The market is shifting. The hot seller’s market of 2020 and 2021 is cooling off and sellers are facing longer days on market, fewer showings, and even fewer offers.
Interest rates on mortgages have gone up, making monthly payments more expensive. Many buyers and homeowners were able to lock in low interest rate loans over the past couple years with low monthly payments. Now, with home values still high and payments even higher, more people are staying where they’re at while new buyers are finding homes less affordable.
This means that the once hot seller’s market is cooling off as fewer people are moving, and many would-be buyers are holding off and opting to rent instead.
What does all of this mean to you if you’re looking to sell your home? It means unless your home is extremely unique or underpriced, you probably won’t see dozens of offers over asking price in the first few hours of listing anymore.
But home values are still holding up in most markets, so if you do find yourself needing to sell your house, it is still a good time, you just might have to wait a little bit longer to find the right buyer.
Perhaps you’ve had a bad experience with a Realtor in the past, didn’t find them all that useful, or maybe you’re thinking that it doesn’t look that difficult and you could do it all yourself and save the commissions!
When you sell your house, it is customary for the seller to pay both the seller’s agent commission and for the buyer’s agent commission, and the total commission for both sides is usually 5-6% of the total sales price of the home. With a median home price in the US of nearly $400,000 you would be looking at $24,000 in commissions to real estate agents, not including any of the other closing costs associated with selling a house. No wonder you’re looking into selling without an agent!
Why does the seller pay for both sides? Honestly there really isn’t a good answer, that’s just the tradition unfortunately. But you don’t have to play by those rules!
It is absolutely possible for you to sell your house on your own without and agent, and while it is still the norm here in the United States, approximately 10% of homes in the US are sold without any real estate agents involved!
You’ve come to the right place because in this article we’ll walk you through the 13 tips you need to know to sell your house on your own without involving an agent.
One way to do this is For Sale By Owner. Stick around until the end or skip straight to the bottom to learn about some of the easier and possibly even better ways to sell your house and still get a good price.
For Sale By Owner
Selling your house on your own might seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you want to sell your house without an agent then this is probably the first alternative that comes to mind.
When done correctly, listing your house For Sale By Owner can net you even more money than if you listed with an agent. You’ll learn a lot more about the process and be more in control too!
13 Tips to Sell a Home Yourself Without a Realtor
Read through these 13 tips to be better prepared to sell your home For Sale By Owner.
1. Get A Home Inspection
It’s a good idea to go ahead and order your home inspection before waiting to get a signed contract with a buyer only to find out that work needs to be done and they ask you to make the repairs yourself, drop the price, or back out completely.
Homes that go under contract and then come back on the market might scare some buyers away because they might assume something was wrong on the home inspection. We don’t want that to happen.
If you’re concerned about anything on the house, you’ll want to have a licensed home inspector come out to check it out and give you their report before a buyer does. And that way you can either fix the issues up front, or tell the buyer about in the beginning so it’s not a surprise to them during the inspection period.
Home inspections usually cost somewhere in the $300-600 range depending on the size of the house and where you live.
2. Check Out Comparable Homes
Did your neighbor’s house sell for top dollar and you want to get the same amount for yours? Well, there’s a few things to check out first. Just because your next door neighbor sold their house for $500,000 doesn’t mean your house would sell for the same amount.
Homes are appraised based on how similar homes in the area have sold in the recent past. There are few variables to consider and the most important are the area, when it sold, if the property is similar in terms of size, features and type, and condition.
First is the area, when finding comparable homes an appraiser is only going to stay within in the same neighborhood, that usually means not crossing any major roads, and staying in the same school district.
Next is when the house was sold. Typically we try to look at comparable sales within in the last 12 months, but that could change based on market conditions. If prices have fluctuated drastically such as when the market was really hot from fall of 2020 through summer of 2022, it was best to look at only the most recent sales within the past 3 months if possible.
And finally the house much be comparable, meaning that the comparable properties are relatively the same square footage, similar lot size, same style and design (brick exterior to brick exterior, two story with two story, duplex with duplex, etc.), and similar features. The square footage is really the most important variable here and we generally try to stay within +/- 250 square feet, but that range can increase for exceptionally large homes.
