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How Smart Home Improvements Can Boost Your Home’s Appeal

Selling a home yourself, without a big real estate agent’s network to help you, comes down to marketing your asset to bring in the best offers. You need to know your buyers and their needs. Millennials make up the largest group of today’s home buyers. They’re educated, tech-savvy and more environmentally concerned than older buyers. They use smart phone apps to manage their lives and they’re starting families at a time when their salaries are still relatively low, so they may need to live frugally after buying a house.

You can appeal to these buyers with smart, eco features that help the new owners save money.  But younger buyers are not the only ones interested in green technology. According to research from Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC), consumers are making the connection between smart energy and slowing climate change, and they’re more interested in smart-energy-enabled products. So how can you use smart home devices to sell your home?

FSBO And Smart Home Devices

To market your home’s eco smart home features, make an inventory of everything that fits the profile, starting with these, and include them in your property listing to capture the interest of buyers.

Heat pumps: Heating and cooling systems that rely on heat pumps are much more efficient than older systems. In fact, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, air source heat pumps are roughly two to three times more efficient than creating heat by burning fossil fuels like oil or natural gas. If you’ve installed heat pumps in your home, quantify the savings over a typical utility bill and use it as a selling point.

Smart thermostats: Make sure to tout the money savings and convenience of smart thermostats like the Google Nest and Ecobee. They can automatically adjust heating and cooling to minimize costs, and they’re easily controlled in an app. According to Nest, smart thermostats can save 10 – 12% on heating and 15% on cooling, on average.

Leak detection: The average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water a day at home, and water costs have risen 30% in the past decade, so new homeowners are looking for ways to use water carefully. Water monitors from Phyn, Moen, Belkin and Alarm.com can alert the homeowner in an app if there’s a leak and even shut off the water automatically.

Home energy monitoring: The Sense home energy monitor is like a fitness tracker for the home, telling you what’s on and off, and how much electricity various devices use. You can use it to find and replace energy hogs like incandescent light fixtures and old pool pumps before you put your house on the market so you can tout the home’s energy efficiency. Homeowners can also make goals in the Sense app to stay on budget and set alerts to know what’s happening in the home (Is the sump pump running? Did I turn off the coffeemaker before leaving the house?).

Smart lighting: Most smart lighting systems use LEDs, which consume a fraction of the electricity compared to incandescent bulbs. They’re a great way to lower your home’s overall energy footprint while adding smart home appeal. For instance, the Phillips Hue lighting system can be controlled and scheduled in a smart phone app or by a smart assistant to suit the family’s individual schedule.

Smart sprinklers: Lawn irrigation systems can waste an enormous amount of water. Rachio smart sprinklers make every drop of water count. They use weather monitoring to schedule watering when it’s needed – no more sprinklers running in the rain! – and it connects to existing sprinkler systems to keep overall costs under control.

Solar panels: Solar is a major investment in the energy efficiency of your home. If you’ve installed solar panels, turn them into a selling point. Don’t assume that potential home buyers will think through the significant financial savings from solar. Put together an analysis of the potential energy savings over the next 10 years and include it in your listing. Your solar app should help make this kind of analysis easy.

Thinking about additional cost savings improvements, don’t forget to mention if you’ve installed windows that are rated for high efficiency or extra insulation that helps keep utility bills low.

When you add up all the smart, eco features in your home, you may just find it’s the dream house for today’s buyer.

This article was contributed by Carol McGarry, Director of Communications at Sense, the smart home energy monitor that provides real-time insights into the home, inspiring people to save money and live more responsibly. Find out more at sense.com.

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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 ForSaleByOwner.com, 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 ForSaleByOwner.com? Let’s take a look at the top ten states for ForSaleByOwner.com 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 ForSaleByOwner.com, 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 ForSaleByOwner.com 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.

 

Methodology

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.

 

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How it Works: A High-level Overview of Our Selling Process

The game of Monopoly is the first experience many of us have with owning property. It can be a tough, ruthless introduction to the world of real estate dealings. You roll the dice, your eyes wide open, mouth set in concentration, you move your game piece, and you land on St. James Place. You then find yourself shelling out $14 to your slum lord sibling who owns the place. Two rolls ago, you earned your paltry $200 salary then gave $100 back to the bank for income taxes before you “just visited” jail.

