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How to Sell a House Without a Realtor (An In-Depth Guide)

Do you really need a realtor to sell your house? Our in-depth guide explores this classic question from all angles — plus we explain how to sell a house by owner like a pro. Find out if the ends really justify the means.

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Updated November 15, 2019

Selling a home involves making dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions. The first, and perhaps most important, is whether to work with a real estate agent or sell on your own — what's commonly referred to as a “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO) listing.

A real estate transaction is a complex, high-stakes process. When you sell without an agent, you're entirely on your own. That means no guidance or support with pricing, listing, marketing, showings, negotiations, contracts, closing, and more.

For most sellers, the marginal cost savings won't justify the many drawbacks of going it alone. Of course, everyone's situation is different and there are instances in which it can be argued that selling FSBO is the right choice.

If you're considering FSBO to avoid paying the standard 6% realtor commission, Clever can help. We negotiate discounted rates with top agents from major brands like RE/MAX, Century 21, Compass, and more, saving you up to 50% on commission fees.

Clever sellers save an average of $9,000 per transaction — and sell up to 2.8x faster than the national average.

> Learn more about low-commission real estate agents here.

In this guide, we'll explain how FSBO works, how to go about selling a home without a realtor, and the key advantages and drawbacks of this approach vs selling with an agent.

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What is FSBO?

Selling a home FSBO (pronounced “‘fizz-bo”) means that the seller has decided to list, market, and (hopefully) sell their home themselves, without the help of a licensed real estate agent.

Most FSBO sellers are operating under the assumption that by managing the entire process themselves, they:

  • Improve their odds of getting a great offer quickly — who's more motivated to sell and knowledgeable about your home than you?
  • Maximize their margin of profit — cut out the middleman, that's more cash in your pocket, right?

The truth is that the home selling process is incredibly complicated and time consuming. While a small percentage of people end up closing on their FSBO listings, for the vast majority of sellers, the ends simply don't justify the means.

What's more, emerging real estate startups and online brokerages are challenging the industry's established commission model by enabling sellers to partner with top-rated, local agents at a fraction of the traditionally associated cost.

In other words, FSBO's only real advantage — i.e., no listing commission — is being effectively cancelled out by industry disruption.

Why do people choose to sell their homes FSBO?

While it's widely accepted that working with a real estate agent brings in higher offers, the primary goal of any seller isn't just to get the highest possible price — it's to walk away with the maximum net profit on the sale.

If you're considering selling your home FSBO, chances are your primary motivation is cost savings.

In a standard real estate transaction, the seller is typically responsible for paying a commission fee to both their agent and the buyer's agent — approximately 6%, which they split more or less down the middle.

While 6% may not sound like a huge ask, when you're dealing with a high-value asset like real estate, it's a significant amount of money.

For example, if you sell your home for $400,000 with the help of a traditional listing agent, expect to fork over about $24,000 to the two agents involved in the sale. Keep in mind, that's in addition to any money you invested in improvements and repairs, staging, legal services, etc.

Then consider that the real number you need to worry about is your net profit — your selling price minus the amount you originally paid for the house (plus any additional money you've put into it since).

Sticking with the example above, if you purchased your home for $300,000 a decade ago and put about $25,000 worth of work into it over the years, your net profit on the $400,000 sale is $75,000.

Take away $24,000 for your commission fee — plus a conservative $5,000 for additional selling-related costs and fees — and you're left with a net profit of about $46,000.

When you look at just how expensive it can be to actually sell a home, it's not hard to understand why some sellers would be motivated to give FSBO a try — who wouldn't want to walk away from a sale with more money in their pocket?

In reality, this approach rarely ends up saving sellers money in the end. Studies have shown that FSBO sales take longer, on average, than agent-assisted sales.

Fun Fact: Back in 2011, the owner of ForSaleByOwner.com infamously had to hire a real estate agent after failing to sell his NYC loft himself. His luxury Chelsea apartment sat on the market for six months without selling before he turned to a professional for help — and paid the standard 6% commission on the sale.

