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Tips For Showing Your Home For Sale By Owner

Your home is on the market. You’ve created a solid marketing plan, spread the word online and organized a house showing schedule. Now buyers will come to see your home for themselves.

How you conduct your showings and open houses can have a major impact on how quickly you sell your home, not to mention the price you’re able to fetch. Check out these simple house showing tips for sellers so you make a strong first impression on potential buyers.

Do: Stage Your Home

If you want to know how to show a house, start by making sure the house is clean, neat and free of clutter, inside and out. Pack up the things you won’t need until after your move, including family photos and personal belongings. These can serve as distractions for potential buyers when their focus should be on your home’s best features.

However, don’t just shove things into closets or the garage – remember that buyers will look in those spaces, too. Overflowing closets give potential buyers the idea that your home doesn’t have enough storage room. Worst case scenario, you can store bulky items in the trunk of your car temporarily or neatly to the side of your garage.

Plus, buyers want to imagine themselves living in your home, and any signs that someone else is living there can make it more difficult for potential buyers to envision their own belongings in the space.

If your home has bold decor choices – such as brightly-painted walls or cabinets – you might want to neutralize them before placing your home for sale. Remember that while your bold choices may appeal to a particular person’s style, neutral choices are unlikely to offend or put off any buyer. Even though paint is easy to change, many people won’t look past it.

Also, open the shades and turn on the lights, even during the day. In general, make sure everything is light and bright, but also let common sense be your guide. If the lights in your kitchen can be as bright as an operating room, you might want to bring them down a bit.

Don’t: Skimp On Heating Or Cooling

Make sure your home is a comfortable temperature. A home that’s too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter will have potential buyers questioning the integrity of the insulation, windows and HVAC systems. Plus, if a home is uncomfortable, buyers are less likely to stick around for long. Don’t let it feel uncomfortable just so you can save a few bucks on your electric bill.

Do: Pay Attention To Curb Appeal

Outside, touch up your landscaping if needed. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, trim the bushes and add a few potted flowers for some color. It’s also a good idea to brighten up the exterior of your house. Add a fresh doormat and use a damp rag to quickly wipe any dirt or debris off your front doorstep.

Clean the windows and power wash the brick or siding so your home looks sharp the moment someone pulls into your driveway. If you have a deck or patio, make sure it’s clean and inviting. Remove covers from any outdoor furniture or grill and position them to face the house’s back door.

Don’t: Go Overboard With Cleaning

Unless your home hasn’t been cleaned in months, you shouldn’t need to remove all your furniture and hire a team of professionals to scrub it from floor to ceiling. The goal isn’t to turn back the clock and make your home appear brand-new. This can get expensive and likely won’t net you a positive return on investment.

Our sense of smell can be as influential as what we see, so you should avoid cooking any fish or spicy foods before a home showing and take out the garbage. But resist the urge to light a ten-pack of scented candles. What smells nice to one buyer might not to another, and someone walking through clouds of lavender vanilla or fresh cut roses might think you’re trying to cover up something foul.

Do: Prepare To Answer Questions About Your Home

Anticipate buyer questions. You should get a lot of them. You’ll look uncertain about the merits of your home if you stumble through answers. Try to answer with facts rather than opinions. If someone asks about upgrades, be ready to talk who did the work and when it was completed. Know things like how old the furnace and AC units are. Have property tax, gas, electric and water bills available for buyers to inspect.

You should also be able to talk about the surrounding area at your home showing. Instead of saying you live in a good school district or a safe neighborhood, know objective school and safety ratings. Point out awards that local schools have won. Do some research on nearby shops, restaurants and parks so you can speak to the perks a home buyer can’t see during their visit.

Don’t: Reveal Too Much About Your Situation

Try to educate home buyers about your home – not your personal circumstances. Even small details can give buyers leverage. If you let someone know you’re moving because you’re starting a new job in a month, they’ll know you’re under a tight deadline to sell and might float you a low-ball offer.

You don’t need to lie if a buyer asks about why you’re moving. Just explain that it’s time for you to start a new chapter, keep your answers vague and return the conversation to the home as quickly as you can.

Do: Practice Your Home Tour Routine

Have a plan for your home showing ahead of time. Practice the order you’ll show all the areas of your house and how you’ll describe them – but be flexible if a visitor wants to move about the house in a different order or even asks if they can explore on their own.

Make a list of the highlights of your home – including any upgrades like cosmetic or energy efficient updates – and make sure to highlight those. Practice explaining these updates and answering common questions about your home so you appear professional and knowledgeable.

Don’t: Follow Buyers Around Your Home

As a rule of thumb, try to minimize your presence as buyers look things over. Most people want their space as they imagine living in a new home and feel uncomfortable if a homeowner is pressuring them to move from room to room. Let buyers enter each room first and resist the urge to sell them on your home’s features unless you’re asked a question.

Do: Schedule Open Houses For Weekends

Cleaning and getting your home perfect for each showing can get exhausting. So, holding an open house at one specific primetime is a great way to get the most bang out of your clean house.

Saturday and Sundays between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. are the most typical times for open houses and home tours. Having your home ready and available during these optimal times is key to maximizing the number of people who can tour your home.

However, be flexible for other showing times as well. Most buyers try to schedule multiple showings in a row on one day. If your home is unavailable, they’ll just skip over to the next home. Try to be available as much as possible.

Don’t: Let Surprise Visitors Throw You Off

One of the best ways to get the maximum number of house tours is to be as flexible as possible with tour times. This isn’t too hard to do for one weekend or even a week or two, but it can get old over time. If you have small kids, pets or work from home, vacating at the drop of a hat can be even more logistically complicated.

Decide ahead of time whether you’ll accept last minute requests to visit without an appointment and what you’ll say if the situation comes up. For your own well-being, don’t change your mind in the heat of the moment.

What you don’t want is for a potential buyer to stroll through while you have dirty laundry piled up or family members going about their lives, which can come across as unprofessional and turn off a buyer who may have otherwise made an offer.

Do: Have Handouts And Refreshments

Show copies of the disclosure statement, property survey and homeowners association documents to potential buyers and suggest they pick up copies on their way out. It’s also a good idea to have property flyers printed that they can take home with them. Flyers are a great way to stay top of mind with potential buyers as they consider which home to make an offer on. Consider these tips on how to create a great house for sale by owner flyer.

It’s also a nice touch to have light refreshments available. Think bottled water, lemonade or iced tea to go with some cookies or brownies (without nuts).

Don’t: Have Pets Around

Some may love being greeted by a golden retriever, but it could be a major turn-off for others. There are also liability issues. While your dog or cat may be well-behaved, it’s not worth the risk to have an animal roaming around the home during a home showing.

Arrange for your pets to be out of the house with enough time to put away their toys and accessories. If you can’t find anyone to take care of your pet, the next best option is to keep them in a contained space and let the buyer know of its presence ahead of time.

If you do have pets, take the time to clean up after them thoroughly. Put away their food bowls, toy boxes and beds. Scoop any litter box or pick up poop in the yard. You don’t want to lie and call your house pet-free if it’s not, but you definitely don’t want to put off potential buyers who don’t like animals.

Do: Take Safety Precautions

You should make sure that at least one other person will be present with you during showings – it’s never a good idea to meet with a stranger alone and out of public view. In addition, let your neighbors know that you’ll be showing your home, so they can be on the lookout for anything unusual. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Additionally, if you want to be cautious about health safety, provide hand sanitizer or shoe coverings for your potential buyers, then wipe down surfaces with disinfectant wipes when they are gone.

Don’t: Leave Valuables Out

Be sure to put jewelry, passports, bank statements and other financial information out of sight. The same goes for medications. Even if it’s unlikely that a visitor will swipe something while you’re around, it’s best not to advertise any valuables in your home. Also, don’t forget to shut off and password-protect your phones, computers or devices.

Do: Get Feedback from Visitors to Improve

One of the most important house showing tips is to get more house showing tips from your audience. When buyers visit your home, try to keep notes of their name (or their buyer’s agent name), phone number, email address and the showing date. If you don’t hear from the buyer within a day or two, send out an email asking for their overall impression of the home, how it compares to other homes they’ve seen and what they liked and didn’t like.

The best way to make your home more appealing to buyers is to hear from buyers themselves. Sending an email, as opposed to asking in person, will make it easier to get honest answers. You don’t need to act on every comment or suggestion, but if you see a trend in what people are saying, you can take steps to improve your home and generate better offers in the future.

For more tips on showing your home like a pro, check out our six step guide to showing your home.

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How To Do A Comparative Market Analysis

“Appraisals,” “comps,” “CMAs” – keeping up with the latest real estate lingo can seem intimidating. But if you’re interested in the home selling process, you should understand what a comparative market analysis, or a CMA, is.

What’s A CMA?

By definition, a comparative market analysis is a tool used in real estate to estimate your home’s value based on current trends in the housing market.

In other words, while it’s typical to first consider location and square footage as affecting your home’s value, CMAs look at numerous different elements and compare them with similar properties in your area.

