What FSBO sellers in Massachusetts need to know | Massachusetts FSBO paperwork | Massachusetts real estate commissions | How to list FSBO | FSBO pros and cons | Tips for selling without a realtor | FSBO alternatives
In Massachusetts, the average realtor commission rate is 4.15% to 5.53%. If you sell a house worth $590,500 — the median home value in Massachusetts — that’s over $17,200, which is a huge chunk of your potential profits.
Selling without a real estate agent, known as listing For Sale By Owner (FSBO), is a viable option for experienced home sellers who are willing to put in the time and effort.
However, selling FSBO has risks. Research shows that FSBO homes typically sell for about 6% less than those listed with agents AND you'll still usually be on the hook for offering a competitive buyer's agent commission. FSBO homes also often take longer to sell and are more likely to fall out of contract after accepting an offer.
You may save time and pocket more profit by working with a low-commission realtor who can sell your home for top dollar. Clever Real Estate pre-negotiates 1.5% listing fees with top-rated local agents. You'll get the support of a full-service agent for a fraction of the typical price, so you can walk away from your sale with the most cash possible.
Or, keep reading to learn how to successfully sell your house without an agent. We'll explain the ins and outs of any costs, Massachusetts FSBO paperwork, pricing strategies, and more.
What FSBO sellers in Massachusetts need to know
|🔑 Key benefits of selling FSBO
Real estate laws, processes, and trends vary greatly across the country. Understanding the details of your market and getting accurate information can make a FSBO sale complicated.
We'll go into more details about what you need to do in Massachusetts, but here's an overview of the state's laws and regulations.
Massachusetts FSBO overview
|Real estate attorney required?||Yes|
|Required state disclosures?||Federal disclosures about lead-based paint apply, but otherwise, Massachusetts is a "buyer beware" state.|
|FSBO yard sign allowed?||Yes|
|Competitive Buyer's Agent Commission||1.92% to 2.61%|
Additionally, you'll need to know and understand all of your responsibilities as a FSBO seller, which include:
- Preparing your home by making necessary repairs, cleaning, and staging your home.
- Accurately and competitively pricing your home.
- Marketing your home by writing a listing description, taking high-quality photos, posting the listing on different sites (free and/or paid), and promoting your home on social media, in print ads, and via word of mouth.
- Vetting buyers to ensure they're qualified, from a financial perspective. Accepting an offer from an unqualified buyer will cause your sale to fall through.
- Negotiating the final price, contingencies, repair concessions, and other aspects of the purchase agreement.
- Properly filling out all necessary paperwork for a real estate transaction in Massachusetts.
Note: Massachusetts is one of several states that require sellers to hire a real estate attorney. While they will assist you with the paperwork and legal aspects of the transaction, they will not help you find a buyer or negotiate a great deal.
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How to price your home
Pricing strategy is often make-or-break for FSBO sellers. List your home for too little and you leave money on the table. Price it too high and the listing goes stale, forcing a price drop that could make buyers wary of the home.
To get an accurate idea of what your house is worth, look at comparable listings in your area.
For example, if you live in Boston and think your house is worth about $657,000, search Zillow for active listings that are about $50,000 more and less than that. Analyze details about the houses and how they compare to yours. Ask yourself:
- Is the school district better or worse?
- Does it have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms?
- Has the house been renovated more recently than yours?
- How do the neighborhoods and nearby amenities compare?
Answering these questions honestly will help you see if your price is in the right ballpark.
From there, be realistic about what pricing strategy will lead to higher offers. Here are some key pricing metrics that will help you decide the best listing price for your home and market:
State of the Massachusetts real estate market
How to list your Massachusetts home for sale by owner
Once you've decided on a price, it's time to write a listing description that speaks to local buyers. Understanding their priorities will help you identify what features of your property to highlight in your listing and attract more interest.
