Whether relocating to a new city or looking to capitalize on today’s hot seller's market, selling your home is a major life change. Fortunately, there are a number of routes you can take to make the selling process work for you.
In most traditional real estate sales, a homeowner works with an agent to list and sell their home. A good real estate agent is an expert in your local market. They will know what buyers are looking for in your area and how to make your home appeal to them. They will also represent your interests at the negotiation table to help you get the most bang for your real estate investment.
On the flip side, a real estate agent will also take a chunk of your profit as their commission. In most cases, a buyer pays the commissions for both the buying and listing agents as well as the closing costs. On average, you can expect to pay about 5.5% of the total home sale to the agents. That means, if your home sells for $300,000, you will pay out about $16,500 in commission fees.
Looking to maximize their profits and avoid paying commissions, some homeowners choose to list the home for themselves. When a home is for sale by owner — or FSBO — a homeowner is responsible for all parts of the process, including listing, marketing, showing, negotiating, and closing on the home. Although you can pay less in fees, going the FSBO route comes with plenty of challenges.
To help you navigate these challenges and maximize your profit, here are 22 tips for selling your home without a real estate agent.
1. Research your local market
Before you set out to sell your home, check out your local real estate market. Take a close look at homes that are listed and have recently sold in your neighborhood and area of town. This will give you a good idea of what local buyers are looking for in a home.
You can also get ideas for how to best market your home to garner positive attention. Take notes of selling points such as its proximity to schools, restaurants, and points of interests.
2. Price to sell
Pricing your home to sell is a delicate balance. You want to get the best price for your house, so you don’t want to price it too low. You also want it to appeal to buyers, so you don’t want to price it too high, which might leave it on the market longer than you would like.
There are a couple of ways to determine a fair price for your home. You can find some of this information online. Be aware that all websites may not have the most accurate or updated information. You can also hire a professional real estate appraiser. Their service fees range from about $300 to $400, but you will get a clearer picture of your best price.
3. Declutter your home
You want your home to appeal to as many buyers as possible. Decluttering your home is the first step to making that happen.
Start by getting rid of or packing up anything that might look untidy, such as that pile of old magazines and the collection of dust catchers on your mantle. Professional stagers also recommend removing family photos and personal keepsakes. This helps a prospective buyer imagine themselves living in your house. Plus, by decluttering now, you will have less work to do later when it is time to move.
4. Make your home sparkle
Before you take photos of your home, list it, or open it for showings, be sure to give it a good deep clean. Go beyond sweeping, vacuuming, and dusting surfaces, and leave no spot untouched. Spend the most time cleaning frequently used spaces such as the kitchen and bathrooms.
Try shampooing or steaming your carpet to remove any stains. Clean your windows, making sure to eliminate any water spots. And don’t forget to dust your floorboards and check for cobwebs that may have formed in hard-to-reach spots, such as the tops of your cupboards.
5. Stage your house
Staging your home to sell will show off its best features and can help you sell it faster. Staged homes spend less time on the market and get more offers.
Use staging to show off unique architectural features. For example, if you have crown molding and built-in shelves in your living room, arrange the sofa so it will face these elements. You can also strategically place furniture to show off how much space there is in each room. This will help buyers imagine how their own furniture might fit into the space.
6. Update eyesores
You know that light fixture you’ve been meaning to change out? How about those scratches on the trim you’ve been meaning to cover with a fresh coat of paint? Taking care of these items from your home’s to-do list will go a long way in impressing prospective buyers.
When painting, use neutral colors. These tend to have the broadest appeal for buyers. If you replace any fixtures or minor appliances, select pieces that fit the home’s architecture and design. These little touches make it easier for a homeowner to say "yes."
7. Give your home curb appeal
The first thing any potential buyers will see is your home’s exterior. Make it stand out in a good way by updating its curb appeal. During the spring and summer months in particular, keep your lawn cut short and your shrubberies and trees trimmed. In the winter, have all sidewalks, walkways, and driveways clear of snow and ice.
If you want to add some extra flair to your curb appeal, include a few potted plants on your porch. Pick seasonal flowers that require light watering and minimal upkeep to save yourself some time and money. These planters also make charming housewarming gifts for the new owners once you sell.
8. Create a quality listing
Tell potential buyers what they can expect from your home with a quality listing. In your listing, include the basics that every homeowner wants to know. This includes the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the square footage, and the year it was built. You can also include details about major and minor appliances, such as when the HVAC system was most recently replaced and if it will come with a stove, refrigerator, and more.
One downside of FSBO is that your home will not automatically be included on Multiple-Listing Services, also known as MLS. Realtors use MLS to find homes to show their clients. Fortunately, there are a number of websites available for listing homes. Some of these come at a cost, but this is a good way to get your listing in front of eager buyers and their agents.
9. Take quality photographs
After putting in the work to make your home look its best for sale, you will want to have the best photos possible. You will use these in listings, on advertisements, and anywhere else you plan to promote your home.
You can find tips online for how to best photograph your home, but you may also want to hire a professional photographer. Look for someone who specializes in photographing interiors and still life. Make sure to have good lighting and take photos from the best possible angles.
10. Be honest
When selling your house, it is important to be honest from the start. If your home has any issues that need repaired, such as faulty plumbing or out-of-code wiring, you should note that. Avoid using words such as "cozy" in lieu of "small." Most buyers are savvy enough to see past these buzzwords. By being upfront, you can avoid having a disappointed buyer who withdraws their offer after issues come up during inspection.
