Verify Your Listing With Zillow
Step 1 – Sign In (or Create An Account)
Navigate to to Zillow.com and click “Sign In” or if you don’t have an account click “Join”.
Enter your login credentials or new account information and Sign in.
Step 2 – Find Your Property on Zillow
Back on the home screen for Zillow.com, click the “Sell” tab and enter your properties address and then click “Search”.
Step 3 – Claim the Property and Unlock the Owner Dashboard
You will need to claim the property with Zillow to take ownership. Click “I’m the Owner. Show me!”
Now you have the Owner Dashboard available to you.
Step 4 – Create the For Sale By Owner Listing
On the “List Home” tab select “List for sale by owner”.
Next, you will be shown the screen to enter all the information about your listing that will be shown on Zillow.
First, enter the price you want to list your home for sale.
Remember, nothing will hinder the sale of your home more than an unrealistic price!
If you want to add a video walkthrough, they provide you with instructions for doing that from your mobile device. You can skip that for now.
Upload the photographs of your property. Zillow says they allow you to upload unlimited photos.
If you had a virtual tour created, you can enter the link to the tour.
Having an open house is one strategy for generating foot traffic into your home. If you want to hold one, enter the date and times.
Next is all the “Additional Information” this is all the details about your home. Zillow will have a lot of this populated from public data but you will need to review and edit, as well as provide additional details that wasn’t available via public records.
Lastly, you will need to enter a contact phone number and it needs to be real because Zillow will call you to verify. Then select that you agree to their terms and click “Post for sale by owner”.
Step 5 – Verify Your Listing With Zillow
Next, Zillow will review your listing and you will receive an automated phone call on the number you provided for them to verify some of the information. After that, it could take up to 72 hours for your listing to go live.
How Much Does It Cost To List On Zillow?
Because Zillow is such a powerful brand in real estate, you probably want to know does Zillow have for sale by owner fees?
Let’s look at this holistically.
If you are a home seller that wants to list their property for sale on Zillow, there are 3 options and each has a different cost.
- List with a real estate agent – the cost is 5-7% of the selling price
- List with a flat fee MLS listing service – the cost starts at $299
- List on Zillow only as a for sale by owner – the cost is free
So the answer to the question, does Zillow charge for sale by owner’s. NO!
From their website, they state the following are advantages of listing FSBO on their platform.
- Post a listing for free, including video and unlimited photos.
- Your home will be listed on Zillow and Trulia, reaching the largest audience of home shoppers on the Web.
- Home shoppers receive instant emails about new listings.
But there is a catch when selling for sale by owner on Zillow for free.
Zillow still needs revenue and they are going to get it.
How Does Zillow Make Money?
Zillow is a business, they are a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ with shareholders to answer to and they need to make money for them.
They do this through advertising real estates on their listings. They call them “Premier Agents” and these agents pay a lot of money to be featured on your listing.
Below, I posted a screenprint of a random Zillow FSBO from Boston Massachusetts.
Do you see the three agents that are listed above the “Property Owner”?
Those are the agents that pay to be featured on listings.
And to make things worse, do you see the “Contact” button above them?
You would think this goes to the property owner but it doesn’t, it goes to all of these agents to contact the interested buyer.
This is the #1 frustration with FSBO’s who use Zillow. Also, the #1 frustration with listing agents too!
Optimizing Your Zillow FSBO Listing
I’ve been helping for sale by owners sell their homes with professional real estate agent marketing for a while now and I always say that in order to sell, you need to follow the “Magic Formula”.
This magic formula, when followed correctly, virtually guarantees that your home will sell. The steps are as follows.
- Make your house look really, really good both in person and online by staging to sell and taking great photos.
- Choose a correct listing price.
- Market your home on the MLS (with an appropriate buyers agent commission), Zillow and all the other real estate portals.
When you purchase a listing package with ISoldMyHouse.com, you get everything in #3.
But some homeowners just want to try listing on Zillow and not the MLS.