Importantly, there's a direct correlation between days on market (DOM) and a home's list-to-sale ratio, i.e., the final selling price vs the initial listing price. Generally speaking, the longer the home sits on the market, the lower the final sale price — according to Zillow, approximately 5% less after 60 days.

Unsurprisingly, 36% of U.S. sellers attempt FSBO listings each year, only 11% of homes actually sell without the help of an agent. Most people quickly discover that the minimal cost benefits are vastly outweighed by the many disadvantages and challenges inherent to FSBO selling.

What's more, the number one argument for foregoing the services of an agent isn't completely accurate — most FSBO sellers still end up paying a commission in the end.

How much are realtor commission fees and what am I paying for?

A commission, generally speaking, is a percentage of a sale that goes to the person selling that particular product or service. In real estate, agents take a set percentage of the sale price of the house in compensation for their services rendered.

The standard realtor commission rate nationwide is 6%, which is typically split down the middle between the seller's and buyer's agents. So what are these agents actually doing in exchange for this fee?

What does a listing agent do for sellers?

A full-service listing agent guides home sellers through the entire home selling process from start to finish. They value and price the home, list it on the MLS and other online portals, print marketing materials, help with staging, schedule and conduct showings and open houses, negotiate on the seller's behalf, handle paperwork, and more.

What does a buyer's agent do for buyers?

In addition to helping buyers find and vet potential properties, buyer's agents typically handle the logistics and offer support throughout the process, from pre-approval to closing. This includes offering expert advice, drawing up paperwork and offer letters, negotiating, and more.

Most sellers, with the help of their listing agent, will bake this fee into the listing price of their home — think of it as another built-in cost of the process, just like renovations, legal fees, and taxes.

Why do sellers have to pay the buyer's agent?

The vast majority of buyers work with a realtor. The best way to sell a home quickly — and for top dollar — is to properly incentivize their agent.

When you don't offer the buyer's agent a commission, the buyers may have to pay them out of their own pocket, which could limit their ability to purchase your home.

What's more, it will likely disincentivize the buyer's agent from showing your property to their clients. Buyer's agents spend a considerable amount of money marketing themselves and acquiring new clients. If one of their clients ends up purchasing a home and they don't earn a commission, it doesn't just shrink their profits — they're actually losing money in this situation.

All of this is to say that even if you opt for selling FSBO and forego the services of a listing agent, chances are you'll still be on the hook for the buyer's agent commission — about 3% of the final sale price.

Pros and Cons of Selling a Home FSBO

Pros of Selling a Home FSBO

  • Lower commission fees: When you sell FSBO, you avoid the traditional 3% listing fee, which potentially means a higher margin of profit at the end of the sale.
  • More control: In a FSBO sale, you'll have complete control of your listing price and description, marketing strategy, showings, negotiations, and more. Of course, depending on your availability and experience level, this could also be considered a con.
  • The trust factor: No one knows more about your home or is motivated to do a better job selling it than you. There's no guarantee you'll be able to find a real estate agent who inspires your confidence or puts in the amount of time and effort you're looking for.

Cons of Selling a Home FSBO

  • Lower sale price: Top real estate agents are experts at pricing and marketing homes to sell quickly and for top dollar. Most FSBO sellers simply don't have the requisite knowledge or resources to price a home correctly, which typically results in lower offers, extended sale timelines, or both.
  • No objectivity: Unlike a real estate agent, you have an emotional attachment to your home. That can often cloud your decision making when it comes to key factors like pricing and negotiations, which can impede your ability to attract offers or close deals.
  • Less visibility: Most FSBO sellers have to rely on word-of-mouth referrals or FSBO websites, which, unfortunately, aren't all that effective. Because buyers tend to work with agents and these agents prefer professionally listed homes, FSBO sites only get a small fraction of the traffic (i.e., visibility) that professional listing sites are able to offer.
  • Time- and energy-intensive: Selling a house is a huge task. Most FSBO sellers underestimate how much time and energy is involved, which results in a lackluster effort and outcome.
  • Increased liability: Did you know that in some states there are limits on the types of repairs that a buyer can request from the seller? How familiar are you with regional rules governing residential property disclosure? Selling a home involves a huge amount of paperwork, disclosures, and legal documentation. If you're not well-versed in legal documents, contracts, and tax procedures, you could inadvertently overlook an important detail that could result in an audit or lawsuit after closing.
  • Limited cost savings: While you won't have to pay a listing fee, chances are you'll still have to fork over a 3% commission to incentivize the buyer's agent. What's more, without an agent's help, you'll have to pay for marketing and advertising, MLS access, etc. In other words, that 2.5-3% you're saving on listing commission will likely end up being spent on things that are standard listing agent services anyhow.