Top buyer priorities in Massachusetts
When it comes to advertising and posting your listing, you have several options as a FSBO seller. Each choice has its own pros and cons as well as costs:
- For Sale By Owner yard sign: You can buy a FSBO sign from most hardware stores or online for $20-$50. Be sure to choose one that allows you to add your phone numbers so interested buyers can contact you for property information and showings.
- Craigslist: Posting your home on Craigslist is free and simple. Just go to the Massachusetts page, find your city, and create a "real estate — by owner" listing.
- FSBO websites: There are multiple FSBO listing websites that allow you to post your home for free or a few hundred dollars. But each differs in how many photos you can include, how long the listing is live, and the changes you can make — do your research before choosing a for sale by owner site.
- Flat-Fee MLS companies: Flat-fee MLS services will list your house on your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for significantly less than a realtor. However, they provide few additional services unless you opt for their most expensive packages, which often cost more than using a discount brokerage.
If you choose to use a flat-fee MLS company, you'll have to offer a buyer's agent commission. The MLS is how real estate agents find homes for their clients, and typically a buyer's agent commission is included to incentivize these realtors to show the house to their clients.
List with a top agent for just 1.5%.
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How realtor commissions work in Massachusetts
Traditionally, both the buyer's agent and the listing agent are paid a commission by the homeowner. When sellers work with a realtor, they negotiate a commission as part of the listing agreement.
Based on the average commission rates in Massachusetts, this typically ranges from 2.23% to 2.92% of the sale price.
In a typical sale, the seller also agrees to a commission rate for the realtor who brings the buyer to the table, which runs between 1.92% to 2.61%.
As a FSBO seller, you automatically avoid paying a listing commission. However, there is a solid argument for offering a buyer's agent commission.
A buyer’s agent's commission is an incentive for realtors to show your house to their clients. If you don't offer a commission that is competitive compared to similar homes in your area, then your home could be shown less. Agents may prioritize taking buyers to homes with a commission.
The best way to avoid paying any commission fees is to sell to an unrepresented buyer. However, know that nearly 87% of buyers work with a realtor. If you decide not to offer a buyer's agent commission, you may severely restrict your pool of buyers.
Further, if you list FSBO, you'll likely receive multiple calls from agents offering to connect you with their buyers...if you pay them a competitive buyer's agent commission (typically 2.27% in Massachusetts).
How commission costs break down in Massachusetts
When you sell your home, there are four common scenarios when it comes to commissions:
- List FSBO and sell to a buyer without an agent: Pay no commission
- List FSBO and sell to a represented buyer: Cover the buyer's agent commission
- List with a traditional agent and sell to a represented buyer: Cover both agents' commissions
- List with a discount agent and sell to a represented buyer: Cover the buyer's agent commission, but save on the listing commission.
The table below shows how this could break down in Massachusetts:
Paperwork to sell a house by owner in Massachusetts
Once you find a buyer for your house, it's time to start the closing process. In a typical real estate transaction, your agent will make sure you fill out all the necessary documents and forms. As a FSBO seller, you'll have to navigate the paperwork by yourself.
This process varies by state — here’s a quick breakdown of Massachusetts’s requirements.
