Selling For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Guide
Selling your house ‘for sale by owner’ (FSBO) can be done these days, don’t let real estate agents or the media fool you. In fact, if you know what you’re doing and are disciplined, you can sell your house quicker by yourself than through an agent. It takes discipline, a little marketing know-how, and some guts, but the rewards can be high.
By now you’re probably thinking ‘foreclosures are rampant, home prices are dropping, the economy stinks, and my neighbor has had their house up for sale for 2 years.’ All that might be true, but our society is mobile, people want homes. I sold my house for sale by owner (FSBO), twice, in late 2007, in Michigan (highest unemployment rate in the country), in just 3 months. I’ve also bought twice now, and looked at over 100 homes in the process with a very discriminating eye.
Sold twice? Well, the first guy got cold feet before signing the papers. Selling your own house can be very rewarding, exciting, and loads of fun. It is hard work, but probably not as hard as you think. Besides, you get to keep the commission, show your house only when you want, and not have to deal with shady realtors who are looking for their own best interests. The bottom line is that nobody knows your house as well as you do and you can capitalize on that. Here is how to sell your house in 3 months or less ‘for sale by owner’ (FSBO).
Before you Buy your Home
- Buy the right house – Selling your house starts with buying the right house. Things like location, neighbors, access to shopping and highways, school reputation, taxes, and curb appeal are essential. Just as you should look for these when buying, your potential buyer is going to be looking for as well.
Week 1: Exterior
- Clean up – Get everything off of your floor and put away nicely in storage. Get rid of stuff you don’t need (donate it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army). Storage is big in a buyer’s eyes. If you have stuff laying around, the buyer thinks they would as well, and they won’t buy your house.
- Curb Appeal – To get people into your open house or to even grab your flyer your house has to grab people’s eyes. How do you do this? Make sure your grass is always green, full, and freshly cut. Also, trim up overgrown greenery, and add vegetation that looks good year-round – ornamental grasses, evergreens, ferns. Paint your house if it needs it.
Week 2: Interior
- Paint the Interior – Nothing is a bigger turn off than dirty, or outdated paint on the walls. Buy a couple of gallons of warm, eathy, modern paint colors, and spend a weekend updating.
- Update hardware and light fixtures. This is a cheap way to make your house look more updated than it really is.
- Let your hardwood shine. If you have dingy carpet covering your hardwood, get rid of it. The hardwood increases the value of your home and gives it character.
Now that your house looks great, it’s time to market it.
Week 3: Marketing
- Take great pictures – This is a very important step. Make sure that your outdoor pictures are taken on a sunny day, without clouds, with the sun to your back. Indoor pictures should be taken with a flash during the evening to add brightness and richness.
- Build a website for your house – This is free (use blogger.com or wordpress.com), and very easy. Your website should include exterior and interior pictures, your address, your asking price, your contact phone and email and a list of the following information: bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, age, updates, features, location benefits, link to a map, utility and tax information, and any other fun features that set you apart from the competition. Add Google Analytics to track where your traffic is coming from.
- Print out flyers and put in a tube outside – Sounds old fashioned, but I was going through about 20 a day, including one to my eventual buyer. Your neighbors love where they live, let them grab flyers and do your selling for you. Include the lions share of the information and the color photos that are on your website. Also, include your website so people can see more photos (direct links as showing in Google Analytics are those who grabbed your flyer).
- Put an ad on Craigslist.com (for free) – Delete and repost your ad every 48 hours. Link your ad to your website. This brought in about 25 site visits per day.
Week 4: Show your House
- Get your house appraised – Make sure you do your research and give the appraiser favorable comparables. This will give you bargaining power later on.
- Have an open house – Call everyone who has expressed interest so far to invite them. Have open houses every two weeks. Not only does this get more people in the doors, but it keeps the pressure on those who are interested. Make sure the house is as clean as can be, bake some chocolate chip cookies, and throw on some classy music for atmosphere. Give everyone a flyer and seller’s disclosure.
Continue doing everything you’ve already done on a consistent basis, and brush up on your negotiation strategy when the offers start rolling in. Good luck!