Personally, I think this puts a homeowner at a disadvantage because it doesn’t put the property in front of all the local buyers agents who are working with 90% of the active buyers.
But if you insist on only listing your house for sale by owner on Zillow, below are some tips to help optimize your listing.
How To Get Buyers To Contact You and NOT a Zillow Premier Agent?
Remember in the section above about how Zillow makes money?
The quick refresher is that Zillow doesn’t have a cost to list on their site but they do sell advertising and “buyers leads” on your listing to their Premier Agents.
You as the property owner, will have your phone number displayed at the very bottom of these premier agents and it’s very confusing for a buyer to understand who they are contacting.
A hack that I came up with to help our FSBO home sellers is to add their contact information the “What I Love About This Home” section to their listing.
This is a very prominent part of the listing and is perfect for putting a little note to everyone who is looking at your listing.
For full instructions, check out my post how to add my FSBO contact information to my Zillow listing.
Pricing Your Property and the Zestimate
Zillow’s initial claim to fame was the Zestimate.
Before this online automated home valuation tool was available, home owners had to either know their market well, consult with a real estate agent for a CMA or hire an appraiser.
Then came the Zestimate and put an automated value on just about every single property in the United States and the reaction was 50% love and 50% hate from home owners.
And just about 100% hate from real estate agents and appraisers!
So is the Zestimate accurate?
Right from Zillow, they say the Zestimate is a starting point in determining a properties value. They acknowledge that the tool isn’t perfect, but fairly good, stating…
“Zillow’s accuracy has a median error rate of 5%. This means half of the home values in the area are closer than the error percentage. For example, in Seattle, Zestimate values for half of the homes are within 5% of the selling price, and half are off by more than 5%.”
So what does this mean for someone looking to price their house when they list for sale by owner?
It would be irresponsible of me to tell you to list at what the Zestimate states your property is worth.
So make sure you do your due diligence and check out comps or order an opinion of value from an appraiser.
This way you don’t make that critical mistake of pricing to high and your home sitting on the market, unsold.
However, I will say this to help you out.
Whenever a buyer sees a house for sale where the listing price is above the Zestimate, they have an initial reaction that the home is priced too high.
So, if your determine that your homes value is right around what the Zestimate states, listing your home at the Zestimate or slightly below, will play a psychological game with home buyers.
They will think they are getting a good deal.
Just food for thought for you.
Writing A Perfect Home Description
Zillow allows you a lot of characters to describe your house in your own words. But a word of caution, you don’t have to use them all!
I’ve seen a lot of home sellers stress out over their homes description and think it needs to be perfect and contain every single gory detail about the home.
People do read the description but they will not pay any where near the amount of attention to it as you think.
They are looking for the high level selling points and features that will attract them to your home.
Writing the description is an opportunity to describe your home in your own words, capture a buyer’s interest, and match their needs.
For more information on writing the perfect description for your listing, check out my home selling guide.
Make Sure Your Homes Details Are Correct
Remember back in step #4 above where you entered all the details about your property?
I hope you paid attention and more importantly filled out those details accurately.
Make sure the correct number of bedrooms and bathrooms is entered.
What type of heat, hot water, electric, sewage and water supply did you enter? People pay attention to these attributes and will either come and see your home or rule it out because it won’t work for them.
You don’t want people coming over for a showing only to be disappointed that the information wasn’t accurate.
The same advice goes for entering your homes square footage, don’t over state it!
Not only will buyers be disappointed but an appraisal will not allow a higher value based on misstated square footage and it could jeopardize your sale.
Your Photos Need To Be Professional Quality
I see a lot of photos come through from home sellers when they are using my service.
More often than not, if the photos don’t look amazing, the house doesn’t sell.
Take some time to get your house ready to sell and then either hire a professional photographer or follow my guide for taking great real estate photographs.
A professional photographer is only $200-$300 and is well worth the extra money you will spend.
Also, unless you have a large home over 4,000 square feet, you should only need about 25 photos to get buyers interested in your home to setup a showing.
