The odds are against you selling a home without hiring an agent to assist you.
Still, there are always people that want to try, and each year some of them succeed. If you are going to try to sell your home on your own, take a look at my 20 Tips for FSBO Sellers below.
I really hope these tips will help you beat the odds and get your home sold.
Why would I want to help a FSBO seller?
1. FSBO homes that sell under value hurt the value of the neighboring homes, and one of those homes could be my listing.
Often homes that are sold FSBO end up selling for below market value due to a homeowner’s lack of knowledge of the process or limited access to a large buyer pool. The result of a home selling under value is the lowering of the value of all of the nearby homeowners since the price becomes a comp that future buyers will use to justify a low offer.
By helping FSBO sellers sell quickly, and for a higher price, I’m helping my own listing clients when they are ready to sell by helping to set the price for the subdivision where it belongs.
2. Your FSBO house might just be perfect for one of my buyers.
I work with buyers that are looking for homes all over town. At times, I have buyers that have seen everything on the market but haven’t found a house that they are willing to purchase.
Often FSBO sellers do things that turn off buyers. If I bring my buyer to your house, I’m truly hoping that my buyer will like it and we’ll be able to work together so that my buyer can purchase it from you. But, if you don’t follow some basic home seller rules, the likelihood that my buyer will like your house is almost ZERO.
3. If you do decide to hire an agent at some point in the future, I hope you’ll include me as one of the agents that you consider for the job.
I’m hoping that you’ll find the information that I’m providing to you helpful and effective. After giving it a try on your own, if you do decide that you want to hire an agent, I’m hoping that what you have learned here and throughout this website will convince you that I should be one of the agents that you interview to be your listing agent. (If you don’t live in the St. Louis region, I will be happy to help you screen local agents so you can make sure you are hiring a top-notch agent. In exchange I’ll earn a small referral fee and you’ll get a great agent.)
1. Price the house right
Interview a few real estate agents to find out what they recommend you list the house for and to see the neighborhood comps. Most buyers are working with agents, so they will have easy access to this information. If you are priced too high, buyers will know it.
2. Advertise on the Internet
87% of surveyed buyers state that they search for homes on the internet. Most of them are focusing on agent or broker sites that gives them all MLS listed properties, or are searching on Realtor.com (owned by National Association of Realtors and only includes MLS listed properties).
However, only 40% of homes sold by FSBO sellers to buyers that they did not know were advertising on the internet.
You are already losing exposure by not being included on the MLS properties search websites. With only 19% of buyers looking at online FSBO websites and only 11% searching for homes in the newspaper websites, it is critical you post your home listing on every real estate listing site that you can.
3. Offer to pay a buyer’s agent commission
88% of home buyers used a real estate agent to assist them in their purchase of a resale home.
Real estate agents provide their services at no cost to the buyers. When a home sale closes, the seller pays a commission to the real estate company that listed their home. A portion of that commission is paid to the buyer’s real estate brokerage. Each broker pays a portion of the commission they received to the agent working the deal.
If almost all buyers are working with agents, and buyer’s agents don’t get paid unless a commission is paid by the seller, they won’t be showing your home. I’ve worked with hundreds of buyers, and only a few were willing to buy a house without an agent’s assistance. If they found a FSBO house and the owner wasn’t willing to pay a commission, they didn’t even want to see the house.
Are there buyers that would still come see a FSBO house even if the owner wouldn’t pay the buyer’s agent commission? Sure. But, by eliminating the vast majority of buyers, you are shrinking your buyer pool and it is more likely that it will take a long time to sell or you’ll have to take a lower price.
4. Put a lockbox on your house
Weekday showings capture the some of the best buyers, relocating buyers. They usually fly in for a house hunting trip for a few days, often during the week, and need to find a home before they leave. Most showing appointments are scheduled by agents after 9 am for the same day as the showing.