Thankfully, this isn’t the real world. In today’s real estate market, we have ample choices when it comes to buying and selling property — and what we pay and accept for it. Usually, we turn to Realtors for selling our homes, but as the market has expanded and diversified, so has the opportunity for agent alternatives. Alternatives like ForSaleByOwner.

Do Not Pass Go: Until Fully Read

The key to a positive ForSaleByOwner experience is information. Fear and doubt can be the biggest obstacles to a hassle-free home-buying process, and we encourage sellers (and buyers) to be fully informed. It takes commitment, investing the time to understand the market and the factors that are going to influence the price you ultimately receive. These considerations include:

  • Location, location, location
  • Area (or plot) of land
  • Schools/school district
  • Overall economy
  • Time of year

Being informed on these matters is what will get you the most money for your property.

It’s Time: Sell Your Home

You’ve decided now’s the time. In order to list the house, you need to make a proper inventory of the home. If your house was previously listed on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) or you have current property information, that data can be extremely helpful for listing. If not, ForSaleByOwner provides a comprehensive guide that shows other ways to determine property size, room allocation and more.

This guide also provides the next major piece to our listing puzzle: what the house should be listed for. Going too high or too low can end in disaster. The home should be priced comparably to those around it with similar features and square footage that are currently for sale or that have recently sold. To make sure you don’t swing in the wrong direction either way, a professional appraisal is the best way to go.

While your Monopoly properties were scarce on curb appeal, photogenic features are what attract buyers today. Your prospective buyers want to scour photos and examine the home first-hand before making an offer. A small investment in a professional real estate photographer is suggested to make sure you’re showing off your home in its most flattering light. The photographer can adjust lighting, furniture and stage the home to go for top dollar.

On the outside, make sure your home is always drive-up ready. Dig out those old bushes and tackle those weeds. You’d be surprised how many people lose interest because the landscaping is subpar.

Offers, Escrow & Sold!

Once the home is listed, you’ll begin receiving inquiries from people wanting to see the home or gather more information. To help manage the showings, try to schedule all appointments during a set timeframe and have fact sheets with additional details, such as energy-efficiency features, valid warranties and property tax history, printed and waiting at the showings or in a PDF ready to email.

It’s also best practice to decide what offer range you’re willing to accept ahead of time. This way, when the offers begin to roll in, you won’t jump on the first one you receive or wait too long. Remember, the goal is to sell!  

For more information about the ForSaleByOwner process or to contact one of our customer support specialists, please visit our website.

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8 Easy Home Selling Tips

Why sell your home yourself? Selling a home by yourself, without an expensive real estate broker, is easier than most people think, but it will take some work on your part. You will be doing a lot of things that a real estate agent might normally do. Follow the ForSaleByOwner.com step-by-step selling guide, and you’ll not only save lots of money, but we’ll help you make the house selling process as easy as possible.

1. Make Your Home Look Great
Presentation is everything. Home buyers are attracted to clean, spacious and attractive houses. Your goal is to dazzle buyers. Brighten-up the house and remove all clutter from counter tops, tables and rooms. Scrub-down your house from top to bottom. Make it sparkle. Simple aesthetic improvements such as trimming trees, planting flowers, fixing squeaking steps, broken tiles, shampooing rugs and even re-painting a faded bedroom will greatly enhance the appeal of your house. Also, make sure your house smells good. That’s right, clean out the cat box and light mildly scented candles.

Invite a neighbor over to walk through your house like a buyer would. Get their opinion on how it “shows.” The stuffed donkey in the family room may have to go to your in-laws for a while.

 

2. Price Your Home Right
Careful not to over price your home. Over-pricing when you sell a home reduces buyer interest, makes competing homes look like better values, and can lead to mortgage rejections once the appraisal is in. Over-pricing when selling a home is the single biggest reason why many “for sale by owner” (FSBO) home sellers don’t sell their homes successfully. The home selling market dictates the price (not what you think it should be worth).

One of the best ways to correctly price your house when selling is to find out how much other homes, similar to your own, recently sold for in your neighborhood. Talk to home sellers, buyers and check out the real estate listings in your local newspaper.

