Why sell your home yourself? Selling a home by yourself, without an expensive real estate broker, is easier than most people think, but it will take some work on your part. You will be doing a lot of things that a real estate agent might normally do. Follow the ForSaleByOwner.com step-by-step selling guide, and you’ll not only save lots of money, but we’ll help you make the house selling process as easy as possible.
1. Make Your Home Look Great
Presentation is everything. Home buyers are attracted to clean, spacious and attractive houses. Your goal is to dazzle buyers. Brighten-up the house and remove all clutter from counter tops, tables and rooms. Scrub-down your house from top to bottom. Make it sparkle. Simple aesthetic improvements such as trimming trees, planting flowers, fixing squeaking steps, broken tiles, shampooing rugs and even re-painting a faded bedroom will greatly enhance the appeal of your house. Also, make sure your house smells good. That’s right, clean out the cat box and light mildly scented candles.
Invite a neighbor over to walk through your house like a buyer would. Get their opinion on how it “shows.” The stuffed donkey in the family room may have to go to your in-laws for a while.
2. Price Your Home Right
Careful not to over price your home. Over-pricing when you sell a home reduces buyer interest, makes competing homes look like better values, and can lead to mortgage rejections once the appraisal is in. Over-pricing when selling a home is the single biggest reason why many “for sale by owner” (FSBO) home sellers don’t sell their homes successfully. The home selling market dictates the price (not what you think it should be worth).
One of the best ways to correctly price your house when selling is to find out how much other homes, similar to your own, recently sold for in your neighborhood. Talk to home sellers, buyers and check out the real estate listings in your local newspaper.
Typically, if you set the price of your home at 5 to 10 percent above the market price, you are likely to end up with an offer close to your home’s true value. Also, you may try calculating the cost per square foot of your home compared to the house selling prices in your area (divide list price by square footage of livable space). If your house has more features or other desirable qualities, you may want to set a slightly higher house selling price.
The easiest way to accurately price your home is to contact your local home appraiser.
Finally, set your house selling price just under a whole number, such as $169,900 rather than $170,000.
3. Hire a Real Estate Lawyer
Even though it’s an additional expense, it may be wise to hire a lawyer who will protect your interests throughout the entire transaction. An experienced real estate lawyer can help you evaluate complicated offers (those with a variety of conditions), act as an escrow agent to hold the down payment, evaluate complex mortgages and/or leases with options to buy, review contracts and handle your home’s closing process. They can also tell you what things, by law, you must disclose to buyers prior to a sale and can also help you avoid inadvertently discriminating against any potential buyers.
In some areas, title companies will handle all aspects of the transaction and have in-house legal departments that can assist you with legal issues that may arise. To locate a title company in your area, visit our Find a Pro page.
Unless you’re significantly experienced in the home selling process, having a real estate lawyer at your side provides peace-of-mind. You know you’ve got someone looking out for your interests, not just the buyers. To locate a lawyer in your area, visit our Find a Pro section.
4. Market Your Home for Sale
Exposure, exposure, exposure. That’s how sellers sell their home fast. ForSaleByOwner.com provides extensive listing exposure because hundreds of thousands visit the website every day. In fact, ForSaleByOwner.com is one of the top 25 most visited real estate websites in the U.S. getting millions of visitors looking to buy or sell a home every month.
Write Your Listing Ad
While For Sale By Owner.com allows you a longer description of your house than you could afford that in a newspaper ad, your advertising copy should be thorough yet short, simple and to-the-point. Long, flowery prose will not make your house sound more appealing. It will simply make it harder for the home buyer to read. Make sure to provide the critical facts buyers are looking for such as the house’s number of bathrooms, a re-modeled kitchen, etc.
Most home buyers quickly scan ads, so it is important that your house stands out. For example, you may want to add a theme-line such as “Priced below market” or “Great schools.” Stay away from industry jargon and use language that makes home buyers comfortable. Survey our web site and see how others have written their ads. You will quickly see which are “buyer friendly.” Copy their approach for your ad.
Home Photos: Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words
If you are taking a photo of your home, be sure that the home’s yard/driveway is uncluttered. Remove bikes, garbage cans and parked cars. The same applies for interior shots. People are looking to buy your house, not your possessions. Think of furniture as props and the room a stage. Move things around if you have to. Also, take lots of house photos. Film is cheap…your home deserves quality. The more you shoot, the better the odds are that you’ll get a few really good shots.
Lawn signs are one of the most important marketing tools for home sellers. They attract attention to your home. Professionally-produced yard signs (like the ones we can send to you) telegraph to home buyers a “quality” image of your house. Directional signs also help drive buyers to your property, especially if you do not live on a busy street.
Open houses are sometimes a good way to attract buyers to your home. Typically, real estate agents conduct open houses for two reasons; 1. Clients expect them 2. They are a good way to attract buyers, not just for the open house but for all houses for sale in the Real Estate Agent’s area (yes, your competition). The fact is that very few houses sell due to a open house itself.