How to Sell a Home For Sale By Owner: A Step-By-Step Guide

1. Price your home competitively

Listing price is one of the most important aspects of the selling process — and hardest to get right. Price too high and you'll struggle to get offers; too low and you'll sacrifice your margins on the sale.

Here are three things you can do to determine a list price that helps you attract the most buyers possible without sacrificing your hard-earned equity in the process.

  • Get a pre-listing appraisal: A professional appraiser will walk through your home and evaluate its condition, type, size relative to local market conditions in order to come up with a relatively accurate assessment of your home's fair market value. Expect to pay between $300 and $700 for this service.
  • Find comps: Comparable sales, or “comps” for short, are price data for homes similar to yours that have recently sold in your area. The idea is that by evaluating the recent sales performance of similar homes in your area, you'll get a good sense of your home's “fair market value,” which will help you set a realistic list price and/or pricing strategy. Ideally, your comps will be homes that match your own property based on key criteria, such as location, size, number of beds and baths, age, physical condition, etc.
  • Research seasonal real estate trends: Use free sites like Zillow to research local market trends and forecasts. Demand for housing tends to fluctuate seasonally, and these trends differ from market to market. Look historical market data and evaluate key metrics like sale price and list-to-offer ratio to determine the best season or month to list your home. Hunt down forecasts from multiple, local market experts to get a sense of the direction your region is heading to determine if you should act now (i.e., your market is about to experience a downturn) or if you should maybe wait another six to eight months before pulling the trigger (market demand is expected to increase over the next year).

> Learn how to price your home like a pro.

2. Prepare your house for sale

When it comes to selling a house, first impressions can often make or break a deal. Here are three key steps that will help you attract more buyers and higher offers.

  • Make impactful repairs and improvements: Investing in a few low-cost, high-impact repairs and/or improvements — e.g., repainting your home's exterior, replacing carpets, landscaping, fixing minor, visible damages, etc. — can go a long way towards helping you get acceptable offers within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Clean and declutter: Remember that buyers are looking to visualize themselves living in your home — that's difficult to do when it's an absolute mess. Try to remove up to 75% of the items in your home before listing to give it a fresh look and “clean-slate” feel.
  • Stage your home to sell: Consider working with a professional home stager — particularly if your house is vacant. Recent data suggests that properly staged homes sell for an average of 17% more than non-staged homes.

> Learn how to prepare your house for sale.

3. Do your own marketing and advertising

Even if you're sitting on an incredible property in a highly desirable neighborhood, you're going to have a hard time attracting offers if nobody knows you're trying to sell. Here are five things that will help boost your listing's visibility and bring more qualified buyers to your door.

  • Hire a professional photographer: In the age of smartphones and visual content, quality photos are more important in real estate than ever before. Hiring a professional photographer may set you back several hundred dollars, but the impact on offer speed and prices will likely more than justify the cost.
  • Write a great listing description: In terms of attracting buyers, the next most important thing after photos is your listing description. Make sure your description is enticing, comprehensive, and accurate. Among other things, be sure to highlight your home's best features, provide basic must-know information (square footage, number of beds and baths, etc.), and offer insight into the neighborhood and local amenities (nearby stores, public transportation, etc.)
  • Spread the word online: According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 93% of home buyers rely on the internet when house hunting. Post on free sites like Facebook, Craigslist, Zillow, etc. Consider investing in sponsored posts on Facebook or paying a flat-fee MLS service to publish your listing on the local MLS. The digital real estate landscape is competitive — if you're not willing to work hard and spend some cash to break through the digital noise, you're going to have a hard time attracting buyers.
  • Spread the word offline: Spread the word among family, friends, and coworkers; put up an attractive sign in your yard; distribute flyers; take out ads in local papers and magazines; etc. Without the professional network and resources of a real estate agent, your only option is to hustle and work hard in order to attract qualified, local buyers.

