Summary: This article explains how to sell your home FSBO style, without the help of a listing agent. We will cover all of the important steps along the way, from home staging to negotiating.
Over the years, I’ve sold two houses on my own (for sale by owner), and two with the help of a real estate agent. That puts me in a unique position to write a tutorial on how to FSBO a home. Having done it both ways in the past — twice each — I can help you choose the best path for yourself. So here we go…
What a Listing Agent Does
First thing’s first. Should you sell your house in FSBO fashion, or through a listing agent? The best way to answer this question is by considering the steps involved in the selling process. In other words, you need to think about all of the things a good listing agent would do for you.
These duties include the following:
- Using recent sales data (comps) to come up with a reasonable asking price
- Taking professional-grade photos of the home, for marketing purposes
- Identifying all of the benefits your house and your neighborhood have to offer
- Writing up a description of the property for marketing purposes
- Listing the home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
- Listing the home on Realtor.com and at least one other major website (like Zillow or Trulia)
- Creating a flyer that includes all of the benefits mentioned earlier
- Putting a “for sale” sign in your yard to help buyers locate the property
- Receiving offers from buyers
- Making counteroffers to buyers, when needed
- Reaching a mutual agreement with the buyers, on the price as well as the closing date
Clearly, these aren’t the only steps to selling a home. There’s the home inspection, appraisal and closing process as well. But a listing agent really doesn’t do much during these later steps. Thus, the list provided above represents the bulk of what a listing agent will do for you, when selling your house.
The question is, are you comfortable handling all of these things for yourself? If so, you might have what it takes to FSBO your own home. If you’re not comfortable with these items, don’t worry. I’ll explain each one in detail as we continue through this lesson. By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll know how to sell your house FSBO style — like a pro.
Definition: Before we go any further, we need to define some terminology, just so we’re on the same page. FSBO stands for For Sale by Owner. It’s a scenario where homeowners have decided to sell their homes by themselves, without the use of a real estate listing agent. You may also hear people refer to it as “fizbo,” which is a pronunciation of the acronym.
In the next section, you’ll learn what it takes to handle this process for yourself. You’ll learn how to FSBO your home like a seasoned seller, even if it’s your first time selling a house.
How to Sell Your Own Home FSBO Style (the Right Way)
The rest of this article mirrors the 11 items listed above. We will talk about each of these steps in the selling process, one step at a time. The purposes is to show you how to handle each of these steps on your own, in FSBO fashion — and how to do them right.
1. Use comps to determine your asking price.
The term “comp” refers to a comparable home that sold recently in your area. You can use the sale prices of these properties to determine your own asking price.
The best comps are from houses that are similar to yours, in terms of size and features. You also want to use the most recent sales data possible, since prices change over time. Lastly, you should choose comps that are geographically close to the house your are pricing (the same neighborhood is ideal). Similar, recent and close. Those are the ideal qualities of a good comp.
You can find the prices of recently sold homes on Realtor.com, Zillow.com and Trulia.com. Use this information to come up with a reasonable asking price for your own house. If you list the property well above the comps, you could have trouble selling it. Thus, pricing is one of the most important steps in the FSBO home selling process.
- Get it right, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy a quick sale.
- Get it wrong, and you could be on the market for a long time.
So take the time to do it right. Leave your emotions out of it. Use cold, hard data to determine your asking price.
2. Take professional-grade photos of your house.
If you’re not camera-savvy, you need to find someone who is. Find a friend who has a nice digital camera and knows how to use it. Buy them lunch in exchange for a couple hours of their time.
A bad photo of a nice house creates a bad first impression. On the other hand, high-quality photos of a nice house create a good first impression.
Quality photos can make the difference between a buyer visiting your home, or scratching it off the list entirely. In most cases, it is the web-based photos that determine the buyer’s first impression.
Make sure you do some basic home staging before you take the photos (and also before showings). Turn on all of the lights throughout the house. “Clean and bright” is the look you want. Remember, if you want to sell your house FSBO style, you’ll have to do everything a real estate listing agent would do. And that includes taking decent photos of the property for marketing purposes.
3. Identify the benefits of your home and neighborhood.
At some point, you’ll have to write up a description of your house. This will go on the listing websites, and also on your property flyer. You’ll have an easier time writing these ads if you start with a list of benefits. What are the positives? Write them all down.