Typically, if you set the price of your home at 5 to 10 percent above the market price, you are likely to end up with an offer close to your home’s true value. Also, you may try calculating the cost per square foot of your home compared to the house selling prices in your area (divide list price by square footage of livable space). If your house has more features or other desirable qualities, you may want to set a slightly higher house selling price.

The easiest way to accurately price your home is to contact your local home appraiser.

Finally, set your house selling price just under a whole number, such as $169,900 rather than $170,000.

 

3. Hire a Real Estate Lawyer
Even though it’s an additional expense, it may be wise to hire a lawyer who will protect your interests throughout the entire transaction. An experienced real estate lawyer can help you evaluate complicated offers (those with a variety of conditions), act as an escrow agent to hold the down payment, evaluate complex mortgages and/or leases with options to buy, review contracts and handle your home’s closing process. They can also tell you what things, by law, you must disclose to buyers prior to a sale and can also help you avoid inadvertently discriminating against any potential buyers.

In some areas, title companies will handle all aspects of the transaction and have in-house legal departments that can assist you with legal issues that may arise. To locate a title company in your area, visit our Find a Pro page.

Unless you’re significantly experienced in the home selling process, having a real estate lawyer at your side provides peace-of-mind. You know you’ve got someone looking out for your interests, not just the buyers. To locate a lawyer in your area, visit our Find a Pro section.

 

4. Market Your Home for Sale
Exposure, exposure, exposure. That’s how sellers sell their home fast. ForSaleByOwner.com provides extensive listing exposure because hundreds of thousands visit the website every day. In fact, ForSaleByOwner.com is one of the top 25 most visited real estate websites in the U.S. getting millions of visitors looking to buy or sell a home every month.

 

Write Your Listing Ad
While For Sale By Owner.com allows you a longer description of your house than you could afford that in a newspaper ad, your advertising copy should be thorough yet short, simple and to-the-point. Long, flowery prose will not make your house sound more appealing. It will simply make it harder for the home buyer to read. Make sure to provide the critical facts buyers are looking for such as the house’s number of bathrooms, a re-modeled kitchen, etc.

Most home buyers quickly scan ads, so it is important that your house stands out. For example, you may want to add a theme-line such as “Priced below market” or “Great schools.” Stay away from industry jargon and use language that makes home buyers comfortable. Survey our web site and see how others have written their ads. You will quickly see which are “buyer friendly.” Copy their approach for your ad.

 

Home Photos: Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words
If you are taking a photo of your home, be sure that the home’s yard/driveway is uncluttered. Remove bikes, garbage cans and parked cars. The same applies for interior shots. People are looking to buy your house, not your possessions. Think of furniture as props and the room a stage. Move things around if you have to. Also, take lots of house photos. Film is cheap…your home deserves quality. The more you shoot, the better the odds are that you’ll get a few really good shots.

 

Yard Signs
Lawn signs are one of the most important marketing tools for home sellers. They attract attention to your home. Professionally-produced yard signs (like the ones we can send to you) telegraph to home buyers a “quality” image of your house. Directional signs also help drive buyers to your property, especially if you do not live on a busy street.

 

Open Houses
Open houses are sometimes a good way to attract buyers to your home. Typically, real estate agents conduct open houses for two reasons; 1. Clients expect them 2. They are a good way to attract buyers, not just for the open house but for all houses for sale in the Real Estate Agent’s area (yes, your competition). The fact is that very few houses sell due to a open house itself.

 

Home Brochures/Information Sheets
It is a good idea to create an information sheet (with a photo) about your home to give potential buyers. Consider printing copies of your ad from For Sale By Owner.com to give to people who visit your home.

 

The MLS
The MLS or Multiple Listing Service can also help market your home, particularly to real estate agents who may know of buyers seeking a property like yours. The MLS is a directory used by real estate agents to announce to other agents that they have a home for sale. In many selling markets, For Sale By Owner.com can put your house on the MLS (for an additional fee). However, if a real estate agent finds you a buyer after seeing your home on the MLS, you must usually pay that agent a 2.5% to 3% commission (the law states that all commissions are negotiable, however).

You are your home’s best salesman. As every salesman knows, to be effective you have to really know your product. And who knows your home better than you? Certainly not a real estate agent, who, in all likelihood, has spent only a few moments in your house before showing it to prospective buyers.

