For Sale By Owner FSBO Guide | Sell a Home Without a Realtor

Posted by Andrew Fortune 7,203 Views

How To Sell Your House As A For Sale By Owner

Selling a home for sale-by-owner (FSBO) is not for everyone. According to the National Association of Realtor (NAR), only 9% of homes were sold FSBO in 2020. Most people will hire a professional to sell their home, but it's possible to roll up your sleeves and do the entire job themselves.

Since most real estate agents perform much of their work behind the scenes, they make it seem easy to sell a home. I have been a licensed real estate agent for eleven years, and I have owned and operated a real estate brokerage for six of those years. I'll explain every part of the home selling process to help you determine whether you’re a good candidate to FSBO your home. You'll know exactly what to expect by the end of this FSBO guide.

If you have a knack for digital marketing, real estate photography, and project management, you may be the perfect candidate to sell your home without a Realtor.

Table of Contents

(click any section)

My Qualifications to Write This Guide

My wife and I sold our first house for sale by owner in 2006. I was offered a job on the opposite side of town, so we decided to sell and move to shorten the commute. We put our house on the market as FSBO sellers and waited for an offer.

It took a few months to get an offer, and when we finally did, it was an owner-finance deal. Owner financing means that the owners (us) would keep the original mortgage and then start a second mortgage (lease-to-own) with the buyer.

It was the only offer we received, so we took it. In hindsight, it was a terrible decision, but we had no experience selling a home. We didn’t know what we were getting into. Unfortunately, the owner ended up defaulting on the 2nd mortgage with us after ten years of paying it down.

I fixed up the home and sold it as a Realtor after owning it for ten years. We received a full-price cash offer within 24 hours after listing it online. Knowing the right ways to sell as a Realtor made for a completely different experience from FSBOing.

I’ve learned many things selling homes as a Realtor that I could never have known as a first-time FSBO. So, to help people who earnestly want to FSBO, I wrote this article and infographic.

Step-By-Step FSBO Infographic Overview

How to sell your home for sale by owner FSBO infographic

The information below will detail each step of the FSBO process, breaking it all down into easy-to-follow steps. As you are reading through the scope of work, try to objectively determine whether you have the time and resources to complete these tasks. Reach out to friends and family who have sold homes and ask if they think you would be a good candidate to sell your home without a real estate agent. If they approve and you feel confident that you can pull it off, you may be the perfect candidate to FSBO your home.

Step 1: RESEARCH Local Data

An important step to the FSBO timeline is to study the current market conditions and the process of selling. Real estate agents gather many different data points to help them determine the best price and marketing strategy for your home. They provide itemized cost forms and explain how much money you will make after selling your home. This section will explain how to do that on your own.

We’ll cover the points of data below, as well as some insider tips. Here’s a list of five things that you will need to research before you list your home for sale without a Realtor.

Study All Homes Currently Listed For Sale

Study All Homes Currently ListedActive home listings in your neighborhood are significant because they are your main competition. The next house to sell in your neighborhood will probably be the best one. How do you make your house the best home to sell next? What are new construction homes selling for in your area? You'll need to know what's going on in your market to effectively get the most money for your home.

Study the price per square foot, upgrades, and overall presentation of each active property. If all homes for sale in your neighborhood have lovely hardwood floors and new carpet, make sure yours does too. If not, then make sure you price it accordingly to land right in the perfect price range to attract buyers immediately.

Study All Sold Properties

Study All Sold PropertiesSold properties are your best data source to determine an accurate listing price based on comparable homes. Take notice of what the homes sold for in comparison to what they think your home is worth.

Also, notice how many days each home took to sell. What made each home sell in that amount of time? Were there any price drops during that time?

Take into account the year built, upgrades, and layout of the homes. It's hard to objectively determine your real market value when you are the beneficiary of the sale. Try to step back and pretend that you are coaching a friend through the process. Be realistic and study the raw data to land at an accurate selling price.

Study The Amenities & Upgrades

Study Amenities and UpgradesAmenities and upgrades can completely change the way buyers feel about your house. If all of the recently sold homes in your neighborhood have granite countertops and you are trying to sell your home with 1980's Formica countertops, you've got a problem. If you haven’t maintained your landscaping and all of your neighbors have excellent curb appeal, your house will be harder to sell.

Worn-out carpet, pet odors, poorly landscaped lawns, and old paint are common issues that need to be dealt with before listing a house. Determine what upgrades are relevant to sell your home without a real estate agent successfully.

