For Sale by Owner: Seller’s Guide

Selling your home without the assistance of a real estate agent can be both empowering and financially rewarding. The decision to sell your home by yourself, commonly known as “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO), opens up a world of possibilities where you get to control the entire selling process. From setting the listing price to negotiating with potential buyers, this DIY approach allows homeowners to have direct control over every aspect of the sale. In this article, we will explore the key steps and considerations involved in successfully selling your home independently. We hope to provide valuable insights to help you navigate the intricate landscape of the real estate market. As well as maximize the return on your investment. Whether you’re driven by cost savings or a desire for greater control, an FSBO can be a fulfilling experience with the right knowledge and approach.

Consider if FSBO is the right choice for you

Real estate agents work full time for a reason – selling a home demands significant time and effort. If you choose to forgo professional assistance, be prepared to handle every aspect of the home sale, This includes researching comparable properties, determining the price, listing, marketing, staging, and handling all necessary paperwork. While selling on your own provides complete control, it can be challenging if you lack experience in the home buying and selling process. Consider the pros and cons of the FSBO approach before making a decision.

PROS:

  • Total command/control of the entire home selling process
  • Cut costs by avoiding listing agent commissions
  • Engage in direct discussions with potential buyers
  • No need to coordinate your availability with the agent for property showings
  • Present your home from the viewpoint of the owner

CONS:

  • Homes listed as For Sale by Owner typically sell for 25% less than those listed with agents
  • Effective listing, advertising, and managing a home sale demand specific skill sets
  • Limited group of potential buyers
  • Potential risk in creating your own contract

There are situations where opting for the FSBO route is reasonable:

  • When there’s already a prospective buyer in the picture
  • In times of high market demand, opting for FSBO can be advantageous
  • When there’s no urgency to sell promptly

Pricing Your Home

Assess your house objectively, approaching the sale from a real estate professional’s perspective. Set aside your emotions. Sentimental value doesn’t translate into tangible worth for the home. And not all improvements guarantee a full return on investment.

Everyone aims to buy low and sell high, but home sellers tend to overvalue their properties. Overpricing repels potential buyers, while underpricing results in profit loss. To steer clear of these pitfalls, familiarize yourself with the local market and scrutinize comparable properties in the vicinity. Conduct thorough online research on local sales and trends. Also, focus on actual comparable sales prices, known as “comps.” Leverage online listing platforms such as Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia to analyze properties similar to yours.

Properties that are for sale by owner must also consider obtaining a professional appraisal from a licensed appraiser.

Besides a home appraisal, there are three additional sources of home value, ranging from least to most accurate:

  1. Automated Valuation Model (AVM): Typically provided by online valuation tools, AVM is suitable when minimal upgrades or renovations are made, the home is in a tract of similar houses, and you’re willing to accept a margin of error between 10% to 30%.
  2. Comparative Market Analysis (CMA): Often part of a real estate agent’s marketing presentation, CMA is a sales-oriented assessment. Agents, focused on securing listings, may overstate your home’s value to attract your business.
  3. Broker Price Opinion (BPO): Conducted by a licensed broker, BPO involves evaluating three recent sales of comparable properties and three currently-listed houses. It offers a value estimate akin to a mini-appraisal, with costs ranging from $50 to $250—considerably less than a full appraisal. Brokers with BPOR certification from the National Association of Realtors are specifically trained for BPOs, commonly commissioned by lenders to assess repossessed property values before foreclosure sales.

Get your home ready for the market

Prepare your home for visitors and tours by cleaning, decluttering, and addressing minor repairs like leaky faucets and sticky doors. Assess the overall condition of your home, including flooring, ceiling, appliances, plumbing, and lighting. Consider updating furniture that visitors might interact with during the tour. Address issues like burned-out light bulbs, broken windowpanes, and fixtures that may create a negative impression on potential buyers. While major repairs are not required at this stage, enhance your house’s curb appeal by attending to the exterior, landscaping, front entrance, and paint job. Mow the lawn, trim hedges, power wash the house, weed flower beds, and replace the mailbox or house number if needed. A well-maintained exterior will captivate buyers and entice them to explore the inside.

Marketing Your Property

Certain FSBO sellers find themselves taken aback by the considerable time commitment involved in the sales process. Handling it independently entails:

  • Capturing quality photographs and crafting compelling descriptions of your property’s key features.
  • Installing “for sale” signage, prominently displaying your contact information.
  • Listing the property on online platforms.
  • Designing informative flyers with engaging visuals and content.

Use effective marketing strategies:

  1. Professional Photography: Invest in professional real estate photography to enhance the appeal of your property. Create an attractive portfolio through skilled photographers.
  2. Compelling Property Description: Craft a powerful property description by combining a captivating headline with an engaging opening statement. Use popular adjectives like captivating, luxurious, impeccable, and highlight unique features such as flooring type and energy-efficient devices like solar panels.
  3. MLS Listing: Accelerate the selling process by listing your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
  4. For Sale By Owner Websites: Leverage FSBO listing sites such as Zillow and Craigslist, which attract millions of monthly visitors. While some FSBO websites offer free listings, research thoroughly to minimize the risk of attracting unqualified buyers.
  5. “For Sale” Yard Sign: Capture the attention of potential buyers with a “FOR SALE” yard sign, featuring your phone number. This simple yet effective method can attract unrepresented buyers directly to your property.
  6. Leverage social media: Using social media is an effective method to promote your property to a wider audience. Utilize Facebook posts as a straightforward and cost-effective means to connect with local homebuyers. Engage with Facebook groups dedicated to FSBOs to save on advertising expenses.