Required for all Massachusetts real estate sales
|2 Forms of ID||In most cases, a valid passport, driver's license, or other form of Massachusetts-issued ID.|
|Copy of Purchase Agreement and Any Addendums||Copy of the original, signed sales agreement as well as any agreed upon changes.|
|Closing Statement||A detailed list of all the costs associated with the sale and who pays them. This is often prepared by your escrow agent or title company.|
|Signed Deed||To legally transfer your property, you'll need the deed that proves you're the rightful owner. At closing, you'll sign the deed over to the buyer.|
|Bill of Sale||This is basically a receipt that includes both your information and the buyer's. It will also list the final price of the home and what was included in the sale.|
|Affidavit of Title||A notarized document that states you own the home, that there are no liens on the property, that you are not simultaneously selling the home to someone else, etc.|
Possible additional documents
|Loan Payoff Information||If you have a mortgage on your home, you'll need documentation of exactly how much you still owe and any payoff fees. If you've already paid your mortgage in full, you'll need documentation proving that.|
|HOA Forms and Guidelines||If your home is part of an HOA, you'll need to give the buyer documentation on the HOA's Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions, financial history, required fees, approval process, etc.|
|Survey Results or Survey Affidavits||A survey (or an affidavit verifying a previous survey) proves exactly where the property lines are.|
|Home Inspection Results||If you had a pre-sale inspection, you'll want the results to compare to the buyer's inspection. If having a buyer inspection was part of the sales agreement, you should receive a copy of the results before closing.|
|Proof of Repairs or Renovations||Documentation proving any major repairs or changes to the house help verify its value. These receipts also provide the buyer with information about who to contact if they discover issues with the repairs in the future.|
|Home Warranty Information||The home warranty service agreement will explain what is covered, for how long, and any costs associated with the policy.|
|Copies of Relevant Wills, Trusts, or Power of Attorney Letters||If you are selling an inherited property, you'll need copies of all legal documents that passed ownership to you.|
|Relevant Affidavits (Name Affidavits, Non-Foreign Affidavit Under IRC 1445, etc.)||You may need additional affidavits like a name affidavit (which lists all of your or the buyer's previous names) or an affidavit proving you are not a foreign citizen and therefore exempt from certain property sales taxes.|
|Closing Disclosure||If your buyer is taking out a mortgage and you agreed to certain seller's concessions, you may need a copy of their closing disclosure to verify the lender approved your concessions.|
|Correction Statement and Agreement||In the event forms are lost or errors are discovered in the future, a correction statement and agreement requires you, the buyer, or their lender, to replace or fix those documents if need be.|
Massachusetts disclosure forms
|Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement||While optional, the seller disclosure statement details the condition and known issues of your home and its major appliances and systems.|
|Flood Zone Statement||With some mortgages (like federally backed ones), your buyer's lender might require information of the property's flood risk.|
|Lead-Based Paint Disclosure||Federal law requires that if your home was built before 1978, you disclose information about the dangers of lead-based paint to your buyer.|
Many closing documents are legally binding agreements. Any errors can derail your sale and cost you thousands in fees or in costs to re-list your house.
To avoid an expensive mistake, consider working with a low commission realtor instead.
Selling your home is time-consuming, and fraught with potential legal issues.
There's a better option. Clever pre-negotiates lower listing fees with top agents in your area. You still save on commission, while getting the support of a full-service agent.
- Clever partner agents offer full-service support for a fraction of the traditional cost: a 1.5% listing fee instead of the typical 2.5-3%
- Choose from the best local agents representing top regional and national brokerages, like Keller Williams and Century 21
Ready to find real estate agents who can help you save thousands on your sale? Enter your zip code below to get started!
FSBO pros and cons
Before deciding to sell your home by owner, weigh all the pros and cons to make the right choice for your situation.
- More control: As a FSBO seller, you can decide the price, listing timeframe, showing schedule, marketing strategy, negotiation tactics, and more.
- No competition with other clients: Some agents take on more clients than they can handle, which could mean not getting the attention you need to meet your home-selling goals.
- Lower commission: As a FSBO seller, you could sell your home without paying any commissions. Based on Massachusetts's average commission rates, that could leave 2.23% to 5.53% of your sale price in your pocket. Even if your buyer has an agent, you'll still avoid paying 2.23% to 2.92% in listing commissions.
- Less visibility with buyers: Unless you pay for a flat-fee MLS service, your home won't be on the local MLS. Most agents use MLSes (not Zillow and Trulia) to find properties for their clients and most buyers work with a realtor. So if you're not on the MLS, fewer buyers will see your listing.
- Risks of inaccurate pricing: Many FSBO sellers find it difficult to be objective when pricing their house and list for too much. If you make this mistake, you won't attract buyers and the listing will become stale. Eventually, you could be forced to accept a low offer or take your home off the market and relist with an agent.