A CMA will give you a better sense of what a fair listing price for your property is or, if you’re also in the homebuying process, what price to propose as a competitive offer.  

What Isn’t A CMA: CMAs vs. Appraisals

The distinctions between a CMA and an official home appraisal – another method of evaluating your home’s worth – can seem blurry. So, let’s break down what these differences are.

To put it simply, a CMA is a broader and more informal assessment of a home’s value while an official home appraisal is more formal and typically must be scheduled far in advance. Additionally, because CMAs can be conducted remotely, some real estate agents may mock one up for free.

However, the primary difference between a CMA and an appraisal is which clients these indicators cater to.  

CMAs are well-suited for the home seller as a tool for pricing, while home buyers typically need an appraisal to assess the property’s value. Additionally, appraisals are usually required during the lending process, whereas CMAs aren’t a requirement.

How A CMA Works: The Process

CMA flow chart: Comparative Market Analysis Process

In most cases, sellers working with real estate experts won’t see much of the CMA process. And although CMAs do require a fair amount of knowledge about your area’s housing market, they aren’t impossible to understand on your own

Let’s look at the process these professionals take to put together a CMA.

When conducting a CMA, the first step is searching your area for comparable sales, otherwise known as “comps.” Comps are recently sold homes in your area that’ll ultimately help estimate your property’s value. Typically, comps meet the following criteria: 

  • At least three comps are selected for a CMA – the more comps that are used, the more accurate your estimate will be.
  • A comp should be a property sold within 3 – 6 months of creating a CMA. If there’s a clear lack of recent on-the-market homes in your area, a real estate agent may use unsold, listed homes or expired listings to conduct a CMA.

The next step is to identify all the differences between the comparable sales and your home. Real estate experts will usually price out these differences with the help of a contractor to make the comps as identical to your property as possible. 

For example, let’s say your home has an addition that a comparable property doesn’t have. A real estate agent would typically work with a contractor to determine the value your addition gives your property. Desirable features, like a fireplace, remodeled deck or addition will add to the sales price of the comparable property, while undesirable features will deduct from the sales price. 

After all these adjustments comes reconciliation. In this stage, a certain weight is given to each comp based on how similar the property is to your home. Then, a specific estimate of what your price should be is calculated.

How To Do A CMA

If you find yourself intimidated by the concept of CMAs, you’re probably not alone. A quick search online pulls up endless images of graphs, charts and lots of numbers.

There are lots of moving parts to conducting a CMA on your own – but we’re here to break them down.

Step 1: Find Your Comps

As we discussed earlier, real estate experts start their CMA process with finding comparable sales properties.

Using an online listing site of your choice, look for homes that can compare to your property. When comparing a potential comp to your home, you’ll want to look at eight different components:

  • Location
  • Lot size
  • Square footage
  • Age and condition of the property
  • number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Special features
  • Date of sale
  • Terms of financing and sale

Each of these components play a role in the value of your comparable sale – to make things easier, you’ll want to find homes that mirror your property as closely as possible.

You can also check out FSBO’s Pricing Scout tool, which finds comparable sales based on square footage and room amount. This resource is easy to use and free, and it’ll give you a pricing estimate to help guide your CMA.

Step 2: Research

To gauge your area’s market, you may want to conduct some light research. To do so, consider looking at some local real estate data. This can include:

  • Your area’s average home selling price
  • Recently sold homes in your area
  • The value increase of homes in your area since the time you purchased your home

Being familiar with this information can help you both gain a better sense of potential listing prices and identify reasonable offers in the future.

Step 3: Adjustments

The next step in conducting a CMA is to factor in those special features in your home that may add value. This includes fireplaces, updates and additions. Although you may not get all your money back from these features, they’ll certainly add value to your home.

Step 4: Check Yourself

Before definitively settling on a price, make sure you cross-check your estimate with other listing prices in your area or your FSBO Pricing Scout estimate. You want to be sure you’re asking a reasonable price, but one that still makes you happy.

How Accurate Is A CMA?

The accuracy of CMAs can vary among real estate professionals and will also vary when conducting one yourself. Keep in mind that the number of comps you use and how well you know your area will play a role in the accuracy of your estimate.

Conducting a CMA on your own may sacrifice some pricing accuracy, but you’ll still walk away with a good idea of your home’s worth.

Do I Need A CMA?

CMAs are an easily accessible and effective way to learn about your area’s housing market. They’re a great first step to take, especially if you’re feeling unsure as a first-time home seller.

If you’d like some more help finding a pricing estimate, FSBO’s Pricing Scout tool can instantly assess your home’s value for free. Just remember to conduct your own research as well – you know your home best!  

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Tips To Create The Perfect House For Sale Flyer

Whether you call it a property flyer, house for sale flyer or anything in between, having something that a buyer can take away with them after touring your home is essential. To create a great first impression with your real estate flyer, you’ll first need to ensure you have the right content.

Before we get into a breakdown of the essential components to include in order to create the best flyer to help sell your home, let’s get your home ready for showings:

What Home Improvements Add The Most Value?

Freshening up your home in preparation for listing is never a bad idea. Small cosmetic improvements not only make the home look better, they also boost your bottom line, especially if it ensures a speedy sale. When listing a home, you want to do whatever you can to get an offer ASAP, otherwise, you’ll be stuck carrying the home, plus the cost of a new mortgage, or be forced to reduce the price in order to offload the property.

With that said, making improvements on your home should be a strategic process as well. Spend too much and you lose money; spend too little and the hard work and money you do spend could be worthless.

Fortunately, there are a handful of improvements that guarantee a steady return on investment (ROI): exterior upgrades, kitchen updates, and bathroom renovations. But this doesn’t mean you have to completely renovate your home or drop a large sum just to sell your home.

Of the projects mentioned in this Bankrate article, four out of the five that return the most money are upgrades for the home’s exterior. We’ll explain. Money spent on increasing curb appeal goes a long way in two key areas: first for netting top dollar for the home; second in creating stand-out photos for your marketing flyers and the online listing.

Take Professional-Quality Real Estate Photos

Not to stress you out, but there’s probably no other time when photos are more important than when selling a home. According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, 44% of buyers begin the home search online, and the overwhelming majority (93%) leverage some type of web listing throughout their home search. Having clear, well-lit, colorful photos lets prospective buyers feel as if they are actually inside the home and clearly allows them to see if your home has what they’re looking for. Since this is the first impression potential buyers receive of your property, excellent photos could mean the difference between multiple showing appointments, and a home that stagnates on the market for months.

Even in a for-sale-by-owner situation (FSBO), it’s worth it to invest in the services of a professional real-estate photographer. Since you don’t have an agent marketing the home on your behalf, these photos will do much of the heavy lifting for you.

How Can I Make A House ‘For Sale By Owner’ Flyer?

With slick photos of your property in hand, now it’s time to create a professional flyer to announce your open house or to let neighbors know the home will be going up for sale.

Thanks to new technologies such as Canva, Adobe Spark and Pic Monkey, graphic design novices can create their own flyers in just minutes.

How To Create A Beautiful ‘House For Sale By Owner’ Flyer In Under 5 Minutes

Step 1: Choose A Template

Trust us, creating your own marketing flyer isn’t something you want to DIY from scratch (unless you’re already a Photoshop pro). Picking a premade flyer template will save you a ton of time and ensure your creation looks cohesive and professional. Even though you are doing a FSBO transaction, you don’t want your listing to look any less professional than others in the area.

Step 2: Add Images

The number of images you’ll be able to add depends upon the template you choose. Pick the most compelling images for your flyer – ones that show the expanse of the house, have great eye-catching colors (like if there is fall foliage in the yard), or the ones that show off the differentiating features of the home. If you’ve taken the time to update your kitchen or bathroom, be sure to add an image of these updates as well. Many potential buyers won’t even go look at a home if the photos reveal outdated appliances or “work” to be done.

Step 3: Craft Your Message

Keep the words (“copy” in marketing speak) on the flyer short and to the point. Be sure to include information about the most important selling features of the home: the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, any stellar school districts, or any/all new upgrades.

It may help to create your MLS listing copy first, and then shorten it for the flyer. This way, you’ll be sure to include the most relevant points on both pieces of marketing.

Step 4: Customize

Even though using a flyer template is the best move when creating a for sale by owner flyer, it’s best to change it up just a little so your flyer doesn’t look like the one for the house that is selling one street over.

Get creative here: feel free to change the background colors, font, text spacing and size. Knowing a bit here about color theory can help you select colors for the flyer that complement the features of your home. For example, if your home has a bright yellow door, make sure to add pops of yellow on the flyer to accentuate this feature.

Step 5: Distribute

Print hard copies of your flyer and distribute throughout the neighborhood. Be sure to print enough to have a stack available for buyers who come to the house for showings, so they can take one to remember your house later as they’re making decisions. Often, buyers look at many homes in one day, so having a tactile reminder of what they’ve seen is important.

