9 Tips for Selling a Home by Owner

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated February 21, 2022
Woman showing a house
Photo: DigitalVision/Getty Images

It takes more than putting a “for sale” sign in your yard to sell your home

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In a hot real estate market, sellers may receive offers on their house soon after it hits the local listings. With that quick timeline, it’s tempting for sellers to attempt to sell their homes without the assistance of a real estate agent. Cutting out the middle man might save sellers thousands of dollars on commission, but it’s certainly more work on their part. 

If you are thinking of putting up a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) sign, here are nine tips to make it a success.

1. Declutter Your House

Prospective buyers won’t be able to see the potential of your home if it’s cramped and overflowing with furniture, decor, and personal items. Prepare your home for listing photos and in-person tours with a full decluttering session

Since you’re planning to move, now is the perfect time to start donating or selling items that you don’t plan to take with you. If you need help preparing your home for the FSBO process, consider hiring a professional organizer for assistance.

2. Stage the Space

Home staging is a tried and true way to get quicker and higher-priced offers. A report from the National Association of REALTORS® reported that 82% of buyer’s agents said home staging is successful because it allows buyers to see themselves living in the home. 

The cost of hiring a professional stager can range between $647 and $2,514. It’s not necessary to stage an entire home, though. To cut costs, you can stage one or two key rooms, such as the living room and the primary bedroom, and still impress buyers.

3. Get a Property Appraisal

If you want to receive high-priced offers on your home, it pays to start with a professional assessment of how much it’s currently worth. A property appraiser will evaluate your home in relation to comparable properties in the neighborhood or area to determine its value. This step helps you set a suitable asking price, even without the help of a real estate agent. Keep in mind that the average appraisal cost for a single-family home is $349

4. Hire a Real Estate Photographer

Woman photographing a house
Photo: E+/Getty Images

Your smartphone is great for taking selfies and vacation photos, but your home deserves more, especially if you’re hoping to sell it for top dollar. A real estate photographer can capture your space in its best light using professional cameras and equipment. 

You may want to consider paying extra for the photographer to shoot a virtual tour, making it easy for potential buyers to see every corner of your home. Since nearly all house hunters begin their search online, a video added to a listing could capture more interest.

5. List Your Property

You can’t sell your house if no one knows it’s available. The multiple listing service (MLS) makes it easy to list your home widely, but alas, you cannot access it without the help of a real estate agent. 

Some services allow you to bypass the agent, but you’ll have to pay a flat fee to list your home on the MLS. Some websites like Zillow allow you to list your property for free, but they do not connect to the broader MLS database. Keep in mind that while you are saving money on a seller’s agent, you’ll pay their commission out of the sale price if a buyer works with an agent.

6. Market Your Home

In some instances, you might get calls from prospective buyers within hours of listing your property. But in most cases, you’ll need to promote your property listing to find the right buyer. 

Spreading the word to family and friends is one way to do it, but to attract the most offers, you’ll need to develop a marketing plan. Decide which social media websites you’d like to use for promotion, and ensure that you include a shareable link to your listing. You can also employ other marketing techniques, including posting signage or hosting an agent-only tour.

7. Hire a Real Estate Lawyer

The sheer amount of legal paperwork that comes with real estate transactions can be overwhelming. You’ll need the help of a real estate attorney to navigate the fine print details and negotiate the deal with the buyer through closing. 

In some states, you’ll need a real estate attorney even if you’re working with an agent, so it makes sense to work with someone who knows the ins and outs of property sales. A real estate lawyer will also help to ensure the transaction is in compliance with the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination against renters and buyers.

8. Host an Open House

Open houses have been hit or miss in the age of social distancing, and there is truth to the rumors that properties can be sold sight unseen—or at least not seen in person. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on welcoming buyers into your space. 

An open house creates a sense of urgency with buyers, and it allows people to feel an emotional connection to their potential new home. It also takes the pressure off you to keep the place looking spotless for one-off buyer tours. An open house held during a few hours can be a huge timesaver.

9. Respond Promptly to Inquiries

Man on phone and laptop in kitchen
Photo: E+/Getty Images

If you’re selling your house on your own, you should be ready to field phone calls and other inquiries about your house. Buyers are motivated, but in a market where inventory is tight, they will move on to another property if they think the seller isn’t serious about selling. 

While you can handle many of the details leading up to the closing remotely, you need to be attentive to avoid delays. It’s not wise to list your house FSBO if you are lacking the time or energy to see it through. That’s why many people opt to use real estate agents—answering calls from potential buyers and their agents is literally their job.

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