Research Selling & Closing Fees

Research Selling and Closing Fees

You will also need to budget for possible repairs that can come up in a buyer's inspection report. Call your local title company, or ask a trusted Realtor to help you determine all the possible fees you may incur when you sell your property.

On the East coast, many closings involve real estate attorneys. Contact them and ask them what you can expect to pay in closing fees.

You can also research standard real estate fees on Google to get a good idea of expectations. Lastly, be prepared to pay your buyers Realtor a competitive commission to help sell your home. Most buyer's agents receive between 2% to 3% of the sales price at closing, paid by the seller. The commission depends on the price range of the home and where its located.

FSBO homes that don't want to work with a buyer’s Agent may scare off potential Buyers. However, it’s the buyer's right to be represented. Be sure you research this part of the transaction to know what buyers commission to offer in your market.

Determine Your Mortgage Payoff Amount

Know Your Mortgage PayoffThe most critical monetary value you will need to know when selling your house as FSBO is your mortgage payoff amount. If this number is not readily available on your mortgage statement, call your mortgage company to obtain the exact number. Make sure that your house can sell for enough to pay off your mortgage and pay for closing fees, or you will have to bring money to the closing table.

This step may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many home sellers have not taken their mortgage payoff into account before listing their FSBO property.

Step 2: Get Your Home Ready To List

After you gather all of the data above, you should have a good grasp of your FSBO transaction’s process and monetary details. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work on the physical aspects of your home. Check out our home sellers checklist for a more detailed guide. Knowing what upgrades you can add or avoid will help bring the highest value to your home. This section will give you insight into the areas to focus on, which will maximize your efforts and save some time.

Determine the Overall Scope of Work

Determine the Overall Scope of WorkEvery home will have different scopes of work to get them ready for selling. If you have lived in your house for years without adding or upgrading anything, you'll likely have an enormous scope of work to get your home ready to sell.

Take the time to list everything that needs to be done and determine who you need to hire to complete your list. Once you know the total scope of work, you can begin to plan out your home sale process and timeline.

Declutter, Deep Clean, & Landscape

Declutter, Deep Clean, & LandscapeDecluttering is therapeutic and necessary for selling your home. Remove all of your personal photos and make your house look like someone could move in tomorrow. Pretend that you have already sold it and it's not yours anymore. Deep clean windows, baseboards, ceiling fans, stairs, handrails, cabinets, garages, and any area that accumulates dirt.

Spend time applying new mulch and flowers. Clean up neglected yard areas and make them appear manicured. Try to make your house look as close to a new builder home as you can. Everyone loves new!

Change Out Old Fixtures

Change Out Old FixturesIf you have old brass fixtures from the ‘80s and ‘90s, make sure to update them. Change these to take the dating out of your home. There is a tiny percent of homes (Victorian, 1900's decor) where brass and gold are suitable. However, most homes need to be updated.

Change doorknobs and door hinges, old staircase banisters, old light cover switches, and possibly old doors. Make a list of all the fixtures and items in your house that are more than five years old. The more dated fixtures you change out, the more buyers will connect emotionally to your home, which will increase your odds for success.

Add Upgrades That Increase Value

Add Upgrades That Increase ValueAdding upgrades to a home is the easiest way to increase your chances of selling at a high price. Kitchen countertops, master bath tile, stainless steel appliances, new carpet, and wood floors are all significant upgrades that will increase value.

New water heaters, garage door openers, security systems, and built-in surround sound are upgrades that many homeowners aren't interested in on their initial visit to your home. So instead, stick with the enhancements that will emotionally hook your buyers. This step will make your house stand out above the rest when buyers are comparing properties.

Professionally Stage Your Home

Professionally Stage Your HomeStaging is the act of strategically matching furniture and decor and placing it in such a way that it highlights your home. Professionally staged homes sell faster and for more money than those that are not staged.

Staging will present your home in the best possible way. Your listing should look as though you no longer live there. Typically, homeowners will rent a storage unit for all their non-essential items. They may also store large pieces of furniture to increase the amount of floor space and make the home appear bigger.

Adding a few pieces of neutral art, drapes, and some floral arrangements can go a long way. If you try to stage on your own, be sure to get a second opinion. Staging is a talent, and not everyone has it, so be honest with yourself. This step needs to be done correctly.

Step 3: Get it Listed Everywhere Online

The way your home is presented online directly impacts the amount of money you will make on your home sale. FSBOs are notorious for having bad marketing and poor-quality listing photos. This section will walk you through the best ways to market your home online, based on modern tactics. Follow these tips to make your listing stand out above the other homes for sale in your area.