While investing the time and money into a paper copy of a flyer may seem like an antiquated marketing practice in 2020, don’t discount how many people in your neighborhood may not be looking for a home, but would want to tell their friends, family and colleagues about available properties in the area.

Digital Real Estate Flyers

In 2020, you should definitely save a copy of your flyer in several digital files (PDF, JPEG, Word Doc) so you have compatible digital files at the ready when someone asks you to send the flyer via email.


There you have it, you’re ready to create your home flyer! If you need any more guidance, we have you covered. Our packages for home sellers include walking you through the process of creating your home’s listing, generating home flyers and more.

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Documents To Sell A House For Sale By Owner

Whether you’re selling your home on your own or with the help of a real estate agent, there’s tons of paperwork involved. After all, it’s the biggest sale in most people’s lives. Read on to learn more about the documents you need and where to get them. You’ll also get the answers to frequently asked questions about how to sell your house yourself.

Where Can I Find The Right Paperwork To Sell My Home?

Before you start having showings of your home, you’ll need to line up all of the necessary paperwork. Different states have different regulations. What may be relevant in one state may not be applicable in another, so be sure to thoroughly research the local requirements. You can check your state and county government websites and fill in any cracks with information that can be found on the sites of your state land title association and local real estate agent associations.

If you need some help, a real estate attorney can provide this information for you and might take on your home sale at this point for a flat fee. You can also check out these do-it-yourself real estate forms and guides to get access to attorney-prepared, state-specific information that you can instantly download and start using.

What Documents Do I Need To Sell My Home?

While this varies by state, some examples of documents you may need to sell your home are:

Property survey: This is a legal document that shows the buyer the boundaries of your property. It also includes other details such as where any fences, driveways or other structures are located. This is typically ordered by the buyer.

Receipts and warranties: This information will help you document any new appliances, finishes and upgrades to your home.

Plans and permits: If you did any additions or upgrades, be sure to have the plans and/or permits handy.

Certificates of occupancy: These certificates show  that your home is compliant with municipal building codes and is safe to inhabit. You’ll need to get this from your municipality, have the permit pulled, have the inspection done, do the repairs (if applicable) and then have your home re-inspected.

Loan documents: This document typically includes the first mortgage, second mortgage and any home equity lines of credit.

Latest utility bills: These bills show buyers the amount your household has paid for electricity, water and/or gas each month.

Latest property tax bill: This bill gives buyers an idea of what they will pay in taxes should they purchase your home.

Title: The title shows that you own a legal or equitable interest in the home.

Homeowners association covenants and agreements: This will show buyers the rules established by the body that governs your neighborhood or condominium. It can include information about parking, pets, noise levels and more.

Floor plan or blueprints, if available: This gives buyers more insight into the layout and size of each room in your home. One way to stand out to buyers is to play up anything about your home that may be historically significant, such as a framed blueprint or a newspaper article about the home.

Once you have all your documents gathered, have at least two copies of anything that pertains to the house or your ownership. This way they’re available to potential buyers to inspect when they visit your home.

How Do I Sell A House By Owner?

Selling your home is a big thing to take on, but you can see significant savings by doing it yourself. There are five main steps to take:

  1. Assess your home’s value
  2. Get your home ready for sale
  3. Promote your home’s sale
  4. Negotiate the sale
  5. Close on the sale

Let’s get into the details of what each of these means.

Assess Your Home’s Value

Before listing your home, you want to accurately determine its value. A home that’s listed over its value can deter buyers. Later on in the process, it could cause problems with a buyer’s mortgage lender if the appraisal comes in too low.

On the other hand, you don’t want to list your house too low because you won’t get its full value. So how do you figure out its proper value?

First, you can easily look up an estimate online. Sites like Rocket HomesSM offer free home value estimates. This gives you a general idea, though it may not be completely accurate.

For a small fee, For Sale By Owner offers Pro Pricing. A licensed professional will perform an in-depth evaluation on your home. Within 5 – 7 business days of visiting your home, you’ll have a detailed report.

The other avenue is to hire a licensed appraiser. Most will charge $300 – $500 for the appraisal. You can use this valuation in negotiations with buyers. Unfortunately, a buyer’s mortgage lender won’t accept this appraisal and will order another.

Get Your Home Ready For Sale

Before you consider putting your home on the market, you need to make sure it’s in tip-top shape. While you may have gotten used to your home’s quirks, a potential buyer may see them as faults.

Make minor repairs, touch up paint and marks on the walls, clean the carpets and declutter. Think about how you would clean if a celebrity or royalty came to visit.

You want buyers to see the full potential of the space. Make sure it smells clean and is sparkling.

If you’ve already started packing, make sure all boxes are in a storage area and out of the main living spaces. You could go a step further and rent a storage unit to keep your stuff while transitioning.

Promote Your Home’s Sale

It may sound old school, but start with a great yard sign to promote your home’s sale. People hunting for houses in your neighborhood will see it and make note of it.

Get your house listed. Start by listing on popular home listing sites, like If you want to take it a step further, pay to have your home listed on a multiple listing service (MLS). An MLS is a catalog of homes accessible to real estate brokers and agents. With a listing on an MLS, you’ll get more traffic.

Organize and host an open house. Advertise it on sites like Facebook and Craigslist. Place signs on major roads nearby to lead people to your home.

Negotiate The Sale

Once you get an offer in, you’ll need to negotiate. A buyer may offer below your asking price or ask for you to pay closing costs.

This is the stage where you’ll need documentation. Within days of accepting a buyer’s offer, you must get a copy of their mortgage approval. Once a buyer submits a written offer that’s acceptable to you, a written contract must be drawn up.

This contract will include price, closing concessions, closing date and location plus a list of contingencies. These contingencies protect the buyer and allow them to back out of the contract if things go awry. For instance, if there’s a problem discovered during a home inspection, a buyer will have the option to back out.

Close On The Sale

Depending on your state’s laws, the closing will either take place at a title company or a real estate attorney’s office. The date of closing is when the buyer and seller come together and finish the sale.

Your house doesn’t sell until this moment. Make sure to keep communication channels open between yourself, the buyer and the closing agent. When asked for documentation, provide it as soon as possible to keep the process moving.

Why Do I Need A Disclosure Statement?

Before any potential buyer visits your home, you’ll want to make sure you complete a disclosure statement and have copies available when you show your home or hold an open house.

Required by most states, the disclosure outlines key defects or dangers about the property. This might include, but isn’t limited to, radon, structural problems, flooding, mold, lead paint, asbestos and other potentially problematic conditions.

Disclosure typically comes in the form of boilerplate documents (put together by the local or state REALTOR® association), where the seller is responsible for answering a series of yes/no questions detailing their home and their experience in it. You should be able to download a disclosure statement form for free from your state’s REALTOR® association.

It’s only fair that the buyer knows about such problems before making an offer. At the same time, a thorough disclosure statement protects you from post-sale claims by the buyer that they didn’t know about defects in the house.

What Should Be Included In A Real Estate Contract?

Nothing is more critical to your home sale than preparing and executing a proper legal agreement between you and the buyer. This contract between the buyer and seller outlines the terms of the agreement and should include:

  • Property and its characteristics: The type of property (condo, single family home, multiunit), address, lot size, parking, property identification number, etc.
  • Identity of the parties involved: Typically the buyer and seller
  • List of fixtures/personal property: What’s included in the purchase price
  • Purchase price: The agreed-upon price of the home
  • Earnest money amount and financing terms: The money paid to confirm the contract and details on the buyer’s financing
  • Target closing date: The date intended for the home sale to occur
  • Contingencies: Examples of this include attorney review, inspection provisions and/or a home sale/close contingency
  • Prorations: What the seller and buyer owe on items such as taxes, assessments and utilities
  • Title: What type of title clearance the seller is obligated to provide
  • Closing costs: Which party must pay for which closing costs
  • Notice or default legalese: What happens if a party breaches the contract
  • Miscellaneous provisions: Any other provisions the parties agree on

Before that first offer comes in, be prepared. If you can’t give the buyer the proper documents or be able to fill out a contract on the spot, your offer could fall through.

Are There Closing Costs On Homes For Sale By Owner?

There will always be some sort of fee for you as the seller, even if you’re not using a real estate agent. The good news is that almost everything in a FSBO transaction is negotiable, though.

Something else to keep in mind is that closing costs will vary, sometimes quite a bit, by state. Some common examples of closing costs you can expect are a deed transfer tax, excise tax and document preparation. Sometimes you may also need to pay for the owner’s title policy.

If you want to ensure your home sale goes smoothly, you’ll need to be absolutely sure you have all the required paperwork and documents to sell your home in order. If you need more guidance, check out our packages for home sellers. We’re here to help!

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How to Get from Accepting an Offer to Closing – To-Do List

Congratulations – you accepted an offer on your home! Now what?

Before you do anything, take a moment to savor that signed purchase agreement. It typically means all the energy you spent marketing your home has led to the right offer. It’s a major milestone – but it also means you have a new set of tasks ahead of you. If you’re selling your home on your own, use this for-sale-by-owner closing checklist to make sure you’re on the way to a successful sale!

