By-Owner Sellers Share The Secrets To FSBO Success

If you’ve decided to sell your home without an agent, or “for sale by owner,” you’ll have a few big tasks to take care of ahead of you.

Selling without an agent isn’t for everyone, but there are plenty of people who have sold their own homes and lived to tell about it. Learn their success stories to avoid big mistakes.

How To Sell Your Home For Sale By Owner

If you’ve never sold a home before, you might have difficulty getting started. You’ll want to create a listing so agents and other potential buyers can get an inside look at your home.

How To Find A Buyer

Marketing your home goes beyond the listing. You can showcase your home through social media and word of mouth. Consider taking out social media ads and promoting your listing online. Ask your friends to share it as well.

FSBO seller Peter Fiore found buyers through word of mouth and social media. He sold his home in a little more than a month for even more than his asking price. Fiore says he saved at least $75,000 selling on his own.

Also consider your target audience. For instance, if your home is downtown or has easy access to shops and restaurants, you may want to target people who want to live near that scene, typically single people or couples. If you live outside the big city, your home might be best suited for families looking to avoid city life.

Thomas Nyle was selling his Greenwich Village studio and decided to use the fact that the unit didn’t include a parking spot to his advantage by narrowing his audience to buyers who didn’t own cars and wouldn’t be looking for parking amenities. He sold the studio to a schoolteacher who takes public transportation (or bikes or skates) around town.

Many buyers want to see their future in your home. To achieve that, showcase your home’s best attributes and how customizable it is to everyone’s wants and needs. Versatility is important for potential buyers, so don’t be afraid to remove something you really love in an effort to show off how easy it is to make changes.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

While a clean home isn’t a requirement, a dirty home can be a major turn-off to potential buyers. Without the help of an agent, you’ll need to appeal to more people than you think.

First impressions matter, which means you’ll need to focus on staging and presenting your home. Have professional cleaners come in to get your home ready for visitors. How would you want your home to look if your favorite celebrity stopped by? Use that as a guide on how to prepare and stage your home.

While clutter isn’t dirt, it should be given the same level of attention. Cluttered corners and countertops can seem like you don’t have enough space in your home, which might be a big turn-off to potential buyers. Before you have professional photos taken, go through your things and donate unused items and throw out broken things. If you have large pieces, you can call a junk removal company or put it out for bulk day.

It’s also important to be honest with your buyers. If there’s a foundation or roof problem, get it fixed before you sell the home. Many potential buyers won’t bite even if you reduce the asking price. Most issues come up at the inspection, so you might as well beat them to it by preparing for the best offer based on the condition of your home.

Remember, It’s Just Business

Your home is very personal to you, but that doesn’t mean everyone feels the same attachment to it. At the end of the day, selling your home is a business transaction – it’s not personal.

Risa Martinez of Milwaukee learned this valuable lesson as a by-owner seller. You can clean your home to within an inch of its life, you can point out its many attributes, but sometimes it just won’t immediately click with buyers. “They are not rejecting you,” Martinez says. “They just don’t necessarily like what you’re offering them. There’s a perfect buyer out there, they just have to find you.”

Instead, focus on getting the most buck for your bang. Handle necessary repairs, make viable improvements and deep clean. It may help to have an outsider come in and point out potential updates. Sometimes, when we’ve lived in a space for so long, we miss those opportunities.

Also remember that not everyone will love your space as much as you do. Be mindful that some prospective buyers don’t feel love at first sight. Be open to finding the right buyer for your home, not necessarily just any buyer. If you’re firm in your price and believe your home has what it takes, don’t expect a sale right away. Instead, wait for the right buyer.

Remember to be aware of fair housing policies. You can’t discriminate against a potential buyer based on race, sex, religion, family status or other factors.

The Bottom Line

When you sell your home by yourself, the success of the sale depends on you. Finding the right buyer at the right price at the right time is multilayered. Prepare your home long before you list it. And when the time comes to show it off, don’t be afraid to step back and get it in tip-top shape for potential buyers.

If you’re ready to sell your home by yourself, get the tools you need first. Even though you don’t have a real estate agent, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the best resources. Before you sell, learn everything you can about expectations and the home-selling process.


Your Start-To-Finish Checklist For Selling A Home

If you’ve already bought your first home, you might think you have the real estate business all figured out. Home buying is such a complicated – and often frustrating – learning process, that just successfully navigating it is something to be proud of.

But as anyone on their second or third home can tell you, selling is a different beast.

Selling your home comes with a different set of challenges, and significantly less freedom than you had as a buyer. As a seller, you can’t just walk away and move on to the next home on your list – you’re stuck trying to sell the property you have, with all its quirks and flaws.

Thankfully for you, we’ve put together a foolproof guide to walk you through each step of selling. Here’s what you need to know.

Deciding To Sell Your Home

Before you hang the “for sale” sign, consider why you want to sell your house in the first place. Are you selling because the neighborhood doesn’t fit your lifestyle anymore? Are you ready to downsize to a smaller home or upgrade to something more spacious?

Knowing the exact reasons for selling will aid you when searching for your next house. Take a few days to visit open houses for other homes to see what you like and what you don’t like. Look at listings online and talk to a lender about your mortgage options.

You should also run some numbers to see how much of a down payment you can afford, with and without selling your home first. Most people need equity from their current home to finance the next one.

Crunch the numbers and examine your budget to see what kind of mortgage payment you can realistically afford.

Price Your Home

Once you decide to sell your house, it’s time to figure out the right price. Use this calculator for an estimate of your home’s selling price.

