5 Simple Steps to Market Your Home for Sale by Owner

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Ever heard a Realtor on a radio ad or bus stop sign say something like, “My 5 point marketing plan will sell your home fast and for top dollar”?

Realtors love to boast about their various marketing techniques that sell homes quickly. As a Realtor for almost 20 years, allow me to let you in on a secret—there really isn’t as much to it as they would like you to believe, and it’s certainly not anything mysterious.

Oh sure, they can print up a color brochure for prospective customers to take with them when they view a home for sale or come to an open house. They can put a sign in the yard and a color flyer in the sign box. But the truth is, good homes that show well and are priced correctly sell themselves, without the fancy brochure on the coffee table.

There is really no reason that a private owner cannot do all of the same things that the local hotshot Realtor does, and save on the 6% or 7% commission. With a $200,000 home, that’s a savings of $12,000-$14,000!

You can see that it’s well worth the money to try it yourself, right? So let’s see how you can sell your home fast and for top dollar by owner:

1. Pricing
Pricing the home correctly is the number one way to market your home for sale. But unfortunately, that’s where many people who try to sell a home by owner go wrong. They try to save on the Realtor commission, but they can price the home incorrectly and hurt their chances for a sale as a result. The home may languish on the market, and eventually sell for less than what a good Realtor would have gotten for you.

So step one in marketing your home correctly is to price it right. To do that, you need to really know your neighborhood values well. Let’s take that home down the block that sold last month for $200,000. How does it compare with yours in square footage, age, condition, lot size, location, etc? Does your home or theirs have an in-ground pool, border on waterfront property, back up to woods, or sit in a cul-de-sac?

Sure, you have nicer roses in your front yard than that home, but is that really worth $10,000 more on an appraisal? You may think so, but the appraiser your buyer’s lender hires won’t. So seriously consider spending $400 to have your home professionally appraised before you list it for sale.

2. Staging
Step two of marketing your home is to make sure that it shows better than the competition. Light, bright, and airy are the three most important words to remember in showing a home. Open the blinds or curtains, and turn on all the lights throughout. The home must be spotlessly clean, with clothes and other items put away neatly, no odors present, and freshly painted with neutral colors. De-clutter the home as much as possible.

Staging a home is fine if you have already moved out, but make sure that the furniture you leave behind is appropriate for the space. Many times I have seen examples of worthless staging, like a dining room chair thrown into a bedroom just to “give that space something”. Moves like this often backfire because it is obvious what the intent was, and it never looks natural.

3. Inspection
Step three is to have a home inspection performed to indicate what repairs may be needed before listing your home. After you receive the report, hire a professional to make the suggested repairs. Buyers are notoriously bad at estimating repair costs, so when they see a home that needs repair, their tendency is to offer the homeowner far less for the home than it will actually cost to fix the problem.

Now that you’ve had an appraisal and inspection performed and repairs or cosmetic improvements made, your home is ready to list. Go through each room and take several photos from different angles. Use the best 3 to 5 photos to make a color flyer. You don’t need to put 12 photos on your flyer, just enough to entice prospective buyers to make an appointment. A good flyer could have photos of the exterior front, the kitchen, family room, Master bedroom, bath, and backyard.

4. Signage
Step four is to buy a “For Sale By Owner” sign and flyer box and place them strategically in the front yard. Your color flyer should contain the most pertinent information about the home, but not too much. Leave some white space, and let the buyers “discover” one or two things about the home that wasn’t on the flyer.

Get a directional “For Sale” sign and put it down the block to direct traffic to your home. Write “By appointment” on the sign, and don’t allow people to just see it at any time. You want to be ready for showings.

5. Advertise
Step five is to advertise your home effectively, in other words, where the greatest number of potential buyers will see your ad. More home buyers use real estate websites than the local newspaper these days. ForSaleByOwner.com has different listing packages, starting at $99 and all under $1,000 that can give your home exposure to millions of buyers on their site and others including Zillow, Trulia, Redfin and Yahoo!

Spreading the word to everyone you know is also effective marketing, either by personal conversations or on social media websites. So tell your co-workers, your Auntie, the grocery clerk, and the people in your yoga class. You just never know whose cousin or daughter is moving from the next state over and would just love a home like yours!

So to sum it up, who needs to pay 6% or 7% to hire a real estate broker? Just follow these five steps and you too can have the “secret” marketing plan to sell your home fast and for top dollar!

About the Author:
Ethan Roberts is a real estate writer, editor and investor. He’s a frequent contributor to InvestorPlace.com, and his work has been featured on Money.msn.com, Reuters.com and Auction.com. He’s also written for SeekingAlpha.com and MarketGreenhouse.com, and was one of five contributing editors to TheTycoonReport.com. He’s been investing in real estate since 1995 and has been a Realtor since 1998. He also teaches classes on investing in residential real estate.