Professional Video Walkthrough

Professional Video WalkthroughIf a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a video is worth a million. As a result, video is the fastest-growing form of marketing in real estate. I recommend hiring a real estate videographer who will use modern digital marketing tactics; from aerial drone footage to 3-axis gimbals to smooth slide rail shots.

A good listing video is the most vital eye candy that you can use to get buyers excited about your home. You can market your video all over social media to spread the word about your home. You may not see this marketing technique on every listing in your area, but it is the most effective form of marketing for selling real estate these days.

Here's an example of one of my listing videos. Marketing like this will increase the interest in your home and cause your listing to spend less time on the market.

Professional Photos, 3D Tour, & Floorplan

Professional Photos, 3D Tour, & FloorplanOnce your house is ready for photos, you'll need to hire a professional photographer to create a 3D tour and floorplan of your home. They will also create your professional photos, as well.

In my opinion, this is the #1 area where FSBOs go wrong. So many for-sale-by-owner listings have terrible pictures with no extra marketing content. Some will buy an expensive camera thinking that the camera will do all the work.

You can’t master real estate photography overnight. However, a good real estate photographer can make your house look amazing, even with cheap equipment. When they have top-of-the-line equipment, their results are incredible.

Some photographers do not offer 3D tours or floorplans, but most do. Be sure to ask for examples of their work and compare them with the other listing content in your neighborhood. The marketing of your home is one of the most crucial aspects of the entire FSBO selling process.

Here is an example of one of my 3D tours. I use a system called RealVision, which uses HDR images to create a 3D tour that is professional and loads well on mobile phones.

Click The Images for a Guided Tour of the Home

Get It Listed Everywhere Online

Get It Listed Everywhere OnlineOnce you have your photos, video, property description, and 3D tour done, you'll want to place that content everywhere online. Start with your local MLS, as this is the most important place to list. Use a flat fee Realtor or to get your property on the MLS. Then, make sure it is also on Zillow, Trulia, Facebook, and all of the major real estate portals.

I advise running targeted Facebook Ads to potential homebuyers in your area. Also, create a landing page for your listing and market your video all over YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Most for-sale-by-owner listings do a poor job of marketing, which is why the sales number and success rate of FSBOs are so low.

Track Your Online Marketing Progress

Track Your Online Marketing ProgressWith all of your listing efforts, make sure you track the traffic you receive from your listing and compare it with other listings. Call listing agents on other properties in your neighborhood and see if they will share some data with you.

Knowing whether your listing is working is extremely valuable to your selling success. You'll need to see the number of showings expected in your area, the average time a home should be on the market, and the average amount of traffic a listing in your area receives.

Adjust Strategy If Activity Is Low

Adjust Strategy If Activity Is LowIf your marketing efforts are not receiving the amount of traffic you expected, you need to evaluate your strategy to determine what's wrong. It could be that your listing needs better marketing photos, videos, and materials. On the other hand, it could be that the condition of your home just can't compete with the other listings.

The most probable issue would be that you have priced your home too high. This issue happens with FSBO and Realtors alike. If a home is not receiving good showing activity, it’s either due to price, condition, or marketing. You’ll need to be very intuned with your local listing activity to know where to adjust in this situation.

Step 4: Close The Deal

Once you have done all of the work to get your home listed and under contract, you may feel like your job is done. Unfortunately, if you do not follow the proper steps, your deal could fall apart and you would need to put it back on the market. If this happens, you will feel very disappointed. This section will help you through the steps necessary to get your transaction to the closing table and close the deal. 

Research Documents Necessary To Sell

Research Documents Necessary To SellThe first document to familiarize yourself with is the sales contract. This document is the most important form as it lays out all of the details of your home sale. Take the time to research the correct sales contract for your area.

Here are some other documents to research ahead of time.

  • Seller’s Disclosure
  • ● Lead-Based Paint Disclosure (for homes built before 1978)
  • ● Inspection Objection Notice
  • ● Notice to Terminate
  • ● Earnest Money Release Form

Each state promulgates its own sales contract. They are all slightly different. Perform an online search for “sales contract and documents used for a home sale in ________” to find out what is customarily used in your state.

Review, Negotiate, and Sign An Offer

Review, Negotiate, and Sign An OfferOnce you receive an offer on your home, you'll want to review it carefully to understand the details thoroughly. There is much more to a sales contract than the sales price. Research what kind of financing your buyer is using from their preapproval letter. Determine whether they are asking for closing cost assistance and if your property meets the guidelines of the type of financing they require.

These issues are all specific details to be noted in your offer contract. You'll also want to review their earnest money amount, desired closing date, and any contingencies that are placed within the contract. Once you have reviewed it (preferably with a real estate professional or attorney) and signed it, you're almost there!