If you go over that and give them too many, they could find something they don’t like and rule out your home, even though if they came to see it, they would love it!
Schedule an Open House
Let me start by stating that I’m not a huge fan of open houses.
I think they give a seller a false sense of benefit that they are an effective tool in selling their house.
With that said, there is some advantages to them.
For example, when they are scheduled, buyers will get a notification and it could trigger a reminder for them about your house.
A price change will also do this and probably more effectively!
But say you are at the bottom line list price that you can afford to sell your house at, an open house could be an effective tool to get your home’s listing back into the inboxes of buyers.
Also, if you just wanted to get some traffic into your home to get feedback from buyers, this would be another example of using an open house effectively.
Will Real Estate Agents Avoid Showing My For Sale By Owner Zillow Listing?
This is a good question and the answer depends on one thing. Are you offering a buyers agent commission?
Actually 2 things, the other is what buyers agent commission are you offering.
If you are reading this post, then it is fair to say you are considering selling your house by owner in order to save some money on high real estate agent commissions.
We agree with your though process, that is our whole business model.
But have you ever heard the expression, don’t cut off your nose to spite your face?
Well, that is what you do when you sell your house and don’t offer a buyers agent commission.
Real estate agents get paid when they sell a house and typically the home seller has to pay this commission.
So when you list your house for sale on Zillow as a FSBO and don’t offer a commission, there is a very high chance that a real estate agent will avoid showing your house to their buyers.
The other real estate agents who might show it, would call you to negotiate a commission before hand.
Some agents will have their buyers pay the commission but most don’t do that.
So for best results when selling your home on Zillow, it is best to offer a buyers agents commission that is typical in your area.
Usually 2.5-3% and in some states it is 3.5% but not most.
Alternatives To Selling FSBO on Zillow
Hopefully when reading this guide you are considering all options available to you when selling your home.
Using Zillow as a for sale by owner is one tool that you have available to you but it might not be the correct tool for the job.
Below are examples of alternative ways you can sell your house and a brief description of each option.
- Sell With a Discount Real Estate Broker – not all real estate agents charge a high commission for full service. There are brokers that will list your house for lower commission percentages or a flat rate. We put together a guide to discount real estate brokers to help you understand these options.
- Sell With a Flat Fee MLS Company – a flat fee MLS company is a FSBO friendly option that lists your house on the Realtors MLS, Zillow and all the other real estate websites for a low flat fee. That is what we do here at ISoldMyHouse.com, if you want to know more check out our flat fee MLS listing guide.
- Sell With a Traditional Real Estate Agent – selling for sale by owner is not for everyone. After doing all your homework and you decide that you need an agent to navigate you through the process be sure to find a reputable real estate agent in your area. If you need a referral, contact us and we can put you in touch with one.
- Sell To an iBuyer – this program combines technology, AI and the power of cash. This growing trend is like trading in your car for home sellers. Zillow is getting into this space too but so are other companies. If you are looking for convenience, this might be an option for you but it is not available in all areas.
- Sell To a We Buy Houses For Cash Company or Investor – this option eliminates a lot of the hassle with selling a home. But be prepared to get far less than the house value though, as most of these people are investors and need to factor in costs for updates and then a healthy profit to sell the house when it’s ready. The good news, the buy your house for cash, usually pay closing costs and can close very quickly.
Thanks for taking the time to read this guide to listing a house on Zillow as a for sale by owner.
I’m a big fan of Zillow, especially when used correctly.
Real estate agents like to complain about the website because they don’t agree with everything it does for the consumer. Some agents feel that they are less valuable or it makes their job harder or that Zillow is only trying to sell them advertising.
But there is no denying that Zillow is by far the consumers #1 choice for real estate listings.
Until someone builds a better tool that will not change.
So if you are selling your house, make sure you are listed on Zillow!
Have any questions or comments for me? Drop them in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you.
About the Author: Kris Lippi is the owner of ISoldMyHouse.com and the broker of Get LISTED Realty. 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, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as other major websites. Read more about us here.