Sell your neighborhood as well as your house. Show enthusiasm, but don’t get caught-up talking too much about how “your daughter spent the best years of her life in this very room.”

 

5. Negotiate and Accept an Offer
When a home buyer makes an offer (this is often presented to you directly from the buyer or through their lawyer), you should consult with your attorney. Buyers and sellers have an Attorney Review Period, which is usually three days, to cancel or amend the offer. The offer becomes a contract at the end of the Attorney Review Period, and is binding. Many of your home’s offers can be complicated and contain special clauses that favor the buyer.

 

Purchase Price Isn’t Everything
Carefully consider the purchase contract’s other terms and conditions. Too many contingencies can leave loopholes and cause a deal to collapse. Especially avoid contingencies that favor the house’s buyer, such as linking the escrow closing date to the buyer’s sale of their current home. If the buyer insists on such terms, include a so-called kick-out clause in the contract that will allow you to consider other offers if the buyer isn’t able to sell within a certain period of time.

 

Assess Your Buyer’s Financial Qualifications
Is the buyer pre-approved? How much of a loan is the buyer seeking? Unless you are in an active market, lenders tend to shy away from underwriting a deal in which the purchase price is higher than the nearest comparable sale and the buyer is putting less than 10% down. If this is the case, your buyer may not be able to obtain financing.

 

Know the Home Selling Market
How you judge an offer also can depend on market conditions. If the selling market is slow, you may feel vulnerable, especially if circumstances are pressing you to sell. Make sure any offer you accept does not keep you in escrow longer than 30 days. In a hot market where multiple offers are likely, be wary of countering more than one offer at a time (you could end up in legal trouble if two buyers both accept your counter offer). Also be wary of offers that promise more money but contain poor contract terms (long escrow, multiple contingencies, etc.).

If you feel the home’s offer is insufficient, make a counter offer. Rarely is a first offer the buyer’s absolute highest price they are willing to pay. Negotiating is part of the home selling process.

Again, your lawyer should review the details of all offers.

 

6. Home Inspections
All standard real estate contracts are going to give the prospective home buyer the right to inspect your property – so be prepared. Under a general inspection you are obligated to make major repairs to appliances, plumbing, septic, electrical and heating systems – or the buyer may cancel the offer. The inspection will also include your property’s roof, as well as a termite inspection (in some states, house sellers must provide proof that the home is termite free).

If you are concerned about how your home will fare when inspected, you may want to visit your local inspector. They can conduct an inspection for you before a potential buyer has one done. This way, you can address the problems before a buyer stumbles upon them.

Once the inspections are complete, the buyer makes an application to a mortgage lender.

 

7. Buyer Appraisals and Other Details
The mortgage lender will order an appraisal of your home to make sure they are not paying more than the house is worth. They may also order a surveyor to make sure that the property boundaries are properly laid out. They will also order a title search to determine if there are any liens against your property. These tasks are all the responsibility of the buyer and/or their attorney.

At this point too, the mortgage company will issue a commitment. Again, the buyer (and their attorney) must complete all conditions listed on the mortgage commitment.

Prior to closing, you should notify your lender that you will be paying off your mortgage. After a closing date has been agreed to, you should contact your utility providers and advise them of your final billing date.

 

8. Closing Time
The day of the closing, the home’s buyer will do a “walk through” of the property to make sure all agreed repairs are completed and that the home is in the same condition as when the buyer made their offer. If problems arise at this point, the closing can still take place with funds held in escrow to remedy the problem.

Closings usually occur 30 to 45 days after you have signed the sales contract. Depending on what state you reside in, you may close with an attorney, or with a title company. At the closing, all monies will be collected, any existing loans or liens will be paid, the deed will be transferred, and insurance will be issued insuring a free and clear title. The home seller will receive the proceeds of their home in one to two business days after the closing.

 

Don’t Forget to Do Your Home Work
This step-by-step home selling guide is a general overview of the process when selling a home. Each state has slightly different laws and customs as they relate to the transaction process.

Selling a home yourself can be time consuming, but the financial rewards can be tremendous. With help from ForSaleByOwner.com, the process of home selling a home by owner as easy as possible.

