Help me sell my home!
January 19, 2008 1:39 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know and do to sell my house on my own?

I'm wanting to avoid a realtor, but don't have any experience selling houses. What do I need to know? Is it worthy it to try to sell it on our own?

I've been researching tips for making our house attractive to buys, so I'm not looking for tips on this. More on the actually process of selling our house without a realtor. What taxes and fees and things should I take into consideration. Are these things that I pay, or the buyer? Etc...

Any advice and references are appreciated.
posted by peripatew to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, it would help to know where you are. In NY where I am, everyone has a lawyer at the closing -buyer, seller & title company. I've talked to people in WA and they indicated that there were no lawyers involved in their home purchases. Also, not sure what would happen with MLS type things without an agent.
posted by kellyblah at 2:01 PM on January 19, 2008

I don't have an answer; I'd like to sort of expand on the question because I'm interested in possibly doing this as well.

Some sellers may now be in a position where there is very little wiggle room between the potential final negotiated selling price and what the seller may still owe on the home. Once you factor in commissions from the agents, the seller may come to the sale owing money. So is there a way to market and sell a home, without taking the hit on the commissions?
posted by ninjew at 2:21 PM on January 19, 2008

The truth is, unless you are really knowlegeable, you can fall into a whole ton of legal problems-things that will cost you money-by not using a good agent.

Does your state require a termite report? Do you know how to hire a good appraiser? Do you know how to pluck a deal from the toilet when it looks like the other side is about to flush?

Not to mention, that by not listing, you have just removed any incentive from buyer's agents to show your house. Not to mention your house won't be on your local MLS.

Not to mention that unless your market is VERY unusual, it is NOT a hot market, and your house will not sell.

I guess what I am trying to say is, if you have to post this on askmeta, you really should find an agent.

(full disclosure. I am married to one, but probably NOT in your state. If you change your mind and do decide to hire one, email me and we will tell you how to pick a good one.)
posted by konolia at 2:23 PM on January 19, 2008

Some sellers may now be in a position where there is very little wiggle room between the potential final negotiated selling price and what the seller may still owe on the home. Once you factor in commissions from the agents, the seller may come to the sale owing money. So is there a way to market and sell a home, without taking the hit on the commissions?

Hopefully you do understand that you cannot price a house based on what you need to make on it. Because even if you get that price, the buyer's financing may fall through when the appraiser comes back with a low number.

Sure -IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Most people don't.
posted by konolia at 2:27 PM on January 19, 2008

Research, research, research. I've never bought or sold a home myself, so take this as you will, but from looking across the street at the house that's been on the market forEVER, here are some thoughts.

--Do look into a lawyer. They are obligated to act in your best interest and can give you a ot of advice. Spending money to do it right will earn you money in the long run.

--The MLS issue may be a big one. Are there FSBO websites in your area? Make sure that if you choose to list it there, you pick the best one. Where I live there's one very well-known site that is easy to use and remember, but there are any number of smaller sites that promise to get the seller an MLS listing, etc. Unfortunately, these sites have WAY less traffic and they don't manage things as well.

--Realtors know a lot about the area and the "comps," so they can help you decide how to price your house in the beginning. Does your town have its property values online? Make a list of all of the houses along your block and look up their values. If you can look up recent sales in your area, too, either through the MLS listings or through the Register of Deeds, that's a plus. You want to take a look at the amenities and disadvantages of your property and price it well. Talk to your neighbors; they'll be a big help if you can get info out of them.

--The number one thing you can do wrong is to get greedy and try selling your house for too much. Yeah, you can lower the price later if it's not selling, but a) you'll still pay carrying costs for every month you haven't sold it (i.e. still paying the mortgage) and b) people will see you getting desperate and think there's something wrong with the house if it's not been sold.
posted by Madamina at 2:37 PM on January 19, 2008

Find one of the FSBO-helper franchises in your area and sign up. You'll pay something for it but it's nothing like the thousands and thousands of dollars in fees you'd shell out for a realtor. You'll get a checklist of things you need to do and possibly some references to lawyers, inspectors and the like. And a (usually) decent looking listing on a website with some potential-buyer traffic. As a buyer-to-be I'm happier to deal with someone through an FSBO site than someone who buys a sign at the hardware store and tapes it to a tree.

You won't get the same attention a realtor would give you, but you also won't get the shady used-car-salesman tactics that come when someone's incentive is to cause the most transactions possible, not to get a good price.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 2:50 PM on January 19, 2008

You need to find out the disclosure laws in your state. You need to make sure you don't discriminate. You need a way to weed out the lookie-lou's and time wasters who aren't qualified to buy your house. Most for sale by owner people overprice their house. Are you prepared to seller finance if someone is interested in that? Real estate commissions are negotiable. You might be able to hire an agent to represent your house for less than the 6% that is usually customary. You can also consult one about ala carte services for just the parts you need with the paperwork. Depending on your state, you might go through a title agency or a lawyer to close the deal. You can also contact some realtors and ask them to pull some comps for recent area sales and get their feedback on what they think your house is worth. You can do that without paying or hiring them. Naturally they are hoping for your business, but they will provide you with comps for your neighborhood and give you a ballpark figure, and it might be less than what you think your house is worth. Your house most likely is not worth what is was two years ago, so you have to distance yourself emotionally from what you think it is worth and the economic realities of selling a house now.
posted by 45moore45 at 3:42 PM on January 19, 2008

In my experience, it is very much worth it to sell a home on one's own. Don't worry that there are too many complicated legal this-and-thats that need to be done: hire a lawyer or notary to take care of the legal side (depending on your jurisdiction, this may be required anyways). Spend a lot of time deciding on a listing price and on a price you actually expect to get. Do your research online and drop in on some open houses to get a better idea of the listing price, and hire an appraiser to help you decide on a final price (appraisers have access to the closing prices on MLS, but you probably don't). Discount your price a little bit because you aren't using an agent (your buyer wants a good deal too). Hire someone to stage your house if you think it will be worth it. Hire someone to clean your house very carefully and hire people to fix small problems, put on a coat of paint, etc. Spend some money on some nice signs. In other words, don't be afraid to spend some money, because you'll be saving a lot of cash by not hiring a realtor.

