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Tips to Sell Your Home by Owner

Updated on August 19, 2020
JNalbach419 profile image

Justine has a background in Real Estate, Finance, and Appraisal. She and her husband have sold homes with and without a realtor.

Selling Your Home Without a Realtor

There are a lot of pros and cons to selling your home by owner. Sometimes it may be in your benefit to sell without a Realtor for more reasons than one. A Realtor currently is charging up to a 9 percent commission. Sometimes you may be able to find a smaller Mom and Pop type realty company who will do it for 7 percent. When you add in all the tax, title, and fees that go along with selling a home it can add up to 11 percent of the sale price. The amount of money you can save could potentially be very useful elsewhere such as paying down on your new mortgage. A Realtor may save you time, money and effort but you do have other options.

A Real Estate Attorney is one option. They can prepare the paperwork for you, or look over existing issues, and make sure your legal interests are taken care of for far less than a Realtor. Thousands less if you are selling a more expensive home. The only problem is with a Real Estate Attorney, it still leaves you the task of finding your own buyer. Some Realty companies even offer closing services. In which they complete all of the documents for you for a flat fee. The Real Estate Service we sold our last home through did it for $200. A Realtor will meet you at the title office and walk through all the documents with the closing officer. Doing the paperwork is the easy part in my opinion, finding a qualified buyer who wants to put in an offer on your home is the hard part.

Pros and Cons of Selling With a Realtor

Pros
Cons
Less Effort
$$$
Good Realtor/ Service
Bad Realtor / Lazy
Marketing and Exposure on the MLS
Under the mercy of the Realtors Schedule
Someone else does the paperwork
You have to do the paperwork
They bring buyers to you
Have to find your own buyer
 
Pay 7 to 11 percent commission

Here are some Pros and Cons of listing and selling with a Realtor.

Convenience

It may be more convenient for you to sell with a Realtor and that is fine, but if your willing to put in extra work it can be very rewarding.

Valuation

In order to sell your home its important to find the correct current market value. Do you know how much your home is worth? A good website to start researching the value of your home is www.zillow.com. They provide a good estimate tool they call a "zestimate" which may or may not be accurate. They get their information from public records on the sale of your home and provide you with a graph of the current and past values. Sometimes they do have the wrong information though they claim to be the most accurate. For instance the home we currently own had a parcel added to it at one point and they had the parcels value as the home value on their website. Most of the time it is pretty accurate but their are some instances in which you have to contact Zillow to correct the mistake if you own the home. You can also claim the home as your own and it will allow you to update photographs and other information such as recent improvements which will sometimes change your zestimate. You can also find out the square footage of your home as well as other valuable information.

Its also important to research other homes that have recently sold and are currently for sale in your area. Pay close attention to the amount of bedrooms, square footage, number of bathrooms and overall condition of the home. It is crucial to come up with a fair price if you plan to sell your home quickly or you may list they home on the higher side if you have more time to wait. You can always lower the price after a while if you do not get any interest.

It may be beneficial to have an appraisal done on your home. The last appraisal we had done on a home was just a general valuation and it only cost $150. It was very quick, he took lots of photos, and emailed me his appraisal the next day. You will also have more bargaining power especially if the buyer wants an appraisal of their own and you will have something to refer to if a buyer wants to low ball you on their offer. Once you come up with the right price, its time to start marketing your home.

Its Time to Market Your Home!

Lets discuss ways to attract potential buyers.

Marketing

When hiring a Realtor you will get immediate access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). It used nationwide as a platform to market your home. In the past hiring a Realtor was your only option if you wanted to list your house on the MLS. But more and more companies are popping up that offer services at a far cheaper rate. There are several sites online that will list your home on the MLS for far less than the cost of a Realtor.

  • Golistwithclever.com lets you list on the MLS for a flat rate of $3,000, or 1%. By law you are still responsible to pay the 3% buyers commission if they have a Realtor but this may vary by state. They claim to be a full service Realty company and they will also take care of the paperwork for you.
  • Byownerflatmls.com offers a few different services at $99, $149, and $188 depending on how many photos and length of time 6 months to 1 year on the MLS, and you are still responsible for a buyers agent commission of your choice usually around 3%.
  • Fsbo.com offers a flat free service of $399.95, plus buyers brokers commission due at closing.
  • Some other websites include www.MLSmyhome.com and www.houzeo.com.