It is also a good idea to disclose if the home has an infamous history. It is better for a buyer to find out from you, rather than a neighbor, if it was the site of a crime or tragedy. Interestingly enough, this can actually be a selling point for some buyers.
11. Put a ‘for sale’ sign in your yard
Posting a "for sale" sign in front of your home lets people know it is on the market. Position your sign so it will be most visible for people driving by in cars. If you live near a park or golf course, you can also place the sign so it can be seen from these highly visited places.
Want to make your sign stand out? Spruce it up by using a custom shape. Use colors and styles that match your home’s exterior to add to the curb appeal. As a bonus, include a flyer holder on the sign so passersby can grab all of the details they need to take with them while they consider.
12. List it on marketplaces
In addition to featuring your home on websites such as Zillow, you can reach potential buyers by listing your home on online marketplaces, including Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. These platforms give you the ability to share information from your listing as well as photos that give buyers a good idea of what they will find in your home.
Be sure to include contact information in your marketplace listings, and regularly check your messages. You do not want to miss out on a possible sale because you waited too long to respond to an interested buyer!
13. Use social media
According to the Pew Research Center, as of April 2021, seven in 10 Americans use social media platforms to connect, read news, and share information — including home sales. You can reach more potential buyers in your area by sharing posts about your home on social media.
When sharing information about your home sale, include important details from your listing, such as the number of bedrooms, year built, and square footage. Along with good photos of your home, note any recent remodeling or distinct features. Be sure to make your post visible publicly so people outside of your network can see it too.
14. Create a video tour
Videos are a great way to show your home to a larger audience without setting up a showing or open house. If you are good off-the-cuff, you can record a live video tour on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Otherwise, you can take video on a camera — or even your smartphone — and use your computer’s video editing software to give viewers a virtual tour.
Adding narration while you walk or voiceover in editing can help you point out what makes your home unique. Try to keep your videos around 3 to 5 minutes in length. Also, protect your privacy by removing personal photos, government-issued licenses, credit cards, or anything else that might expose your personal information.
15. Say ‘yes’ to showings
As your own selling agent, you will be in charge of showing your home to any potential buyers. Be clear in how they can reach you on your promotional materials. You will also want to keep yourself available so you can arrange showings as soon as possible to avoid dragging out the process.
During the showing, be prepared to answer specific questions about your home. As you give tours, note any special features in the home. Ask the buyers questions, too. By learning about them, you can help them see how the house will be the best fit for them.
16. Hold an open house
With your home looking its best thanks to deep cleaning, decluttering, and staging, you will want to show it off to as many buyers as possible. Holding an open house can be a great way to get a lot of eyes on your place in a short period of time. Be available to give tours and answer questions.
The most important part of holding an open house is getting the word out. Once you have set the date, be sure to include it on any listings, social media posts, and flyers you have. You might also want to take out an ad in a local paper, promote a post on social media, or post flyers on boards people frequent for information about housing.
17. Hire a real estate attorney
While you technically do not need an attorney for FSBO, having one can give you peace of mind. In exchange for their legal fees, they will provide you similar guidance that you could get from a realtor or brokerage firm but for less of the cost.
A good real estate attorney will be well-versed in local laws and regulations such as tax penalties. They can help you through negotiations and inspections as well as draw up the contracts for closing.
18. Ask for a mortgage pre-approval letter
There are few things more frustrating than accepting an offer on your home and finding out the buyer has been denied a mortgage after you have taken it off the market. To avoid this costly delay, you can ask any buyer who makes an offer to provide a mortgage pre-approval letter.
You can call the lender to verify the information. When you do, find out how much the buyer will pay in a down payment, details about the loan program, and how much they are prequalified to buy. You will also want to find out if the loan has any conditions to ensure you aren’t left in a lurch.
19. Be ready to move fast
One of the perks of selling your own home is that you can go through the process more quickly. Selling and closing your house quickly means you will also need to move out fast to make room for the new owner. Plan ahead by making arrangements to move out. Book movers and storage space as needed to cut out hassle.
20. Look into iBuyers
If you are looking to sell your home quickly and without a real estate agent, then an iBuyer might be right for you. iBuyers typically use proprietary software to make an instant offer on your home after you complete the form on their website providing as much information as possible.
In most cases, iBuyers will buy your home as-is. That means you can avoid making any time-consuming or costly repairs. However, most offers from iBuyers will be below market price, so you should only pursue this route if you’re looking to sell fast and do not care about maximizing your sale profits.
21. Consult a realtor
Even if you plan to sell your home yourself, it never hurts to check in with local realtors. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate a lower commission rate. Some new agents will be willing to waive part or most of their fee in exchange for you giving referrals for future business.
22. Decide if FSBO is right for you
Selling a home is not for the faint of heart, especially without an agent. Make sure to consider the options before you make a decision. Do you already have a prospective buyer? Is your market hot? Do you have some experience in real estate sales and law? Do you need to sell fast? If you answered "yes" to any of these, FSBO might be your best bet.
If you have concerns about the time, energy, and experience needed to sell your own home, however, you can look into other options to find the path that best suits your needs and help you make the best deal with your sale, whether it's with a discount real estate agent or iBuyer website.