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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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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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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!

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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!

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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.

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Becoming Three: How to Create Household Harmony as Parents with a New Baby

Everything changes when the baby comes. The joy of becoming three is something no parent can truly prepare for. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for when the baby arrives.

To achieve true household harmony you need to start getting ready. From making room for your brand-new baby and his or her things to finding calm during a tantrum now is the time to prepare.

Here’s what you can do to instill a little serenity as you transition to life as a family.

Create a Separate Nursery
Most new parents question whether they should share a room with the baby. Room sharing can be beneficial for the first few months, especially for feeding and resolving fussiness in the middle of the night, but there are downsides. Sharing a room with your baby can cause them to develop bad sleeping habits, especially if you’re waking up at every sound to settle or feed them.

Eventually you’re going to need a separate nursery so you and baby can get the sleep you need. Creating the perfect nursery takes work, but it’s well worth it days, weeks or months after the baby comes.

Make Extra Storage for Baby Gear
An added benefit of having a separate nursery is that there’s a place to store the baby gear. In addition to a crib you’ll have the stroller, furniture, car seat, clothes and toys and it all needs to go somewhere.

If you’re living in a small home or apartment, you’ll need to get creative with your storage solutions.

  • Use a wall mount for bicycles to store your stroller
  • Find furniture that folds and flips
  • Use wicker baskets and suitcases to store what you’re not using
  • Securely stack cabinets to the ceiling to make room

Taking Care of Baby (and You)
Between changing, feeding, playing and putting your child down it’s easy to forget about your needs. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself while caring for baby.

  • Shower – Getting in a shower might seem almost impossible as a new mom. You don’t want to leave your baby and he or she cries as soon as your foot hits the tile. Bring the bouncy seat into the bathroom, add a clear shower curtain if you don’t have a walk-in shower and get scrubbing. Your baby and your partner will thank you for it.
  • Media – In the few minutes that you’ll have alone you’ll want to be ready. The last thing you want is to lose your precious alone time to channel surfing. Find some of your favorite books, shows, or music to help relax you during the downtime. When the next tantrum, changing or feeding comes you’ll thank yourself for it.
  • Meditation – Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety as well as aid in sleep and decrease the risk of postpartum depression. If you’re not in the habit of meditating already, try it during pregnancy. All it takes is to sit in a comfortable chair and focus attention on your breath for a few minutes. You can even try doing it with your baby instead of trying to find time to do it alone.
  • Postnatal Yoga – If you’re suffering from headaches, back pain or fatigue then postnatal yoga may be able to help you relax and treat your aches and pains. Some yoga positions can even help babies get through colic, upset stomachs and bouts of crying.
  • Connect with Your Partner – Sleep deprivation, work and hectic schedules can lead new parents to feel disconnected. Take at least twenty or thirty minutes each day to connect with your loved one. Talk about things outside of work and the baby. Spend it cuddled up on the couch or before bed.
  • If you’re struggling to find serenity as three, it might be time to find a bigger home. Luckily, ForSaleByOwner has everything you need to sell your starter home and save. With tools, guides and services to help you price, prepare and market your home to millions of buyers, ForSaleByOwner makes it easy to sell and find household harmony. List your home for sale with ForSaleByOwner.

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Creative Ways to Save for Your Dream Home

You know what it looks like. You know the size of the master suite, which appliances fill the kitchen, and how the deck looks on a summer morning. It’s your dream home and it’s out there waiting for you.

Instead of tolerating that awkward closet, mornings sharing the sink with your partner and a bedroom too small for your newborn, start saving for the home of your dreams. With some dedication and planning you can have your dream home. Here’s how to make it happen.

1. Pay Off Your Debts
It can be hard to save for your dream home when your money’s going to interest on credit cards or monthly car payments. Clear out as much debt as you can before you start saving. If you have a partner and can get by with only one car, it might be worth boosting your down payment by selling your car.

2. Track it with an App
Personal finance apps are great for tracking where your money goes and showing you where you can cut the fat. Apps like Mint, Wally, and HomeBudget are free or low cost and can make saving simple.

3. Get Rid of Grey Charges
Grey charges are those things you see on your bank or credit card statement each month and say, “What was that for, again?” Those small subscriptions and renewals take small bites out of your finances each month sometimes adding up to hundreds of dollars over the year. That money could be going to your dream home. Go through your monthly fees and eliminate those grey charges.

4. Make Your Meals
How much do you spend every day on lunch? How about dinner? Are you eating out most nights of the week? You can cut down on your spending by packing your lunch and cooking dinner at home. Going to the grocery store once instead of multiple times a week will help you budget your food spending.

5. Put a Pin in It
Sure a spice container that automatically measures and dispenses your spices is clever, but is it better than finally having your own sink for your morning routine? Start a Pinterest board for the things you want and wait 30 days to buy them. If after a month you really can’t live without it then buy it. Most likely that spice carousel won’t seem like such a necessity.