Advertise in any way possible. Consider paying to put your house on MLS. Put up signs all through your neighbourhood. Advertise online. Hold an open house. Consider advertising in your local paper.
posted by ssg at 3:46 PM on January 19, 2008

I just sold our house FSBO last year - it will probably take longer than you think, so build that in to the process and your pricing. We probably could've sold earlier if we'd priced more reasonably. Eventually, we took advantage of one of the MANY realtors soliciting our listing, got a free no-obligation market analysis, and dropped the price a bit. It can be worth it to pay up-front for a home inspection - this prevents any nasty surprises down the road. We discovered roots in our sewer-line, which would've been nice to know about earlier. RootX took care of the problem, thankfully.

I found the local FSBO "sales magazines" to be cheesy, but I did buy a professional-sized signpost and flyer box from them.

As a FSBO, you will be hit on by a ton of realtors who want your listing. Many of them checked in weekly with a faux-cheery "How's it going? Have you sold your house yet?" whose purpose was all-too-transparent. It's easy to become dispirited after dozens of people see your house but no one bites, or after an open-house which only two people attended. That's a part of it, it's just that realtors expect it to happen, because it's a stressful job. Plan for this.

Get every realtor's card who comes in the door, and keep some cards visible during open houses/showings to promote a feeling of competition in your buyer. Be sure to call and follow-up on what people liked and didn't like about your house, so you can make changes if necessary. Keep your valuables & calendar off-site during showings, and always keep an escape route open if you're showing the house alone. We invested in staging, which can seem obviously "done," but which was also favorably commented on and did make the house seem bigger/neater.

Market everywhere: Friends and Family, Craigslist,,, a personal website with the home address, etc, etc. Spring for 4-color flyers and post them locally, and also in "up and coming" neighborhoods where prices are slightly below your pricepoint. We used Iggys House to list our house for free on MLS, which did bring realtors our way, but the person who bought our house saw our directional signs while walking down the street, saw the house and fell in love. From first showing to the offer coming in took about four weeks, and closing was a month after that.

When we considered the offer, and when we filled out the disclosure forms, I used our old house forms as a guideline. It's not rocket science, and frankly, though realtors claim that they can save you from being sued, the owner of the home is always liable whether or not they use a realtor. Being as truthful and explicit as possible on the Disclosure forms (if you don't know, say you don't know!) can keep you out of trouble.

Continue to show the house after you've accepted the offer - things do come up, and the house sale isn't finished until closing. Good luck!
posted by truenorth at 4:02 PM on January 19, 2008

And read this second:

"Of course, a few stories about for-sale-by-owner deals going horribly wrong does not a reality make. I know this from experience. I've sold FSBOs on two separate occasions, and both times the deals defied the dark mythology. Each side behaved rationally -- negotiating in good faith, treating the other side like people who deserved respect. The buyers probably benefited more from my not paying a commission, but I also got a reasonable deal."

Oh, wait, same article.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 6:44 PM on January 19, 2008

It will likely take a lot more time and energy than you think. Are you willing to pay a commission to the buyer's agent? If so, you're not saving as much. If not, you're going to lose showings. You might find a good agent who's willing to accept a reduced commission.

I just bought a house FSBO, and I had no agent. I used a lawyer for the closing and bought title insurance. The 2 agents who'd listed it didn't seem to have helped the seller much. The seller was high maintenance, but we saved a lot of money.

However, I'll probably use an agent to sell my 2 family house because I don't think I have the time or energy to do the job. But I'll expect them to negotiate commission if the price goes below my threshold.
posted by theora55 at 9:48 PM on January 19, 2008

Do not listen to those here who are telling you that this process is too complicated to do without a real estate agent. It is complicated, there are risks, and it takes a lot of time and energy, but it is not rocket science. My SO and I just successfully sold our house without a real estate agent, in one of the worst markets in the country (Cleveland, OH). While we were entertaining a steady stream of interested buyers, several other homes on our block which were represented by real estate agents sat idle.

Others have already given you some good advice, but it bears repeating:

(1) Since you bought this home, you have a template for the kinds of fees, taxes, etc. that this transaction will incur. Being a seller is obviously different from being a buyer, but it is a good starting place.

(2) Hire a good lawyer who has experience doing FSBO. Have them write up the paperwork - which will stipulate which fees and costs you are willing to pay, and which you want the buyer to assume. Encourage a potential buyer to also retain a lawyer.

(3) Retain a reputable title company that also has experience in your area. Many title companies also run workshops on what you need to know to do FSBO.

(4) We contracted with a company that listed our house on the MLS. YMMV, of course, but in our case this only brought in one person to look at our house. Everything else came from a Craigslist ad.

Best of luck!
posted by googly at 7:20 AM on January 20, 2008

In this market and associated lending environment, not having to pay 6% off the top to the Realtors® is a useful mechanism to get your price more affordable for your buyer(s).
posted by panamax at 12:51 PM on January 20, 2008

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