Finally, the home should be in similar condition. If their home is a brand new renovation with new high end cabinets, fancy quartz countertops, and the latest trending design on HGTV, but yours is still sporting the mid-2000’s look, then unfortunately it would not be considered a comparable sale and you would want to look for properties in similar condition to yours… OR you could update your house so that it is in similar condition.
Going back to the example of the neighbors house, we know it’s in the same area, if it sold within the last 6 months then it’s a contender, and let’s say it’s 2,100 square feet and yours is 2,000 square feet, so that box is checked. Similar lot size, and similar condition. Okay great, so it looks like this house could be a comparable sale.
Next is to adjust for the features. That means things like the bed and bath count, garage, basement, pools, views, etc. Let’s say the neighbor has one less bathroom than you, so we would make an adjust to add let’s say $5,000 to the value of your house because you have the extra bathroom. Then let’s say they have a pool but you don’t, so we might subtract $20,000 from the value of your home because of that. The exact amount of the adjustments will vary depending on your area of the country, but if you search for the cost to build something, that will be roughly the value to adjust for.
Pick the best 3 to 4 comparable properties in the your area, make adjustments for the differences, and you’ll have a pretty decent idea of what your home should be able to sell for on the market.
3. See What Else is on the Market
Now that you have an idea of what your house should be worth, it’s also a good idea to see what else is currently on the market.
If someone is looking for a house like yours, do they have many options available? Or is your house unique?
That’s going to give you a good idea of how long your house might sit on the market, and how much you might be able to get. If there’s nothing else like your house and homes similar to yours have been selling as soon as they hit the market, then there’s a good chance your house is in high demand and it’s a good time to put your house up for sale.
On the other hand if there are several houses in your area that are similar and they haven’t sold yet, or maybe they were under contract and they’re back on the market, then that could mean there’s not enough demand at the moment and you either need to come in a little lower, or maybe your house has something the others don’t. If not then you might want to wait for a better time, or consider some of the alternative options down at the bottom of this page.
4. Fix What’s Broken
There are probably some broken things around the house that you’ve let go. It’s time to determine what needs to be fixed and what you can let slide. Slanted cabinet door? If it doesn’t look that bad and it’s functional, then you can probably let that one slide. Holes in the drywall? Those should be fixed before you sell. Not sure if it needs to be fixed? Check out this list of the most important things to repair before selling a house.
5. Apply Some Elbow Grease
You’ve fixed what was broken, and now it’s time to clean, tidy up, and possibly even apply some new paint and install updated finishings. You could pay someone to do things, or if you have the time and are just a little handy around the house you could do them yourself.
You can apply a fresh coat of paint to the interior and save a bunch of money. With a little prep work it’s not that difficult, you can pick up everything you need at your local Home Depot or Lowes. A 5 gallon bucket of paint will only cost you about $135, and you can get the family involved and make a day out of it.
6. Keep it Clean and Organized!
It’s amazing what a difference simply having things in the right spot and organizing can do for your home. You’ll want to keep it super clean and organized to leave the best impression on your guests when they walk through.
Buying a house is often a very emotional decision and it needs to feel right for your potential buyers. You want to make it easy for buyers to imagine what the house would look like as their own, so put away the family photos, personal items, and make the space as neutral and inviting as possible.
7. Consider Staging Your Home
Now you’ve spruced up the home, put on a fresh coat of paint, fixed what needs to be fixed, and put everything back in it’s place. If you really want your house to go quick and maybe even get some above asking offers, consider learning How to Stage Your Home To Sell. That little extra effort and money could make all the difference.
You’d be surprised how easy staging can be. Simple is usually best. If you have old scruffy furniture or decor, consider stashing it away for the time being. You can bring those items back out once you’ve accepted an offer.
8. Take Amazing Photos
Unless you’re a photographer, we highly recommend hiring a professional to take your photos. Just search for photographers in your area, or ask for recommendations for photographers in your local area.