You should also look around your immediate neighborhood to see what similar homes are selling for right now. Walk around and jot down which homes are for sale and at what asking price. Follow up a week later to see if they’ve sold and what the final price was. Depending on your area, the home may sell below or above the asking price.

The seasons can also affect housing pricing. Selling a house in the spring or summer is usually easier than selling in the fall, when kids are back in school, or in the winter as the holidays are approaching. That’s why it’s helpful to look at home prices right around when you’re trying to sell. If you’re planning to wait a few months, you’ll need to examine the prices at that time.

Prepare And Repair Your Home

You have to prepare your house before listing it. Do a rundown on what needs to be fixed, particularly taking into account anything that an inspector might notice. This can include functional repairs like loose tiles in the bathroom or plumbing problems, as well as aesthetic issues like a bedroom with a clown mural or an unkempt backyard. Invite friends over to give an honest critique of your home and what they’d change if they were buying.

Replace any burned-out light bulbs, hire cleaners for a deep clean and declutter your home. The latter step will also make things easier when it comes time to move.

Next, it’s time to stage your home. This can involve moving around furniture and decor for a broader appeal, opening curtains to emphasize natural sunlight and minimizing personal items so buyers can envision themselves in the home. Look at pictures of other homes on the market – especially similar homes in your neighborhood – for ideas on how to stage your interior.

How To Market Your Home

Marketing your home as a solo seller is key. You should spread the word first on social media, posting on your own page and in any neighborhood groups. Make the post public so your friends and family can share it with others.

If you’re not a good photographer, hire one with real estate experience to take professional pictures. Some people also hire a videographer to create a video tour of their home, but this is optional.

Show Your Home

Showing your home without a real estate agent can be tricky, because you have to be available whenever a potential buyer wants to swing by. If you decide to go this route, pick some weekend dates to host an open house and advertise it with local agents, neighborhood groups and social media.

Add an addendum to your “for sale” sign so the time and date of the open house is visible when people drive by. You should also practice for the open house by showing your home to friends and family members. Encourage them to ask questions about the house to help you prepare.

You should also have a way for potential buyers to leave anonymous feedback on the house. While some people might point out things you can’t easily change, others may offer more practical advice.

Negotiate An Offer

Before listing your home, decide how much you need to sell the house for. Having a minimum acceptable price is key in order to not lose money on the deal. Selling a house also comes with its own fees, usually 1– 3% of the final sale price. Make sure to factor those in.

Once you receive an offer, it’s time to negotiate. You should be reasonable and willing to lower the price, but start in $5,000 increments.

When a buyer presents an offer, you should ask to see their prequalification documents from their mortgage lender. This proves that they qualify for the amount offered.

Closing Process

Anyone selling a home by themselves will need to hire a real estate attorney and title agency for the closing. This should be done well before the closing date so the contracts and correct forms can be obtained and filled out. You should also coordinate with the buyers and their real estate agent to find a mutually acceptable date and determine the final closing costs.


The Top 10 For Sale By Owner States [New Data]

For sale by owner sellers know they may face challenges. Selling a home without the help of an agent comes with its own set of obstacles, but the appeal of saving money and selling on your own makes FSBO worth it for thousands of homeowners every year. 

Not only are families looking for their forever home, but investors are looking for new properties to add to their portfolio as well. Real estate is still one of the top investment areas, as millionaires consistently list it as an essential part of their success.

As we all know, “location, location, location” is everything in real estate. It’s also fairly important, it turns out, when it comes to who sells the most FSBO homes. Selling by-owner is more popular in some areas than others, and depending on what state you live in, you may be joining a large number of other entrepreneurial spirits when you list your FSBO home on the market.

So, where do most of these FSBO sellers reside?

To find out which states are the most popular for FSBO listings, we dug into our state-level data to figure out how many sellers per state are listing their homes on, how those percentages compared to the national total, along with the median prices across those listings. Now, we’re sharing that proprietary data with you. Additional data has been pulled from the US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and US News and CoreLogic to provide factors that are important to home-buying or investing, like year-over-year (YOY) population growth, YOY job growth, US State Education Rank and YOY average home equity increase.  

Read on to find out which states outperformed the rest.


Hottest States For Investing In FSBO Property 

illustrated map of the the US and which states are the best for for sale by owner

Which states in the U.S. held the highest percentage of properties listed and sold on Let’s take a look at the top ten states for investments in 2019 (through December 28). 


10. Ohio

FSBO Ohio: Median Listing: $205,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $7k Population Growth: 0.5% US Education Rank: #31 YOY Job Growth: 0.5%

The Buckeye State starts off our top 10 list with 3.8% of FSBO listings. Ohio homes also saw strong year-over-year home equity growth with the average home gaining about $7,000 in value. The average listing price comes in right at $205,000, the most affordable state on our list right behind Illinois.

Mashvisor noted that Ohio is a great place to invest due to its affordability, profitability and appreciation — the top cities to invest in include Columbus, Hudson, Madison and Marion. Some cities have median listings that land below the $100,000 mark, like Dayton at $98,266. The affordable prices and equity growth make Ohio an accessible and worthy market to invest in. 