Home Brochures/Information Sheets
It is a good idea to create an information sheet (with a photo) about your home to give potential buyers. Consider printing copies of your ad from For Sale By Owner.com to give to people who visit your home.
The MLS or Multiple Listing Service can also help market your home, particularly to real estate agents who may know of buyers seeking a property like yours. The MLS is a directory used by real estate agents to announce to other agents that they have a home for sale. In many selling markets, For Sale By Owner.com can put your house on the MLS (for an additional fee). However, if a real estate agent finds you a buyer after seeing your home on the MLS, you must usually pay that agent a 2.5% to 3% commission (the law states that all commissions are negotiable, however).
You are your home’s best salesman. As every salesman knows, to be effective you have to really know your product. And who knows your home better than you? Certainly not a real estate agent, who, in all likelihood, has spent only a few moments in your house before showing it to prospective buyers.
Sell your neighborhood as well as your house. Show enthusiasm, but don’t get caught-up talking too much about how “your daughter spent the best years of her life in this very room.”
5. Negotiate and Accept an Offer
When a home buyer makes an offer (this is often presented to you directly from the buyer or through their lawyer), you should consult with your attorney. Buyers and sellers have an Attorney Review Period, which is usually three days, to cancel or amend the offer. The offer becomes a contract at the end of the Attorney Review Period, and is binding. Many of your home’s offers can be complicated and contain special clauses that favor the buyer.
Purchase Price Isn’t Everything
Carefully consider the purchase contract’s other terms and conditions. Too many contingencies can leave loopholes and cause a deal to collapse. Especially avoid contingencies that favor the house’s buyer, such as linking the escrow closing date to the buyer’s sale of their current home. If the buyer insists on such terms, include a so-called kick-out clause in the contract that will allow you to consider other offers if the buyer isn’t able to sell within a certain period of time.
Assess Your Buyer’s Financial Qualifications
Is the buyer pre-approved? How much of a loan is the buyer seeking? Unless you are in an active market, lenders tend to shy away from underwriting a deal in which the purchase price is higher than the nearest comparable sale and the buyer is putting less than 10% down. If this is the case, your buyer may not be able to obtain financing.
Know the Home Selling Market
How you judge an offer also can depend on market conditions. If the selling market is slow, you may feel vulnerable, especially if circumstances are pressing you to sell. Make sure any offer you accept does not keep you in escrow longer than 30 days. In a hot market where multiple offers are likely, be wary of countering more than one offer at a time (you could end up in legal trouble if two buyers both accept your counter offer). Also be wary of offers that promise more money but contain poor contract terms (long escrow, multiple contingencies, etc.).
If you feel the home’s offer is insufficient, make a counter offer. Rarely is a first offer the buyer’s absolute highest price they are willing to pay. Negotiating is part of the home selling process.
Again, your lawyer should review the details of all offers.
6. Home Inspections
All standard real estate contracts are going to give the prospective home buyer the right to inspect your property – so be prepared. Under a general inspection you are obligated to make major repairs to appliances, plumbing, septic, electrical and heating systems – or the buyer may cancel the offer. The inspection will also include your property’s roof, as well as a termite inspection (in some states, house sellers must provide proof that the home is termite free).
If you are concerned about how your home will fare when inspected, you may want to visit your local inspector. They can conduct an inspection for you before a potential buyer has one done. This way, you can address the problems before a buyer stumbles upon them.
Once the inspections are complete, the buyer makes an application to a mortgage lender.
7. Buyer Appraisals and Other Details
The mortgage lender will order an appraisal of your home to make sure they are not paying more than the house is worth. They may also order a surveyor to make sure that the property boundaries are properly laid out. They will also order a title search to determine if there are any liens against your property. These tasks are all the responsibility of the buyer and/or their attorney.
At this point too, the mortgage company will issue a commitment. Again, the buyer (and their attorney) must complete all conditions listed on the mortgage commitment.
Prior to closing, you should notify your lender that you will be paying off your mortgage. After a closing date has been agreed to, you should contact your utility providers and advise them of your final billing date.
8. Closing Time
The day of the closing, the home’s buyer will do a “walk through” of the property to make sure all agreed repairs are completed and that the home is in the same condition as when the buyer made their offer. If problems arise at this point, the closing can still take place with funds held in escrow to remedy the problem.
Closings usually occur 30 to 45 days after you have signed the sales contract. Depending on what state you reside in, you may close with an attorney, or with a title company. At the closing, all monies will be collected, any existing loans or liens will be paid, the deed will be transferred, and insurance will be issued insuring a free and clear title. The home seller will receive the proceeds of their home in one to two business days after the closing.
Don’t Forget to Do Your Home Work
This step-by-step home selling guide is a general overview of the process when selling a home. Each state has slightly different laws and customs as they relate to the transaction process.
Selling a home yourself can be time consuming, but the financial rewards can be tremendous. With help from ForSaleByOwner.com, the process of home selling a home by owner as easy as possible.