If you can only show your house in the evenings, weekends or with plenty of advance notice, you’ll miss the majority of motivated buyers.
Of course, you if you are contacted by a buyer that doesn’t have an agent, you should plan to be home for the showing. Otherwise you are inviting strangers into your homes that won’t be accompanied by a professional that is required to abide by the Realtor code of ethics.
5. Make yourself scarce
If you have to be home when a buyer is looking at your home, let them explore the home on their own. Buyers need to imagine the house as their house, and need to be able to discuss your house while they are walking through it. If you are leading them on a tour, following them around, or hovering in the background, they’ll feel uncomfortable. They won’t open closets or look inside the kitchen cabinets. They won’t discuss how their furniture will fit in the house, and what changes they would want to make.
If you want to sell your house and can’t leave, go sit on the front porch or on the back deck. Better yet, take a walk down the street and let them know that they can just leave the door unlocked when they leave. Keep an eye on the house and don’t return until they leave.
Concerned about strangers walking around your home by themselves? One of the advantages of hiring an agent is that your agent will meet any buyers that don’t have their own agent so that the buyers can look around without the homeowners home.
6. Put away anything valuable
If you follow my advice above about making yourself scarce, you don’t want anything valuable that could be easily stolen. You are going to move anyway, so go ahead and get the valuables boxed up for the move. Jewelry and other small valuables should be well hidden in the house.
7. Put out lots of signs
Since you won’t get seen by most buyers that are searching the MLS on the internet, you need to have out as many signs as possible so people looking in the area can find you. Plan to stock up since arrow signs seem to disappear pretty quickly.
Be sure to check municipal and subdivision rules for signs that are located at the subdivision entrances and the arrow signs pointing people to your house. Many areas do not allow signs that are not on your own property.
If you can’t put a sign out by the closest busy street, or you don’t live on the busy street, you should really evaluate if you can drive enough traffic to your house simply on your advertising.
8. Put out a brochure box and prepare to make tons of copies
Since buyers and buyer’s agents don’t have a way to look up your house on the internet simply by looking up your address on the MLS, you need to have a brochure box with fliers outside with the price, pictures and highlights of the home. Give them a reason to give you a call.
Even better, buy an internet domain name for your house, set up a website, and advertise it on your sign. Give them a way to see that your house is so great that they need to call you.
9. Schedule an open house every weekend
Open houses rarely are effective at finding the buyer, but without the exposure of the MLS, FSBO sellers need to take advantage of everything that they can. Make sure you put lots of open house signs out the day of the open house (if your municipality allows them). Otherwise you’ll need to pay for advertising in the local paper. Make sure you advertise on craigslist too.
Try not to get too discouraged when you don’t get many people coming through. You’ll probably find that most people attending open houses are nosy neighbors or curious folks just driving by (but not really in the market to buy a home now). You’ll also probably get your share of agents that are going to try to talk you into giving them the listing. You won’t find me bothering you at an open house unless I have a real buyer that might be interested in it, but lots of agents that don’t have enough business will try to drum up business by visiting open houses.
10. Return all calls PROMPTLY
Agents often schedule their appointments only an hour or two before they are ready to go show properties. If you don’t return their calls right away, they will just scratch your house off the list and may never call back to reschedule.
I’ve often tried to show FBSO properties, but not gotten my calls returned until days later after my clients had left town.
11. Keep your house spotless…ALL THE TIME
You never know when someone is going to want to see your house in an hour, or will even just knock on your door. If you turn away a buyer because it isn’t clean enough to show well, the buyer might not come back. And, if you show it when it is a mess, you’ll likely lose the buyer anyway since most buyers can’t see beyond clutter and dirt.
12. Do not allow any smoking inside the house
And hide all the outside ashtrays/butts. Buyers that aren’t smokers are REALLY sensitive to a smell of smoke and will almost never buy a home that smells of smoke. Even buyers that are smokers will often state that they don’t smoke in their house, and don’t want a house that smells of smoke.
