The vast majority of American homes are sold with the assistance of a real estate agent, but some home sellers choose to go it alone. This approach is known as for sale by owner (FSBO).
Selling your house FSBO can save you money on realtor fees, but you’ll face a slew of challenges. The home selling process is highly complex, involving everything from preparing, listing, and marketing your home, to handling the contacts and closing.
Fortunately, there’s an ever-growing array of services, platforms, and resources to help you manage virtually every step of the transaction. Read on to learn more about the FSBO tools at your disposal!
And if you find this listing of FSBO tools overwhelming, there are other ways to save money on realtor fees without putting in so much effort. Clever Real Estate is an agent-matching service that connects you with top full-service agents in your area. But, instead of paying the standard 3% commission, you'll pay just $3,000 or 1%.
Make minor repairs to house
Find a trusted local contractor
Use online tools for home value estimates
Receive a CMA from a realtor
Use Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA)’s home price index (HPI) calculator
Sign up with a flat fee MLS company
List your home using a free FSBO website
Consider a discount brokerage/flat-fee real estate agent
Make a custom FSBO sign
Take great photos or hire a professional photographer
Use virtual staging software and apps
Upload a video walkthrough or a 3D tour
Showcase your house with drone photography
Use social media to advertise
Have an attorney review your paperwork
Find a title insurance company
Presale improvements will enhance your home’s desirability and boost the price it can command. You can increase your home’s curb appeal with improvements large and small, such as:
- Minor repairs (fresh coat of paint, new cabinets, garage door replacement, etc.)
- Landscaping improvements
- Kitchen remodeling
Figuring out your home’s value and therefore an appropriate asking price is a crucial step in the FSBO process. Many sellers botch this, asking for a price that’s too high (deterring potential buyers and delaying the sale) or too low (leaving money on the table).
Online valuation tools
As a starting point, you can try using popular online tools to get a rough estimate of your home’s value.
How it works
Shows home estimates in 80+ markets
Uses a proprietary formula to calculate home values with a median error rate of 1.9%
Available for more than 65 million properties
Draws on data from 3 valuation providers
Analyzes roughly 60 million records to estimate home value
Uses a proprietary formula and up to 20 properties to calculate a value range
Gives an estimate based on local property values, prices, and recent nearby sales
Harnesses millions of home records in Chase’s database
Uses automated computer modeling from public records to generate estimated value
Offers a ballpark estimate of your home’s value
Shows current worth of house if it appreciated at average appreciation rate of all homes in area
Lets you ask the real estate community for help
Online valuation tools can be very useful, but you shouldn’t rely on them for accurate insight into your home’s value. Websites like Zillow and Realtor.com draw on available data and make assumptions, meaning their estimates aren't always correct.
You can use these sites to research comparable properties and come up with your own estimated home value. But you should work with a professional realtor or appraiser for the most accurate pricing of your home.
Professional valuation tools
One of the most important services a realtor can provide is a comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA evaluates comparable properties that have sold in your area to estimate your home’s market.
You can also hire a licensed appraiser to provide a pre-sale appraisal, which gives you another starting point for pricing your house. Whereas a CMA represents the price you can reasonably expect to procure for your home, the appraisal value is whatever the appraiser decides your home is worth. Appraisals cost about $350, depending on the property’s location.
How it can help
Find a realtor to provide a comparative market analysis (CMA)
Find an appraiser to accurately determine the value of your home
Find an appraiser to accurately determine the value of your home
*Select “Appraiser” under “Field of Business” to search for appraisers
Unless you have a specific buyer in mind, you’re going to need to list your home (that is, put it on the market) as a FSBO seller. Your options include using a flat-fee service to list your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), listing your home using a free FSBO website, or hiring a realtor to manage your listing from start to finish.
MLS listing tools
For the best marketing results, you should create a listing on the local MLS. MLSs are private databases that realtors use to help their clients buy and sell homes. Homes on the MLS are syndicated to all the major real estate websites, such as Redfin and Zillow.
Only licensed realtors can access the MLS, but FSBO sellers can have their listing put on their local MLS by a flat fee MLS company. You can search for a flat fee MLS company in your state, or go with one of the top nationwide flat fee MLS companies.
Nationwide flat fee MLS company
Who it’s best for
Sellers looking for a lot of à-la-carte options
Sellers who want to work with a local broker with a national reputation
Sellers who want to attract people looking for a FSBO property
Sellers looking for a listing they can manage entirely online
Sellers who also want to list on a large FSBO marketplace
You can also list your home using a free FSBO website. While this approach is cheap and easy, it has serious disadvantages. When you sign up with a flat fee MLS company, your home will be syndicated to every major real estate platform, but if you sign up with a FSBO website, your home will only appear on that site.
Also, remember that you will be competing with many other sellers in your area, most of whom have hired professional agents. Those agents will be aggressively marketing their clients’ homes across hundreds of websites, not just one free FSBO platform.
Traditional realtor tools
As an alternative to FSBO, consider a full-service discount brokerage. You’ll get the services of a professional realtor, including having your home listed on the MLS, while saving potentially thousands on commission.