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Selling By Owner Takes Common Sense

You’ve passed the first big test by assessing your financial situation and deciding to move forward with selling your home. Congratulations. Now it’s time to consider your selling method. Essentially, you have three options: use a traditional agent who’ll be paid a traditional commission; use a discount broker, or sell your home on your own and save thousands of dollars in the process.

Seems like a no-brainer—why pay a small fortune for a service you can perform yourself?

We’re not going to sugar coat it: Selling by owner takes work and determination. Real estate agents work hard. We respect the work they do and the time they put in, but you don’t need a Ph.D. to understand what’s behind the home selling process. You need the right information and the right tools to get the job done right. And the knowledge you do need? It’s all easily accessible online, most of it right here.

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Why It Makes Sense to Sell Your Home FSBO (for sale by owner):
• Is there anything an agent does that you can’t do for yourself? Really?
• Say you sell your home for $300,000 using a traditional agent with 6 percent commission fees. You owe $18,000 at closing. Ask yourself: Do you think an agent can do enough for you to earn $18,000? Even if you use a discount agent for half the traditional commission, that’s still $9,000.
• If you sell your home on your own, you control the showing schedule. You don’t have to leave your house spotless every morning in case your agent schedules an unexpected showing.
• You establish a personal connection with prospective buyers when you show your home yourself. That could be helpful when you sit down to negotiate an offer.
• Nobody knows your home better than you, and nobody’s a better advocate for your home than you are. When you sell by owner, you put that knowledge and passion to use every step of the way.
• If the market is depressed and you have trouble moving your home, you may be able to lower your price by effectively rebating the agent commission you didn’t pay to the buyer.

The reward for your DIY attitude: You get to keep the thousands of dollars you would otherwise pay an agent in commission. Your most difficult task just might be deciding what to do with the money you save.

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The Biggest Mistake Home Sellers Make

When people learn that Eddie Tyner is general manager of ForSaleByOwner.com, one of several online services that help sellers bypass real estate agents and their 6 percent commissions, they always ask if FSBO really works.

“The first thing people ask is, can they sell a home themselves?” Tyner says. “I tell them unequivocally that it does work and that they can.”

He acknowledges that many homeowners still need further convincing. “The negotiation and closing phases are the parts that can make people nervous,” Tyner says. “Negotiations because people are afraid they’re not going to get enough for the house, that they’re going to scare buyers away, that they’ll make a mistake in this step.”

As for the closing process, Tyner finds that many sellers erroneously believe the paperwork will be overwhelming. “But the reality is they’re going to need an attorney to help them with the paperwork anyway. If you hire a good attorney, that fear goes away,” he says. In other words, even if sellers use an agent, they’ll pay for an attorney because that cost is folded into the agent’s commission or other fees.

These concerns — and many more — can be eliminated when by-owner sellers enlist the services of an online partner that provides easy-to-follow instructions for each of the five important steps of selling a home:

1. Deciding to sell
2. Preparing yourself and your home
3. Marketing and showing like a pro
4. Negotiating and accepting an offer
5. Completing paperwork and the closing

“Keep in mind that those steps are the same regardless of whether you use an agent or sell your home yourself,” Tyner says.

The help provided by an online service like ForSaleByOwner.com guides FSBO sellers through this timeline — and provides especially invaluable support early on when sellers determine to list a home and set a price.

“The biggest mistake that people make involves pricing,” Tyner says. “If you have a decent house and you price it the right way and you make sure it’s exposed to buyers, it will sell. There is a market for your house, I guarantee it. If you price it right.” That means listing at a reasonable price relative to other similar homes in your neighborhood or area.

“A lot of people (have problems here) because they attach a lot of emotional value to their house that a new buyer probably won’t see,” Tyner says. That’s why he recommends being aware of the important steps necessary to find the value of your home, as well as using online tools.

“The good thing about having so much information available on the Web is that if you’re honest with yourself, and see what other houses in the neighborhood are selling for, you can set a reasonable price based on that,” Tyner says.

He warns that setting too high a price is the biggest mistake by-owner sellers make. “They start out high because they say they can always go down, but they can’t go up. So they overprice in the beginning, thinking they can drop the price later.”

