Situations often arise that require people to sell their homes quickly: moving for a new job, avoiding foreclosure, debt-related issues, divorce, property inheritance, and more.
When speed is your top priority, the two best options are:
- Selling to a cash buyer (e.g., We Buy Ugly Houses, Opendoor, Offerpad, etc.)
- Listing with a top-rated, local real estate agent
Importantly, each of these choices comes with a unique set of advantages and drawbacks.
Cash buyers offer unparalleled speed and convenience, but you'll likely take a sizable hit on price — expect high service fees or offers anywhere between 10% to 50% below your home's fair market value.
In contrast, listing with a realtor won't get you an “instant” cash offer; however, the best real estate agents will leverage aggressive pricing and marketing tactics to help you sell quickly and for a respectable price — often at or above market value.
In this post, we'll provide an in-depth assessment and comparison of each approach, overviews of top cash buyer companies, tips on how to sell a house quickly for a good price, and actionable next steps for prepping your home for a fast sale.
Jump to a Section:
- What is the fastest way to sell a house?
- How do cash buyers and iBuyers work?
- Top 5 iBuyers: Pros and Cons, Reviews
- We Buy Ugly Houses
- Zillow Offers
- Selling Your House Fast with an Agent
- 5 Steps to Selling a House Quickly for a Good Price
- Conclusion: Which option is best for you?
- FAQs About Selling a House Fast
What's the Fastest Way to Sell a House?
As of 2019, selling a house in the United States takes an average of 68 days— approximately 35 days to get an offer, then another 35 to 45 days to close (sometimes longer, depending on the buyer's financing method).
By the numbers, an iBuyer is the fastest way to sell a house. Many companies will make a cash offer within three days or less and offer flexible closing dates — some in as few as seven or eight days after you accept their final offer.
Of course, the tradeoff for this speed and convenience usually comes in the form of high fees, a lower offer price, or both (we'll cover this in-depth in the next section).
Selling with a top real estate agent offers the best overall value. Experienced, full-service agents will price your home aggressively and leverage their local networks and resources to find buyers quickly and bring in the best possible offer given the circumstances — often more than market value.
Sellers who list with agents in the top 5% of their local markets get offers in an average of 13 days — nearly 2.8x faster than the national average. What's more, these sellers typically get market value or better for their homes, compared to the 20-50% hit homeowners typically take when selling to cash buyers and iBuyers.
Home auctions are another popular option for sellers who need to move quickly; however, while this approach does offer some advantages, speed and price aren't necessarily among them.
According to the experts, auction sales can take anywhere between 45 to 60 days from listing to close and typically bring in offers 10-15% below market value — or lower, if the house doesn't get any bids
If you need to sell your house fast and are thinking about attempting to go it alone, think again. Not only do FSBO sellers get lower offers than those who work with agents — they're also notorious for taking a long time or falling through altogether.
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.
The key takeaway? 36% of U.S. sellers attempt FSBO sales each year, but only 11% are successful (note: more than two-thirds of successful FSBO sellers know the buyers) — the rest end up listing with an agent instead.
Selling to We Buy Ugly Houses, Cash Buyers, or iBuyers
So what is a “cash buyer” anyway?
Put simply, cash buyers are individual investors or companies that will make an instant — or near-instant — cash offer on your home, often sight unseen, based on a proprietary real estate valuation model.
iBuyers (short for “instant buyers”) are essentially the 21st-century update of traditional cash buyers — i.e., high-tech, venture-backed companies that leverage advanced data analytics and marketing tactics to operate on a much larger scale.
Though they come in many different shapes and sizes, all cash and iBuyers are operating on the same basic business model: buy homes on the cheap and flip them quickly for a profit.
How Do Cash Buyers and iBuyers Work?
The two biggest advantages of selling to a cash or iBuyer are speed and convenience. Here's a general example of how an iBuyer sale might play out:
- You submit a form on the iBuyer's website with some general information about your property
- They get back in touch and let you know if they're interested in your home — if so, they request additional information, including pictures, unique features, your remaining mortgage balance, etc.
- An analyst will crunch the numbers and get back to you with a cash offer within 24 to 48 hours
- If you're happy with the offer, you accept and fill out the initial paperwork online
- Before closing, the company will send a representative to perform an on-site inspection
- You pick a closing date and fill out the final paperwork at a local title transfer or attorney's office, the sale is recorded, and the funds are transferred
Sounds pretty appealing, right?
Remember, these companies are buying your house to resell, not live in. As such, expect to pay a premium for the “quick and easy” experience, and for the offer to be well-below market value — how else are they going to turn a profit on the flip?
iBuyers will typically charge service fees — sometimes up to 13% — and build in a discount to your home's fair value in order to offset their risk and ensure a decent margin upon resale.