> Learn more about how to market your home.

4. Manage the listing process like a pro

Pricing and marketing a home are challenging to be sure, but managing a listing is on another level entirely. If you're considering selling FSBO, do your homework to set realistic expectations and ensure you're prepared for the logistical challenges and mental stress this process requires.

  • Make yourself available: As any experienced real estate agent will tell you, most buyers shop for homes at night or on the weekends. If you want to get secure a qualified offer quickly, expect to be fielding phone calls and emails outside of “normal” business hours.
  • Schedule showings and open houses: The more prospective buyers that visit your home, the more likely it is you'll get an offer. Buyers and their agents will often reach out with little-to-no notice for a spur-of-the-moment tour — the more flexible and accommodating you can be, the better.
  • Be objective and professional: Always be courteous and professional when dealing with prospective buyers and their agents. As buyers tour your home, they may offer up critiques or their real-time impressions. Even if their feedback skews negative, don't take it personally. In fact, if possible, you should use it as an opportunity to improve your listing strategy — hear what they're saying about your home's price, condition, appearance, location, etc. and take action to address the issues, if necessary.
  • Don't be passive or inflexible: Remember, the longer your home sits on the market the harder it becomes to sell. If you're struggling to attract offers, don't just sit idly by — take action! Adjust your price or marketing strategy, make concessions, or consider bringing in a professional for assistance.

5. Evaluate offers and qualify prospective buyers

Agents have a wealth of experiencing vetting potential buyers and making sure they're the real deal. For example, many FSBO sellers erroneously believe that all they need is a letter stating the buyer has been pre-qualified for a mortgage — in reality, there is a massive difference between being “pre-approved” and “pre-qualified.”

To that end, it's always a good idea to require that all offers be accompanied by a pre-approval letter or proof of funds.

It's also important to remember that there are safety risks involved with showing a home. If you're handling private showings and open houses yourself, be sure to take down the contact information of anyone in attendance (i.e., buyers andtheir agents) and even require formal identification. Not only does this help ensure only the most serious buyers are touring your home — it also discourages con artists and thieves from taking advantage of an open house and gives you better recourse when if and when they do.

6. Hire a real estate attorney

Real estate transactions are complex and involve a huge amount of paperwork. If you're selling FSBO, it's a good idea to hire a real estate attorney to avoid potential legal trouble down the road.

In fact, depending on where you live, you may not have much choice in the matter — 21 states require a real estate attorney for all transactions:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

Some real estate lawyers work for a flat fee and others charge by the hour — typically in the ballpark of $200 to $400 per hour. Expect a real estate attorney to set you back anywhere between $500 to $1,500.

> Learn more about real estate attorneys.

Key Benefits of Selling with a Full-Service Agent

Before deciding to sell your home FSBO, the main question you need to answer for yourself is, “Are the services and support I'm forfeiting by opting to sell FSBO really worth the 3% I might end up saving?”

Of course, first you need to understand exactly what those services are. Here are some of the benefits you can expect to gain by working with an experienced real estate agent.