That strategy can backfire, Tyner says, because buyers who could comfortably afford a seller’s real price will be turned away by the unrealistically high list price.

“It’s actually easy to bring the price up,” he says. “You do it by having multiple prospective buyers interested in your property. That happens a lot.”

Online services make these strategies clear to their clients, who also benefit from being able to call and speak to experienced representatives. That’s why Tyner can so confidently tell people that by-owner selling works.

There’s another reason why Tyner can say that: About a month ago, he sold his own house using one of these services.

More about that in a future post.

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What’s In Store For Home Sellers This Spring

As warmer weather starts spreading across the United States, look for the residential real estate market to emerge from its hibernation.

That’s the reassuring view from Eddie Tyner, general manager of ForSaleByOwner.com, one of several online services that help sellers bypass real estate agents and their 6 percent commissions. “Buyers who might have been reluctant to shop seriously during the unusually cold weather this winter will be out in force and searching for properties,” Tyner explains. “This pent-up demand will benefit all sellers.”

Tyner says he’s already seen evidence of buyer excitement. “In January alone, we saw a significant increase in visitors at ForSaleByOwner.com. Page views were up by more than 53 percent from December 2013.”

As buyer interest heats up, the housing market recovery of 2013 seems to be slowing down. The numbers should be viewed in terms of the bigger picture, Tyner says. Take for example Illinois.

“Although the Illinois Association of Realtors reports that the state’s January home sales fell 7.5 percent compared to the same month in 2013, and Chicago-area sales dropped by 8.9 percent, there is cause for optimism,” he says. Home prices already are regaining their strength. “That same IAR report shows that in January, the statewide median price was $136,950, a 9.6 percent increase from the same month a year earlier when it was $125,000.”

Seasonal market improvements also are beginning to bloom on the West Coast, where the California Association of Realtors reports that January’s pending home sales increased almost 23 percent compared to December. Active listings of all property types also posted gains in January.

This inverse relationship between home sales and home prices is motivating sellers to list their homes. “In most cases, the declining number of home sales is due to a lack of inventory, which drives home prices up. This puts existing homeowners who are ready to list at an advantage over everyone in the market,” Tyner explains. “According to the National Association of Home Builders, home builder confidence is down, and recent construction rates won’t meet buyer demand this season.”

And if homeowners decide to sell without a real estate agent, the rewards are twofold.

“By-owner sellers control their own selling timeline,” Tyner says. “By planning now to ensure their property is presented at its best, by-owner sellers will have a head start on agent-assisted sellers who decide at the last moment to enter the market.”

As Tyner points out, “There are already a lot of buyers looking for great homes, and there just aren’t that many options. It’s a great time to sell while there’s less competition for the attention of house hunters who are ready to buy now.”

A little curbside TLC and pricing strategy prep now will have sellers ready to roll out the welcome mat and entertain buyers through the spring and summer selling season.

We want to know: Are you planning on listing your home for sale this spring?

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Do What He Did: How Jason Fisher Sold His Condo By Owner

Downtown Milwaukee was hot, hot, hot in 2005 when Jason Fisher bought a two-bedroom condo there.

Now, that market is not, not, not. And Fisher has moved on – to Florida, where he is involved in a business start-up.

How to sell the condo in a market saturated with condos of every type, from lofts to pricey high-rises to historic conversions?

Fisher quickly realized that he’d lose money if he listed with a real estate broker. He figured that his corner unit with numerous upgrades would stand out as a best buy in the building. And he also knew he could call on the goodwill of his neighbors to show the unit if buyers called when he was in Florida.

In 2005, Fisher had purchased the unit for $178,800 in 2005 and spent about $10,000 in upgrades. He put it on the market for $179,000. A listing with ForSaleByOwner.com quickly drew interest. Calls started coming in from the multiple listing service option that Fisher tapped into, which put his condo in the mix of all those for sale by agents and owners.

After just three weeks, a single woman came by. The first time she saw the unit neighbors ushered her around. She balked at the price, though, noting that other two-bedrooms in the neighborhood had sold for about $160,000.

Fisher thought that if she saw how his unit compared to others in his building, she would be persuaded of its greater value. He offered to escort her on a quick tour of the six other units also for sale in the building.