9. Louisiana

FSBO Louisiana: Median Listing: $230,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $6k Population Growth: -0.3% US Education Rank: #48 YOY Job Growth: -0.1%

Louisiana comes in at number nine with 3.9% of the listings and a median listing price of $230,000. Homes in this state saw an average equity growth of $6,000. Job and population growth experienced a small decline year-over-year but this slow growth is trending across the US according to the US Census 

The equity returns were strong in Louisiana with an average of $6,000 across homes in the state. If you’re interested in real estate in the Bayou State, Neighborhood Scouts ranked Gibsberry, Hackberry and New Orleans as the top appreciating cities in Louisiana.


8. New Jersey

FSBO New Jersey: Median Listing: $415,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $5k Population Growth: 0.3% US Education Rank: #2 YOY Job Growth: 1.2%

Coming in at number eight on our list is New Jersey with 4.0% of listings. New Jersey had the most expensive median listing price on our list at $415,000, surprisingly coming in above New York. You could likely score a great property for less than the median listing by knowing the specific city and neighborhood market well and using some tried and true negotiation tactics.

New Jersey is a great option for families looking to settle down – it offers suburban neighborhoods like Cherry Hill and North Caldwell as well as an impressive education system that ranks #2 in the country. So you can rest assured that when you move with your kids, their education will be in good hands.


7. Georgia

FSBO Georgia: Median Listing: $244,900 YOY Home Equity Growth: $7k Population Growth: 2.1% US Education Rank: #30 YOY Job Growth: 1.6%

The Peach State made our list with 4.1% of listings with the median price of $244,900. Growing families can expect to find a lot of great options as 66% of Georgia’s market is comprised of single-family homes. Some of the best suburbs for families are Decatur, Johns Creek and Berkeley Lake. 

Georgia’s average home equity growth was strong at $7,000 year-over-year. Job and population growth were also peachy keen, growing 1.6%  and 2.1% respectively. If you’re looking for the best place to kick off your career, Atlanta is your best bet, the Brookwood Hills neighborhood to be specific.


6. Michigan

FSBO Michigan: Median Listing: $240,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $7k Population Growth: 0.5% US Education Rank: #37 YOY Job Growth: 0.4%

Michigan comes in at #6 with 4.2% of listings and a median listing price of $240,000. There are plenty of starter-home listings for those looking in the range of $225,000 and lower, as well as options for more established investors too. The average home equity growth was about $7,000 across the state. 

Ann Arbor (#47) and Novi (#23) earned spots in Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” report. If you’re looking for something closer to city life, some top suburbs and neighborhoods include Bloomfield Charter Township or Birmingham outside of Detroit, as well as Eastgate or Heritage Hill outside of Grand Rapids.


5. North Carolina

FSBO North Carolina: Median Listing: $221,500 YOY Home Equity Growth: $8k Population Growth: 2.2% US Education Rank: #25 YOY Job Growth: 1.7%

Coming in as the fifth-largest state for FSBO properties listed and sold on, the Tar Heel state held 4.7% of listings. The median listing price for FSBO homes in North Carolina was $221,500.

That North Carolina made this list is no surprise; the real estate market there has seen a lot of growth in recent years and is slated to only keep getting bigger. In fact, North Carolina cities grabbed two spots in the “top five markets to watch in 2020” of PwC’s most recent “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” report, with the Charlotte and the Raleigh-Durham areas both listed for their growing economies and job offerings, especially in the technology sector.


4. New York

FSBO New York: Median Listing: $358,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $1k Population Growth: -0.5% US Education Rank: #22 YOY Job Growth: 1%

In fourth place is New York state with 5.0% of listings in 2019. For New York FSBO sellers, the median listing price was $358,500, making it the most expensive state in this faction of the market overview. This makes sense, as New York is home to the most expensive real estate market in the country.

In fact, New York is actually home to several expensive real estate markets. If you look at the boroughs of New York City each as its own real estate market, three of those boroughs make the list of the top 10 most expensive real estate markets in the U.S., with Queens at number 10, Brooklyn at number four and Manhattan at number one.

If you’re thinking of listing your FSBO home in one of these pricey markets, be sure to do your research on 2020 predictions for NYC real estate and be prepared for a buyer’s market.


3. Illinois

FSBO Illinois: Median Listing: $214,900 YOY Home Equity Growth: $1k Population Growth: -0.6% US Education Rank: #19 YOY Job Growth: 1%

The third-most-popular state for FSBO listings was the “Land of Lincoln,” Illinois. In 2019, Illinois saw a 5.1% of FSBO listings. Illinois’s median listing price was $214,900.

If you’re planning on listing your FSBO in Illinois, you should know that home sales were lagging as of October 2019, down 2.9% state-wide compared to October 2018. Chicago sales were also down by 2.8%, and were down 3.3% for the overall Chicago metro area, according to Illinois REALTORS®. Homebuyers in this state are looking for affordability, so savvy home sellers should go into the process ready to negotiate.


2. Texas

FSBO Texas: Median Listing: $229,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $5k Population Growth: 2.7% US Education Rank: #34 Job Growth: 2.6%

Everything is bigger in Texas, including its share of FSBO sellers. In 2019, the Lone Star state had 6.9% of listings. The average home equity growth was $5,000 and the median listing price for FSBOs in Texas was $229,000.

Texas real estate also made it onto PwC’s list of the top five markets to watch in 2020. Austin, the wonderfully weird state capital, earned the number one spot on that list. Home values in Austin are expected to continue rising through 2020 and the real estate and job markets should remain strong.


1. Florida

FSBO Florida: Median Listing: $262,250 YOY Home Equity Growth: $8k Population Growth: 3.3% US Education Rank: #3 Job Growth: 2.6%

Snagging the first-place spot is everyone’s favorite vacation (and retirement) destination, sunny Florida. Florida had an abundance of FSBO sellers in 2019, with a whopping 11.5% of total listings. Florida’s median listing price was $262,250 with average home equity growth of $8,000.