1.      Hire an Attorney (If You Need One)

You may have heard that you should hire a real estate attorney when you sell your home. But do you really need one? Legally speaking, it depends on where you live. Some states (and in some cases, certain regions within states) require that an attorney prepare certain legal documents or oversee the closing of a home sale. You might need to do a little digging to find the requirements in your area.

Even if you don’t need to hire an attorney, it still might be a good idea. An attorney will make sure your paperwork is in order and that your rights are protected. Sometimes transactions get complicated – especially when there are questions of title, property distress, judgments or liens – so having an attorney to sort through all the red tape can be a lifesaver.

If you decide to hire an attorney, try to do so immediately after the purchase agreement has been signed. That way, your attorney can review the contract right away and negotiate any repairs or adjustments to the terms.

2.      Order Title and Arrange for Escrow

A home buyer and seller can negotiate who hires a title company and pays associated fees. In most cases, the home seller pays for the owner’s title insurance policy while the buyer pays for the lender’s policy. If you’re the one responsible for ordering title, be sure to have everything sorted out before closing day.

When it comes to escrow, you can typically use your title company as an escrow agent at no extra charge. Your escrow agent will order the title, property tax information, loan balances and other necessary paperwork.

The escrow agent will also serve as a third party who holds money in trust until a property sale closes. Say you received an earnest money deposit from the home buyer or have contracts that need safe keeping. Deposit these with your escrow agent, who will ensure smooth transfer of all money and documents after closing.

3.      Prepare for the Appraisal and Inspection

Two of the biggest steps to closing on a house are the appraisal and the inspection.

An appraisal is an estimate of the fair market value of home, typically ordered by a buyer’s lender during the mortgage loan process. This means a licensed professional will evaluate your home’s value based on things like age, condition, upgrades, location and the surrounding housing market. The purpose is to let a lender know the proper loan amount to provide. If an appraisal comes in below the sale price, a buyer and seller may be forced to renegotiate to cover the difference.

Similar to an appraisal, a home inspection is ordered by the home buyer to evaluate the structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. It covers things like the home’s heating system, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical systems, windows, doors, ceilings and floors. The main purpose is to find out if any major repairs are needed, in which case you may need to cover the cost.

So, how do you prepare for these home evaluations? Ensure that there’s easy access to all areas of your home and take care of the little things that could raise bigger questions. Replace burnt light bulbs, which could point to electrical problems. Eliminate slow drains with any of your sinks to remove doubts about the plumbing. Change your furnace air filters and be sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working. Basically, get your home in the best shape possible to pave the way for a smooth appraisal and inspection.

4.      Negotiate Repairs

If there’s an inspection contingency in your purchase agreement, that means the buyer can negotiate repairs based on the findings of their home inspector or cancel the contract.

The purpose of a home inspection is to identify major defects that would require a major investment of time or money – not to come up with a list of minor repairs for you take care of so the home is in flawless condition. Keep that in mind when the home buyer comes to you with their list of issues.

You’ll most likely need to do some haggling. Resist agreeing to fix all cosmetic issues like cracked tiles or loose doorknobs, as these are minor inconveniences that a buyer could have easily seen when touring the home. Major defects you should address include mold, electrical issues, lead paint or leaking roofs – the types of issues that will require major investments of time or money.

No matter the extent of the repairs you agree to address, it’s wise to provide inspection credits as opposed to taking care of the repairs yourself. The buyer will likely be far more critical about the work done than you will be. Providing cash value for repairs upfront will likely spare you and the buyer from tension down the road.

5.      Get Your Paperwork in Order

You’ve already filled out one of the most important forms to sell your home – the purchase agreement. As you move through the closing process, you’ll also need to produce additional paperwork to reach the finish line. Here are some of the most common documents you’ll need.

Title. This proves that you are entitled to transfer ownership of the home. You’ll also need to have the deed if you own the home outright.

Property taxes. Have your most recent tax statement ready, which will give the buyer an idea of what they’ll need to pay after purchasing your home.

Loan documents. Gather paperwork on your first mortgage – and second mortgage or home equity lines of credit if applicable.

Property survey. This is usually ordered by the buyer. It shows the boundaries of your property and where fences, driveways and other structures are located. You probably received this when you bought your home. If not, try checking with your lender or title company who may have a copy. If all else fails, you might need to contact a local engineering firm to produce a new one.

Plans and permits. If you’ve done any work on your home like additions or upgrades, you’ll probably need to show documentation that proves everything was above board.

Homeowner’s insurance information. Make sure you have the documents that detail your current policy for the home – and be sure not to cancel your policy until after closing.

For more on the documentation you’ll need to sell your home, check out our blog on The Paperwork Every FSBO Home Seller Needs to Organize.

6.      Close with Confidence

You’ve gathered the documents you need, and now you should receive one more. After the terms of your purchase agreement have been met and all the loan paperwork is ready, your escrow agent will fill out and deliver a HUD-1 settlement statement. This form details all transfers of money. It’s important for you and your buyer to review this statement before your closing day when you’ll sign all the final documents.

On the day of your for-sale-by-owner closing, gather up all your paperwork and make sure you have a photo ID and your checkbook on you. When you meet with the buyer (and their real estate agent, if they have one), you’ll sign all the paperwork required to transfer ownership of your home.

You’ll typically need to make a few payments, such as your mortgage balance, the buyer’s agent commission (if applicable), escrow or attorney fees, title fees and any pending property taxes or bills. If you’re making a profit after all expenses are paid off, you should receive a check for the balance. If not, you should have a cashier’s check ready to square your end of the bargain.

7.      Tie Up Loose Ends

After you get through the closing, you’re almost home free.

You might feel like you’ve been tying up loose ends for a month by now, but chances are there a few more to go. Here are some common to-dos to get through before you exit your home for the final time.

•  Start packing and hire a moving company if you need one

•  Submit a change of address form to the post office

•  Contact your mortgage company and make final payoff arrangements

•  Call your homeowner’s insurance agent, as you may receive a refund for any prepaid premiums

•  Close accounts for things like utilities and newspaper subscriptions

•  Gather the house keys, gate keys, remotes, etc. in a kitchen drawer

•  Stack up appliance manuals, receipts, warranties, security alarm codes, etc. on the counter

•  Close all the curtains and blinds, turn off all the lights and lock all the doors on your way out

Once you lock up and head out, your home closing checklist should be complete. And that means you’re ready to start the next chapter of your life – free and clear!

Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

Selling your home on your own is no easy feat. It’s an accomplishment worth celebrating, and chances are you saved yourself some money in the process. Plus, with all this experience under your belt, selling your next home should go even smoother!

If you need any help buying from someone who’s selling on their own, we’ve got you covered there too. Check out our blog on How to Buy a Home Directly from the Owner.

Articles Marketing Virtual Agent

Advertising Your Home

Advertising your home for sale can seem daunting. Not only do you have to get plenty of attention to your home, you have to find the right buyer, too. But don’t worry, if you follow these tips you’ll be on your way to finding buyers in no time.

How to market your home to sell fast

When it comes to advertising your home, there are several things that will help you sell your home fast.

Virtual Tours

The Internet is the leading medium for selling real estate. The National Association of Realtors reports that more than 92% of all home buyers go online to search for a home. The Internet is a fast and cost-effective way to reach millions of buyers. That’s why it’s so important to market your home on the websites where people intuitively gravitate to for real estate listings. Your home needs to pop up when people search using basic descriptors, such as, “house for sale, three bedrooms, finished basement.”

Below are things to keep in mind when you create your online listing to make yours stand out from the crowd.

• Explain the basics

At a minimum, you should list all of the basics of your home. This includes how many square feet, bedrooms and bathrooms, and how much land your property has. This information is essential for buyers to know.

• Include good-quality photographs

Don’t list your home without awesome photos first. Remember, this may be the first time a potential buyer sees your home and it might be your only chance to make a good first impression. Be sure you have plenty of pictures of your entire home and that each room is free of any unnecessary clutter.

• List the features of your home

List any important or high-end features in your home, especially if they’re in the kitchen or bathroom. For the kitchen be sure to mention any details about your appliances, types of flooring and countertops or items related to the floor plan. If you have a breakfast area or open floor plan – include it! For your bathroom, mention things such as dual sinks, walk-in showers or luxury items such as chandeliers or spa-like bathtubs.

• Make sure you include any upgrades

Have you recently remodeled? Make sure to explain to buyers what you’ve done. For example, list if you have updated any of the plumbing or electrical or finished the basement. Don’t forget about the outside features as well! Have a nice patio or porch? Include it in your online listing.

• Don’t leave out the unique details

Are you selling an older home with unique features to a particular era? Point those out in your listing. You never know what might attract a potential buyer.

Home Showings

Once you list your home online, you will start getting calls from interested buyers to come and visit it in person. If someone wants to tour your home early in the morning or late at night, be accommodating!


