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How to Sell Your House by Owner – Without a Realtor

By Jason Steele

house for sale by ownerOwning a home is one of the biggest investments most people ever make. When it’s time to sell your property, the standard practice is to find a real estate agent.

After the sale, your agent and the buyer’s agent will share about 7% of the sale price as their commission, which amounts to a hefty portion of your equity being lost to the real estate agents.

After buying and selling multiple properties, I eventually realized that I was paying the real estate agents too much money for something I could handle myself. I discovered how to sell a property while retaining significantly more equity than if I had hired an agent.

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

A real estate agent essentially does four things for his or her commission:

  1. Lists your house with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
  2. Markets your house though fliers, advertisements, and a web site.
  3. Facilitates showings of your house and possibly hosts open house events.
  4. Acts as an intermediary when entering negotiations and accompanies you to the closing.

After working with Realtors on several occasions, I decided to try selling a home on my own. Here are the steps to follow if you decide to forego using a real estate agent to sell your home:

How to Be Your Own Real Estate Agent Selling Your Home

1. Price Your Home to Sell
Before you list the property on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or anywhere else, make sure you’ve priced the home competitively. Use the Internet to get an idea of selling prices for comparable  homes in your neighborhood, and then price your house accordingly.

It’s easy to get hung up on this step and, especially if you’ve lived in your home for some time, you may feel compelled to overprice the home. Don’t fall into that trap. Remember, the goal of this process is to sell your home, so make sure the asking price is realistic.

2. Obtain a Flat Fee Listing on the MLS
The MLS is the most comprehensive list of real estate for sale in the U.S. It is available to Realtors, and in some areas, prospective buyers can also search for homes using the MLS. There are services that allow you to list your property on the MLS for a few hundred dollars. Search for “Flat Fee MLS” online to find similar services in your area.

3. Market Your Property
In addition to listing the home on the MLS, advertise by putting up “for sale” signs, creating brochures, putting ads on Craigslist, and building a web site to market the property. FSBO.com offers home-selling packages for homeowners that begin at $69.95. The marketing packages include items like brochures and yard signs. There will be some costs involved in advertising the sale of your home, but they will be a fraction of an agent’s commission. The real cost is the amount of time and energy you will need to put into selling your home.

4. Hold an Open House
You can also hold an open house to advertise the sale of your home. Advertise for the open house by posting signs in your neighborhood. Have some light refreshments available and set out brochures about the home that visitors can take with them as they leave.

5. Know Your Property’s Selling Points
When writing your ad copy for websites or brochures, make sure to include basic information about the house, including the price, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, lot size, location, and of course the specific details that make the house special to potential buyers.

Take a look at other listings on Craigslist, Realtors’ websites, and Yahoo! Real Estate to get a sense of what sort of details sellers and agents are including in their listings. You’ll quickly find out that features like granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and oversized windows entice buyers. Determine what’s special about your home and highlight those features in your marketing efforts.

6. Prepare to Show Your House
You will have to prepare your house for showings and open house events. Deep-clean the house, including scrubbing the kitchen counters and the appliances, shampooing the carpets, cleaning the linoleum, and stashing your keepsakes in a closet (i.e. house spring cleaning tips and checklist). The final result should be a home that’s squeaky clean and stripped bare of most personal items.

7. Show Your House
You will have to place a key in a lock box and answer calls from other agents or  buyers. If you are at home during the day, you can show the house yourself. Otherwise, you will have to verify the identity of the agent before giving out your lock box combination.

Another option is to find an a la carte real estate agent who will perform this function for a fee without asking you for a commission on the sale price of the house. After an agent shows your house, be sure to call to follow up on the showing. Some agents will share the buyer’s feedback with the homeowner, if they feel it won’t compromise their clients’ confidentiality.

8. Perform Your Own Negotiations
Real estate negotiations take the form of a contract that is submitted to the seller. The seller can accept the offer, or revise the contract and submit it to the buyer. The process continues until both parties sign a contract.

In most states, there is a standard contract for real estate purchases. If you are not familiar with the contract, you should have it reviewed by an attorney. Or, you can find a real estate agent that will perform this function with you for a flat fee. Having gone through this process before, I was able to consult with family members who were real estate agents and attorneys, and then negotiate with the other party to sell my home.