If you choose to take photos yourself you’ll probably want to have some editing done to really make those photos pop, there are apps you can download, or use a free online image editing tool like Canva. We use Canva for all of our photos!
You’ll also need to make sure your images are appropriately sized and cropped for the platforms you’ll be advertising on. For zillow and most other platforms the perfect image size is 2048 x 1536 pixels.
It’s time to show off all that hard work you’ve put in! You need to get as many eyeballs on your property as possible, so yes you can and should put up a yard sign especially if you’re on a busy street, but the number one most effective way to find interested buyers is posting your property online.
Normally when you list with an agent, they’ll list your property on your local MLS, also known as the Multiple Listing Service. Every major property listing site pulls their data from the MLS, so once it’s listed there you don’t have to worry about putting it anywhere else. You can get access to the MLS by using what is known as a Flat Fee MLS service. These usually cost a few hundred dollars and can get your house on the MLS. I’ve personally not had much luck with these, they’re extremely difficult to use even if you are tech-savvy. Hey, if they worked really well then no one would need a real estate right?
The other option is to list them yourself on the major sites, which will get almost as many eyeballs with less of the headache.
Zillow is by far the number one way buyers search for and find homes to buy. Zillow allows you to list your property For Sale by Owner for free. It usually takes 3-5 days for the listing to show up on their site, so plan ahead and submit a couple days before you plan on starting your showings. Other popular listing sites include Trulia, Redfin, and Realtor.com
The other major source of advertising is on social media. Facebook marketplace can help you get a lot of attention, you can even boost your listing or run facebook ads to really get more eyes on your listing. Can you make a viral video on Instagram or TikTok? Even better…
Buyers can’t buy your house if they don’t know about it, so do whatever you can to get those eyeballs.
10. Get To Know Your Local Laws
This one’s less obvious. You don’t know what you don’t know right?
Here are a couple things you might want to research:
Seller disclosures in (my state)
Contract law in (my state)
Steps to sell a house legally in (my state)
If you’re still not sure, reach out to a real estate attorney or title company. If they’ll work with you answer your questions, consider using them when buying your next house.
11. Understand the Contracts
Contracts can be the most overwhelming part of a real estate transaction. Most are written in legal jargon that can be very confusing if you don’t buy and sell houses often. Be sure to have a real estate professional review your contract to make sure it’s legal, will protect your interests, and will stand up in a court of law. If the contract is just one page, it probably isn’t sufficient.
If you want the most protection, search for the official purchase contract from your local Board of Realtors. You can find the official contracts for most boards with a simple google search. As an example you might search “Cincinnati Board of Realtors Purchase Contract”, and for me it’s the 3rd result down.
Think of the purchase contract like instructions for your closing attorney or title company. It just tells them the details of what price you’ll pay and under what conditions, such as inspection periods and who is paying the closing costs. This document does not transfer ownership of the house or anything like that, all of that comes later.
Once it comes time for closing the attorney or title company will create a Settlement Statement that shows all of the fees and things like prorated property taxes, as well as how much money the buyer is bringing to close, and how much money you will receive from the sale.
Finally at the day of closing you’ll sign that settlement statement, a few disclosures, and then notarize the deed to official transfer title. Then you can celebrate!
12. Always Be Ready for Showings
But, you haven’t sold the house just yet. Once you have a good idea of the paperwork you’ll be using and you’ve started advertising, you need to be ready for showings.
You’ll need to work these into your schedule so plan ahead and think about what days and times you’re available. Most people will want to see the house in the afternoons and on the weekends.
You should also consider holding an open house. These tend to get more interest and might just snag a buyer who wasn’t ready to reach out directly. We try to keep ours limited to 2 hours so we’re not wasting too much time if we don’t get a good turn out, but it still gives most people a big enough window to make it in.
13. Prepare To Receive Offers
First, you should know that when you list your house For Sale By Owner, over 75% of the calls you get will be from real estate agents who want to list your home so they can get a commission, so be prepared. The first thing you should ask is whether they are a buyer and if not then it’s up to you if you want to listen to their spiel.
