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Real Estate Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

Kim Porter May 16, 2024

The housing market was on fire in 2020, as record-low mortgage rates helped drive home sales. And due to a smaller inventory and higher median listing price – which grew by 15.4% in November compared to last year – it’s a great time to sell a house and get top dollar. If you want to make the most money on what is probably the biggest investment of your life, consider selling your home yourself.

woman showing couple around house

While you’ll need to devote time and energy to this process, following pro real estate tips can help you save when selling your home. Many homeowners pay the selling agent and listing agent a commission that adds up to 6% of the selling price. On a $350,000 house, that’s $21,000 – and going the FSBO route can potentially cut that cost in half.

All you need is some marketing know-how, an entrepreneurial spirit and the help of ForSaleByOwner. Here’s how it works.

Clean and Declutter

You want home buyers to fall in love with your home – but clutter can be distracting and give potential buyers a poor impression. It’s a good idea to deep clean and organize your home before putting it on the market. According to a 2019 HomeLight report, this step could add up to $4,310 to the home’s value. Plus, you might enjoy the space more while you’re still in the home.

Tackle each part of the house: the basement, living room, bedrooms and so on. Go through your items and put them into three main piles: keep, sell or donate. Create an organization system for the items you keep, and give the entire home a deep cleaning.

Stage and Photograph the Home

Home staging – which involves arranging the furniture and decorations in your home to emphasize its strong points – makes it easier for the buyer to visualize themselves there. You can hire a company to handle the staging, and according to a National Association of REALTORS® report, home sellers say it added up to 10% to their home’s value.

After you stage the home, hiring a professional photographer can also help your home sell quickly and even get a better deal. Listings that include high-quality photography sell for $3,000 – $11,000 more.

Determine Your Asking Price

Using our Home Valuation Estimator tool, determine your property’s worth. This tool gives you an estimated market value and summary of nearby comparable sales.

You can also consider a “do-it-yourself” comparative market analysis to make sure you’re on target. Home sellers should gather information about home sales from the past 3 – 6 months, limiting the search to homes within a half-mile radius. Calculate the price per square foot to help guide your listing price.

Prepare and Repair

Home buyers have high expectations, and your property needs to “wow” to stand out. Check your property inside and out and identify problem areas for repair or upgrade, then prioritize those issues within your budget.

While home buyers usually hire a home inspector, home sellers can also hire one of these professionals to help plan the repair process and estimate costs involved.

Market Your Home

The best homes have compelling property descriptions and drool-worthy pictures, strategically placed to give the listing maximum exposure online. ForSaleByOwner can help you create a stellar marketing plan and find a listing package that works for your situation and budget.

When setting up your marketing strategy, review online listing options (including MLS) and decide which is best for you. Then, craft an appealing ad that highlights your home’s best features and shows high-quality photos of its amenities.

Don’t forget to put “For Sale” signs outside, blast the listing on all your social media channels, and ask your friends to share.

Schedule Showings

Sit down with a calendar and organize your showings schedule. Try to offer as many time slots as possible for buyers, and make sure your home is spotless and pets out of sight. Advertise your open house dates, share them on social media and make a plan for gathering feedback from visitors to improve future showings.

Negotiate the Sale

You’re getting close to selling your home! A buyer is interested and now it’s time to negotiate. Use our Find a Pro feature to locate a real estate attorney who can help you with all the paperwork coming your way.

In your mind, decide on a minimum price you’re willing to accept and if you’re going to negotiate online or in person. Update your comparative market analysis if your home has been on the market for a while, and come up with a negotiation strategy, including any concessions you’re willing to make.

Close the Deal

You’ve got an offer on the table. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the legal forms in our Real Estate Forms & Guides section, though your attorney will complete the paperwork and provide state-specific forms, disclosures and contracts. Contact your mortgage company to determine an exact payoff amount.

During closing, you’ll be working with your buyer’s inspector and appraiser. They may come back with an amended offer once. This is part of negotiations.

Once you’ve all agreed on concessions and price, verify all details in the contract have been met. Use our Find a Pro feature again to hire a title agency to close the sale and provide a closing venue. You and the seller should agree on a closing date, and make sure you have a plan for covering closing costs.

Once the nitty-gritty is out of the way and you’ve got a closing date, it’s time to take care of you! Hire a moving company, cancel your utilities and gather any warranty paperwork for the buyer. All that’s left is handing over the keys and starting your next adventure!

You can sell your home on your own successfully as long as you have the right tools, and we’re here to help you out! Learn more real estate tips about selling through ForSaleByOwner today.