One of the easiest things to do when selling your own home is to place a “for sale by owner” sign in the front of your property. This will let everyone in the area know that your home is for sale. Make sure your sign can be easily seen from a distance, this way drivers will be able to write down your phone number from the car.

It’s also important to have an effective voicemail message for when you are not around. This message should include the fact that your home is for sale, whether or not it is still available, your asking price, and the size. You may also include any additional information you see fit but be sure not to overwhelm the listener. You’ll want to make sure your tone is cordial and friendly to entice people to come and view your home.

Print advertising

While online advertising is very important, don’t overlook what print advertising can do to help you sell your home. Below are some ideas of print pieces that will help sell your home.

• Home flyer

A good marketing tool is to have a flyer that outlines the various selling points of your home. This can include features such as square footage, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, and any amenities such as a pool, deck, spa, etc. Always include several color photos along with the details of your home. Creating a great home flyer will help your home stand out from the crowd.

Once you’ve created your flyer, you can leave some copies in front of the house. That way, when potential buyers see your sign, they can take an information sheet with them. Just don’t forget to replenish them as needed! Make a point of keeping these sheets with you at all times, since you never know when you might encounter a buyer.

• Local publications

Local publications can be worthwhile, especially if your house has a unique look or is in a highly desirable neighborhood. The most obvious example is placing a real estate ad in your local newspaper.

Other options include specialty real estate magazines or direct mail circulars. The downside to this option is that it can be expensive. However, if you do choose to go this route, you’ll get widespread exposure. Your ad should include the fact that you are selling for sale by owner, your asking price, the location, size (number of bedrooms/bathrooms), and phone number.

Depending on the size of your ad and how much you are willing to spend, you can also include special features such as a pool or incentives such as “Motivated Seller.” Be sure to capitalize on the most positive feature of your home. For example, if the location is ideal (close in distance to stores and/or situated in a prestigious neighborhood), your ad should highlight that fact.

Sample ad content: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!! 4BR, 2 ½ Bath, located in the lovely Alpharetta area. Convenient to all, asking only $235,000. Contact John at (555) 555-1212.

Make sure to have several different ads run in rotation. If a buyer sees the same ad for a prolonged period of time, they get the impression that there must be some reason why your home is not selling. You want to consistently maintain and generate interest in your home and keep it “fresh.”

Open house

When you’re selling your home, holding an open house is another excellent way to showcase your property. It provides a friendly setting where buyers can see if your home fits their needs. Best of all, this type of advertising is completely free!

• Have a sign in sheet

Make sure you have a sign-in sheet to keep track of everyone who passes through. This way, you can follow up with any potential buyers. Being proactive is key.

• Provide pre-qualification forms

It’s a good idea to obtain mortgage qualification forms as you may encounter interested buyers eager to start the process. If you need pre-qualification forms or guidance in the mortgage process you can visit

• Hand out copies of your home flyer

Be sure to keep your home flyer handy so prospective buyers will have something to refer to when considering your home.

• Go above and beyond

Nice touches include offering tours of the home rather than a simple walk through or even preparing some baked goods or hors-d’oeuvres for people to snack on.

Be sure to view the full list of open house tips to make sure yours is a success.


Visit local real estate agencies and give them information about your property. Even though you’re selling your home for sale by owner, you can still offer to pay them a referral fee if they bring a buyer in that results in a sale.

Word of mouth

It’s a good idea to think about all the people you come in contact with over the course of a week – the bank teller, the checkout person at the grocery store, your dentist, to name a few. By spreading the word that your house is up for sale, you automatically expand your potential buying base. Each of these people knows other people and may bring you one step closer to finding the right buyer.

Follow the tips above and you’ll be on your way to selling your home in no time! If you have any questions about advertising your home or if you need more guidance, check out our packages for home sellers. We’re here to help!

Articles Marketing Virtual Agent

How to Hold a Successful Open House

If you’re selling your home, having a successful open house is essential. When done right, open houses can help sell homes. That means, if you put the work in to prepare, you’ll have lots of buyers visiting your home and (hopefully) submitting offers. Wondering how to do an open house? Read on for some open house ideas to help make yours a success.


Preparing for an Open House

There are several things you can do prior to the open house to ensure yours is a success.

Make Sure Your House Is Ready

If you put your house on the market it should be ready for inspection by prospective homebuyers. Your house has only one chance to make a great first impression. Before you hold your open house, make sure you do a thorough cleaning and make any minor home maintenance projects that will make it more aesthetically pleasing. You should also declutter your home both inside and out.

Stage Your Home

People arrange their furniture and decorations based on their family’s lifestyle and tastes, but buyers are mostly attracted to homes that appear spacious. Stage your house so it makes a good first impression and brings them back for a second look.

Create a Sign-In Sheet

Create a simple open house sign-in sheet that asks people to provide their name, phone number and e-mail address. This enables you to follow up with them after the open house.

Print Property Flyers

Print out plenty of copies of your property flyer so that prospective buyers have information on your house and your contact information.

Weekends are Best

Open houses are traditionally held on non-holiday Sundays between 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Let people know that you’re having an open house by placing directional yard signs at key intersections. You can also advertise your open house on your online property listing, which will help attract buyers looking for upcoming Open Houses.

Have an Open House When Others Are

Time your open house to take advantage of traffic drawn by other open houses. Because you’re not relying on a broker to get the word out at their own convenience, you can react quickly, through social media, Craigslist and e-mail marketing.


Tips for a Successful Open House

Once you’ve decided on a date for your open house and have finished preparing, these are the things that will help yours be memorable and positive for buyers.

Offer Refreshments

One of the oldest tricks of the trade is baking cookies right before an Open House. It gives the house a pleasant aroma of baked goods and the treats give people a reason to stay and ask questions about the house, which will give you more opportunities to talk about its features. Put the cookies in the kitchen so visitors will follow their noses from the front entryway into the house.

Use Fresh Flowers Strategically

Is there a better way to complement your home’s beauty than a vase of freshly cut flowers? Buy them from a local florist so that when people inevitably remark how nice the flowers are, you can ease into a conversation about the terrific shops and restaurants located in your community and the area’s great quality of living. Place the flowers deep inside a room so that visitors will be drawn in. You can also use the flowers to draw attention to a room’s features — such as a bay window — and draw attention away from an awkward element — such as an unattractive radiator.

Keep a Professional Mindset

Visitors may make comments about what they do not like about the home. They may ask critical or pointed questions about the quality, age or brands of finishes and appliances. Remember, it’s not your house anymore. When people make comments, stay neutral and respond with factual answers.

Answer Questions About The House

You can never anticipate the wide range of questions that a prospective buyer might ask about the house and local community. But, be prepared to answer questions about property taxes and the age of the roof, heating and cooling units, and major appliances. For questions that you don’t know the answer to, tell them that you’ll call them with an answer.

Find Out If an Interested Party is Pre-Approved

Not every person who comes through your house will be interested. But for those who ask questions indicating that they might be, don’t be afraid to inquire if they are pre-approved for a mortgage. If they are not, recommend that they contact a financial lender or a mortgage broker to take the necessary steps before spending more time on a private showing.


Within a day of your open house, send a “thank you” email to everyone who took the time to visit your home. Include a link to your listing and ask if they had any questions regarding the house. A few days later, call each person who visited your open house and – in a friendly manner – ask if they are considering your house. If they are not, thank them for their time and ask if they have any feedback that might make the house attractive to other buyers. For those who are interested, offer them the opportunity to come back with their pre-qualification documents. Be prepared by getting state-specific real estate forms needed to begin the formal sales process.


For more resources to make showing your home a success, check out the answers to these open house frequently asked questions. Or, if you need more guidance, check out our packages for home sellers. We’re here to help!

Checklist Negotiating Virtual Agent

Be Prepared for Buyer Negotiating Tactics

Negotiation is about more than giving and taking. It’s the skill of crafting an agreement to everyone’s satisfaction. It can make the difference between an accepted offer or a deal completely falling through. Read on to learn how to prepare for some common tactics buyers use when negotiating with sellers.

How to Prepare to Negotiate Your Home Sale

There are steps you can take to help address some common buyer negotiating tactics. Much of it boils down to being prepared.

•  Get your home in first class condition so the buyer cannot bring-up any significant objections.

A home warranty goes a long way to overcoming these objections. It brings peace of mind and is a great marketing tool for you.

•  Learn (if possible) the buyer’s motivations and pressures.

This will help you know how to really appeal to them while keeping your top priorities in mind. On the flip side, don’t disclose your own motivations or pressures.

•  Have your facts at hand about any recent, local sales to support your asking price.

We recommend before you start the home selling process that you obtain an appraisal of your home. In a strong or rising market, you can price your home slightly above the appraisal. In a weak market, peg your asking price at the appraisal and prepare all the items you feel that the appraiser missed. If the buyer does not see the value, you can use the appraisal to help support your position on the price when you enter negotiations.

•  Practice your presentation.

This helps you be ready to handle the typical “buyer’s tactics” discussed below. You know your home better than any buyer’s agent out there. Use this to your advantage.