There’s no shortage of people wanting to move to Florida, which means that demand remains high year-round. This is good news for sellers – especially those who are in the most desirable areas. What’s more, home values are projected to rise faster in Florida than the overall U.S.


Important Takeaways

As a FSBO seller, you understand the importance of being educated on the market you’re selling in and doing research on any real estate trends you need to be aware of. By being able to see the median listing prices and the top states, you can get an idea of what other FSBO sellers are doing and what kind of challenges you may face.

While selling solo can be difficult at times, knowing your home’s worth and being aware of the common pitfalls of selling FSBO (and how to avoid them) can greatly improve your chances of success and make the process go much smoother.



This data was pulled from ForSaleByOwner 2019 databases (January through December). States were evaluated for their total listings against the national totals, listing conversions, total properties sold and median listing price. Also included is data pulled from the US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and US News and CoreLogic to provide year-over-year (YOY) population growth, YOY job growth, US State Education Rank and YOY average home equity increase as supplementary data for investors, sellers and buyers. 

This data is provided solely for educational purposes and is not a guarantee of how your property listing or home offer could perform.



Most Popular Homes For Sale By Owner in May

Interested buyers flocked to these five homes for sale by owner in May. What did these sellers do to get so much attention?
One word: marketing.

Many sellers worry that they won’t be able to market their home as well as an agent and so they choose to pay a professional. What they don’t realize is that they can take advantage of the agent’s secret weapon – the MLS – for hundreds of dollars instead of thousands and get the same exposure to buyers.

These sellers made the most of a simple marketing planand put their homes on the MLS.

1. 39642 Primrose Court, Sauk Centre, MN 56378
Price: $459,000
Highlights: With an open style that is perfect for entertaining guests, this 5,000-square foot custom-built dream home includes 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The master suite is incredibly spacious and includes a beautiful fireplace and whirlpool tub. Top-of-the-line features include granite counter tops, custom stained knotty alder cabinets, low-emissive windows and more. Located on a spacious 1-acre lot in a newly established neighborhood makes this a must-see.

2. 41 Belmore Ct, Amherst, NY 14228
Price: $699,900
Highlights: Completely renovated in the last 15 months, this gorgeous 4-bed and 3-bath home is set in a wonderful neighborhood. The kitchen, dining room and living area have been connected into one open space that features a 10′ marble island, chopping block prep island and semi-custom cabinetry. The master bathroom features Carrara Marble and radiant heated flooring, while the master bedroom is incredibly spacious and features a large walk-in closet.

3. 3390 Bostwick Rd, Madison, GA 30650
Price: $239,000
Highlights: 1,935 square feet of pure charm, this 3-bed, 3-bath sits on 4 acres of sprawling, pastoral land with beautiful, large oak trees. In addition to two master suites, this home also features a living room with an attached play/study room, a newly landscaped front yard with flagstone walkway, a large kitchen and dining area. This house is perfect for a new couple, family with children or even those looking to enjoy retirement on lots of land.

4. 3847 Stillmeadow Drive, Wheatfield, IN 46392
Price: $347,000
Highlights: A beautiful single-family home sitting on a 1 acre lot overlooking a large pond, this is country living at its finest. The three large bedrooms can accommodate a large family, providing private space for all. The spacious master bedroom includes lighted double tray ceilings, while the master bathroom allows you to lounge in a soaking tub or shower in a large, glass enclosed, walk-in shower. The kitchen is a chef’s dream and the sunroom offers plenty of light.

5. 119 Alexander Drive, Johnson City, TN 37604
Price: $960,000
Highlights: Modeled after the Josiah Smith home in Charleston, SC, this 6-bed, 5-bath home has so much to love. Double side porches adorn the exterior and the property features apple trees, dogwoods and cherry blossoms. The master suite includes double vanities, built-in cabinet, oversize tub, large walk-in shower, walk-in closet and seats at each window. The large open kitchen/breakfast room is great for cooking and dining while the furnished basement is perfect to entertain.

Will you take advantage of the marketing power of the MLS and top our list of most popular homes in June?


Women Breaking New Ground as Real Estate Investors

Ethan Roberts is a real estate writer, editor and investor. He’s a frequent contributor to, and his work has been featured on and He was one of five contributing editors to and has also written for and He’s been investing in real estate since 1995 and a Realtor since 1998. This post is the first in Roberts’ ongoing series about women in real estate.

Since the early 1990s, real estate investing has become more and more popular as a way for average Americans to gradually build wealth over time. For many years, this type of investing was almost exclusively the domain of men.

But in recent years, women are being drawn toward real estate investing as a viable way to ensure that they will have income or appreciating assets in retirement. Today there are even online investing clubs devoted exclusively to female real estate investors.

Women have a lot to gain. Real estate investing, with its potentially high returns, offers them an excellent way to boost their income streams throughout their lives. This can be especially important in retirement, considering women are at a greater risk of outliving their savings due to their longer life expectancy, fewer years in the workforce and historically smaller paychecks.

Flipping vs. Retailing
Some female real estate investors are making money on “flipping,” where they buy homes in distressed condition and then resell them within a short period of time. One way to do this is to buy an inexpensive property in foreclosure or through a county auction and then “wholesale” it to another investor at a bargain price without making any repairs or improvements.

