How to Sell a House by Owner

How to Sell a House by Owner article image.

Selling your home might be an attractive idea in today's hot housing market, but be prepared to spend some money in the process. The average cost of selling a home from start to finish is roughly $31,308, according to a recent HomeLight study. This includes home improvements, taxes and commission fees. These fees generally cover the cost of working with a real estate agent.

You may be able to significantly cut your costs by forgoing an agent altogether and taking a do-it-yourself approach to selling your home. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that 7% of home sales in 2020 were done this way.

Still, selling a house on your own without the knowledge and insight an agent brings can be challenging. Whether this method is right for you depends on how much time and energy you want to devote to your home sale. Here's what you should know about selling your house without using a real estate company.

1. Know the Pros and Cons of Selling Your House Without a Realtor

Homeowners traditionally partner with a real estate agent, Realtor or broker to list and sell their home. These are licensed professionals who bring varying levels of expertise to the table. Choosing to sell your home by owner comes with some unique pros and cons.

Pros

  • You'll avoid real estate agent fees. This is perhaps the biggest draw of selling your home yourself. Listing agents typically receive a 6% cut of the final home price, according to NAR. If your home sells for $350,000, you could reasonably lose $21,000 to fees.
  • You have more control over the process. If you're the hands-on type, you might prefer being actively involved in selling your home. From determining the sale price to interviewing potential buyers and closing the sale, you'll manage the process without having to coordinate with an agent.

Cons

  • You might not make as much money. Going it alone means that you'll have to set your sale price and negotiate with buyers yourself.
  • Determining a sale price can be tricky. Speaking of sale prices, an experienced listing agent will likely be familiar with your local market and comparable recent sale prices in your area (also known as "comps"). Without that insider knowledge, you'll have to do that research yourself.
  • You'll have to find potential buyers. Anyone can walk into an open house and express interest in your home, but you'll want to make sure you're talking with folks who are in the position to make realistic offers. This means organizing open houses and viewings, screening interested parties, negotiating offers and handling paperwork.

2. Get Your Home Ready

Making home improvements might help increase your property value, though every market and buyer are different so it's never a guarantee. That said, some home projects may be essential. If there are issues with your HVAC system or roof, for example, failing to address them could make it difficult to find a buyer who'll pay the price you want.

A 2019 Zillow report found that sellers who hired professionals to help with home improvement projects typically spent $6,570 getting their property ready for market and moving to their new home. Take inventory of what repairs can't wait or will make your home more attractive to buyers.

3. Determine the Right Listing Price

As mentioned earlier, landing on the right listing price can be tricky when selling your home by owner. A home appraisal is often the first step. The appraiser will consider recent comps when determining a home's value. They'll also look at the overall condition of the property and the size of the home, along with major appliances and home systems. The average cost to have a single-family home appraised is $348, according to HomeAdvisor. Beyond that, do your research and see what similar homes are selling for in your area.


4. Market Your Home

Attracting buyers is a key part of selling a home. Private sellers may want to invest in professional photos and an appealing description to make their property stand out. From there, they can list their home on multiple listing service (MLS) where real estate agents and brokers can see that it's on the market.

When working with an agent, they'll do the heavy lifting for you in terms of coordinating open houses and viewings—not so if you're doing it yourself. Be prepared to field phone calls and emails from interested parties. In terms of marketing and advertising, NAR identifies these strategies as the most popular among private sellers:

  • Putting up yard signs
  • Spreading the word to friends, neighbors and relatives
  • Listing on MLS and social media platforms
  • Holding open houses
  • Advertising online

5. Settle on the Best Buyer

Finding interested buyers is one thing—settling on the right one is another. When talking with prospective buyers who plan on financing the transaction, ask for a mortgage preapproval letter before moving forward. This shows that they're already in talks with a lender. For cash buyers, ask to see proof that they have the funds to close the home sale. Taking these steps can help weed out offers that are likely to fall through.

6. Handle the Paperwork Correctly

Without a real estate agent, you'll be left to handle a lot of paperwork to finalize your home sale. This typically includes the following documents:

  • Residential property disclosure form
  • Sales contract
  • Title report
  • Deed
  • Loan documents
  • Latest property tax and utility bills
  • Homeowners association terms and rules
  • Plans and permits
  • Relevant receipts and warranties

It's often in your best interest to partner with a skilled real estate attorney who can help you navigate the process.

The Bottom Line

Selling a home is a big financial moment. Before looking for your next home, be sure your credit is as strong as it can be. This can help increase your odds of getting approved for a mortgage and securing the best rate. You can regularly check your credit score and report with Experian's free credit monitoring and make improvements if necessary.

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