As per the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 51% of buyers discover the homes they ultimately purchase through online platforms. Therefore, showcasing your property on sites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, or other FSBO platforms attracts qualified individuals, leading them to schedule tours or attend open houses.

Handle Property Showings

The ambiance of your home during an open house creates a lasting impression on potential buyers. Ensure that lighting, scent, and temperature are on your For Sale By Owner checklist, as these factors significantly influence the overall atmosphere. Enhance the homely feel by baking cookies and using scented candles. Keeping the lights on and curtains open helps showcase your home’s standout features.

While guiding visitors through your home is crucial, it’s equally important to allow them some independent exploration. Afterwards, engage with them, highlighting key features. Remember to encourage visitors to leave their contact details on an open house sign-in sheet, facilitating follow-up communication.

Considering that potential buyers may view multiple houses in a day, it’s essential to reach out to open house visitors within 24 hours to refresh their memory about your property and the conversation. Offer to send a flyer or schedule a follow-up showing to reinforce their interest. Additionally, make sure clients have your current contact information, enabling them to reach out with any further questions at their convenience.

Make sure to be punctual for appointments and maintain an organized presentation of your home. Look presentable during showings, keep pets in a separate space, and arrange childcare for young kids. While buyers don’t expect you to be a realtor, they seek confidence in your ability to manage the process effectively.

Equally important, you should exercise diligence in checking for pre-qualifications as you market your home for sale. Be cautious of unqualified buyers and those not ready for a home purchase. Focus on entertaining pre-qualified buyers who have verified their ability to secure bank financing with a certification letter specifying a maximum purchase value and an expiration date. Request references and perform due diligence, including contacting previous landlords and employers, conducting a credit check, and seeking advice from a real estate attorney or banking partner if any concerns arise.

Conduct Negotiations and Finalize the Deal

Another crucial task on your FSBO checklist is to have the essential paperwork ready in advance, facilitating a seamless transition for interested buyers from your open house to the subsequent stages of the buying process. Recognize that sales contracts differ by state and may necessitate legal guidance, so ensure adherence to state laws and regulations. While not obligatory, hiring an attorney for selling homes by owner is advisable. A licensed real estate attorney can assist in drafting all closing documents and mitigating legal risks.

When considering offers, ask about potential buyers’ pre-approval status. A pre-approval letter aids in gauging the sale timeline and the seriousness of the offer. Qualified buyers usually have a shorter sales timeline than those without a pre-qualified loan guarantee.

Anticipate negotiations as both parties may not initially agree on the asking price. Set a fair price based on market research and suggest a range for acceptance or counteroffers. Counteroffers don’t harm the sale but enable the advocacy of the home’s value. Once a price is agreed upon, the buyer should offer earnest money (usually 1% to 3% of the sale price) as a display of good faith. This money is deposited and allocated to the buyer’s down payment or closing costs, safeguarding the seller in case the buyer withdraws from the deal.

After accepting an offer and receiving earnest money, schedule a home inspection and establish a closing timeline. Employing a professional inspector to assess termites, plumbing, and electrical issues is vital for preventing future legal problems. Following the inspection, the buyer and seller should address any necessary repairs. Some sellers may agree to repair requests, while others may prefer reducing the price instead of undertaking more extensive and costly repairs. The choice typically hinges on the inspector’s findings and the nature of the required repairs.

It’s advised to open an escrow account to securely handle the money between you and the buyer until all paperwork is done. Once the earnest money is deposited, the rest of the amount will be paid by the buyer or the loan company and kept safely in the escrow account until the sale is completed.

The last step on the for sale by owner checklist is completing all necessary paperwork, usually done at the attorney, title company, or lender’s office during the closing. Your buyer will sign various documents to finalize the sale. On closing day, bring your ID for notarizing legal papers. Closing documents, which vary by state, typically include a promissory note, mortgage, “Truth in lending” statement, title or deed, monthly payment letter, bill of sale, and completed loan application.

Before handing over keys, address final details, plan your move, and consider essential steps like setting a stop date for utilities, scheduling movers, contacting the insurance company to end property coverage, and updating your address with the post office.


In conclusion, opting to sell your house independently offers potential savings by bypassing real estate commissions. However, it comes with significant drawbacks, such as the omission of an MLS listing and the absence of professional assistance when needed. While the cost-saving aspect is appealing, it’s crucial to weigh the financial benefits against the potential challenges and consider your comfort level with navigating the intricacies of the real estate process solo. Balancing the pros and cons will enable you to make an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs and circumstances.