When buyers do call, get some basic information. Ask them when they’re planning on moving or buying, get to know them and their situation, and then see when and if they want to see the house. They’ll probably have a few questions for you about the house, how long you’ve owned it, why you’re selling, etc.
Have your paperwork ready and you Seller’s Disclosure Forms so they’re ready to go when you get an interested buyer. They may lose interest if takes days or weeks for you to get the documents together, so engage them while their interest is high.
Finally, be ready to negotiate. Have your lowest acceptable offer in mind. If you get full price, great! Make sure the rest of the offer makes sense for you too. There should be a reasonable amount of earnest money in case the buyer backs out, and a reasonable inspection period, usually 7-14 days.
If you need help understanding an offer or a specific part of the contract, you can start by asking the buyer what they mean. One benefit of not using agents is that there are no middlemen and you can communicate directly with your buyer to determine what works best for both sides.
If it still isn’t making sense or you’re just not sure, then you can call and ask a local title company or real estate closing attorney and they should be more than happy to explain it to you, they deal with real estate contracts all day long. That’s their job!
Alternatives to Listing Yourself
For some people all of these steps above is a lot of work and a lot of hassle. Maybe your house needs more repairs that you thought, or maybe you even tried selling it yourself already and just aren’t getting any offers like you hoped.
Don’t worry, there are alternatives to get your house sold too. These options generally save you the hassles of listing or finding a buyer yourself as these companies work directly with you to buy your house. You may have had someone come by and make a lowball cash offer and think that’s the only alternative, but as you’ll see it’s not!
Should I Sell to An iBuyer?
iBuyers are these new large companies that have been buying up a lot of homes after the pandemic. While Zillow has discontinued it’s home buying program, companies like OpenDoor and OfferPad are still making cash offers in some of the large markets.
You can go to their websites and enter your address and contact info and they will tell you whether they are buying in your area or not. If they are buying they will give you a computer generated offer. Just know that if you decide to accept that offer they will still come out to look at the condition of the house and their offer could drop substantially based on what they see because they make their offers assuming that your house is in great condition and then lower the offer later after you sign a contract if it’s not “market ready”.
So should you sell to an iBuyer? If your in a market where they buy and your house is already in good shape, then yes it doesn’t hurt to see what they’ll offer for your house, just keep in mind that the first offer they give you might not be what you actually walk away with.
Sell to a Cash Buyer
If you really don’t want to bother with all the mess of listing your house yourself, maybe you’ve already tried listing your house with an agent, the house is just too outdated or run down, or your really need to sell your house fast, then it might be time to consider selling to a cash buyer.
Cash buyers are typically companies who fix and flip houses like on HGTV and A&E. Although it’s usually not quite that glamorous, it’s a way that these companies can make a profit while improving the area. Most of these companies will figure out how much your house could be worth all fixed up, minus the cost of repairs, minus any of the closing costs, and then factor in their profit and that’s the price they’ll offer you. If you happen to be in Ohio, then check us out here at KeySolvers and learn more about How We Determine Our Cash Offer Prices.
Owner Financing and Subject To
Finally, there’s another alternative that works out great and can actually net you the most amount of money than any other way you can sell.
If you don’t need all of your cash right now then consider owner financing. This means you take payments over time, and you essentially become the bank. You’ll get monthly payments deposited directly into your bank account from the buyer providing a nice recurring income that you can actually use.
If you have a mortgage this is still an option, we call it selling Subject To the existing mortgage. The mortgage would stay in place under your name and we would buy the house. Be sure you’re selling to someone reputable because while this is perfectly legal, there are a couple pitfalls you want to avoid.
All in all, owner financing and subject to can be a way to get full price for a property that’s in good condition and it works out really well when you own it free and clear or have little equity. If that’s you, then reach out to us and we’d be happy to walk you through how owner financing and subject to works.
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We pay fair prices for properties – and we can close fast (in as little as 3-5 days if you need to). Sometimes we’ll purchase homes in Ohio, fix them up, then rent them out… sometimes we’ll fix them up and sell them to other people looking for great homes in the area, and a lot of other reasons, too – but we love to hear from people like you who are thinking of selling anywhere in OH.