She agreed. “I can’t find another place I like as much as yours,” she said three weeks later. They agreed on a price of $175,000. The deal closed in late May 2010.

Though Fisher did not get back what he spent on upgrades, he did recapture most of his equity. “I didn’t have to hire an agent, so I considered it a wash,” he said. “She felt comfortable with me. That’s part of the FSBO process. You have to spend time with people and walk them through it.”

“In today’s market, spending 6 percent on an agent just makes you sick when you’re already losing money on the deal,” he added. With his equity intact, Fisher is well positioned to pick up a deal in the depressed Florida condo market.

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Selling a Condo By Owner: What You Need to Know to Go FSBO

Selling a condo by owner is a little different than selling a home by owner. Depending on the size of your building, you may have to notify neighbors, the condo association board, even your doorman. Use this checklist to navigate to unique the steps you’ll take from pricing your condo to the paperwork a buyer will need during negotiations and closing.

  • Check with your neighbors and the association to be sure that you are not scheduling your open houses to coincide with parties, maintenance, renovation or even deep cleaning of the common areas.
  • If you’ll be out of town over the course of your listing, arrange with friendly neighbors to show your unit. Don’t forget to say thanks with the occasional muffin basket.
  • Promote your listing through your HOA intranet and related social media, not to mention the bulletin board at the fitness center.
  • Loop in your HOA’s management firm. Ask the manager for your complex to cross-post the listing for your unit to the other associations it manages.
  • Calculate the price per square foot so buyers can easily comparison-shop.
  • Explain your rationale for your asking price. Show how your unit compares to others and how each difference affects the price per square foot. For example, the value of high-rise units rises with each floor – to quantify the ever-more-sweeping view. Find out what the additional value is per floor – $2,000 per unit? More? – and add the explanation to your pricing sheet. Make a copy of this for the appraiser.
  • Get the doorman on your side. You already know his sweet spot – a fresh cup of coffee from your kitchen as you’re headed out the door to work? Fresh flowers for the front desk? You’ll be relying on his goodwill to welcome potential buyers, so cultivate that goodwill early and often.
  • Find out what regulations apply to signs in the windows of your unit and on the parkway or lawn of the building or complex. You will need to check with both the homeowners association and the municipal zoning department.

Have all the paperwork ready. Your buyer will need multiple copies, for herself and for her lawyer. Essential documents are:

  • Copies of the legal description, including parking & storage spaces
  • CC&R – Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Rules and regulations currently enforced
  • Most recent financial statements of the homeowners’ association
  • Current operating budget
  • One year’s minutes of HOA meetings
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The Best Day to List Your Home for Sale by Owner

We get asked this question all the time: When should I list my home? ForSaleByOwner.com sees the most traffic from interested buyers on Sundays and Mondays. This means that you need to refresh your listing before the weekend, especially if you’re reducing your asking price, so that everyone who sees it gets the best listing information. Getting smart about your marketing strategy is a must if you want to get your home sold this summer. Here are four ways to market your home and get it under contract fast.

1. Know your market. Start by looking at comparable homes in your area. Even if you’ve done this before, it’s important to revisit this step every few months to stay current on the latest prices and sales. Are prices going up or down—and by how much? Do you see any new trends? How many days are homes staying on the market? Organize your research with this DIY comparative market analysis sheet.

2. Recalculate your perfect price. If you’ve had your home on the market for 30 days or more and haven’t received the right offer yet, think about adjusting your asking price. Use your comparative analysis to review what comparable homes in your area are selling for; our Pricing Guide for Sellers can help you calculate your perfect price.

3. Simplify with storage solutions. Staging pros agree: It’s best to rid your home of personal items and create as much open space as possible. One way to do this is to place extra furniture in storage while you’re showing your home so it’s out of the way, but still close at hand and ready for when you move. Get started with these 10 tips for protecting and storing extra furniture.

4. Advertise without spending a penny. Social media networks are quickly becoming some of the by-owner seller’s best marketing tools: They’re easy-to-use, fast-to-set-up and, best of all, they’re free. Whether people like it, pin it or tweet it, you’ll get a lot more eyes on your listing using our social media quick tips.

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Tell us: Do you have any tips for marketing a home?