6. Go Old School in a New Way
When was the last time you went to a library? For a few bucks you can borrow movies, books, music and more. You don’t have to give up your Spotify or Netflix subscriptions, but with libraries offering lots of digital content as well as hard copies you might find you don’t need them as much as you thought. Especially when it can save you a few hundred dollars a year.

7. Protect Yourself
Web browsers and apps like Apple Pay and Google Wallet remember your credit card information and make it easy to spend. Put a layer of security around your purchases by clearing your cookies and deleting your apps. When you have to take the time to pull out your card and enter your information you might rethink what you buy.

8. Find Discount Deals
Online retailers offer special deals to companies like Groupon or BeFrugal and they’re a great way to save without actually having to clip coupons.

9. Go “By Owner”
Home sellers save an average of $14,000 on their home sale using ForSaleByOwner. With interactive tools and guides, marketing exposure to millions of buyers and services that help you photograph and price your home, selling isn’t just easier than trying to share the shower, it’s easier than you think. List your home for sale on ForSaleByOwner.

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Newly Pregnant? Why You Should Start a 529 College Savings Plan

Being newly pregnant is an exciting time with a lot to do. It’s easy to overlook financial planning when you’re choosing a physician and planning your announcement, but those first few months are perfect for looking ahead. Before the showers, baby-proofing and endless doctor visits kick in, use these simple steps to start a 529 college savings account for your baby.

What is a 529 College Savings Plan?
A 529 college savings plan allows parents to save for tuition and other educational expenses. It uses a method that’s more like a 401(k) than a savings account. In most cases the plan is provided by a state or educational institution and managed by an investment firm. Contributions are invested in mutual funds in one of the following ways:

  1. An age-based option that adjusts your mix of assets so that they becomes less risky the closer your child is to college age
  2. A static option that maintains the same asset mix throughout the lifetime of the plan

Although contributions to a 529 college savings plan aren’t tax deductible, the plan offers numerous tax benefits. The most important benefit is that the income from your investment isn’t subject to federal tax or, in some cases, state tax.

Almost all 50 states offer at least one option for a 529 plan. Many states offer 529 plans to non-residents, allowing parents, grandparents or students to find a plan that’s best for them regardless of where they live. These plans can be used at most accredited colleges, graduate schools, trade schools and professional schools across all 50 states.

How Much You’ll Need to Save (and How to Do It)
According to the private nonprofit College Board, costs for tuition and fees during the 2015-2016 school year ranged between an average of $32,405 for a private institution and $9,410 for in-state tuition at public colleges. In 2030, tuition is expected to cost between $92,869 and $130,428 per year for a private university and between $41,228 and $57,609 for in-state public college.

That’s a lot of money, but you don’t have to save $30,000 a year for your child to go to college two decades from now. If you can save at least one-third of expected college costs you’ll significantly reduce debt for you and your child.

The website has a helpful tool to calculate college costs. For example, if your child attends a college that currently costs $22,000 a year (roughly the average cost of tuition between private and public colleges both in and out of state) you would only have to contribute $186 a month to save one-third of your expected costs.

The key is treating this savings plan just like any other bill and contributing to it regularly.

The Real Cost of a 529 Savings Plan
529 college savings plans can be a great investment, but they aren’t free. Depending on the plan you purchase there are a number of fees you may have to pay, including broker commissions on some state-sold plans.

Make sure that whatever plan you choose, you’re aware of any hidden fees including wire transfer fees, administrative fees for out of state residents and application fees among others.

Which 529 Plan Should I Choose?
Finding a 529 plan that’s right for you means doing your research. The best place to start is with those named the best 529 plans. The investment research firm Morningstar gave Gold ratings to four plans including the T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan issued by Alaska, Maryland College Investment Plan, the Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan issued by Nevada and the Utah Educational Savings Plan.

And the best way to get a head start on a savings account for your baby is using the money you’ll save selling your home with ForSaleByOwner. Home sellers save an average of $14,000 in agent commissions with ForSaleByOwner. And with interactive tools and guides, 24/7 support, and our Home Selling Guarantee, selling your home isn’t just easier than saving for college; it’s easier than you think.

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The Do and Don’ts of Remodeling

When Stan and Mary Anderson moved into their new house, the first thing they decided to do was renovate the outdated bathroom. “The tub and tiles were avocado green,” Mary complained. “It was straight out of the 70s.” But soon, they’d completely transformed their bathroom, complete with bright track lighting and a Jacuzzi tub. “I love the bathroom now—it’s so luxurious and relaxing. It was definitely worth both the time and the money,” Mary said.

And as it turns out, this was one of the wisest home renovations the Andersons could have undertaken to increase their property value. When looking at houses, buyers consider the kitchen one of the most important selling points in the house, with bathrooms—especially master baths—coming in a close second.