You may also chose to not list your home on the MLS. But I do not recommend this way because it gives you far less exposure to buyers who are on the market. In my opinion if you are serious about selling your home listing it on the MLS is the best move. You are still stuck paying the buyers 3% commission by law though so please take that into account when an offer is put in on your home. If you choose to not list on the MLS, you can still list your home on some for sale by owner websites such as Zillow.com, Realtor.com, or 4salebyowner.com. Some of these websites provide you signage as well. If signs are not provided make sure to pick some up, I ordered a very nice sign package off of Amazon.com which included the for sale sign and two signs to put at intersections.

Listing on the MLS

The Multiple Listing Service gives you the most exposure on the market.

Staging and Photos

  1. Remove personal items and books (store in closets, tubs, etc.)
  2. Keep decor simple (just because you like it doesn't mean someone else will).
  3. Get rid of clutter.
  4. If you have children its important to hide away or store a good portion of their toys. I always left a big basket full that we could easily hide under the bed or in a closet when there was a showing.
  5. You may have to rent a storage unit to accomplish these goals if your home has a ton of stuff ( I know mine does).
  6. Remember to take photos of the ROOM not the STUFF in the room. I see a lot of for sale by owners make this mistake but just as mentioned above just because you like it doesn't mean someone else will. Buyers really want to see the space and features of the room not your stuff (no matter how cool it is).
  7. If your house has certain features make sure to take photos of those such as a walk in shower, or updated brass fixtures, a really nice back splash, or marble counter tops anything that will set your house apart from others.
  8. You can even hire a photographer or do them yourself. But if you have a large property it would be a good idea to hire someone with a drone to take an aerial photo of your property. There are a TON of companies popping up that offer these services.
  9. Remember you will be saving potentially thousands of dollars by doing all this yourself, so the price of all these things may add up but will still be far less money.

Bad photo

Good photo

Paperwork

So you got the photos, the house is nice and neat, and you've chosen which way or which website to list it. Now, it would be a good time to figure out which title company you would like to use. Its important to find the title agency in your county because they will hold the title information. You might be tempted to just print a template off the internet but if you just call the title agency the will send you a whole packet of forms. These forms include a Lead Disclosure, Home disclosure forms and a Purchase Contract form. Each state and each title company might have slightly different paperwork. Ask the title company how much they charge for closing?

Look over the paperwork line by line so you are familiar with the contract, if you feel uncomfortable you can even take the paperwork to your Real Estate Attorney or call the the Title Company for clarification.

A homes title is public record. When you bought your home you probably got an Abstract of Title. The title company will perform a title search and collect all the information that is connected to your property including deeds, land surveys, tax liens, past owners, and other pertain-int information.

Showings and Offers

This is the point where you spend a lot of time just sitting and waiting. On the last home that we sold, it took over a month a half before we had our first showing than on certain days we would have two. Do not get discouraged if you do not get any phone calls right away. If the buyer is working with a Realtor, their Realtor will do the showing and all the leg work when it comes to putting in an offer. If you are selling on your own, and the buyers are ready to put in an offer, you will have the purchase contract , lead disclosures, and home disclosures to fill out with them or as I mentioned above this is where you contact your flat rate realtor to do the paperwork since you brought them the buyer. Depending on the type of loan the buyer has it could be a long process. Sometimes the lender may want to perform its own appraisal or inspection. The last house we sold the buyers had an FHA (Federal Housing Association) loan which seemed they needed all of the above. Sometimes an offer can be contingent upon these things, meaning the offer stands only after certain things are satisfied. Just remember once you have accepted an offer, you are obligated to follow through with the sale because it is a legally binding document there could be possible legal reprimands. Also you should probably touch base on possession. Will you be giving up possession at closing ? Or will you need more time to move out?

Closing

Whichever route you chose it all comes down to closing day. Whether you chose to have a Real Estate company do the closing documents for you, you hired a Real Estate Attorney to assist you or you plan on doing it completely on your own. Once you and the buyer have agreed to a closing date, you will begin gathering the information needed for the Title Company. The purchase contract you filled out with the buyers will need sent over to them. The title company will work with the buyers bank to get the right documents on their end . The buyer will communicate the information needed to the title company on their side.

Usually the seller will pay with a certified cashiers check from their bank. From the title company you will receive a closing statement a few days before which will show any taxes, titles and fees that need paid and money received for the sale. At the actual closing date you will need to sign disclosure statements and the closer with the title company will be able to assist you in with any questions. Communication during the closing process is very important to make sure everyone is walking away with their best interest in mind .

If the buyer is going to take possession of the home at closing than make sure to bring any keys and/ or paperwork you may have on the home.

Remember to review everything and ask questions if needed. Good luck on your Real Estate journey!

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