Here's how this might look in practice:
You bought your home for $350,000 with 20% down, which means you put in $70,000 cash up front. Let's pretend you haven't put any more money into your home since — that $70,000 is the amount of equity you have in your home.
Assuming your home's value hasn't increased, let's say an iBuyer offers you $315,000. That's about 10% below fair market value, which means you're losing $35,000 of your home's value on the sale. Take away another $16,000 for the iBuyer's 5% service fee, and you just handed over about $51,000 of your $70,000 down payment — or nearly 72% of your equity.
Even Zillow acknowledges the reality of fast-cash offers is a hard pill to swallow for most homeowners: the company recently admitted that 9 out of 10 home sellers who initiated a sale in its Zillow Offers platform ultimately turned down the offer and listed with a traditional real estate agent instead.
Top 5 iBuyers in 2019: Reviews, Pros & Cons
Below we've outlined some key details about five of the most popular iBuyer companies in 2019. Get a general overview of each service, pros and cons, and information on customer ratings and reviews.
Opendoor makes cash offers for eligible homes within 1-2 business days. If the seller accepts the offer, Opendoor sends a representative for an on-site inspection. Pending that inspection, Opendoor may require repairs or improvements, which are deducted from the seller's profits. After accepting the offer and contingencies of the on-site inspection, sellers may be able to close in as few as 14 days.
- Get a cash offer within 1-2 business days if your home is eligible
- Closing can be fast and flexible — 14 to 60 days, depending on your needs
- The fees are high (see below), but there are few surprises — Opendoor lays out the costs up front (with the exception of repair fees, if applicable)
- Limited coverage — Opendoor is currently only available in 20 U.S. cities
- Service fee: average is 7.1% but can be as high as 13%
- Opendoor may require home repairs, which are paid for by the seller
- Sellers still pay closing costs — transfer fees, taxes, etc. — an additional 1-3% of the final sale price
Offerpad makes cash offers for eligible homes (with photos) within 24 hours. Once an initial offer is accepted, Offerpad sends a representative for an on-site inspection. Offerpad may require repairs or improvements, which are paid for by the seller. You can hire a contractor yourself pre-sale, or Offerpad will handle after closing and deduct the cost from the final sale price. After the inspection, closing speed will depend on the specific market and property, but can be as fast as 8 to 15 days.
- Get a cash offer in 24 hours if your home is eligible
- Some sellers will be able to close in as little as 8 days — most transactions close within 30
- Limited coverage — Offerpad is currently only available in 12 U.S. cities
- Service fee: average is 7%
- Offerpad may require pricey repairs, which comes out of the sellers pocket
- Expect your offer to be below fair market value — up to 7.5%
- You'll still pay typical closing costs and transfer fees — an additional 1-3%
Offerpad reviews on third-party sites are limited. As of July 1, 2019, Offerpad's own website boasts a 94% customer satisfaction rating based (150 reviews).
We Buy Ugly Houses
We Buy Ugly Houses, a subsidiary of HomeVestors of America, Inc., doesn't buy your house itself — it's a franchise. That means the company acts as an intermediary between sellers and franchisees (i.e., investors) who make cash offers for properties. In a nutshell, you submit a request for an offer and HomeVestors will connect you with a local cash buyer, who will come inspect your home, then make an offer. Sale timelines will vary on a case by case basis, but according to the HomeVestors website, most sales take less than 30 days.
- HomeVestors is large — 1,100 franchisees across 45 states
- Buy homes “as is” — sellers don't have to deal with repairs (note: this will impact offer price)
- HomeVestors says it covers typical seller closing costs
- No fee or obligation to sell, some negotiation may be possible
- Slower than iBuyers: you won't get an offer until after the on-site assessment
- Expect a lowball offer — often 30 to 50% below market value
- Longer total timeline than typical iBuyer sales — likely 3 to 4 weeks+
Because We Buy Ugly Houses/HomeVestors is a franchise, you'll need to look up reviews for franchisees in your local market.
Zillow Offers will make cash offers for eligible homes within two business days. Once the seller accepts the initial offer, Zillow Offers sends an “evaluator” to do an on-site inspection to confirm the offer value and assess any necessary repairs or contingencies. Required repairs, along with Zillow Offers' service fee (up to 9% of home value) will be deducted from the cash offer. Once the offer has been finalized and accepted, sellers can close in as few as 7 or as many as 90 days, depending on their needs.