  • Expertise: When you partner with a top realtor, you gain access to a wealth of industry-specific expertise. They understand your local market, including the average sales cycles for different types of homes and when to sell based on seasonal fluctuations in demand; they know how to properly price, market, stage, and show a home; and they're well-versed in negotiations, paperwork, and contracts.
  • Effective Marketing: A good real estate agent knows exactly how to market your home in order to attract more interest and get you the best offer possible. They'll provide staging recommendations, help hire a professional photographer to take great listing photos, and write a great description that highlights features local buyers are looking for.
  • Professional Showings: Many FSBO deals are lost because prospective buyers don't feel comfortable pointing out problems to the owners, who they know have an emotional attachment to the house. Buyers will feel more comfortable voicing concerns to an agent (i.e., an objective third party), which presents an opportunity to nip them in the bud. “I totally understand, you're worried about the paint job. Would it make a difference if we included a small stipend for you to pay for painters before you move in?”
  • More Resources, Better Visibility: Agents have direct access to online platforms and networking resources that provide extensive market exposure. That includes, but is not limited to, the local MLS and other high-visibility online listing portals, industry-specific social media channels, personal connections with local buyer's agents, and name recognition.
  • Professional Networks: The best listing agents have extensive professional networks — i.e., relationships with top local buyer's agents — which helps them close more deals, more efficiently. This kind of agent-to-agent networking is incredibly common and arguably one of the biggest advantages of working with an agent instead of selling FSBO.
  • Help with Contracts & Negotiations: Real estate contracts are complicated. If you word something incorrectly or leave out an important detail, you can easily end up getting burned. Here's an example: John got a great price on his home, but he didn't stipulate in the contract that he was planning to take his appliances with him when he moved. On the day of closing, the buyer's agent successfully argued that the appliances had to stay, resulting in a $5,000 loss for poor, old John.

Measuring Hard and Soft Benefits of FSBO vs Real Estate Agents

Over the years, researchers have conducted numerous studies in an attempt to measure the concrete cost benefits of selling through an agent over FSBO. Generally speaking, these studies investigate whether the decision to hire a real estate agent results in a price increase that more than justifies the commission they're being paid.

While some of the largest reports, including a study by the NAR, suggest agents bring in higher offers than FSBO-listed homes (up to 23% higher, in fact), most of them have been either inconclusive or at odds with one another.

This isn't exactly surprising. It's a difficult thing to measure — you can't exactly sell the same house to two different buyers simultaneously, one via an agent and the other through a FSBO website, then assess which approach yielded a better result.

In truth, trying to crunch the numbers and affirm your decision on paper isn't necessarily a useful way to approach the issue. Instead, you should be focusing on the big picture and “soft savings” you gain when you partner with a realtor — that is, value that can't be concretely measured but is clearly there.

Let's face the facts: unless you a) have a ton of free time and b) are a seasoned real estate professional who is extremely well-versed in home pricing strategy, local housing market trends, sales and negotiating, real estate contracts, and tax protocols, chances are you would benefit immensely from an agent's services.

FSBO Alternatives that Let You Avoid Paying Full Realtor Commission

If you're dead set on avoiding paying the full 6% commission to sell your home, the good news is that FSBO isn't your only option!

Below, we've outlined several selling different approaches to home selling that help you avoid or save on commission fees that may be worth considering.

Sell to a Traditional Cash Buyer

Traditional cash buyers (think house flippers like "We Buy Ugly Houses") will buy your home directly from you for cash, enabling you to avoid typical listing fees — and a lot of the hassle and stress of the traditional home selling process. Moreover, because its an all-cash transaction, closing timelines will typically be faster and you don't have to worry about a sale falling through because of buyer financing issues.

Another key benefit is that these types of investors will typically buy any home, regardless of its size, location, or condition. In other words, if your home is in need of extensive repairs or updating, this could be a good option for you (assuming you don't want to deal with them yourself).

Of course, the above benefits come with a hefty price tag. Flippers operate on a buy-low-sell-high model. Their goal is to pay as little for your home as possible, make some quick improvements, then turn around and resell for the maximum amount. Expect lowball offers to the tune of 30-50% below your home's fair market value. Obviously that's far greater a hit than the standard 6% commission fee.

Sell to an iBuyer

iBuyers are a new breed of real estate company that uses technology to make near-instant, all-cash offers on homes.

These companies operate on an absolutely immense scale, buying and reselling thousands of homes each year. This high-volume, tech-forward approach allows them to remain profitable while maintaining far slimmer margins on each individual transaction.

Translation? Unlike property flippers, they don't make lowball offers. Most of these companies will pay fair market value (or very close to it) for the homes they buy.

