In these tough economic times, we all have to watch our costs. In some cases, that may mean downsizing. If you need to sell your home and you bought it in the last 10 years, chances are you won’t be getting much, if any, of a profit from the sale. Subtract an agent’s 6% commission and that could take a homeowner from black to red. Even if you have the equity to cover the commission, why would you give up 6% when it is (almost) just as easy to sell it yourself! Selling “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO) is simpler than real estate professionals would like you to believe. Here’s how:
Research Your Local Market.
- Check out the competition. Look at a local agent’s website or try using Redfin, Trulia, or Zillow to see what the competition has to offer. Try to find houses that have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms and similar lot sizes. While square footage does matter, bedrooms are more important to buyers.
- Home sales are public record, so try checking your county’s website to see what homes have sold recently in your area.
- Attend open houses so you can get an idea of where your house stands compared to your neighbors. This is what buyers will compare your house to, so pay attention!
Stage Your Home
- Every house needs repairs and maintenance. While logically most people understand this, buyers don’t want to feel overwhelmed with projects before they even make an offer. So set aside a weekend and patch up the holes in the wall (and touch up the paint), install that ceiling fan that has been sitting in the garage since last summer, and re-caulk the tubs! Easy repairs that make your home look better mean more money in your pocket.
- De-clutter. I know it’s been said over and over, but this one is important. Take some junk to the dump! If you can’t part with anything, rent a storage unit and get the clutter out so buyers can see the house, not your personal belongings.
- Get the carpets cleaned. You may know that the stain on the stairs is from your toddler dragging in mud, but buyers don’t and they will assume the worst (water damage, pet damage, etc.).
Determine Your Price
- Now for the fun part! You’ve researched your local market and you know the going rate for a comparable house. Set your price for 1-2% below the going rate. Why? Because you want to attract all of the buyers you can get! Your house looks better than the competition now that it is staged, and you want it to be priced better than the competition too. Remember, you are still saving 4% by not using an agent (assuming you find a buyer without an agent also). The more buyers you can attract, the more offers you can receive.
- Buy a sign at a hardware store and put it in your yard. Flyers are great here too. People want to know details about the house (bedrooms, bathrooms, and most importantly price) without having to talk to the seller. Include interior pictures on your flyer and an email address and phone number so buyers can contact you. Not only does this help buyers get excited about seeing your home, it also weeds out people who will definitely not buy your house without wasting a minute of your time talking to them.
- Hold an open house. Advertise on Craigslist, the local paper, the local coffee shop, anywhere! Before the open house, find some blank sales contracts online (I like this " target="_blank">one). Print out plenty and have them available to the attendees so they can make an offer easily.
Receiving an Offer
- Congratulations, you received an offer! Now what? If all of the parties have agreed to the terms, it is time to contact a title company. Just call and tell them you are doing a FSBO. They will ask for a copy of the ratified (signed) contract, the house address, and the closing date. They take care of everything else, including hiring a surveyor to measure the property and working with the banks to make sure the mortgage(s) are paid off when it is time to close.
- Just like with any sale, the buyer may request a home inspection. Once this is complete and any repairs or credits are worked out, let the title company know and they will proceed with the closing documents.
- If the buyers are getting a loan for the home, their lender will probably require an appraisal. This is easier than it sounds because appraisals are based on your home and the surrounding homes. Since yours is priced 1-2% lower than the competition, your home will likely appraise for the full sales price.
- The title company you hired will have the paperwork ready to review a few days (or maybe one day if they are very busy) before the closing date. Take the time to look it over. If you have questions about fees or anything else you see, CALL THEM! Everyone makes mistakes and it is your money on the line, so be diligent. Also remember, you are paying them for this service, so every line should be crystal clear to you.
- On closing day, you will need to go to the title company and sign the paperwork. In some states the buyers and sellers do this at the same time, but in other states buyers and sellers do this separately. Either way, the sellers’ paperwork is pretty straightforward. Be sure to bring a photo ID and a voided check so the funds can be deposited straight to your account.