- Get a cash offer in two business days if your home is eligible
- Closing timelines are flexible — between 7 and 90 days
- Limited availability — Zillow Offers is currently only available in 11 U.S. cities
- High service fee: expect to pay between 6% and 9%, which is deducted from your offer
- You'll be on the hook for required repairs and improvements — these costs can be substantial and are generally non-negotiable
- You'll still pay closing costs and transfer fees — an additional 1-3%
Zillow Offers is a relatively new program — as of July 1, 2019, we couldn't find any verified customer reviews on third-party review sites. We will update this post with information and links as they become available.
RedfinNow has a two-step offer process: upon filling out some basic information and inputting their home's address, sellers will receive an instant “offer range” — this range is then refined to a specific price following a 30-minute on-site inspection. Sellers will be on the hook for RedfinNow's 7% service fee, plus any repairs deemed necessary during the inspection (0-2%) and typical costs associated with closing (1-3%). If the seller accepts RedfinNow's offer, closing can be scheduled within a 7-to-60-day window.
- Get a ballpark offer instantly
- Third-party home inspection process
- Limited coverage — RedfinNow is currently only available in 6 U.S. cities
- High service fee: expect to pay 7%
- You'll have to pay for repairs assessed during the inspection — up to 2%
- You'll cover any additional closing costs — typically 1-3%
RedfinNow is a relatively new program — as of July 1, 2019, we were unable to locate any verified customer reviews on third-party review sites. We will update this post with information and links as they become available.
The key takeaway here is that iBuyers are definitely the fastest way to get an offer, but that convenience comes at a high price. If you're looking to sell fast — but also don't want to sacrifice a huge chunk of your equity — you may want to consider an alternative option.
Selling Your House Fast With an Agent
While traditional real estate agents can't always match iBuyers and cash buyers on speed, top agents can typically get fair value (or better) offers in a matter of days, if not faster.
Top agents are able to accomplish this feat through aggressive pricing and marketing tactics.
A speed-centric pricing strategy is all about gauging the level of demand for real estate in a given market.
The best agents have the requisite expertise and resources to assess a property's appeal (attractive features vs physical condition vs local market conditions) and set a price that will garner the best possible offer, given the seller's required timeline.
Obviously, the lower the listing price, the more attention the property's going to get. The key for an optimal outcome in a fast sale is striking a balance that attracts enough attention to get an offer quickly while allowing the seller to hold onto as much of their equity as possible.
When you're in a hot market, a competitive price — relative to the condition and type of property you're selling — can fetch you a qualified offer in a matter of hours.
The real roadblock in an agent-assisted sale is the closing process, which is often dependent on the buyer's lender and/or financing situation.
For example, many first-time home buyer programs — in particular, those offering down payment assistance — will take up to 45 days to close, as they require approval from two different underwriting processes.
In contrast, buyers with mortgage pre-approval, excellent credit scores, and the ability to make 20% down payments will likely close a whole lot faster.
When an agent prices your home competitively, the goal will be to bring in multiple offers. If speed is your primary goal, your agent can help you assess which prospective buyer is a) most qualified and b) most likely able to close within the desired timeframe.
3 Ways to Find a Top Agent Who Can Sell Your House Fast
The truth is that if you need to sell quickly, any old real estate agent isn't going to do the trick — you need a specialist.
Here are three (free!) ways to find agents who can sell your property fast for a good price:
1. The Traditional Approach
Ask around! Get in touch with family, friends, coworkers, etc. who recently sold properties in your area and ask about their experience with their agent. Email or call agents who seem like they might be well-suited to help you sell fast and ask for their sales stats and customer reviews.
This is also an opportunity to ask some upfront questions about their experience in your area, listing properties like yours, and selling homes quickly. The best agents will be honest about whether they think they're a good match for your specific needs and, if not, will recommend someone else in the area.
2. The DIY Approach
Look up recently sold properties, similar to your own, on Zillow (you'll need to navigate to the “Home Buying” section of the site for this data). Click on a listing, scroll down, and click on “Price/Tax History.”
Assuming the data is up-to-date, you can view listing and sale price information, including the dates of both (and any price cuts along the way), and oftentimes the listing agent who handled the sale. While this is, admittedly, a pretty onerous way to go about tracking down an agent, it can be a useful starting point or supplemental tactic to help speed up the process.
3. The Easy Approach
By far, the easiest and fastest way to connect with a top local agent who can sell your house fast is to work with a trusted agent referral network, like Clever.
Clever partners with thousands of full-service agents across the country who specialize in selling homes quickly for a fair market price. There's no fee for the referral or obligation to sign. Interview multiple agents and choose the one you feel is best-suited to your specific needs and situation.