The downside of a discount broker is that you’ll often compromise on some aspect of the transaction, such as reduced services or less dedicated support.
The companies marked with a star (⭐) below deliver the best savings with service and support comparable to that of a traditional realtor charging standard rates.
Free nationwide agent matching platform with full service and support
Proven nationwide brand with real savings, but falls short on service
Available to home sellers in Florida, Georgia, and Texas
Operates in select markets on the East Coast
Available in select markets throughout California
Operates in select East Coast markets and Los Angeles
Available in select markets in 5 U.S. states
Operates in select markets across 9 U.S. states
Has about 130 offices nationwide but rates and service quality may vary by location
In addition to listing your home, you should develop a marketing strategy to boost your home’s appeal and command higher offers. Reaching interested buyers and making your home stand out should be a top priority.
A “For Sale By Owner” sign is a cheap and easy way to let passersby know your home is for sale. In addition, it can provide information about the property, such as how to schedule a showing and where to find the listing.
On the other hand, the internet has made yard signs less effective. Although a significant percentage of FSBO sellers use yard signs to market their homes, only about 7% of buyers found their home through a yard sign in 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors. Also, your sign may invite annoying calls from real estate agents trying to get you to use their services.
If you decide signage is right for you, avoid DIY signs. Instead, order a custom FSBO sign from a reputable custom sign company.
FSBO sign company
$16.79 for an 18” x 24” sign
$19.52 for an 18” x 24” sign
$52.81 for 18” x 24” sign w/ 24” x 47” frame
$11.86 for an 18” x 24” sign
$24.12 for a typical 18” x 24” FSBO sign
$14.57 for an 18” x 24” sign
Posting attractive pictures of your home is one of the most important steps in marketing your property. The best approach is to hire a professional photographer who will know how to take high-quality pictures that make your home look desirable.
If you decide to take photos yourself, use a good camera and other equipment for the best results. Shooting with ambient light is generally ok, so you don’t need external lights, but you’ll want a tripod to stabilize the camera and a wide-angle lens to capture entire rooms in one shot.
How it can help
Hire a good professional photographer in your town
Buy useful equipment for DIY photography, such as:
Use photo editing software to retouch the photos and enhance their aesthetic appeal (crop, adjust the lighting and color balance, etc.)
Virtual staging software and apps
Virtual staging is an increasingly popular real estate technology that enables potential buyers to see what your home could look like with different accessories, decor, and furniture.
The software digitally places these elements in the interior spaces to showcase your home in a variety of ways. Agents usually handle virtual staging, but there are many platforms and apps that allow you to do it yourself.
Virtual staging company
Pricing and features
Offers virtual staging for $24/image with 48-hour turnaround and 24/7 customer support
Provides a free basic plan with unlimited 1K renders. Buy 4K renders for $9.99/10 renders and 12K panoramas for $19.99/10 renders
Allows you to place fully rendered 3D furniture in images captured with your iPhone or iPad for free
Offers easy virtual staging with a smartphone or 360 camera. Use the company’s capturing app and online editing platform for $5/month
Offers live chat support, unlimited free revisions, and a money-back guarantee. Special offer of $49 for 1 photo and $29/photo for 8+ photos
Offers virtual staging for $15/photo for still photos and $25/photo for 360 photos. Custom style and instructions offered for $5/photo
Offers virtual staging for $69, including 1 round of rework
Provides plans ranging from $79 to $199 per image. Turnaround ranges from next day to up to 4 days
Furnishes and remodels your house photos and offers physical prints. Prices range from $300 for 4 photos to $525 for 7 photos
Offers pay-as-you-go pricing from $6.99 to $15 per photo. Geared toward photographers, agents, and brokers
Adds trendy furniture and home decor for $29/photo with next business day delivery and a money-back guarantee
Custom designs virtual staging for $60 per photo
Offers vacant room staging for $40 and room remodeling for $60
A video walkthrough, unlike a 3D walkthrough or virtual staging, shows potential buyers what your home looks like now. As the name implies, it’s a video shot by someone walking through your house.
Zillow allows you to create and upload video walkthroughs, but you might also consider posting a video walkthrough on YouTube, the world’s largest video-sharing site. A 2018 report by the NAR Research Group found that 37% of home buyers use online video sites to search for a home.
3D walkthrough / 3D tour
You can also showcase your home to potential buyers with an interactive 3D walkthrough or 3D tour (sometimes called a virtual tour).
3D walkthroughs allow users to navigate a virtual representation of your home. They can also click and rotate the image to view the space from different angles. 3D walkthroughs are often clunky to use, and a video tour may be preferable.
3D walkthrough tool
How it can help
Use an iPhone to create your own 3D walkthrough (or have a professional scan your house)
Upload panoramas or 3D renders of your home using the company’s smartphone capturing kit or a 360 camera
Use any 360 camera or DSLR to create pre-recorded, narrated virtual tour of your house
Use an iOS or Android device or 360 camera to capture panoramas and upload a 3D tour to your home listing
Drone photography shows the exterior of your house in all its glory, as well as some of the surrounding neighborhood. You probably want to hire a professional for drone shots unless you're an experienced pilot.