Agents like to close deals quickly so they can get their commission, even if you don’t ultimately receive the price you want for your home. They may even inadvertently relay your negotiating position to the buyer. If you are a distressed seller, that is the last thing you would ever want an enthusiastic buyer to learn. Doing your own negotiating ensures that you do not give away important indications of your financial strengths and weaknesses.

9. Comply with All Laws in Your Area
It’s critical that you comply with the laws in your area related to selling homes. Some laws are universal and will apply to the sale of your home no matter where you live. The Fair Housing Act stipulates that sellers cannot discriminate against buyers for reasons including race, religion, and sex. Contracts and agreements found online can help get you started on the selling process, but remember, those forms aren’t specific to your unique situation. It’s best to have a real estate attorney review all documents and contracts related to the sale of your home.

Final Word

Selling a home is not for everyone. Many people will not have the time or the patience to deal with the process. And for some, if the listing price is low enough, the potential savings might not be worth the time and effort necessary to sell the house without a realtor. Whatever the case, if you are planning to list your home, at least consider the great savings you could enjoy by selling the house on your own. If you know just a little about real estate, and you can put forth the effort to do a good job, you can save a tremendous amount of money by selling your own property.

Have you been through the process of selling your own home? What are your best tips for selling a home without an agent?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Jason Steele
Jason has been writing about personal finance, travel, and other topics on blogs across the Internet. When he is not writing, he has a career in information technology and is also a commercially rated pilot. Jason lives in Colorado with his wife and young daughter where he enjoys parenting, cycling, and other extreme sports.

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Comments

  • http://www.swimupstreamtowealth.com/ Kirk Kinder

    Jason – Great post. I had the best experience when I sold my home myself. I sat around the kitchen table with the buyer, and we negotiated face to face. We even added unusual items to the contract such as giving him my kitchen table for a car top carrier.

    Realtors are overpaid in my opinion for the value they bring. If you are buying a commercial property, you need a decent realtor who can discuss the rental market, but home buying is pretty upfront.

  • Chandri238

    Hey ,

    You need Realtors, to firstly put your listing on MLS, secondly to conduct open house and let in only potential buyers, thirdly to draft a contract (avoiding lawyers fees who charge you per minute of their time , lastly to negotiate the price without fist fights.

    Are you kidding ? Let the professional handle it for you. If you want to “Do it yourself”
    why should there be any profession at all. How can our unemployment rate ever go down, when guys like you do everything yourself.

    Share your income maan ??????????????

  • Ginger483

    Your article stinks where is the advice here, all a see is how to advertise, what a potiental saler would like to know is about all the paper work hello lawyer vs title company, and what they do… Why a intent to sale before the closing date and a nonrefundable deposit to save the seller from a buyer that backs out… Really now write a article that actually gives some advice instead of this wishy worshy crap and hey people if you want to add a comment how about answer some of the above questions…

    • Mr Happy

      Your attitude is almost as bad as your punctiation.

  • Gkathy

    where can I find the papers I need to sell my house myself?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1148750261 Scott A Austin

    Jason,
    A few things extra thoughts…

    On a $100,000 house with a 5% commission you will pay the Realtors $5,000.

    If you hire a real estate appraiser for $500 you will get a realistic appraisal from an unbiased source trained in valuation. (Despite what they tell you agents have very little valuation training).

    Most appraisers are members of the MLS system and they can get the seller the needed contracts for the sale.

    I am an appraiser, so let me suggest that we are not all created or trained equally. Try to find an appraiser who has a professional designation from a national organization like NAIFA, ASA or AI.
    (The designation is important. It is akin to the difference between someone who just does taxes and a CPA).

    I hope it helps !

    Scott A Austin, IFA
    Austin Appraisal, LLC
    Birmingham, AL

  • Vanessa

    Hi Jason, My husband and I are in the process of buying a home in Colorado. When we sell our Colorado home in the future, we do not want to go through a seller’s agent. Do you know if you are allowed to represent yourself in the homeselling process/sale in Colorado? It seems that Colorado has some pretty strict regulations with even obtaining a broker’s license for independent use, so I’m having trouble believing that we could get away with this without any obstacles. Thank you for your help!

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