For Sale By Owner Resources
For more on selling for sale by owner, you may want to check out:
Would you try selling FSBO? If not, what are your fears?
Great post, however not all realtors are shady. ;)
Yeah, I know one or two good ones.
I agree good post, informative and interesting but dont pick on the estate agents : )
As to the “Buy the right house” comment – don’t forget that you may have some negatives, but accentuate the positives…
My primary concern is with the paperwork and setting up the closing. An unsophisticated buyer could make this part a nightmare.
@Brent – agreed – but when you do the cost benefit analysis – as long as you’ve done the homework and taken the right steps on your end of things, you’re probably going to be thankful. Buyers can still get it wrong, even with an agent – the only difference is you’re paying the agents 6% of the sale price. On a $200K house, that’s $12K.
It’s not for everyone, just those willing to work a little harder. All in all, it took me maybe an extra 10 hours to do the things an agent does. I made about $1K per hour for my work – not half bad. =)
What type of paper work and wear does one purchase these articles and then how does one learn how to use them?
How do I handel it legally?
I’ve sold 3 houses already “on For sale bt Owner.com…My last home I saved (and money in my pocket $19,000 dollars that I didn’t have to pay a 6% commision.
Yes, it was a GREAT feeling, and right now, I’m doing it a fourth time.
I’ve learned that “no one cares “more about your home, than “you”, and only “you” can answer all the potential buyers personal questions about “your home”. Nthing against realtors, but most of them “just want “your listing”, as they get half “and the “majority of the time, it’s “another agent from another compant “that brings in the buyer”.
And sometimes (I’ve been on both sides(buyer or seller) and it “takes sometimes “up to 2 days for them to get me information like “where is the well located/or do the school buses come out this far(in rural ares/or “when was the last time the septic was clean,etc…
When you, as the “owner” communicate with the “potential buyer”, even “out of state(especially, as they do not know ANYTHING about the new state and area, it is SO MUCH MORE soothing to them and personal.
In fact, my last 2 homes I sold were from “out of state buyers being “transferred.
I recieved “lovely cards after the purchase for years, telling me “how I made their transition so much easier. Its so rewarding:).Both those buyers actually purchased 75% plus of my furnishings as they “loved how I decorated. A “win, win:0
People freck out, and all you need to do it “download a simple “purchasing agreement. And call your “local titlke company of choice. Why pay someone “who has been in your house that “lucky ONE time”, with the potential buyer who DOES buy your house, yet “knows “nothing about it”…Think about it…I always say “if u want something done correctly , do it YOURSELF.That includes your picture taking, your personal “write up”, etc….So many times, in the past when I did use a realtor, they made so many mistakes on the MSL listing(wrong number of Baths/bedrooms/garage size(once, it said “no garage”. I had a 4 car and a 30X40 finished polebarn(in Northern,Michigan, thats a BIG selling point~laughing~ Yes, there ARE some agents that are VERY good, but NO one “knows or cares about your home “more than “you”.
Great information. I’ve learned from experience that selling your own home can be a difficult task, especially during recession though, but this post will be of great help.
This is helpful information. I am determined to try selling my own house. I often worry about the price of my house. I guess that’s where the appraisal comes in. I’m a little nervous about doing this but I have to at least try. Thanks for the ideas.
Call 2 local experienced realtors and “ask for a free market appraisel”. Then detrermin your price. Never “over price, thinking “you are giving room to negoiate”…No one will even look if you are 10,000 to 20,000 over what your home is really worth. Be fair…But PLEASE take into consideration “the condition of your home, the location, etc. If you haven’t “kept up on updating every 5 years, freshly painted walls, etc…Then you “can’t “compare your home to anothers, even if “they have same lot size, acreage, sq. footage, etc.
I sold 3 homes within a month, why? because they were in “move in condition/very clean and updated. Good curb appeal…You also “can have a “perfect appealing home…But “what about your location? If theres a “pig farm across the road or on a busy highway…It “may take longer”:)
Again as has been said earlier ojn not all Realtors are shady. There are still a few good ones around out there but it pays for folks in all walks of life just to make sure that they take care and if something is that important then never do anything without proper due diligence.