If one’s goal is simply to earn a monthly profit on each wholesale flip, this is a great way to add to one’s wealth or create an excellent cash flow for retirement years.

However, increasing numbers of women now “retail” the home — referring to the practice of repairing or improving the home’s structural and cosmetic flaws in order to sell it as a primary residence for full market value. This takes longer and the process is more involved, but the profit potential greatly exceeds wholesaling. Profits on a retail flip may range from $15,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on the price paid, amount of work needed and the ultimate selling price.

Start-to-Sold Strategy
One woman leveraging this strategy is Leticia, a 53-year-old divorcee who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with her two children, one in college and the other in high school. She started flipping homes in 2004 as a way to make extra money. Her first project was moving mobile homes away from an area being taken over by an airport under eminent domain.

When she first began, she knew nothing about the process. But slowly, over time, Leticia has learned much more, to the point where she’s able to project manage the entire flip.

To date, Leticia has owned and sold six primary residences. She helped design two of them and managed the contractors performing the work. She also does some of the work herself on flips, such as painting and landscaping, as well as ordering and buying materials.

Flipping homes isn’t just a hobby for her — it’s her full-time job, and she uses a “hard money” lender to finance the deals. A hard money loan is a short-term, very-high-interest loan (12 to 15 percent), in which the lender provides about 65 to 70 percent of the after-repaired value (ARM) of the home to the borrower. For example, if a foreclosed home is worth $150,000 after repairs and is selling for only $100,000, a hard money loan would finance perhaps 70 percent of the $150,000, or $105,000.

While the investor might have to pay for materials and labor out of pocket, they use hard money loans so they don’t have to come up with a 20 percent down payment, as is usually required with other types of conventional loans. The idea is to fix up and sell the home fast so the high-interest loan can be paid back as quickly as possible.

Leticia’s long-term goal is to achieve financial independence so she doesn’t have to return to a 9-to-5 job. She hopes to flip five to six homes per year, and make a $20,000 minimum net profit on each. That can be challenge in itself, given the nature of the property she’s buying. For example, hidden plumbing problems have caused her to go over budget on her most recent project, a 1,500-square-foot ranch home in Florida that was a bank foreclosure.

“Luckily, I was able to find some great deals on cabinets and granite countertops,” she says. “And home values have risen since I bought the home.” In fact, within three days of listing the home on the Multiple Listing Service, Leticia received a contract for sale. With a fast contract in hand on this home, Leticia is already looking forward to searching for the next potentially profitable “flip.”

Leticia suggests that anyone interested in real estate investing “shadow” other investors to see what they do. “Also, read books and have a keen interest in learning everything you can about real estate,” she counsels.

Next up: Women Build Long-Term Wealth as Landlords

This information was originally published on, LLC, the nation’s leading online real estate marketplace. Founded in 2008, the company has sold nearly $20 billion in assets since 2010. has more than 900 employees and offices in Irvine and Silicon Valley, California as well as offices in Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Miami and Newport Beach. Visit us at, or on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Buying Foreclosures in Any Market

Joel Cone is a freelance writer based in south Orange County, California. For nearly a quarter century Joel’s career — both as a journalist and as a marketing communications specialist — has focused on the residential and commercial real estate industries, as well as the legal community. After a decade as a staff writer for the Daily Journal Corp. group of newspapers, Joel was a regular contributor to California Real Estate magazine for the California Association of Realtors; was the original
Orange County reporter for; wrote executive profiles for OC Metro magazine; and has been published in a number of real estate-related publications. 

There are many reasons why homes end up in foreclosure and a number of opportunities to purchase foreclosure properties at various stages of the process no matter what economic conditions exist at the time.

During the nation’s most recent economic downturn foreclosure activity came in two waves: the first caused by the crash of both the stock market and the U.S. economy resulting in millions of homes losing equity and going “underwater,” and the second wave caused by high levels of unemployment.

It would be a misconception to assume, however, that foreclosures only occur during bad economic times. The fact is that foreclosures never totally disappear in any real estate cycle. But buying them requires patience and tenacity.

Available Options to Purchase Foreclosure Properties
The foreclosure process consists of three basic stages, each of which presents homebuyers and real estate investors opportunities to purchase a home potentially below current market value. Those stages — laid out by the state foreclosure laws — include the pre-foreclosure stage, the auction stage and the bank-owned stage.

The Pre-Foreclosure Stage
Once the decision to foreclose has been made, the lender must record the borrower’s default in the county where the property is located. In a non-judicial foreclosure state the paperwork filed is called a Notice of Default (NOD), while in judicial foreclosure states it is a Lis Pendens (LIS) — meaning “litigation pending.”

To locate these homeowners in default, buyers can go to the county recorder’s office and check out the default notices themselves; find a real estate professional who is familiar with the foreclosure process and has resources to garner that information; or subscribe to a service like RealtyTrac, which provides a listing of default notices for a monthly fee.

There are downsides to working in the pre-foreclosure stage. First, homeowners in default have the opportunity to bring the loan current. Secondly, if they can’t afford to “cure the loan,” you are potentially working with people who can be in a highly emotional state of financial distress and can therefore be unrealistic in their expectations.

For buyers who are willing to deal with highly charged emotional situations, working with distressed homeowners to find a viable solution to their financial problems by getting them out from under their mortgage may result in a successful purchase at a reasonable discount.

The Auction Stage
Once the pre-foreclosure period allowed by the state’s law has passed, the foreclosing lender can set a date for public sale of the property at auction to the highest bidder.