•  Be prepared to walk away.

When selling your home you must be prepared to turn down unacceptable offers or situations. You always have the option to do a counteroffer as well which is explored in more detail below.

•  Monitor the latest mortgage rates and lending news.

Why? Because the more you understand the lending conditions facing your buyer, the better you will understand what factors your buyer can change, and what factors you both must work around.

You can also prepare by reviewing this guide to negotiating home prices.

Common Buyer Negotiating Tactics

Here are some of the buyers’ tactics, that you should be prepared for. These may drive you crazy when you are trying to offer a fair home price. Having a sense of humor about things, smiling and speaking slowly will go a long way in the negotiating process.

The “higher authority” negotiator

This tactic uses a third party who will need to see the home or review the contract before the sale is completed. Common examples include:

• “My parents who are giving us the down payment would like to see the home.”

• “My attorney needs to review the contract.”

These are last-ditch attempts to lower the price. An effective way to counter this tactic is to ask (before setting a negotiations appointment), “Is there anyone else whom you would want to be here when we finalize all the details?”


These are the non-stop negotiators. Sometimes this is referred to as “nickel-diming”. The best way to avoid nibblers is to document all items and details thoroughly that you previously agreed upon. Make sure that everything to be included in the sale is clearly listed. A deal is a deal. If they want to change things, it creates a counteroffer, which you have no obligation to accept and they can lose their purchase. You should inform buyers that their counteroffer must be in writing and that you may or may not accept it. Often this will stop the nibbling. Other tactics you can use are SILENCE and The WINCE discussed below.

Good Guy / Bad Guy

This is a similar situation to the “higher authority” tactic. In order for this tactic to work, the good/bad team must be in different places so that you don’t have access to the bad guy who has all the objections. The resolution of this situation is to set an appointment, which is convenient for all the  the all parties to attend. If a joint consensus is necessary, don’t negotiate unless everyone is present.


This is normally a sudden statement blurted out by a buyer – often a “trial close” designed to catch you somewhat by surprise and get your confirmation on a deal favorable to the buyer. The best response to a “wouldjatake” is: “I’ll look at any offer that you present me in writing.” This response diffuses the situation immediately and allows you time to consider things.

The Trial Balloon

Trial balloons are questions designed to assess your position without giving any clues about your counterpart’s position. Essentially, these questions allow them to gain information without making a commitment. When you’re on the receiving end of a trial balloon question, you may feel compelled to answer it thoroughly. Resist and counter with another question. For example, if someone asks, “Would you consider financing the house yourself?” respond, “Well, if I did, what would your offer be?” The expected response should be a higher offer from the buyer as they’re not as strong as a buyer who is able to qualify for conventional financing terms or pay cash.

Negotiation Advice for Sellers

Below are some thoughts to keep in mind that may assist you in smoothing the home sale negotiation process.

Start with a fair price

By doing this you immediately remove a significant point of contention. Any lower counteroffer thereafter must be reasonable and fair.

Respect the buyer’s important issues

You may be able to strengthen your own positioning by knowing and respecting items of particular importance to the buyer.

Be prepared to compromise

If you try to win every point, you could sour the deal. Both parties should walk away “relatively” satisfied with the final terms.

Put minor issues aside
If you cannot agree on minor issues, put them aside and complete the main agreement. With the main agreement completed, you’ll find minor issues are far easier to settle.

Understand your options

As a seller, you have options when it comes to accepting or countering any offers that come in.

  • You can decline a full price offer. Sellers can decline any offer, including full or above asking price offers. Some common reasons you may do this is if you receive offers at a higher price but less desirable (i.e. FHA instead of conventional).
  • You can counter any and all offers. You can even make a counter offer for higher than your original asking price. This is most common in a multiple bid situation when one (full price) offer is better than the other. It’s important to note that all counters (which should always be in writing) are a decline/rejection with a new offer. This means that the original offer is void and the party making that offer/counter offer is no longer bound to the terms of their offer.
  • You can withdraw a counteroffer. In most cases, the seller can withdraw a counter offer up until the time of “delivery” of the buyer’s accepted offer. The delivery is a key piece as the buyer’s agent must deliver the buyer signed offer to you to be binding. If this hasn’t happened yet, you may be able to withdraw.

How to Negotiate when Selling a Home

Below are several strategies you can use when negotiating your home’s price.


When used strategically, silence is a powerful negotiating tactic for you to bring into play. If you’ve stated your price and you’re waiting for a response, just sit back and wait. Most people feel uncomfortable when conversation ceases. The buyer (and their agent) will be expecting you to start equivocating on your price. Don’t say a word! Almost without fail, your counterparts will start whittling away their position when you use this tactic. Buyers will have been primed to expect you to back off your price or qualify it. You’ll see their discomfort in their body language when they perceive by your silence that you mean business.

Suppose the buyer also understands the importance of silence. After several long moments, simply, restate your price. Don’t make suggestions or offer concessions. Just repeat your terms. This maneuver forces the other person to respond, and more often than not, they respond with a concession.

The Wince

The wince is a way to convey via body language your negative reaction to something the buyer or their agent is suggesting without resorting to argument or other negative verbal responses. It alerts your counterparts to the fact that you know your limits and they may be approaching them.

If you are on the receiving end of the wince, you must counter with silence. To do anything else will weaken your position.

Practice your Techniques

Preparation and practice are important. Take time to rehearse these methods so that you are comfortable using them and can recognize the precise moments when you should use them. You will be pleasantly surprised when you watch the results. The better you prepare and practice, the more satisfied you’ll be with the entire transaction.

It’s always best to seek the advice of an attorney when contemplating complex legal matters such as those mentioned throughout this article. For more guidance, check out this article on selling your home without a real estate agent.

Deciding FAQs How-to Guide Virtual Agent

Should I Sell My House? A 3 Step Guide to Deciding

Planting a “for sale” sign in front of a house might seem like the beginning of the home sale process. The truth is, it’s only one step of a journey that typically starts weeks or even months earlier. Setting a price, listing a home for sale and showing the home to potential buyers are all vital steps, but perhaps the most important step is the first one: clarifying your goals and making sure it’s the right time to sell.

Before you move forward with selling your home, start by answering these questions:

• Why do I want to sell?
• What will a new home offer that my existing home does not?
• Do I need to sell within a certain amount of time?
• How much preparation or repair work is needed to sell my home?
• Do I have enough equity in my home to make a down payment on a new house and/or achieve other financial goals?
• Is making a profit on the sale of my home a must? If so, how much of a profit?

The answers to these questions can help you figure out whether you should sell now or wait for a better opportunity. When you get to the financial questions, take these three steps to make a fully informed decision.

Step I: Gauge Your Current Finances

If you’ve paid off all your debt (aside from your mortgage) and have an emergency fund to cover at least six months of your expenses, that’s a good start. However, when you sell your home, you’ll need to cover several upfront costs in the process.

Your first order of business? Do some math to see approximately how much money you’ll have to work with before purchasing your next home. To do that, calculate the equity in your current home. Here’s how:

Current value of your home – What you owe your mortgage lender = Your equity

If you aren’t sure about the value of your home, you’ll need to come up with a solid estimate. There are several ways you can approach this. One is to simply hire a professional appraiser, who will examine all the data on recent nearby sales and factor in your home’s size, features, age, condition, location and other traits to provide an unbiased estimate. Another way is to ask a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis (CMA), which is a detailed report on recently sold homes in your neighborhood. The information in a CMA will help guide you to a competitive asking price. If you’re willing to put in a little time and do the research yourself, you can conduct your own comparative market analysis.

Once you have an estimate, check out your current mortgage bill or other mortgage documents for the amount you owe your lender, including any second mortgage or line of credit you might have as well.

Now you can subtract what you owe from what your house is worth to get a rough idea of your equity. For example: if your home is worth approximately $265,000 and you owe $135,000 to your mortgage lender, you have $130,000 of equity ($265,000 – $135,000 = $130,000).

Your next step is to figure out your net equity, which is your total equity minus the expenses you expect to pay as you move through the selling process, including:

• Home repairs or improvements
• Listing fees if you sell by owner or seller’s agent commissions if hire an agent
• Appraisal fee
• Title insurance and other charges

At this point, take a long look at the condition of your home. Gauge the investment you’ll need to make before listing. Identify the repairs your home needs before you put it on the market and what kinds of upgrades would help you sell more quickly.

Once you have these numbers, add them up on a spreadsheet to see where you stand. If you hire an agent to sell your home, your spreadsheet for that $265,000 home could look something like this:
Total equity (ex. $130,000) minus the following:

Home repairs/improvements: $5,000
Traditional Agent Commission: $15,900
Appraisal: $300
Title Insurance: $1,200
Attorneys Fee: $500
Moving: $1,500
Other fees (inspection, etc.): $500

Net equity: $105,100


You can save on commission fees and increase your net equity by using The Independent package from

Total equity (ex. $130,000) minus the following

Home repairs/improvements: $5,000
ForSaleByOwner package fee: $0
Buyer’s Agent Commission: $6,625
Appraisal: $300
Title Insurance: $1,200
Attorneys Fee: $500
Moving: $1,500
Other fees (inspection, etc.): $500

Net equity: $114,276


Whatever your circumstances are, establishing that net equity number is a critical part of making your home selling decision. This will help determine if you’re in good position to move forward and what the best method for selling your home will be.