Resolve Inspection & Appraisal Issues

Resolve Inspection & Appraisal IssuesYour buyer will likely hire a home inspector to inspect the property for defects and repairs. You can personally hire a home inspector at the beginning of the selling process to avoid being surprised later. Home inspectors almost always find something that needs to be repaired or replaced.

Common issues are roofing, foundation, appliances, window problems, and HVAC servicing. Once your buyers have submitted a list of repairs, negotiate with them to find a solution.

Once you’re past inspections, the next step is the appraisal. Unfortunately, appraisals are notorious for killing real estate deals. Research the pitfalls of appraisals and why they are so problematic to understand this step better. If you're in a competitive market, you may receive an appraisal gap clause on your listing.

Continually Follow Up on Your Buyer’s Lender

Continually Follow Up on Your Buyer’s LenderWhen a contract falls apart, it is often due to mortgage issues. Many other issues can cause a buyer's financing to fall through, as well. Make sure that you are constantly checking in with the buyer's lender to discover any problems upfront.

Don't assume that the lender and title company will be proactive in updating you on your buyer's progress. Unfortunately, this assumption is usually not the case. Instead, make sure you communicate to ensure that your deal is on track and makes it to the closing table on time. Delayed closing can be a nightmare for both parties involved.

Schedule Closing and Close the Deal

Schedule Closing and Close the DealOnce you are passed the inspection and appraisal process, you are almost done. You should feel proud of yourself for making it this far!

Next, coordinate a time with the title company or law office to close your transaction. Make sure that they have all the proper documentation in time. If they do, they should give you a closing statement that displays all of the monies exchanged to close the transaction. Review this document carefully to make sure that it is correct.

Bring your driver's license to closing, all house keys, garage door openers, and any necessary documents for your buyers (manuals, warranties, receipts, etc.). Once you and your buyers have signed all the required docs to close, the loan will fund, and you will have successfully sold your house on your own!

Important FSBO Statistics to Know

Here are some statistics on For Sale By Owner listings from the National Association of Realtors:

  • ● FSBOs accounted for 9% of home sales in 2020
  • ● The #1 method for FSBOs to sell their house was a yard sign (25%)
  • ● Only 2% of FSBOs use video to market their home.
  • ● FSBOs say that the most challenging part was getting their home ready and understanding the paperwork.
  • ● The total number of FSBO sales has dropped from 20% to 9% in the last decade.
  • ● 70% of FSBOs said they had difficulty selling.
  • ● More than 80% of FSBOs end up listing with a Realtor.

Many FSBOs will save thousands of dollars in Realtor fees, but the process typically comes at a cost. Doing a Realtor’s job while also handling the responsibility of getting your house ready can lead to costly mistakes. Some FSBOs get taken advantage of by knowledgeable real estate investors. Others may end up in court because they did not properly conduct the transaction.

Questions To Consider When FSBOing

If the only reason you want to sell your home "by owner" is to save money on Realtor fees, you need to think it through and determine whether it's truly the best path. Here are some questions to consider:

  • ● Do you have plenty of time and resources to do everything listed in the article on your own?
  • ● Do you plan on paying a buyer's agent a fair commission of the sales price if they bring you a buyer? If so, how much are you saving?
  • ● Have you talked to a flexible Realtor about working with you on the commission based on your scope of work?
  • ● Are you confident in your online marketing skills?
  • ● Are you comfortable showing your home to strangers?
  • ● Are you comfortable navigating all the documents involved?
  • ● How will you respond if you list your home and there is no showing activity?

If you can answer "yes" to all of the above questions, then you may be the perfect candidate for a successful FSBO listing. Now that you have a step-by-step guide, current FSBO statistics, and the list of essential questions above, are you still interested in listing your house as FSBO? If so, then embrace it and put everything you've got into it. If you earnestly follow the steps in this article, you can make it happen on your own.

If the answer is "no" and you would like help selling your home, I suggest interviewing no less than three real estate agents. Make sure they all have good online reviews, a strong history in your area, and that you enjoy working with them. A good Realtor can make or break your experience.

To those who successfully sell their home without a Realtor, we salute you. It’s a tough job that requires intelligence, time, money, energy, and patience.

How To Sell Your House As A For Sale By Owner

Andrew Fortune

Hi! 👋 I'm Andrew Fortune, the founder of Great Colorado Homes and the creator of this website. I'm also a Realtor in Colorado Springs. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I appreciate your time spent on this site and am always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers. You can connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, or contact me through this website. I'd love to hear from you.

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