This is the most difficult stage of the foreclosure process for inexperienced buyers to pursue foreclosure properties. These are all-cash purchases, and the competition is fierce as professional investors come prepared with cashier’s checks to buy as many properties as they are interested in on any particular day.

For the uninitiated, it is a good idea to attend an auction to familiarize yourself with the process before trying to participate. With today’s lower inventories, properties that do make it to auction typically end up selling for far less of a discount than they used to during the market crash.

Still, the auction process is a viable way to buy foreclosure properties. For those who want to pursue buying at this stage of the process, there are online sources such as that provide lists of upcoming auctions — including date, location, time and amount of the opening bid. Remember to bring lots of cashier’s checks with you!

The Bank-Owned Stage
Many times during the foreclosure auction no bidders are interested in buying a particular property for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is as simple as the opening bid is so close to the amount owned on the loan being foreclosed that is not enough of a profit margin to make sound financial sense.

Properties that do not sell to interested third parties at auction go back to the foreclosing lender as an REO (real estate owned) property. These bank-owned properties are then sold, in most cases, by real estate agents who have been pre-approved by the lender to represent them in the sale of the property. These properties are then listed on a Multiple Listing Service (MLS), making their availability known to a largest potential buyer pool possible.

Today’s inventory of REOs is much lower than normal. With fewer properties available comes more competition and multiple offers – many times coming in at a price well above the list price.

Also, don’t forget about U.S. government agencies. They are also in the business of selling off the REOs in their portfolios. For properties owned by Fannie Mae check out HomePath; for properties being sold by Freddie Mac check out the inventory at HomeSteps; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has homes in inventory as well. Check out the HUD website for REO properties for sale.

In Conclusion
Whether you are a homebuyer or a real estate investor, so long as you have the patience and tenacity to work the system, you can be successful in buying foreclosure properties in any market.

When it comes to buying foreclosures, however, the most successful buyers tend to be those who select one of the three purchase strategies — working either the pre-foreclosure, auction or bank-owned stages of the process – and then stick with it.

This information is provided by, LLC, the nation’s leading online real estate marketplace. Founded in
2008, the company has sold nearly $20 billion in assets since 2010. has more than 900 employees and offices in Irvine and Silicon Valley, California as well as offices in Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Miami and Newport Beach. Visit us at, or on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


How FSBO Sellers Work With a Buyer’s Agent

Although a few by-owner sellers are able to completely bypass agents, it’s generally in your best interest to not only seek them out, but use them as partner who, like you, are leveraging the power of the local MLS.

“The key to these relationships is that it’s all about cooperation,” says Derek Morgan, manager of broker services at “Licensed brokers join together and create a local MLS for the sole purpose of creating a consistent marketplace where sellers can offer homes to buyers,” Morgan explains. The only difference with FSBO sellers who list on the MLS is that they pre-pay their agent for specific services.

A Marketplace of Cooperation
Because more than 80 percent of homes sold are listed on the MLS, it makes sense for a by-owner seller to have a presence there — and services like make it easy and inexpensive to do so.

“Even when deciding to sell on your own, you have the opportunity to use the MLS provided that you understand it’s a marketplace of cooperation,” Morgan says. In doing so, the FSBO seller gains access to an additional pool of buyers represented by agents.

By-owner sellers have a responsibility to follow established MLS practices, Morgan emphasizes. In terms of your MLS listing, this means keeping it current to indicate whether your home is “active,” “pending,” “contingent” or “sold,” and ensuring that the list price itself reflects any changes you’ve made.

Far from undermining a FSBO seller’s autonomy, agents perform a valuable service in recommending that prospective buyers look at the listed property, Morgan says. As an added bonus, these are likely to be good leads, since agents are in the business to make money and don’t want to waste a seller’s time — or their own.

How Agents Funnel Buyers to FSBO Sellers
First off, Morgan reminds by-owner sellers that the benefit of listing on the MLS means you’ll reach both types of buyers: those who don’t yet have agents and those who have committed to working with one. Keep in mind that 42 percent of buyers look for homes online as a first step, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Although it’s possible to sell a home to an unrepresented buyer, the fact that 88 percent of buyers purchase their home through an agent (according to the National Association of Realtors) means that most FSBO sellers will be working with agents at some point.

Morgan says there are two key times when this is especially important:

• When, based on contact information in the MLS listing, the buyer’s agent will contact the FSBO seller to arrange for a showing.
• Then, after the showing, when the seller will ask the prospective buyer’s agent to let them know when and if an offer will be submitted to the flat-fee broker handling the FSBO listing.

But that’s not all a by-owner seller needs to do. “A FSBO seller should manage their buyer leads the same way regardless of whether they’re dealing with an agent,” Morgan says. “This means collecting contact information and then reaching out after the showing.”

Questions to ask prospective buyers and their agents include: When are you looking to buy? How often are you looking? How is your home search going? What type of home are you looking for? Is my home the best you’ve found so far and are you considering submitting an offer? Or should I cross your name off my list?

“The answers to these questions determine how often you contact them,” Morgan says. “And re-contact everybody whenever you update the listing price to see if that increases motivation.”

Keep It Professional
The real estate business is built on networking and maintaining relationships, so the vast majority of professionals a FSBO seller meets will be exactly that: professional.

“Still, the by-owner seller needs to be aware that not every agent is going to view their model of selling favorably,” Morgan says. “Your decision to sell and show your property yourself might be a new concept to a buyer’s agent.”