When you sell to an iBuyer, you won't pay a realtor commission; however, you will be on the hook for a service fee, ranging anywhere from 6-14% of the offer price (fees are typically in the 7-9% range).

If you're looking to save on the standard 6% commission rate, you might be thinking, "hey, that might cost me even more — why is this being recommended as an alternative to FSBO!?"

Well, in exchange for that fee, you're getting a ton of benefits, including:

  • An all-cash offer within 24-48 hours of request
  • A stress-free, guaranteed sale (if you qualify)
  • No need for staging, marketing, showings, etc.
  • A fair price for your home
  • The ability to move on your schedule (closing is typically flexible, ranging from 10-60+ days)

Keep in mind that these companies have strict criteria for the types of homes they'll buy and, as of this writing, only active in a handful of major cities across the U.S. In other words, relatively speaking, not many people will actually qualify for this service.

Sell With a Low-Commission Real Estate Agent

For the vast majority of home sellers, listing on the open market with a top agent will be the most viable option — and certainly deliver better results than a FSBO listing.

That said, that doesn't mean you should just submit to the powers that be and stop looking for opportunities to save on commission!

While there are plenty of options out there that claim to save you money — e.g., discount brokerages, flat-fee MLS services, limited-service agents, etc. — the truth is there's almost always a catch. After all, why would an experienced realtor provide their full array of services for less than the going rate?

That's where Clever Real Estate comes in.

What is Clever?

Clever connects you with top-rated, local agents from major brands or regional brokerages (Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Century 21, etc.) These agents have agreed to work for a flat fee of $3,000 — or 1% if your home sells for more than $350,000.

Clever only partners with full-service agents. That means you get all the same services you would with a traditional agent — e.g., market analysis and pricing, professional photos, access to the MLS and hundreds of other listing sites, showings, negotiation support, and everything else you need to close on your home — all at a fraction of the typical cost.

Why do Clever Partner Agents offer discounted rates?

Real estate agents normally have to invest a considerable amount of their time and resources into acquiring new business for themselves. Of course, they don't get paid when they sign new customers — they get paid when they sell homes.

When agents work with Clever, they get a steady stream of new clients, meaning they can spend more time selling homes and worry less about selling themselves. In effect, they're able to generate more revenue with less effort — and those savings get passed on to you in the form of a reduced commission rate.

It's essentially the “Groupon Model,” but for realtors. For an agent, a single flat-fee listing isn't all that appealing, but when they're seeing five to 10 discounted listings per month, every month, it starts to make a real impact on their bottom line.

There are no gimmicks, caveats, or strings attached — what you see is what you get. Best of all, you don't pay a dime until your home actually sells.

The Bottom Line? It's Your Decision

At the end of the day, how you go about selling your home is 100% your decision. While experts agree that FSBO is not a viable approach for most home sellers, that doesn't mean you can't do more research or even give it try.

That said, if you are planning to attempt a FSBO listing, be sure you:

  • Do your homework: The home selling process is incredibly involved and complex. You'll be handling a lot of negotiating and legally binding paperwork on your own, so make sure you know your stuff.
  • Take advantage of every possible resource at your disposal: You're competing for the attention of prospective buyers with thousands of other sellers. Unless you invest a considerable amount of effort into marketing your home, both online and off, you're going to get lost in the noise.
  • Clear your schedule: Selling a home requires a great deal of time and energy — particularly when it comes to showings and open houses. If you're not flexible and generally available, you're going to have a hard time attracting real offers.
  • Seek professional guidance: Even if you don't plan on hiring an agent, you should set up a consultation to get some advice, as well as some perspective on what you're getting yourself into. Clever's team of licensed experts is standing by to answer your questions, offer free advice, and connect you with the best home-selling solutions and services, given your specific situation and needs.

> Get in touch for free advice from our team of licensed real estate experts!

Note: This service is 100% free and comes with zero obligation.