When it comes time to selling a home, homeowners often consider remodeling to try to increase the market value. Remodeling may be smart in some circumstances, but it can also be a double-edged sword: While most home sellers would be unwise to do absolutely nothing to improve their homes before they sell, they’d be equally unwise to improve everything. However, by following a few simple guidelines and avoiding some potentially costly mistakes, you can make home renovation work for you.

Take Care of Your Investment

One of the smartest things you can do to increase the value of your home is to take care of it while it’s yours. Annual maintenance makes a huge difference on the amount of wear and tear that shows up on your home when it’s time to sell. Therefore, keep the gutters clean, watch out for water damage, take good care of the yard, and slather on another coat of paint every few years. And keep records of everything you do—it will be a strong selling point to show to potential buyers.

Start Small

We all know a little can go a long way. So before you decide to add on another room or install a fireplace, you might find that minor improvements make a major difference. For instance—as we’ve discussed, bathrooms are one of the most profitable renovations you can make. But instead of installing a Jacuzzi tub, why not start out by changing the toilet—an improvement that can cost as little as $200 and make a drastic difference. Similarly, try a new coat of paint, new fixtures, upgrading towel racks, or a new medicine cabinet before relaying the vinyl or replacing the tile. You might find you don’t need major changes after all.

Don’t Go To Far

The details of a home certainly do contribute to the property value, but just as important are neighborhood values. If the improvements bring your house up to neighborhood standards, they’re probably going to be worth it in the end. But adding features above and beyond the other homes on your street or in your complex will actually be detrimental. In a row of Toyotas, a Porsche sticks out, and if you create a white elephant, you’ll actually be making it more difficult to get your asking price.

Before undertaking any major renovation projects, check out the other homes in your neighborhood to make sure you’re sticking with the neighborhood standards.

Know What Works

It’s true that homes in nicer condition often sell for a higher price. After all, most buyers don’t have the time, money, or energy to invest in a major renovation project. However, making unnecessary improvements may impress buyers, but may not actually pay off.

The biggest mistake most people make when they set out to renovate is expecting to get a dollar-for-dollar return on their upgrades. However, even the most desired upgrades rarely yield a 100% return. In the case of the Andersons, remodeling the bathroom would probably yield an 80% return on their investment, similar to major kitchen remodeling (80%), bathroom addition (81%), and adding a second story (83%). The most profitable renovation tends to be minor kitchen remodeling, while the lowest includes replacing windows (68%) and converting a bedroom into a home office (68%).

It may seem strange, but adding a pool actually added no value to a home and was often considered detrimental. Not only are pools a tremendous liability, but few new homeowners want to take on the responsibility of maintaining a pool.

Look at your house objectively and decide which features actually need renovation, and which renovations will go the farthest. If your kitchen still has a Frigidaire from 1950 that could have a negative affect on the entire kitchen. But re-facing the kitchen cabinets in maple just because you like it better than cherry won’t make a difference to anyone but you.

Stay True to Your House

You might be moving out of your home because the old-fashioned fireplace just isn’t modern enough, but don’t assume potential buyers will feel the same way. Don’t add steel appliances to a country kitchen, or sliding glass doors in a rustic family room. Make sure that renovations match the style of your home—not your personal style.

Similarly, don’t change the function of the rooms in your house. If a potential buyer needs a home office, they can easily transform a bedroom by bringing in a desk and some filing cabinets. However, if you designate the room as an office yourself and install permanent bookcases, you’ve limited potential buyers by eliminating an actual bedroom. Customizing the features of your house might make it perfect for you—but can alienate potential buyers.

And finally, don’t waste time and money finishing an attic or a basement, as those features tend to be at the bottom of the priority list. When was the last time you looked at a house and thought, “If only the attic were nicer?”

Turn to the Pros

Another big mistake sellers often make is trying to undertake renovations themselves. If you have no experience laying tile or hanging wallpaper, hire a professional! In most circumstances, you’ll cause more trouble trying to do-it-yourself if you’re unqualified, and you’ll probably just end up having to hire someone to fix your mistakes. Doing it right the first time is always best for the bottom line.

Budget Your Money

When undertaking a renovation project, most people underestimate their budget by 20-30%. For instance, the average minor bathroom renovation can cost upward of $9,800. It’s smarter to plan for unexpected expenses and to have a little cushion than it is to be on the losing end of a very expensive bargain.

And don’t just underestimate money—time is also a crucial consideration. You can’t expect to completely redo your bathroom in one weekend. Potential buyers are usually turned off by half-finished projects.

Make Renovations Pay Off

Renovations can definitely pay off in the end—if you approach them wisely and with realistic expectations. With a little planning and objectivity, you can strike that perfect balance between your personal tastes and what will appeal to potential buyers—and then reap the rewards!

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