5 Steps to Selling a House Quickly for a Good Price
1. Find a top agent
Selling a home is a difficult thing to do. Selling fast is even harder. Getting a good price to boot? That's harder still. There's a reason 91% of home sellers list with a realtor — they have the resources and local market expertise to ensure you get the best possible outcome on you sale, regardless of your situation or needs.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the median final sales price for sellers who list with an agent is 99% of the final listing price. Agents will evaluate your property, assess current market demand, then set an aggressive price, market your home, and leverage their professional network to bring in more offers, more quickly.
2. Make impactful repairs or improvements
When it comes to selling a house, first impressions matter. If time and budget allows, making a few strategic repairs and improvements can go a very long way in helping you attract offers quickly.
Here are a few low-cost, high-impact repairs that can help speed up your time to offer and bring in a higher price:
- Repaint your home's interior (and exterior, if possible)
- Replace your carpets (or pay to have them professionally cleaned)
- Get a landscaper to clean up the yard (or do it yourself)
- If your budget allows, replace outdated appliances (e.g., dishwasher, fridge, washer/dryer, etc.)
- Hire a handyman to make small repairs to visibly damaged parts of your home (cabinet doors, doorknobs, window frames, broken floorboards, cracked trim or baseboard, etc.)
3. Clean and declutter
If you need to get an offer fast, it's vital that you clean and declutter. Buyers are looking visualize themselves living in your home — that'll be difficult to do if there's rotten food on the counter and mountains of clothes spilling out drawers and closets. If possible, try to remove up to 75% of the items in your home before listing to give it a fresh and clean look.
On a related note, properly staging a home can make a huge impact on offer speed and price. Oftentimes, working with a professional home stager — particularly if your home is vacant — can be well-worth the investment. In fact, 95% of staged homes sell within 11 days, and for 17% more than non-staged homes.
4. Set a competitive listing price
Listing price is one of the most important factors in quick sale. The fact is that if you want to attract offers quickly, you'll have to price your home a bit lower than you might like. That said, if you price too low, you're going to lose a huge chunk of your equity on the sale. In that case, it arguably makes more sense to go with an iBuyer and avoid the hassle that comes with a traditional real estate transaction.
When it comes to pricing strategy, your agent is your secret weapon. Top agents have their fingers on the pulse in terms of supply and demand in your local market. They'll know exactly how to price your property to attract offers right out the gate while ensuring you hold onto as much of your hard-earned equity as possible.
5. Be flexible (open houses, showings, etc.)
Selling a house with a top agent is by far your best bet for walking away on a quick sale without taking a major loss on the transaction. That said, if you're serious about selling fast, you'll need to be flexible and willing to live by some new — sometimes inconvenient — rules.
If you're still living in the property, you'll need to keep it as clean and decluttered as possible at all times. You should also be ready to take off for a few hours at a moment's notice, in the event of an impromptu showing. Whether you've already moved your not, you'll need to be available to your agent at all times so you can jump on a great offer the moment it comes through the door; etc.
While it can be a serious pain, remember that the inconvenience is temporary — if all goes according to plan, it'll be over in a matter of days.
Key Takeaways: Selling Fast with Agents vs Cash Buyers
At the end of the day, each approach offers its own advantages and disadvantages.
If your only concern is speed and convenience — i.e., price isn't a consideration — an iBuyer is probably the best choice for you. That said, it's still early days for iBuyers and as of July 2019, coverage remains limited. Most only operate in a handful of large U.S. markets, so you'll need to do some research and find out if any iBuyers are active in your area.
Unless your property has zero chance of selling on the open market, a traditional cash buyer probably isn't the way to go. You're going to sacrifice a ton of your equity and with an average closing time frame of 30 to 40 days, the speed-related benefits compared to working with a top agent are negligible.
When it comes to selling fast, a top-rated, local agent offers the best all-around value. They'll assess your property and current local housing market conditions, then tailor a pricing and marketing strategy to your specific needs and/or timeline.
Of course, while selling with a traditional real estate agent over a cash or iBuyer will likely allow you to preserve more of your equity; however, chances are you're still going to take a hit, thanks to the competitive listing price and realtor commission fees — typically 6%, which is split between the two agents involved in the sale.
When you list with Clever, you get the best of both worlds: full service from a top-rated, local real estate agent for a fraction of the typical cost.
Clever partners with thousands of full-service agents across the country from major brands and brokerages like Keller Williams, Century 21, RE/MAX, and more. Our agents are all top performers in their local markets, and many are experts at selling properties fast for fair market value.
