Should You Sell Your House by Yourself?

We’ve been seriously considering putting our house on the market in the past few months, but haven’t quite made the move yet.  We love our house, but there are some things we’d like to improve.  First, our backyard is extremely small.  It’s got about enough room for a swing set for the kids and that’s it.  We’d prefer they have plenty of room to run an play in their own yard.  Next, we’d like a larger laundry room.  Right now it’s about the size of a closet and is technically part of the narrow walk way from the inside garage door to the kitchen.  And finally, we could downsize some rooms and save money.  We purchased more house than we need and it seems silly to have all that unused space.

So, what’s getting in our way?  Well, we’re hung up on the commissions we have to pay the real estate agents.  The 6% due at closing is a huge chunk of our equity.  While some listing agents offer a discount, or cash towards your next house (if you purchase your new home with them), it’s still money we could use to pay down on a new house.  Certainly, the larger the down payment, the less debt we’ll have and the smaller the monthly payment ,if we make wise decisions on the purchase price.

How to Sell Your House by YourselfI’ve really given a lot of thought lately to going with the for sale by owner method, or FSBO.   For sale by owner  seems to be and idea worth considering, especially with all the resources online these days. So, I decided to start doing some research to find out what’s involved.  From what I can tell, you definitely can save money, but must expect to do the work the list agents would do for you.

What are Some Pros of Selling Your House by Yourself?

  • You save money
  • You control the selling process and schedule
  • You can really sell your house because you know it and the neighborhood best
  • You learn a lot through the process

What are Some Cons of Selling Your House by Yourself?

  • You have to learn the process and educate yourself
  • You do all the work and must devote the extra time to managing the selling process
  • You could get yourself in trouble if you don’t follow laws in your state
  • You must likely don’t have a list of potential buyers already looking for a house
  • You have to learn negotiation skills if you’re not used to doing this (can you negotiate the best price?)

How Do You Sell Your House by Yourself?

So, after all my researching, reading articles, exploring the web, I feel like I have a pretty good knowledge of what is involved.   As you’ll read, there are online services that can help you through the process.  Certainly, there is a cost, but it’s definitely cheaper than paying all the real estate commissions.

1.  Determine Your House’s Value

You have to do some research to know what your house is really worth.  Lucky for us, we’ve visited with several agents, reviewed real estate comparisons for the neighborhood and have a pretty good idea what our house would sale for on the MLS. According to some commentary I found on www.Zillow.com, real estate agents are the best way to get accurate estimates on what your house is worth.  Try to set up an appointment with 2-3 realtors and ask them if they can provide a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) report for you.  Of course, you have to be ethical in the matter.  If you’re sure you’re going to sell the house yourself, it’s not fair to the agent to waste their time.  So, I recommend telling them that up front.  Ask them to try and talk you out of selling it yourself, or find out if they charge for the CMA.   The final option is to higher an appraiser to professionally appraise your house.

2.  Fix and Repair

Once you know you’re going to put your house on the market, you need to start fixing small repairs and clean things up.  We made a list that we keep in the kitchen.  Over the weekends we’ve started cleaning out and organizing closets, touching up paint, cleaning the garage, replacing light bulbs, filling holes in walls where pictures have hung and improving landscaping.   You can definitely count on the buyer hiring a home inspector which will find things around the house not working properly.  If you have major repairs you could reduce the price of your house to offset the repairs and disclose them to the buyer.  Otherwise, you need to think about an initial investment to get things in good working order.

3.  List and Market Your House

How is a FSBO listed?  There are a number of options a real estate agent would use.  First, you need to get a for sale sign in your front yard.  There is no better way to attract visitors than to catch those who are driving through the neighborhood looking at houses on a nice Sunday afternoon.

These days there are a number of websites that can help you with marketing your house.  One in particular  I found is www.forsalebyowner.com.  They seem to come up as one of the preferred websites to get your home listed.  FSBO.com helps you list and market your home all online and provides a number of free resources.  They even get you listed on www.realtor.com, the MLS and Cragslist!  Of course, there is a fee to sign up and list, but remember, you’re going to be responsible for all the marketing charges associated with putting your house on the market as a FSBO.

