In Montana, the average commission rate is 4.96% to 5.76%. If you sell a house worth $294,015 — the median home value in Montana — that’s up to $16,941, 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. In addition, FSBO homes often take longer to sell, and are more likely to fall out of contract after accepting an offer — unless the homeowner is experienced and knowledgeable about the process.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know to successfully sell your house without a realtor: the ins and outs of Missouri realtor fees, paperwork, and tips to walk away with more from your sale.
What FSBO Sellers in Montana Need to Know
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 Montana, but here's an overview of the state's laws and regulations.
Montana FSBO Overview
|Real estate attorney required?||No|
|Required state disclosures? (learn more)||Federal disclosures about lead-based paint apply, but otherwise, Montana is a "buyer beware" state.|
|FSBO yard sign allowed?||Yes|
|Competitive Buyer's Agent Commission (learn more)||2.55% to 2.95%|
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 and in Montana, 10% of mortgage applications are rejected.
- 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 Montana.
>> LEARN the steps of a FSBO sale
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 Billings and think your house is worth about $269,000, 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 Montana Real Estate Market
|Median Home Value*||$294,015|
|Median Listing Price⁺||$366,850|
|Listing Price per sqft⁺||$180|
|% of Homes with Price Reduction⁺||9.41%|
|Median Sale Price^||$302,400|
|Pricing Advice for FSBO Sellers||Property values are about to rise, but don't get ahead of the game and overprice your house.|
How to List Your Montana 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 Montana
|Montana Buyer Priorities||Advice for FSBO Sellers|
|1. Listing Price||Be honest about your list price. Look at recent sales data in your area on Zillow or other real estate sites to find an accurate price point for homes of comparable size and condition to yours. Many real estate companies will also conduct an analysis for little to no charge.|
|2. Recent Renovations||Be specific about large updates you’ve made in the last 5 years, such as rewiring electric, putting in a new roof, or installing a new furnace. List exactly when the renovation was done, roughly how much it cost, and what its current condition is today. This will give buyers peace of mind that they won't have to worry about big issues any time soon|
|3. School Districts||Include appealing information about school districts in your listing description, such as its Greatschools rating, graduation rates, parental reviews, or state accolades.|
Based on a 2020 Clever survey of 500+ real estate agents
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 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 Montana 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.
How Realtor Commissions Work In Montana
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 Montana, this typically ranges from 2.41% to 2.81% 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 2.55% to 2.95%.
|Average Range in Montana*||Average Amount⁺|
|Listing Commission||2.41% to 2.81%||$6,024 to $7,024|
|Buyer Agent's Commission||2.55% to 2.95%||$6,381 to $7,381|
*Based on the average commission rates from a 2020 Clever survey of 500+ real estate agents
⁺Based on the median sale price in Montana (Redfin Data Center, May 2020)
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.
>> LEARN how real estate commissions work
How Commission Costs Break Down in Montana
|Selling FSBO to a Represented Buyer||Selling FSBO to an Unrepresented Buyer||Listing with an Agent||Listing with a Discount Agent (learn more)|
*Based on the median sale price in Montana (Redfin Data Center, May 2020) and that FSBO homes sell for 6% less (Collateral Analytics, 2017)
⁺Based on the average commission rates in Montana from a 2020 Clever survey of 500+ real estate agents
Paperwork to Sell a House by Owner In Montana
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 Montana’s requirements.
Required for All Montana Real Estate Sales
|2 Forms of ID||In most cases, a valid passport, driver's license, or other form of Montana-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.|
Montana 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.|
Note: Montana is a "buyer beware" state and, in most situations, sellers are not legally required to make disclosures (except those required by federal law). However, to give buyers peace of mind, many homeowners still provide a disclosure statement.
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 hiring a real estate attorney. While this can cost $500-$5,000, an experienced lawyer can answer any questions you have along the way.
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 Montana's average commission rates, that could leave 2.41% to 5.76% of your sale price in your pocket. Even if your buyer has an agent, you'll still avoid paying 2.41% to 2.81% in listing commissions.