Step 2: Consider Your Home Selling Options

Should You Sell with an Agent or on Your Own?

Your home-selling strategy and the proceeds you can expect to receive from your sale will revolve around your decision to hire an agent or sell your home on your own.

Hire an agent and your home will likely be seen by a high number of potential home buyers instantly – but you’ll probably need to pay commission fees when your home sells. Sell your home completely on your own and you won’t have to pay commission fees.

Whichever option you decide, chances are the process will involve considerable effort on your part. Either way you’ll be responsible for gathering most of the relevant documents, getting your home ready to sell and ordering and paying for any pre-inspections or appraisals. In some states, you’ll also have to hire (and pay) an attorney or an escrow agent to complete the sale.

If maximizing your profit is key to your decision to sell, becoming a For Sale By Owner may be the way to go. If selling your home fast with minimal effort is more important, hiring an agent is probably a better option.

Should You Sell Your Current Home or Buy a New One First?

A big part of the decision to sell your current home is figuring out when you should buy your next home. There’s no right or wrong answer for whether you should buy or sell first. For some, it boils down to preference. Some people do everything they can to avoid the stress of carrying two mortgages for a time, which is what you’ll probably need to do if you decide to buy before you sell. Others are more resistant to the notion of being “homeless,” which is unavoidable if you sell before you buy.

If you’re open to either scenario, looking at your current housing market can help you decide. In a buyer’s market, you have a better chance of making an offer on a home contingent on the sale of your current home. That means you can secure a purchase and have the home waiting for you while you go through the selling process. If you’re in a seller’s market, homeowners can be a lot more selective about the offers they receive. That means they’ll be far less likely to accept a contingency that forces them to wait around.

When Is the Best Month to Sell a House?

According to a recent study by ATTOM Data Solutions, most people wait until the summer to sell, with June, July and August accounting for the most home sales since 2011. But getting out in front of the crowd tends to yield the best results. The most profitable month was shown to be May, with homes selling at 5.9% above estimated market value.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should rearrange your schedule and wait a year if you start to think about selling in June. There are pros and cons of selling in every season, and every market is different. If you have your choice of any season, however, you may want to plan for a springtime sale.


Step 3: Price It Right from the Start

You may have a solid estimate of your home’s value, but setting your asking price will take some research and consideration. One of the advantages of working with an agent is that you’ll have a market expert to help you arrive at a precise, competitive asking price. Without an agent, getting the price right might seem like a major hurdle. It’s true that you’ll need to do a little extra legwork, but determining an optimal price is actually a fairly simple process.

Researching homes that are “comparables” in your local market is the key. Find out what your home is worth using our Pricing Scout tool which can help provide a solid estimate in minutes.

What Makes a Property Comparable?

Both appraisers and real estate agents will base their price opinions on comparable sales, ideally those that occurred within the last three to six months in your neighborhood. When looking for comparable sales to use as a yardstick for pricing your home, consider each home’s condition, age, square footage, location and the number of bedrooms and baths. The sale date is also important since it will reflect the most recent changes in your market.

Typically, the most important home feature to concentrate on is the number of bedrooms and baths, which usually play a bigger role in valuation than square footage. For example, a two-bedroom home in a neighborhood of predominately three-bedroom homes – no matter how ample the square footage – will almost always sell at a discount. The same is true for a home with one bath, since a majority of buyers look for more than a single bath. Along the same lines, if most homes in the neighborhood have a certain feature – like air conditioning – the absence of that feature will drop the price.

Once you identify several recent sales as potential comparables, take the time to drive by them and see how they shape up from the outside. You want to make sure a home’s lot size and landscaping are similar to make sure it’s a true comparable.

Get Down to Pricing

You’ve already taken an important first step toward understanding what your home is worth. Next, seek out additional reliable sources of home pricing trends that you can use to construct your own market analysis. For instance, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has two tools that draw from home sale data pulled from federally insured loan programs.

The FHFA’s House Price Index tracks home prices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and most Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA). If your metropolitan area is included, FHFA’s index is a great gauge of your local market.

FHFA’s House Price Calculator allows you to plug in the price you paid when you purchased your home, so you can get an estimate on the likely market value of that house today. Other good sources of information include local property taxes sites which contain the most recent sale prices of homes like yours in your neighborhood.

You can also scope out information on properties via public records online or scour lists of recently sold properties on a weekly or monthly basis in local newspapers. Add homes that make sense to your database and you will be able to further zone in on your asking price.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to visit comparable homes for sale during open houses. Checking out your competition will help you determine the right asking price, and it might give you an idea of how you can improve your home so you can get an edge.

Resist the Urge to Overprice

The temptation to overprice is strong. Almost everyone believes their home is the exception and will fetch more than similar houses. But that is rarely, if ever, the case. Buyers today are savvy. Chances are anyone who looks at your house — with or without an agent — has spent time both online and offline scoping out properties. Most buyers and real estate agents will know right away if a property is overpriced.

An over-inflated price means your house will be competing against homes that have more bedrooms and baths, or square footage, or a better location. The buyers who are in the market to purchase your home will be less likely to see it since most buyers are searching lower price points. This is the main reason homes sit on the market for months, with the price usually coming down to where it should have been from day one.


A Few Other Things to Keep in Mind:

1. Whoever buys your house will most likely need a mortgage, which means their lender will require an appraisal. If your home doesn’t appraise at or above the agreed upon sale price, the buyer will need to come up with the additional funds to close the gap between the appraised price and the actual sale price. Even then, there is no guarantee the lender will underwrite the loan.

So, even if you find a buyer willing to pay your price, unless they are paying cash they most likely will not be able to complete the sale. This will cost you time and put your plans — and your next home purchase — on hold.

2. If you haven’t already, it might be worthwhile to consider paying for a certified appraisal at this point in time. Without question, an appraiser will provide the most authoritative price opinion. Additionally, if your house is unusual or in a neighborhood that is difficult to value, it might be a good idea to have an appraisal done.

Determining your asking price is a tricky balancing act between maximizing your appeal to buyers and attracting offers that reflect the actual value of your home. Once you’re confident you have your home priced perfectly, however, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you stand to gain and when you should sell your house.



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Simple Selling Steps: Start to Finish Timeline

If you’re like most, selling your home will be one of the most important financial transactions of your lifetime. Not surprisingly, the process of selling a house typically involves many moving parts and a long list of to-dos – from getting your home sell-ready and setting a competitive price, to negotiating with buyers and navigating the closing process.

ForSaleByOwner can set you up for success with simple how-to guides, all the legal forms you’ll need and recommended local professionals who can help along the way. Plus, our Start to “Sold!” Checklist makes it easy to track your progress and stay on schedule. But before you get started, here’s a rundown of the most common home selling steps so you prepare yourself and hit the ground running.

1.    Start Doing Some Homework

Two months before listing

It’s a good idea to carefully evaluate your finances and how much leverage you have before you jump into the for sale by owner process. For example, how urgently do you need to sell your house? Is a career or job change prompting your relocation? Is your move tied to the school year, medical concerns, or financial pressures? Urgency often plays a role in determining your asking price and what you’ll be willing to accept. If there isn’t pressure to sell, you can wait for the ideal offer and price your house accordingly.

Here are a few other tasks you should complete to help you get prepared.

Get a feel for your local market – You don’t need to dive into market data and crunch the numbers just yet. At this point, just be aware how much homes like yours are selling for. You’ll want to check out home listings regularly and get an estimate on your home value so you have a general idea of what your asking price should be. It’s important to know early on if you’re likely to get the dollar amount you’re hoping for.

Add up transaction costs and remaining equity – You probably won’t need to pay all the closing costs of selling your home because you should be able to get the buyer to cover many of the expenses during negotiations. Still, it’s good to know the specific dollar amounts ahead of time. Research property taxes, transfer taxes, title insurance fees, escrow fees and any other fees that will need to be handled. If you sell by owner, use our Pricing Guide to estimate how much your expenses could be.

Collect key documents – Now’s the time to gather up the paperwork you’ll need so you aren’t scrambling to find them when things get hectic. The most important documents you’ll need are your title, mortgage and insurance.

2.    Look at Your Home Like a Buyer Would

Two months before listing

Nobody wants to buy your postponed projects. To get the best – and most – offers, tour your home with a critical eye. You may want to get an outspoken friend to give you an honest opinion of how your house looks to an outsider. Here’s how to approach the various flaws you may encounter as you evaluate your home.

Take care of cosmetic problems. These are issues that can be fixed or neutralized quickly at minimal cost. Grimy walls should be painted. Torn carpeting should be replaced. Small repairs, such as torn window screens and crooked light fixtures, should all be completed.