- Safety issues: As a FSBO seller, it will be your responsibility to show your home to prospective buyers. Not everyone is comfortable being alone with strangers in their homes since incidents such as theft or harassment can occur. Make sure to gauge your own comfort levels before deciding to sell FSBO.
- More work and stress: Selling a home is a full-time job. Trying to cram all the steps and responsibilities into your schedule is a hassle many FSBO sellers aren't prepared for.
FSBO alternatives to consider
If saving money is your main reason for selling your home by owner, there are alternatives.
Clever Real Estate
Clever is a nationwide real estate service that connects sellers with top, local agents. You pay Clever nothing and only pay your full-service agent 1.5% if and when your home sells.
Clever Real EstateLearn More
💲 Listing Fee
💰 Buyer Savings
⭐ Avg. Customer Rating
Clever is a quick, easy, and free way to find a top-rated local agent. And, unlike many similar companies, Clever pre-negotiates big discounts on your behalf, so you can save thousands without sacrificing on service.
- Free, nationwide agent-matching service that partners with full-service local agents from conventional brokerages like Keller Williams, Century 21, and RE/MAX
- Provides multiple agent matches so you can interview, compare marketing plans, and choose the best fit
- Pre-negotiates low rates on your behalf — you get full service for a 1.5% listing fee vs. the typical 2.5-3% rate
- If you buy with Clever, you can get cash back rewards after closing
- You may not get matched with an agent from your preferred real estate brokerage.
- Agents may not provide premium services like drone photography and professional home staging.
As of August 17, 2022, Clever has a 4.9 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot, based on 1,710 reviews.
Clever has pre-negotiated low commission rates with top agents in all 50 states and Washington, DC.
Discount real estate services in Massachusetts
While pricing and services vary, discount real estate companies will help you sell your house for less than a traditional realtor. In most cases, you'll still need to offer a competitive buyer's agent commission, but you'll save on listing fees.
💲 Listing Fee
💰 Avg. Savings
⭐ Avg. Customer Rating
Redfin offers real savings and is a proven brand. But sellers could compromise on service — especially agent experience and availability.
- If you buy and sell with Redfin, you'll get a 0.5% listing fee discount.
- Redfin gives its listings premium placement in its popular home search app.
- If finding the right agent is a top priority, you'll have limited options — Redfin only has a few agents in each of its markets.
- Redfin agents handle more customers at once than the average realtor, so they may not be able to provide as much personalized service.
Redfin has a 3.8 out of 5 rating (425 reviews) across popular review sites like Google and Yelp.
Redfin is available in 80+ U.S. markets (see all locations).
Prevu Real EstateFull Review
💲 Listing Fee
💰 Avg. Savings
⭐ Avg. Customer Rating
Prevu offers solid commission savings for buyers and sellers. But at certain price points, other discount brands may offer better value.
- Prevu's 1.5% listing fee saves sellers an average of $2,450 compared to a standard 3% commission rate.
- Eligible buyers get a commission rebate worth up to 2% of the home price.
- High minimum fees may limit your savings if you're selling a lower-priced home.
- Prevu has a small team, which limits your options if you don't hit it off with the first agent it sends you.
Prevu has a 5.0 out of 5 rating (343 reviews) across popular review sites like Google and Yelp.
Prevu is available in the following areas: CA, CO, CT, MA, NY, PA, TX, WA.
REX Real EstateFull Review
💲 Listing Fee
💰 Avg. Savings
⭐ Avg. Customer Rating
REX’s promise of huge savings is misleading. Its advertising misrepresents the significant risks of its pricing model and marketing approach. And its high minimum fees mean that many sellers won't save anything.
- REX's approach is incredibly risky — but if the gamble pays off, you could save about 50% on realtor fees
- Like other full-service brokerages, REX agents provide in-person services and support
- REX's 2.5% listing fee doesn't save you much — many full-price agents charge similar rates
- REX doesn't list your home on the MLS, so up to 90% of buyers may not even know it's for sale
- This risky marketing strategy seems likely to fail, so you may not save anything on commission
REX has a 4.7 out of 5 rating (1,021 reviews) across popular review sites like Google and Zillow.