- No MLS access: 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. Consider the following lower-cost options (listed from least expensive to most):
Flat-Fee MLS Services in Montana
As mentioned before, a flat-fee MLS service will post your listing on the local MLS, usually for a low, upfront fee. In Montana, this will typically cost you a couple hundred dollars.
Here are some Montana flat-fee MLS companies to compare:
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 $3,000 (or 1% on homes over $350,000) if and when your home sells.
>> LEARN more about Clever Real Estate
Discount Real Estate Services in Montana
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.
>> LEARN about discount real estate services
iBuyers will buy qualifying homes for cash, meaning you avoid realtor fees — and the stress of listing on the open market entirely. While these companies make fair-market offers, they will deduct any required repairs after an on-site visit. They also charge a service fee typically ranging between 6-14%.
>> LEARN about iBuyers
5 Tips for Selling Your Home Without a Realtor in Montana
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 Montana
|Top Upgrades||Avg. Repair Cost||Avg. Resale Value||Cost Recouped|
|Manufactured Stone Veneer||$9,179||$9,175||100%|
|Garage Door Replacement||$3,626||$3,484||96%|
|Minor Kitchen Remodel||$22,472||$17,845||79%|
Based on regional data from Remodeling (May 2020)
2. Price Your Montana Home Competitively
Home prices in Montana have been on an upward trajectory for a number of years. In a majority of counties in the state, prices have gone up by at least 70% since 2000. That said, the most noteworthy trend in recent times is the slowdown in home sales. According to the National Association of Realtors, sales volumes in Montana fell by 5.5% in 2018.
The primary reason fewer homes are selling is that there has been an increase in inventory across the state. Consequently, houses are staying on the market longer and many sellers have to consider dropping their prices.
Given the slowdown in sales, the best way for sellers to find buyers quickly is by pricing their property competitively. Starting off at a lower price to get more money may be counterintuitive, but by attracting buyers and getting them excited about the property you’re much more likely to field multiple serious offers.
3. Stage and Market Your Home
The way you go about marketing your house will depend on its strengths. Owners of waterfront homes should probably include some aerial shots of it against the surroundings. If your house is located in a less scenic area, you might want to focus more on the interiors instead.
Having good pictures of your house is imperative if you want to impress potential buyers. If you have the money, invest in a professional photographer with experience in the real estate niche. You could try your own hand at taking pictures of the property if you have the requisite equipment.
Once you have flattering pictures of your house, it's time to write a listing description. Make sure to use words that have been shown to attract buyers while leaving out the ones that can paint your house in a bad light.
Sellers can promote the listing using both online and offline channels. Newspapers are still a dependable way to get eyeballs on your property. Remember to do research on which days newspapers in your area get the most readers before posting an ad.
Social media is another great channel to market your house. Specifically, Facebook Groups and email lists can be used to get your listing in front of motivated buyers. You could also consider using Facebook and Instagram ads to target people in your city.
At this point, you're probably going to start getting requests from people wanting to see your house. Staging the house the right way is essential to impress those who show up to take a look.
You could use your own furniture or rent furniture to stage the home.
>> LEARN how much it costs to stage a home
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 2020 Clever survey of over 500 real estate professionals found that in Montana, sellers often cover 1.25% to 1.91% of buyers' closing costs. On a home of median value, that equates to $3,645 to $5,569, 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 Montana
|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||If your home needs repairs, a buyer may request that you fix the issues, or you can offer repair credits. Repair credits allow you to close the deal and avoid the hassle of handling renovations. Once they own the house, the buyer oversees the project and, since the concession is a set amount, you pay nothing else if the repairs go over budget.|
|Mortgage Discount Points||Mortgage discount points are particularly enticing to buyers who plan to stay in the home for the long haul. While the cost varies from lender to lender, mortgage points lower a buyer's interest rate and can save them thousands over the years. If you offer to buy mortgage discount points, it can seal the deal for some buyers — or lead to higher final sale prices.|
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.