Consider making upgrades. Sure, you’ve lived with that gold-tone refrigerator for four decades, and it may still have ten more useful years…maybe. But why would a buyer pay top price for a kitchen with an ancient refrigerator? Evaluate the condition of appliances, plumbing, electrical, heating, air conditioning, roof and structural elements of your house. When you repair or replace iffy systems, you remove a reason for people to reject your house.

Structural elements will typically need to be addressed no matter what. However, keep in mind most renovations will not earn back more than what you pay to make them. You’ll need to determine if there are issues that might send home buyers running for the hills, and if there are, make those so your home doesn’t sit on the market for months.

Be aware of what you can’t fix. The location of your house is something you can’t change. The same can be said for your neighbors, the school district, noise and traffic patterns, and other factors. Be honest about these unchangeable traits. Will most buyers be turned off by certain aspects of your home? If so, you’ll have to price and market your house accordingly.

Some unfixable problems (such as seepage in the basement) must be disclosed to buyers, per state law. You can provide ease of mind to buyers through a home warranty, which covers the cost of repair or replacement for some major house systems.

3.    Establish the Price

One month before listing

Now’s the time to research your housing market and figure out your asking price. Establishing a simple baseline for the price can be simpler in a rising market: just add the cost of home improvements to the most recent purchase price and calculate the average rate of appreciation. When market conditions are uneven, foreclosures, short sales and bank-owned real estate can drag down the value of neighboring properties by as much as 30%, further complicating your estimate.

Here are the essential steps to establishing a fair market value for your house:

Check the sale price of recently sold properties. Hopefully you’ve been keeping an eye on home prices and listings online for a while. At this point, take your research a step further. Look at the prices of all the homes in your neighborhood by searching through local property records, which are open to the public.

Get an appraisal. The most in-depth and authoritative valuation of your home will be done by on-site by an appraiser who is familiar with your neighborhood. The appraisal will compare the condition of your house to others recently sold, adding value for unique features (like a fireplace) and deducting for features you don’t have, or for the worn condition of the house. An appraisal can cost around $500, but it can help you prioritize spending for repairs, replacements and upgrades. It will also validate your asking price to potential buyers and provide some leverage during negotiations.

Crunch the numbers to name your price. It’s worth it to gather as much data as possible before setting your asking price. Seeing the full range of estimates, sale prices, homes sold and market trends lets you see the picture. However, it’s also easy to get overwhelmed by all the numbers and get a little indecisive. Our blog on how to determine your asking price will walk you through the pricing process so can make sense of the data and arrive at the right number.

If you’re still having trouble, you’re in the right place to get all the help you need.

4.    Get Your Home Sell-Ready

One month to two weeks before listing

Prepping your home for buyers is one of the most important steps to selling a house. The goal is to make your home as attractive as possible while spending as little as possible. Unless your yard is an overgrown jungle, or your interior hasn’t been updated since the 70s, you can manage this by doing some house cleaning and staging to highlight your home’s best features.

Declutter and clean. Clearing out the debris of everyday life will help sellers see the actual house. You might want to rent a storage unit for out-of-season clothes, decorations, memorabilia, sporting equipment, furniture and other goods that come between a house hunter and the house itself. Once you clear things out, freshen up your suddenly-spacious house. Consider having the carpet and windows professionally cleaned and adding a fresh coat of paint if any rooms haven’t had one applied in quite some time.

Use some staging techniques. Staging is the art of creating a welcoming environment that helps buyers envision their life in your home. Chances are you can stage using accessories and furniture you already have, though you may want to add a rug, some throw pillows or artwork to brighten a room and call attention to its best features. Be sure to group accessories by color, shape or texture to avoid a choppy or disorganized look.

To make a room seem larger, you may want to reposition couches and chairs away from the walls into little clusters, making traffic lanes in each room obvious. This will create a more spacious, user-friendly feel at first glance. Home lighting is also important to the appeal of each room. HGTV recommends 100 watts for each 50 square feet to create a warm and welcoming setting.

Spruce up your yards. While a professional landscaping company can make a home’s exterior truly sparkle, you probably don’t need to make that kind of investment. Consider applying some fresh mulch to garden beds, doing some pruning and adding a few flats of annuals for color. In most cases, that’s enough to add some instant curb appeal without breaking the bank.

5.    List and Market Your Home

One week before listing

Once you’ve priced and prettied up your home, it’s time to start showing it off to potential buyers. Get ready by assembling all the materials you’ll need for your listing and marketing efforts. This can include: photos (professionally shot, if you can swing it), pricing documentation, room measurements, yard signs, flyers and handouts to give buyers at showings.

After you have everything you need, it’s time to stir up some great offers and get your home sold!

Put your home listing online. If you’re selling on your own, will help you reach seven times more visitors than any other “by owner” site. To list your home through multiple listing services (MLSs), you’ll need the help of a licensed real estate agent. However you choose to sell your home, the team at ForSaleByOwner can help you post your listing to create maximum visibility.

Use print advertising – seriously! Don’t dismiss newspapers. Readership may be down across the country, but many people looking for a home will seek them out everywhere. You can usually run a nice-sized ad for very little money – plus you can target it exclusively to buyers in your area. You can also reach out to a few brokers about buying a mailing list to reach buyers via direct mail. This can be a simple, affordable and effective method for drawing interest from serious buyers. For more print marketing tips and plenty of how-to-articles, check out the Seller’s Guide.

Arrange some open houses. As long as your home is in an accessible location, it’s a good idea to hold an open house so buyers can get up close and personal. Get the word out through your social networks like Facebook, Twitter and community groups. Advertise it on Craigslist. Post flyers at supermarkets. As some selling your home on your own, it’s okay to be present as buyers tour the home but try to keep your distance. Most buyers don’t like to feel watched or pressured. Also, be sure to create property description flyers and leave them where buyers can grab one on their way in.

However much help you need with any or all of these tasks, has you covered.

6.    Negotiate and Accept an Offer

In real estate, negotiation happens through counteroffers. After a buyer submits an offer, you have the opportunity to accept, decline, or, as should happen in most cases, respond with your counteroffer. The best way to make sure you get what you need is to know what you need first. List out your must-haves, nice-to-haves, and not-that-important-to-haves. This will make it easier to know when to stand firm and when to compromise. Beyond that, be willing to make concessions on points that aren’t as important to you. The goal is to meet a buyer in the middle so both of you walk away happy.

Here’s an overview of what to focus on as you review an offer and how to make your counteroffer:

Consider more than the price. Your eyes will probably fixate on the dollar amount being offered first. This is typically the number that both buyer and seller are most concerned with. However, it’s not necessarily the most important. As a seller, the most important number is your net gain from the deal. Whether it’s through closing costs, taxes or any other expense, a buyer can make a more profitable offer than another buyer even if the price comes in lower. So, pay close attention to what a buyer is offering to pay for before you come to any conclusions.

Look outside the numbers. There are plenty of factors to consider beyond price. If you need to move out right away or need some time to find your new home, being able to set the closing date is a big benefit. This is something you can determine through the occupancy portion of a contract. You’ll also want to pay close attention to any contingencies included. A buyer’s offer could be contingent on them selling their current home, getting financing, being able to move in within a certain amount of time and getting an inspection. There more contingencies an offer has, the less dependable it is.

Aim for a win-win agreement. As you make counteroffers to get more of what matters to you, be sure to offer concessions to keep things fair. Does a buyer want the pool table in your basement? Throw it in as an inclusion. Creating a give-and-take dynamic makes both parties eager to cooperate and reach an agreement.

7.    Complete Paperwork and Close

6-8 weeks before closing

In most cases, accepting an offer and signing a purchase agreement is a huge relief. It signals the end of the prepping, marketing and negotiating phases, which, during the for sale by owner process, can be quite demanding. But as soon as all those tasks end, another list of to-dos begins. Here’s a typical list of to-dos that closely follow a purchase agreement:

  • Cooperate with the buyer’s home inspector
  • Cooperate with the buyer’s appraiser (as determined by the mortgage lender)
  • Provide buyer and buyer’s agent, lawyer, and other professionals with legal documents
  • Contact your lender to start mortgage payoff process
  • Make your own arrangements to move

Once those matters are handled, the next step is preparing for closing day. You’ll need to gather much of the necessary paperwork yourself if you’re selling on your own. Here’s a rundown of the forms you should expect to complete when you meet with the buyer at your closing:
•    Disclosures as required by your state and municipalities
•    Property records, building permits and receipts for the appraiser
•    Property records for the title insurer
•    Insurance documents
•    Mortgage, loan and lien documents
•    Related legal documents for financial and estate planning

Many of these documents can be purchased through the DIY Real Estate Forms and Guides page on You’ll also find definitions, forms explanations and general information about the process of selling a house included.

The steps to selling a house almost always take considerable time, attention and energy. The good news is that when you sell by owner, you’ll save thousands in commission costs and become even more prepared the next time you sell a home.