His recommendation is that FSBO sellers focus on answering questions about their property and making sure that prospective buyers and their agents know what your home has to offer.

In the unlikely event that a buyer’s agent becomes assertive in his or her dislike for the FSBO process, Morgan says that the seller should stay calm, not allow themselves to be baited and to stay on point.

He also reminds FSBO sellers that they are under no obligation to discuss their relationship with their flat-fee listing broker with a buyer’s agent.

You Can Do It
“At the end of the day, a real estate transaction can be easy — even a FSBO,” Morgan says. He points to the many resources offered by online services, which are a great guarantee against the unknowns.

“Don’t be intimidated,” he says. “Selling a home yourself can be a simple, financially rewarding process. It’s simply a matter of following time-tested steps, conducting yourself as professional and realizing that if you’ve chosen to work with a full-service online service, experts can talk you through any stressful moments.”

Read more: The Best Ways to Reach Home Buyers Online


How FSBO Sellers Can Get the Same Exposure as Agents

More than 80 percent of homes sold are on the MLS, so it makes good business sense for FSBO sellers to think and market like agents — and respect what they bring to the table.

But because by-owner sellers have so many resources at their command these days, they can successfully accomplish the tasks of a home sale, such as pricing and marketing their property, that were once considered the exclusive domain of real estate agents.

In fact, thanks to online services, selling a home is well within the capabilities of anybody willing to follow a series of step-by-step home sale instructions.

“Sellers reach motivated buyers who are conducting their own home searches regardless of whether they’re working with an agent or not,” says Eddie Tyner, general manager of, one of several online services that help sellers bypass real estate agents and their 6 percent commissions.

FSBO sellers can achieve the same results as agents by following their exact steps:

  • Use the Multiple Listing Service. “Harnessing the power of MLS is key to getting maximum exposure for any listing,” Tyner explains. “FSBO sellers with listings on their local MLS get their homes in front of the entire buyer agent community.”
  • Be seen on other home-buying websites. Agents don’t rely solely on the MLS; they cover all possible online bases, including,, Yahoo Real Estate and Craigslist. A good online service will automatically syndicate by-owner listings to these resources.
  • Create a professional listing for your property. Because most buyers begin their home search online, an attractive listing with creative text and compelling photos is essential.
  • Market smart by networking. Successful sellers know that people talk. That’s why printing fliers, advertising in community newspapers, mailing postcards to all of your neighbors and telling everybody you know about your property is so important. You never know who might have a friend who’s looking for a house just like yours.
  • Have an open house. This is where many by-owner sellers fail to emulate the pros, according to Derek Morgan, manager of broker services at “Too many sellers just stick a sign in the yard,” he notes. A top-notch open house requires that it be promoted several weeks in advance, that signs be placed around the neighborhood and that visitors be screened to determine which ones are seriously interested in the property and deserve follow-up contact.
  • Assemble a team of professionals. FSBO sellers can’t do it all themselves. Just like agents, they need to have an experienced real-estate attorney and title agency in on the deal. Tyner describes hiring a lawyer — usually for no more than $500 or so — as one of the most cost-effective steps in selling a home.

When FSBO Sellers Will Want to See an Agent
Although a by-owner seller won’t need an agent to sell a home, often a buyer will bring his or hers to the table. At this point, you’ll need to realize that an agent who delivers a high-quality buyer deserves to be compensated. Typically, you’ll grant them a 3 percent commission.

“We are in favor, actually, of paying an agent if they bring you a buyer, as this is value you might not otherwise get,” Tyner says. “But listing the house, getting it on the MLS and all that, we just don’t think it’s worth the tens of thousands of dollars that some people pay.”

Read more: The Shocking Truth About FSBO Home Sales and Agents


How to Design an Online Listing That Draws the Most Buyers

Nothing attracts a shopper’s attention like a good price and a pretty picture, and the same is true when it comes to home sales.

Online services are a great way for a seller to reach thousands of prospective buyers — but if your listing ad is poorly written, has blurry photos and an inflated asking price, no one will bother calling for a showing.

Creating a listing that stands out from the rest falls under “marketing,” squarely in the middle of’s five-step process for selling a home.

“These steps are exactly the same regardless of whether you use an agent or sell a home yourself,” says Eddie Tyner, general manager of “The key to success is to think like a professional and create a professional-looking listing.”

The importance of a good-looking online listing can’t be overemphasized, Tyner says, since nine in 10 buyers used the Internet at some point while looking for a home, and more than half started their search online, according to the National Association of Realtors.

3 Key Elements of a Good Property Listing:

  1. A traditional real-estate industry description of the property for easy recognition by Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) and real estate listing websites
  2. An amplified description of the home that piques prospective buyer interest with amenities and unique features
  3. A gallery of attractive photos and, possibly, a brief video, to get house hunters to click from search results into the listing itself

Why Listing Ads Keep It Short and Sweet
While online listings typically offer up to 2,500 characters for a description, some outlets offer far less. “Real estate ads in newspapers often have a 50-character limit, and the MLS usually has up to a 500-character limit,” says Derek Morgan, manager of broker services at

Keep this in mind as you’re writing, and break your description into two paragraphs: The first paragraph should contain a complete walking tour of your home in less than 500 characters so you’re sure your home’s key features will be highlighted everywhere your listing appears. The second paragraph of your description tells the story of your house. Here is where you can further accentuate the unique benefits and emotional appeal of your property.

How to Write a Property Description
Morgan advises FSBO sellers not to reveal too much in their property description. He describes the problem as “push vs. pull” and warns that an overabundance of push turns off prospective buyers.

