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How to sell a house by owner: A step-by-step guide

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    Who needs a realtor? Well, most people. But if you’re a current homeowner and classic do-it-yourselfer, you’re the type who might find it exciting, and lucrative, to sell your home all by yourself.  Before you dive in, there’s a lot to consider if you’re looking to turn your home sale into a DIY project. Below are some of the things you need to know to sell your house as an owner.

    1. Determine a price

    Before listing your house for sale, you’ll need to determine how much you think it’s worth to a potential buyer. Normally, when you work with a real estate agent, they have access to information that helps make a competitive market analysis (CMA) to inform a home’s value. A competitive market analysis evaluates recent home sales in your area, overall market trends and comparable houses to help come up with an appropriate number. If you’re on your own, you’ll need to do the CMA yourself.

    You don’t want to choose an arbitrary number for your home because you wouldn’t want to undervalue or overvalue it. If you undervalue it, you’ll leave money on the table. If you overvalue it, buyers won’t be interested.

    To perform a CMA, you’ll want to look at a few things including:

    • Recent sales in your neighborhood
    • Comparable houses, or comps, in your area
    • Market trends – are local sales increasing or decreasing in volume and price over time?
    • Special amenities your house offers (pool, hot tub or a multi-car garage are just a few examples)

    You can find information on recent sales on sites like Zillow or through public records databases. You’ll want to pay attention to homes that have already sold, rather than homes for sale. Homes that have already sold were priced successfully, whereas homes listed for sale are yet to be determined.

    Getting a home appraisal might be worthwhile, as well. A home appraiser can cost anywhere from $300 to $600. They will do a walk-through of your home, investigate comps, recent sales and market trends, and then determine a competitive, yet realistic, price for your listing.

    2. Prepare and take photos

    Once you’ve determined your listing price, it’s time for the next step. When listing a home for sale, professional looking photos can be worth thousands of dollars in the final sale price. Before taking photos, you’ll likely want to spruce the place up. This can be as simple as a deep clean, or even some home repairs. You’ll want to be as honest as possible in your listing about the state of the house, so if there are any easy fixed like throwing a new coat of paint over some outdated rooms or replacing a few fixtures here and there, it could be worth the investment. And make sure to take the photos on a sunny day with the lights on and curtains open.

    The For Sale by owner photography checklist

    • Do a deep clean of the house. Steam carpets, vacuum, declutter, wipe down and dust surfaces. You can do this yourself or hire a cleaning service.
    • Improve interior and exterior décor. This is also known as staging. Make sure things are set up to be picture perfect. Buy some new plants for the front and backyard, put coffee table books and candles out. Anything to make the home look more enticing for photos.
    • Repairs. Like we mentioned earlier, if there are any easier less costly fixes to make, consider moving forward with this before you list.
    • Make it well lit. Wait for a sunny day, open the blinds and turn on the lights.

    3. List your home without a realtor

    There are many sites available for home listing. Zillow, Trulia, FSBO, HomeFinder and are all popular options for easy listing by owner. Some sites are free, and some charge a fee for the listing. Real estate agents usually have more access to marketing and advertising materials that will get your house in front of more buyer’s eyes, but the rise of home selling websites makes it easier to do it yourself. In addition to your listing, you may want to consider a few marketing tactics like Craigslist, print ads, sharing on social media and telling friends and family.

    4. Make the sale without a realtor

    Up until this point, there’s been little to no negotiation or legal paperwork. It’s common to run into some roadblocks during this step. Buyers and their agents may be hesitant to buy from a “For Sale by owner” listing because the owners are often inexperienced. The agent may not want to do extra work and the buyer may feel the sale is less legitimate. It may come in handy to have a real estate attorney on your end to help consult with in negotiations and the final deal. In addition, remaining professional, flexible and communicative with your buyer and their agent will go a long way.

    Finally, holding an open house can get more potential buyers in the door and help your listing get some real, live attention. Then, if you still find your house is sitting on the market longer than you’d like, consider adjusting your listing price or making another effort to attract potential buyers.

    The pros and cons of selling a house by owner


    The pros of selling a house by owner:

    • Less commission owed to others, meaning you stand to potentially profit more
    • More control over both your listing and your showing times
    • More personal interactions with potential buyers


    The cons of selling a house by owner:

    • Learning curve
    • More time consuming
    • Less accessibility to marketing channels and real estate info

    Selling a house without a realtor can be a time-consuming and potentially challenging task. But as selling a house by owner becomes more common with the help of new real estate websites and more access to information online, selling a house without a realtor is easier than it’s ever been and well worth considering.

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