REX is available in the following areas: AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, MD, NV, NJ, OR, PA, TX, WA, DC.
» LEARN: About discount real estate services
Flat-fee MLS services in Massachusetts
As mentioned before, a flat-fee MLS service will post your listing on the local MLS, usually for a low, upfront fee. In Massachusetts, this will typically cost you a couple hundred dollars.
Here are some Massachusetts flat-fee MLS companies to compare:
Entry OnlyEntry Only
- They offer a double money-back guarantee if you decide to sell with a Realtor that Entry Only refers you to (up to $999).
- You can call for support any time, day or night.
- If you upgrade to the Enhanced listing package ($699), the broker will review and explain any contracts for you.
- You have to pay extra for a comparative market analysis no matter which package you choose.
Entry Only New EnglandEntry Only New England
- The base package comes with a 12-month listing term.
- You can cancel any time with no fee.
- They don't offer any a la carte options to customize your listing package.
- You'll have very limited support from the listing broker.
Landfall Properties, LLCLandfall Properties, LLC
- You can get a basic two-month MLS listing for free.
- They provide escrow services when you upgrade to the Level Two listing package ($499).
- If you also use Landfall Properties to buy your new home, you can get a buyer's rebate.
- They don't offer any pricing help in their flat-fee tiers.
- You either have to use the two-month free listing or the Level Two listing ($499), which comes with a lot of extras. There's no option for extending the listing term without adding on a lot of stuff you may not need.
5 tips for selling your home without a realtor in Massachusetts
Pulling off a FSBO sale successfully is a difficult feat to accomplish. Here are some helpful tips from Clever CEO and real estate investor Ben Mizes, who has experience listing homes without an agent.
1. Make minor repairs
Small upgrades and repairs can do a lot to sway potential buyers. The key is knowing how and where to spend your money to get higher offers. Simple DIY projects like a fresh coat of paint or new cabinet pulls have a high return on investment, whereas pricier improvements like adding a new bedroom may not.
Overall, the most important factor is knowing where the line is between necessary and over-the-top. You want your house to meet buyers' expectations.
"If your kitchen is a disaster, spending more money on a remodel to get it in solid condition will pay off in the end," said Mizes. "But spending money on high-end features to take it from good to extravagant will be a waste."
Also, consider how valuable specific repairs are to buyers in your area. Focus on upgrades that have a higher cost recuperation in your region.
Home repairs with highest resale value in Massachusetts
Note: A resale value of more than 100% indicates a profitable repair.
2. Price your Massachusetts home competitively
In order to sell a home without a real estate agent, you'll need to price it competitively. Set too high of a listing price, and you'll limit your buyer pool. But if you price it too low, you'll leave money on the table.
Conduct research on Zillow or Neighborhood Scout to find out the prices of homes recently sold in your area. Compare their information, such as whether or not they had a garage or central air, to your homes, and try to assign a value to the features your house possesses and lacks. Essentially, you're trying to pull together the information in a comparative market analysis, which is what agents use to competitively price a home.
You'll also need to look at how long comparable homes stayed on the market or if they had to drop the price. This will help you determine where the line is for pricing too high in your area.
|Bonus tip: A pre-sale appraisal house gives you a more accurate starting point for pricing your home.
Based on our research, in Massachusetts, appraisals average $330 to $420, but help you walk away with thousands more once your home is sold.
3. Stage and market your home
You can hire a staging company to rearrange furniture and clean up, or you can go it on your own. A professional photographer is a must, however, as high-quality photos can sell your home 32% faster. Homes with more (and better) photos spend fewer days on the market. Most realtors pay this expense out of their own pocket.
Then you'll need to describe your home, emphasizing its best features, in a listing description for local and online advertising forums. If people express interest in seeing your home, expect to leave work early and drive home to let them in. You'll be giving up your weekends, most likely, and unable to go do something fun while an agent presents your home.