The suggestions are common sense. I have been a broker for over 20 years and can attest to the fact that most reale state agents are shady. However, most homes are sold via the MLS system in their state and sold by real estate brokers. Cheap is cheap; trying to save money by selling your own home usually cost the home owner money. There are many intangible and tangible benefits to using a broker. Live and learn.
This is good, basic information for starting a FSBO. There’s one big missing point here — pricing! It’s one of the toughest and most important things to get right when selling on your own. It will take some research and may be some legwork to asses a price but it’s worth it to get a quick sale.
Good post. Informative and finally someone who doesn’t beat around the bush that FSBO can and has been done.
Of course, the most important thing has to be EXPOSURE. A seller needs to get their home in front of as many people and/or websites as possible, put as many pictures out there as possible and to write compelling ad copy for those who want to read.
Doing homework on the paperwork is the last thing that will assure success.
Good work, keep it up.
I am considering putting my house up for sale. The information you provided was helpful, but mostly common sense. The questions i have are, what all paperwork is involved and needed in order to sell? That’s where i get lost, not knowing what i need in legal documentation in order to complete the transaction. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
I recently tried to sell my NYC apartment on my own and quickly learned that the NYC market does NOT work the same way as the rest of the country. I had a very hard time getting buyers to my Open Houses, even though I posted ads on the New York Times web site and a few others. Most of the attendees were actually brokers looking to handle my sale. After several weeks of no real nibbles, I signed with one of those brokers, and he had me in contract two weeks later. He finally shared with me that the big three brokers in town have an agreement not to bring their buyers to FSBO listings, and almost everyone who buys in NYC works with one of those brokers. So seller beware in NYC.
Realtors can be your best friend as long as they are performing the marketing task they said they would. I am an agent myself and I will tell you I never take any of my buyers to FSBO. I am a Profession who went to college and passed my state boards exam to obtain a License as a Professional Realtor. Put it in this aspect, Professionals work with professionals. You wouldn’t act as your own doctor, or as your own attorney so why would you treat your home any different. Plus when I talk to FSBO they usually spent thousands of dollars marketing thier own home with little success. All I ask from FSBO is keep your spending low because after you are frustrated and upset from so much work and no sale, you will list with an agent. Cheers
@ ty – you have to have some sort of marketing skills to make it work. If not, look to a pro.
Great List! If many sellers knew this, most would not be leaving $$ on the table, retaining the optimum value the home should sell for.
So Glad I came upon this site– the day has finally come!!! We need to get this info out there… you do not need a realtor to sell or buy a house these days COMMON SENSE It is no secret realtors won’t show a home if it is f.s.b.o.
Lets work together Stop giving $$$$ away, do it yourself IT WORKS Believe in yourself stop giving your power away…
lol I have to chime in on this one being a realtor! FSBO is definitely a viable option these days with the internet and I know it can be done successfully, but I think people get to impatient as well as get tired of calls for “will you do a lease to own or will you take 6% off with no agent”. It definitely pays to those willing to take the time as well as the effort to get it done.
One concern I do have is security. Not sure how much crime has been centered around FSBO, but at least an agent is taking a qualified buyer that he or she had pre-screened vs. a fsbo just letting anyone through the door.
Good article but don’t tarnish all realtors with the same brush as like all professions you get your good and bad eggs, and I know plenty of dedicated and professional realtors, just like me:)
I bought my first and second house through a realtor. No problems. Since then bought two houses from FSBO and sold two houses myself and getting ready to sell my home and lake house myself. This is a good article. Do your homework its not hard folks. I realize you got have some ba___ to take the first step. Believe in yourself, you got to be a go getter or don’t do it, call an agent.
Thanks for posting this awesome article. I’m a long
time reader but I’ve never been compelled to leave a comment.
I subscribed to your blog and shared this on my Twitter.
Thanks again for a great post!
I think that Fsbo houses are not shown in searches as often on zillow.