As an example, while it might be tempting to write something like: “Let the good times roll! Wonderful wood-paneled, fully finished basement with wet bar, recessed appliances, carpeting and built-in THX sound system …”

More prospective buyers would actually be pulled in by: “Finished basement with amenities; great for entertaining.”

Morgan emphasizes that the first 500 words of a property description ought to be “well rounded” and “complement” and expand on the initial blurb.

“I’d say the initial, short description is the sign in the yard, and the expanded description is the virtual walk-through,” he says.

The vital part of that walk-through is the photo gallery.

The Best Photos for a Listing
The easiest way to get high-quality photos for your listing is to hire a professional photographer. Many professionals, such as Al Larson Photographic & Publishing of Cape Coral, Florida, offer affordable home listing packages.

Larson, a longtime professional, notes that experience and equipment can be the difference in making a home really shine photographically. Lighting, choice of camera and lens, and enhancements during editing are important skills that the average FSBO seller might not possess.

Larson notes that many FSBO sellers shoot their own photos using cameras on smartphones and tablets. The results can be disastrous: blurry images, crooked rooflines, poorly staged rooms and photographer reflections.

Photo Pointers for FSBO Sellers
Because so many sellers take a DIY approach to photography,’s Morgan has a strategy for helping them create photos that are as good as possible. “The first step is to understand that a photo gallery is essentially a virtual walk-through of your home,” he says.

He suggests that the gallery start with an external front view of the home, then feature interior photos that progress logically through the property. “You don’t want prospective buyers to be looking at the 10th photo and be unsure whether they’re upstairs on downstairs,” he says.

Like Larson, Morgan warns sellers to make sure their home is ready before shooting the photos. In most cases, this will mean doing some serious decluttering and “depersonalization,” which will help prospective buyers project themselves into the space and feel a greater affinity for your home. If necessary, declutter rooms in sequence, moving and replacing contents as you shoot your way through the home, Morgan says.

Morgan also recommends using a high-end digital camera, if possible, and a wide angle lens. If you’re using a smartphone or tablet, use a wide-angle attachment or take photos using the device’s panoramic mode. “To prevent distortion, don’t sweep the camera through its full panoramic range,” Morgan says. “Only sweep wall to wall.”

He also suggests turning on all lights, opening blinds halfway and taking photos an hour or two after sunrise or before sunset so that soft light streams into rooms.

How to Photograph Your Home in 4 Steps

  1. Stage each room so that it appears as if it were in a new construction open house.
  2. Enter each room, walk to one corner, hold the camera about 5 feet high, angle it slightly downward and take one photo. Repeat this in all corners. The purpose of these shots is to illustrate the square footage.
  3. Take an overall photo of the room to portray it at its most beautiful. Consider this a “magazine shot.”
  4. Pick the best photos. For the listing, each room should use the “magazine shot” and the best one of the corner shots.

What About Video?
Video does have a place in an online listing, but moving images are more effective toward the end than at the beginning.

“The industry consensus on videos is that although sellers want them, buyers initially want photos, not videos,” Morgan says. “Photos are easier to navigate, easier to pick and choose.”

It’s still a good idea to include a simple 90-second walk-through video, though, he says. When prospective buyers are narrowing the selections of homes they would actually like to tour, a video often will help a property stand out and make the final cut.

Take a look: How to stage and shoot your home for your online listing


Never Keep a Potential Home Buyer Waiting

So you want to sell your home on your own. You better be sure that you’re motivated to do so. While there may be occasional success stories about sellers who took a blasé approach to selling their homes on their own, the majority of by-owner sellers will tell you they’ve had a steady focus on selling their property since day one.

Or, as in the case of Brianna Walker, some people are ready to sell before day one. By the time the 36-year-old insurance analyst told her then-husband she wanted to sell their two-bedroom condo in Omaha, Nebraska, she already had it placed on her local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

“I knew he wouldn’t mind – okay, I hoped he wouldn’t mind – but I knew we were both very ready to sell our condo and move into a house,” says Walker. “And I knew I would do everything I could to make it happen sooner than later.”

Walker says she decided to sell the condo on her own after talking to a few friends who were working with real estate agents. “I don’t know if it was just the agents they were working with, but it seemed like no one was really motivated to help my friends sell,” says Walker. “I didn’t have time to go back and forth with someone who might not have been all that interested in selling my house at the price I wanted, so I decided to sell it myself.”

Still, Walker knew enough about the home-selling process to realize that she needed her home on the MLS database in order to make a sale, so she called several agents until she found one who was willing to post her home on the MLS for a small, negotiated fee. Within a few days, Walker began to hear from prospective buyers.

“I followed up on every phone call and every email within minutes,” she says. “People would send me a question about the condo, and within 10 minutes, I’d have that question answered.”

For Walker, the entire by-owner process boiled down to one thing: Ownership. “My house, my sale,” she says. “I don’t know how you could trust someone who will sell you out for $10,000 or more on your end so they can make an extra $100 on their end. Seems kind of sad.”

Walker says she sold her condo within three months for the exact price she wanted. “It’s some work to sell it on your own. If you really want to be successful, you have to be involved; you can’t sit back and avoid phone calls or not answer emails. You have to be in constant contact with people because you never know which phone call or email is from the person who’s going to buy your house,” Walker says “And that’s the way it should be. I’m the owner and I have no problem selling what belongs to me.”

Are you ready to sell your home? Check out our deciding checklist.