As of 2019, U.S. home sellers who listed with Clever got an offer in an average of 13 days. Keep in mind that these metrics reflect all home sales — not just those sellers who were on a tight timeline.
What's more, we pre-negotiate reduced listing commission fees on your behalf. When you list with a Clever Partner Agent, you pay a flat fee of $3,000, or just 1% if the home sells for more than $350,000.
That means not only will you get all of the expert support with pricing, staging, marketing, negotiations, etc. you'd expect from a top-rated agent — you'll also save thousands on commission (on average, sellers who list with Clever save $10,000 per sale), which means you hang onto more of your equity — or even turn a sizable profit — on your quick sale.
> Get in touch to learn more and connect with top-rated, low-commission agents near you.
Top FAQs for Selling a House Fast
Does staging help sell a house?
Yes. Most of the latest data suggests that proper home staging has a substantial impact on the outcome of a sale, both in terms of speed and price. According to the National Association for Realtors (NAR), for every $100 sellers invest into staging, the potential return is $400 on the home price. What's more, properly staged homes typically net 17% more and sell 87% faster than similar, nearby properties that weren't staged.
How do I sell my house without a real estate agent?
Sellers who are looking to avoid listing commission fees will often attempt to sell their homes on their own — what's known as a For Sale By Owner, or FSBO, listing. This is generally not recommended, particularly if you're trying to sell your house quickly.
Approximately 36% of sellers attempt a FSBO listing each year — only about 11% of these sales are successful, and two-thirds of these sellers personally knew their buyer. The reality is that most FSBO sales either fall through or sit on the market for months and months.
If you're trying to sell your home quickly, your best bet is to work with an agent. Agents will leverage aggressive pricing and marketing tactics to get you a fair value offer in a matter of days — even hours. If you're interested in selling with a full-service agent but want to save on commission, Clever can help. Clever partners with top agents across the country who will provide full service for a fraction of the typical cost.
How do I sell a house fast in a slow market?
If you're looking to sell a house fast in a slow market, there are five things you can do:
- Find a top-rated agent local agent with a proven track record of selling homes quickly in your area
- Set a competitive listing price that attracts the maximum amount of offers without forcing you to give up more equity than you're comfortable with — in hot markets, you may be able to still turn a nice profit; in slow ones, you may have to make some sacrifices to get a decent offer quickly
- Make strategic repairs and improvements that increase your homes visual appeal — and avoid overly expensive and/or unimpactful ones!
- Leverage your social media and your personal networks to spread the word and boost your listing's visibility — your agent will obviously be marketing your home aggressively, but the more you pitch in yourself, the better your chances are of getting a decent offer within your desired timeframe
- Don't make your agent's job difficult! Be communicative, accommodating, flexible — your agent's goal is to get you the best possible outcome, so make sure you're doing everything you can to help make that happen
Should I sell my house to an investor?
That all depends on your specific goals and needs. If your back's against the wall and you really need to sell immediately, an investor like a cash buyer, iBuyer, or individual house flipper could be best-case option for you.
That said, expect your equity to take a sizeable hit in the transaction. Investors have to make lowball offers and/or charge high services fees to offset the risk they take on by purchasing your home outright. If they offer you fair market value, there's almost no way they can turn around and resell it for a profit.
The real benefit of working with an agent is that they're not buying your home — they're simply representing you in the sale. Agents work off of commission, which means that they're incentivized to get you the best possible price, regardless of the circumstances.
Are cash buyers a scam?
Not necessarily — there are plenty of legitimate cash buyers out there, but there are plenty of scam artists as well. For example, those hand-written “We Pay Cash for Houses” signs you see around town with just a phone number and no company name or any other details? Probably a good idea to steer clear of these offers. Most legit operations don't intentionally make it difficult to find information about their business.
If you're considering requesting an offer from a cash buyer, be sure to do your due diligence before pulling the trigger. Visit the company's website, read customer reviews, ask around, etc. In this day and age, any legitimate company should have a well-established online presence.
What is an iBuyer?
An iBuyer is a company that leverages technology to make instant or near-instant cash offers on homes. These companies rely on advanced data analytics engines and other digital technologies to evaluate the earning potential of specific homes based on key attributes — property type, size, condition, market temperature, etc. — in order to minimize their risk when purchasing homes at a high volume, often sight unseen.
iBuying is a still a relatively new concept and only available to sellers in a relatively small number of U.S. cities. What's more, most of these companies must charge high service fees or make offers well-below fair market value in order to ensure a decent margin of profit on each sale. Many experts agree that the marginal benefits iBuyers offer over traditional agents (speed and convenience) don't justify the heavy cost-related detriments.