» LEARN: How much it costs to stage a home
|Bonus tip: Hiring a professional stager can help alleviate some of the stress FSBO sellers go through. They know your local market and ensure your home is ready to impress, giving you one less thing to worry about.
Shop around to find out which local stagers offer reasonable rates and have a proven record of getting homes ready for sale.
4. Prepare for showings
Organization is key when showing your home to potential buyers. You'll need a good system for scheduling showings and saving buyers' and agents’ contact information. You'll want to be flexible and try to show your house at buyers’ convenience.
Keep the home clean and decluttered at all times. The last thing you want is to scramble around with a vacuum after a buyer calls for a last-minute showing.
Also, focus on creating a homey atmosphere for buyers. You want to make a great first impression on as many buyers as possible, so add little touches that speak to most people.
"Bake cookies or light scented candles before a showing," advises Mizes. "Smell plays a huge part in how buyers will perceive and remember your house. Use comforting scents to your advantage so they feel at home the moment they walk through the door."
5. Negotiate for the best possible price
Negotiations are about deciding more than the final sale price. You and the buyer (or their agent) will also have to agree upon contract contingencies, how closing costs are divided, the timeline, and more.
To gain the upper hand, get creative with the seller concessions you offer a buyer. While they might cost you a little more at closing, concessions sweeten the deal for buyers and could lead to a higher final sale price.
The most popular concessions vary from market to market. Knowing what works with buyers in your area will help you strengthen your offer.
For example, a Clever survey of local real estate professionals found that in Massachusetts, sellers often cover 1.80% to 2.70% of buyers' closing costs. On a home of median value, that equates to $10,628 to $15,942, but can help you close the deal sooner and for more money.
You should also consider offering these popular seller concessions:
Most common seller concessions in Massachusetts
|Concession||Benefits of Offering Concession|
|Home Warranty||If your home has major appliances or systems that are on their last leg, a home warranty can give buyers peace of mind. A warranty will cover possible issues and is typically less expensive than paying for the repairs (or accepting a lower offer from a wary buyer).|
|Repair Credits||Repair credits are win-wins for buyers and sellers. You'll credit the buyer a set amount to cover the cost of repairs. Once the deal closes, the buyer can personally oversee the project to their liking and you don't have to worry about repairs going over budget.|
|Property Taxes||Often, you have to share past tax information about the property before closing a sale and many first-time home buyers are shocked by how much property taxes actually are. By covering some of those costs, you can offer these buyers some financial relief and make them more inclined to close on the sale.|
Conclusion: Is FSBO right for you?
FSBO isn't a perfect fit for everyone. But now that you know what awaits, if you're feeling confident about all the steps and possible challenges, you might be ready to sell without a realtor.
Remember, to succeed at selling a house by owner you'll need to:
- Make a plan: From getting photos of your property to lining up the correct paperwork, there’ll be a lot on your FSBO to-do list. Work out a schedule for when you need to accomplish everything so you can find a buyer and close in a timeframe that works for you.
- Get ready to hustle: Attracting qualified buyers is hard work. You'll need a great listing description and a killer marketing strategy to generate interest. Also, prepare to spend a considerable amount of your time fielding calls from prospective buyers, handling showings, hosting open houses, and more.
- Make smart investments: Even though your main goal as a FSBO seller is saving money, spending some money on small upgrades or repairs can lead to higher offers and a faster sale. Also, consider paying for a flat-fee MLS service to list your home on the local MLS to reach more buyers.
- Seek some professional advice: You don't have to sign a listing contract to talk to a realtor. Professional agents understand that smart sellers weigh their options; they'll be willing to meet for a free consultation. After seeing your home and looking at comps, they might notice issues or advantages you overlooked. Once you've heard their advice, if you still want to sell by owner, you can do so confidently because you thoroughly explored all your choices.
If you'd like some professional guidance with no strings attached, Clever can help. Fill out your basic info below to connect with a top, local realtor for a no-obligation consultation.
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Additional resources for Massachusetts home sellers