Top FAQs About Selling a Home For Sale By Owner

1. What is the fastest way to sell a house by owner?

Here are eight things you can do to speed up the FSBO selling process:

  • Get a professional home appraisal and look up “comparable sales” to set a competitive listing price.
  • Do some research in advance to determine when the best time of year to sell is in your local market.
  • Get professional photos and write a compelling, highly descriptive (and accurate) listing description.
  • Market your home aggressively! Use free platforms like Craigslist, Zillow, and social media; invest in sponsored posts on Facebook or taking out ads in local papers and magazines.
  • Consider paying a brokerage or service to list your home on the MLS.
  • Be objective and professional when dealing with buyers and fielding offers.
  • Hire a real estate attorney to help you wade through all the paperwork and avoid legal complications down the road.
  • If you're struggling to get an offer, seek help from a professional. Top agents are experts at getting great offers quickly — and the longer your home sits on the market, the harder it becomes to sell!

2. Is it hard to sell a house by owner?

Most people who attempt FSBO listings seriously underestimate how challenging and time-consuming the home selling process actually is. In almost every case, the many drawbacks of FSBO selling simply aren't worth the small amount of money you might save.

Top real estate agents save you a great deal of time, energy, and stress. They reduce fiscal and legal liability, handle difficult negotiations, and help you sell your home faster. In short, most people agree (including former FSBO sellers!) a good agent always ends up justifying the added cost — especially relative to what you lose when you choose to go it alone.

3. How do I sell my house to a family member?

If you're trying to sell a home to a family member without a realtor's help or guidance, here are four things you should keep in mind:

  1. Involve a lawyer from the beginning to avoid any nasty complications.
  2. Set a fair price — you'll of course want to offer a family discount, but don't hang yourself out to dry!
  3. If you're not offering up your home as a gift, don't make it seem that way — if you sell your home to a family member for more than 25% below market value, chances are they'll have to pay a hefty “gift tax.”
  4. Be totally transparent and by-the-book with Uncle Sam — trust the IRS knows all the tricks in the book and isn't going to be fooled.

> Learn how to sell a house to a family member — the right way.

4. Can you get on MLS without a realtor?

In general, if you're selling your home FSBO you cannot list your home on the MLS yourself. That said, you can negotiate with a realtor — or pay a flat-fee MLS service — to post your listing on the MLS for you.

While this approach can be relatively affordable (typically an upfront fee between $49 and $500, depending on the market), it's not without its drawbacks. When you pay a flat-fee MLS service, the listing is all you get. You'll get zero assistance with pricing, marketing, negotiations, or any other aspect of the selling process, and there's no guarantee of a happy ending.

> Learn more about flat-fee MLS services here.

5. Are there closing costs when you sell a home for sale by owner?

Yes. Even though you'll avoid paying the standard 3-3.5% listing commission, chances are you'll still be on the hook for a number of other costs, such as attorney fees, title transfer fees, taxes, etc.

While the actual amount will vary on a case-by-case basis, expect to pay somewhere between 1% and 3% in closing costs before all is said and done. Keep in mind you'll probably have to offer a buyer's agent commission — approximately 2.5-3% of the final sale price — in order to incentivize local buyer's agents to show your home to their clients.

> Learn more about closing costs for home sellers.

6. Do I need a lawyer to sell my house privately?

21 U.S. states require attorneys in all real estate transactions — regardless of whether the seller is listing FSBO or working with an agent.

If you live in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, or West Virginia, you must hire a lawyer to assist with the sale.

That said, even if it's not required by law, it's a good idea to seek assistance from an experienced real estate lawyer. This will help ensure the sale goes off without a hitch and that you don't run into any legal complications down the road. A real estate attorney can be a bit pricey — sometimes up to $1,500 — but considering the complexities and risks involved with selling such a valuable asset, it's definitely a better-safe-than-sorry scenario.

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Jamie Ayers
Jamie Ayers

Jamie is the Director of Content at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents and helps you save thousands on commission. In the past, Jamie has managed columns for clients in a variety of leading business publications, including Forbes, Inc., CEO World, Entrepreneur, and more. At Clever, Jamie's primary goal is to provide home sellers, buyers, and investors with the information they need to successfully navigate the ins and outs of the real estate industry.

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