Is the house conveniently located for shopping or entertainment? Does it have certain upgrades over comparable homes in the area? Is it pre-wired for surround sound? Does it have energy-efficient (money saving) features? It is located within one of the better school districts in your city?
Don’t just assume people can spot these things. Tell them! Put it down in black and white. Anything that adds value needs to be identified. You will use this information in steps 4 – 7 of the the How to FSBO tutorial.
4. Write a description of your property for marketing purposes.
In the previous step, you identified all of the benefits your home has to offer. Now it’s time to write up a short description with all of those benefits. You’ll use this description for the real estate listing websites (see next step), as well as the flyers you leave out when buyers visit.
Here’s an example of a good property description:
“This 3-bedroom, 2-bath home is located in the heart of Happyville, a community known for its excellent schools and beautiful parks. This home has been lovingly restored to give you a perfect blend of period architecture and modern amenities. The kitchen features granite counters and all stainless-steel appliances. Living areas offer premium carpet and built-in, premium-grade wood blinds. The backyard has more than $10,000 worth of professional landscaping and stone work, a great place to enjoy the sunset with family and friends.”
So there you have it. In less than 100 words, I’ve turned this hypothetical house into a desirable home. I’ve also pointed out a few of the things buyers might not notice right away, to make sure they notice.
5. List the home on the MLS.
The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, is a huge computer database of homes for sale. Buyers’ agents use this database to identify suitable properties for their clients. Listing agents use it to promote the properties of their clients. If you want to sell your house as quickly as possible, FSBO style, you need to bring in as many potential buyers as possible. Listing your home on the MLS is the first step in generating this kind of traffic.
Fortunately, you don’t need an agent to list your home on the Multiple Listing Service. All of the major FSBO websites offer this service to their customers. When choosing a package from one of these services, make sure it includes an MLS listing. While you’re at it, choose a package that includes a listing on Realtor.com as well (see next step).
6. List the home on Realtor.com and similar sites.
You’ll have access to different real estate websites, depending on the FSBO service you use. At a minimum, you want to list the home on Realtor.com and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This will give you maximum exposure.
We talked about the MLS in step 5 of the How to Sell FSBO tutorial. So let’s talk about Realtor.com and some of the other websites you can use.
Realtor.com is the number-one real estate website, in terms of traffic and visibility. So you definitely want your house to be listed on this site. I recommend that you use at least one other website as well, such as Zillow.com or Trulia.com. It will increase your exposure significantly. This will result in a higher number of potential buyers seeing your house, and with minimal effort (since you can reuse photos and listing descriptions).
From an advertising standpoint, this is one of the most important steps in the How to FSBO tutorial. So don’t skip it!
7. Create a property flyer for buyers.
If you’re planning to put a for-sale sign in your front yard (which I highly recommend), try to get one with a box or tube for property flyers. The flyer is a one-page description of the house, including the price and all of the benefits we talked about earlier. Ideally, it will have two or three “money shot” photos of the house, as well.
Flyers are a great tool for generating “drive-by” interest from buyers who happen to be in the neighborhood. They also give people something to remember your house by, after they visit for a showing. Most of the big FSBO websites offer some type of “plug-in” flyer creation tool. You could also design your own, if you’re fairly computer savvy.
8. Put a “for sale” sign in your yard.
There’s not much to say about this step. The sign helps buyers locate your house. It also helps you capitalize on drive-through traffic, buyers who just happened to be house hunting in your area. Lastly, it gives you another way to distribute your flyers (if you get a yard sign with a flyer tube or box on it). Most of the big FSBO services will send you a sign. You can also buy them at Home Depot and similar stores.
Steps 9 – 11: Offers and counteroffers.
I am preparing a separate tutorial on this subject, because it’s such an important part of the FSBO process. It will be published by the end of this week. This article will be updated with a link to the supplemental article, once it is online.
So there you have it — how to FSBO your house in 11 steps. So, how do you feel right now, after reading through all of these steps? If you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed, you might be better off using a listing agent to help you sell your home. On the other hand, if most of this information seems fairly straightforward to you, then you might be fizbo material. Just remember, it’s not enough to do the things described on this list. You have to do them well. It will make the difference between a quick sale and a slow one.