If you buy a drone, you’ll need to register it with the Federal Aviation Authority and abide by all relevant regulations. Also, you’ll probably want insurance to cover any potential damages or injuries caused by the drone.
Drones can be pricey (up to $10,000), but there are some entry-level models you can buy if you choose the DIY option.
Apart from the major real estate platforms like Zillow and Trulia, you can also reach a potentially large audience with social media.
While social media is not the standard way to market real estate, you may be able to find interested buyers on the major platforms. All of these sites are completely DIY, so you’ll need to do the marketing legwork yourself.
These platforms are geared towards different user bases and each has its own quirks.
Craigslist is one of the most visited listing sites on the web, with about 478 million visits each month. Generally, it’s not an ideal place to market your house because of the difficulty of finding qualified buyers and the risk of scams.
But Craigslist attracts lots of investors who are looking for distressed properties to flip, so it can be a good option for houses that are tough to sell to a standard buyer — for instance, those that are condemned or in disrepair. The site has basic features, meaning you need to do all the work of writing a description, pricing the house, uploading photos, and so on.
Read Clever’s how-to guide to selling a house on Craigslist for more.
Facebook Marketplace is a free e-commerce platform with more than 1 billion users each month. Although it’s not the most popular place to hawk real estate, the site allows you to create a home listing, so it may be a good option for boosting exposure to your property.
Similar to Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace is completely DIY and lacks FSBO-specific tools, so you get no help with marketing, photography, closing, etc. On the plus side, the site is easy to use and allows you to target interested buyers with mobile-friendly listings.
With about 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram is a potentially effective way to get the word out about your home. The giant photo- and video-sharing network is popular with millennials and gives you the chance to feature visually compelling photos.
You can use Instagram ads (which allow you to turn any post into an ad) with location targeting to boost the visibility of your home. HootSuite has some good ideas for how to market your home on Instagram.
Pinterest is an image-sharing site with 454 million monthly active users that allows you to create an account and post pictures of your house. It’s better for posting house images than for listing or open house information.
Realtors are better positioned to get value from Pinterest than individual sellers because they can post lots of houses, create “boards” around specific topics, and drive conversation and engagement. But enterprising sellers can try their hand at Pinterest marketing if they’re up for the challenge.
The average property sale requires some 180 sheets of contracts, forms, and other documents. Many companies will provide the documents you need as a FSBO seller, but you should still have your paperwork reviewed by a professional.
If you don’t plan on hiring a real estate agent, you should at least have an attorney review your paperwork. Many U.S. states require an attorney to be involved in the home sale process. Even if it’s not legally required in your state, running your documents by a lawyer is always a good idea.
How it can help
Find a real estate attorney to review your paperwork
Get information about local real estate laws and required documents in your state
Learn how to create a FSBO real estate purchase agreement and contract
Some companies offer the required legal documents and disclosures for an additional fee
Real estate forms providers
Some companies provide real estate contracts and other legal documents for DIY transactions.
Real estate forms provider
Pricing and features
Provides complete set of documents for FSBO home sales and other transactions for $129
Allows you to create legal documents and customize a real estate purchase agreement according to your state laws/specific transaction for $19.95
Provides unlimited access to state-specific legal forms for $8/month. Upgrade to document management and e-signatures for $15/month
Has a large library of legal forms but does not offer a specific FSBO sale package
Ordering a title search and purchasing title insurance is a key component of most closings, when the seller transfers ownership of the house to the buyer.
Most home sellers cover the cost of the buyer’s title insurance policy. Generally, the buyer's agent uses his or her connections to recommend a title company for the buyer (in many cases, the seller isn’t involved in this process at all).
However, a FSBO seller may want to research a title company if the buyer doesn’t have an agent to recommend one. Also, some FSBO sellers prefer to choose their own title company for the buyer to work with, often to ensure that the company is affordable.
Four title companies account for 80.5% of all title transactions nationwide, so going with one of them is probably a safe bet.
How it can help
Use a title insurance company to conduct the title search and issue title insurance
Search for a title insurance companies nationwide by city and county
FSBO sales represented a significant 8% of all home sales in America in 2020. Going FSBO is a great option to consider if you know the prospective buyer and you’re experienced with real estate deals.
For everyone else, the process of selling a house is usually too complex, risky, and time-intensive to go it alone — even with access to online resources and cutting-edge tools. FSBO homes also reap about 26% less on average than agented properties, which may negate any savings from forgoing an agent.
If you’re a less experienced seller or a FSBO sale seems like too much risk for too little reward, consider finding a real estate professional to help you out. A free agent matching service is the fastest and easiest way to find a great local agent.
Unlike other agent matching services, Clever Real Estate offers a discounted commission of 1% or $3,000 and can match you with top-rated full-service agents at a fraction of the price of a traditional agent.