[box border="full"]Sell your home on ForSaleByOwner.com and pay 0% Real Estate commissions[/box]

In order to list your house, you’ll need to provide information about it.  One way to find out what information to provide is to simply go on www.realestate.com or www.forsalebyowner.com and find out what information is required to list a house.  If you’re lucky, you still have the brochure for the house when you bought it, or information from the builder if you had the house built.  Otherwise, it’s up to you to collect this information.

Other ways to market your house are more traditional.  You can create flyers, list it in the newspaper and use word of mouth.  You’ll also want to tell all your friends on Facebook about your list because they can share with their friends and so on.

4.  Close the Deal

Finally, if someone wants to buy your house, you’ll have to arrange for a contract to be signed and closing with a title company.  You definitely need to find a title company who can help you with the closing process.  Bankrate.com says selling your house isn’t for everyone.  Along with a title company, they recommend getting a lawyer to help you with the contractual process.

As the seller, you can expect some paperwork associated with selling your house.  The contract is the most well – known which is the agreement between the buyer and seller.  The seller also must create a disclosure statement informing the buyer of any known defects or other problems with the house.  Finally, there are a number of documents during the actual closing process in which the title company will be in charge of getting finalized.

I noticed www.forsalebyowner.com provides a service in which you can download all the applicable forms for your state.  As with Bankrate.com, they recommend paying a few hundred dollars (yes, that’s all they estimate it costs) to have the attorney help you through the contract process.

Overall, I’m not sure this is for us, but I’m still giving it some thought and conducting research.

Have you ever sold your house by yourself?  If so, share your experience in the comments.

About Jason Price

Jason Price is a family man saved by grace, passionate about faithful financial stewardship (1 Cor 4:2 NIV), soccer and the Pacific sun.

  • http://waterwatereverywhere.net MainlineMom

    I have to disagree here. I’ve had experience with buying and selling multiple homes. Mine have all been using a realtor, but I’ve had close family sell homes FSBO so I have seen firsthand what that is like too. I am not a Realtor and neither are any of my family or close friends, but I am frugal and personal finance savvy as I know you are. It looks like wasted money to have to pay that huge chunk of commission to a Realtor, but consider that if you are in a tough market for sellers (which right now MOST of the nation is) the speed with which you can find a buyer means serious money to you. Even if you think you’ve got all the time in the world to sell a house, if your house sits on the market more than a month or so you will likely have to drop the price into a whole different price bracket to find new shoppers. That usually means dropping it anywhere from 10 to 20K. A tiny drop is not enough to find the new batch of buyers who are searching online for homes by price (which is how most people search now.) So if a Realtor can find you a buyer fast and don’t have to drop your price, you’ve saved the same amount of money if not more.

    Now consider this. It’s not about the work the Realtor does for you in advertising or listing your home or even in making sure you do the paperwork right. Those are great things but as you said, you CAN do them yourself. The key is WHO the Realtor already knows that you don’t. Good Realtors are super connected and can find you a buyer without even advertising. My last home was sold before it was even listed because my agent knew another agent who happened to have a buyer looking for exactly what I was selling. One showing and I was done, and that was in a terrible market. That’s not a fluke either, I’ve heard of it happening to many people.

    It’s the same principle as when you are looking for a job…the best jobs are never advertised, it’s all about networking and who you know.

    Sorry for the longwinded comment, just food for thought!

    • http://www.onemoneydesign.com Jason Price

      MainlineMom, thanks for all your valuable insight. I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with as I tried to take a neutral approach to the article (maybe it didn’t seem so?). Overall, I think you’ve done well to support the point about real estate agents having a valuable network of people who are potential buyers. Most FSBO’s don’t have such a network which could make the home selling process longer. I lightly touched on that point in the cons section, however, I really appreciate you leaving such a great comment offering more information for myself and readers to consider.

  • http://thelegacyofhome.blogspot.com Mrs. White

    Jason, I’ve sold two properties without a Realtor, within just a matter of weeks for each one. The key is to do your marketing research before you start selling.

    On the other hand, when I had an investment property that I needed to sell quickly, I hired a Realtor for that one because I really didn’t think I could do it alone. That one sold in a couple of months.

    - Mrs. White
    The Legacy of Home