If your house already smells like smoke (ask a non-smoker friend for a candid opinion), do everything you can to get rid of the smell. Clean the carpets, draperies and bedspreads. Paint if you must. I’ve heard from a few people that air purifiers really work to get rid of the smoke smell, but I haven’t tried it yet. I think it’s worth the cost of buying a unit and giving it a try.
If you can’t get rid of the smoke odor, you’ll sell for a big discount.
13. Confine dogs to a cage
Every time you leave the house, you should have dogs contained so you can agree to last minute showings. If you can get home to pick up your dogs with very little notice, it’s even better if you can get them out of the house. If you must stay home during showings, don’t just assume that people that aren’t afraid of dogs want your dog to follow them around or jump on them. Put the dog outside or put it on a lease and keep it with you.
An alternative to putting a dog in a cage is to use a baby gate and confine the dog to a laundry room or small bedroom with the door open. This will allow people to look inside the room, but will keep the dog from scaring them away.
It’s ok to leave cats loose in the house. Just make sure you put a note on the exterior doors to remind people not to let the cats out.
14. Make repairs and cosmetic updates before listing
Buyers are very critical of homes that appear to need repairs or maintenance. Most buyers can’t imagine what a house would look like with a new counter top or different paint colors. If they do make an offer on a house that looks worn, expect a low offer.
15. Provide a seller’s disclosure
Most buyers will feel much more comfortable buying a home if you are upfront about the problems you’ve had and the steps you’ve taken to fix them. There could also be legal repercussions if you don’t disclose material defects that you are aware of that might influence a buyer’s decision to purchase or the price they would offer.
16. Get municipal inspections before you put your home on the market
Many areas, including unincorporated St. Louis County, require municipal inspections at the time of a home sale before a new owner may occupy a property. Unless you are selling as-is, it is expected by buyers that you will provide a passed municipal inspection. If you are going to have to do the work anyway, you might as well get credit for it when you show the house. You’ll also have a better idea of your repair costs and will be able to more accurately plan the net proceeds when you agree to a purchase price.
17. Be aware of everything that you will need to do once you do get an accepted contract
There are a lot of details that need to happen after you find a buyer and negotiate a contract to make sure that the deal closes and you protect yourself legally.
You’ll need to understand issues related to financing, appraisals, inspections, title, survey and closing. Hiring a lawyer can be a help for contract negotiations, but they typically don’t get involved in the numerous contract details. If you do have them assist you every step of the way, make sure you understand what their fees will be.
18. Expect to make some repairs after the buyer gets inspections
Just like the municipal inspections, buyers expect that you’ll make repairs on items that don’t pass their inspection unless you are selling as-is. Real estate agents are good at educating their clients on what is considered reasonable for buyers to ask sellers to fix. If you have any friends that are real estate agents, it would be helpful to talk with them about what most buyers expect before just saying no to a buyer’s request and risk having the contract fall apart.
19. Keep your home in great condition until closing day
Most home sale contacts state that the house will be in the same condition on closing day as it is on the day of the contract. If you don’t keep the house in good condition, your buyer may refuse to close or may try to renegotiate the terms at the last minute to make up for additional damage.
20. Move out completely prior to closing day
There is something called a final walk-through, and if you aren’t careful, you could have your deal fall apart on closing day. Get everything moved out by the day before closing and clean the house. Don’t give the buyer any reason to make a fuss at the condition of the house only hours before the deal is supposed to close.
For more tips, don’t miss my FAQ for sellers.
Feel free to contact me at any time while you are trying to sell on your own.
I’ll be happy to answer your questions about selling FSBO. You can be assured that I’ll respect your wishes as far as contacting you. If you don’t want me to email or call you, you won’t hear a peep from me. On the other hand, I’ll be happy to touch base periodically if you would like to have someone to check in periodically to answer your questions.
I work with buyers in all price points all across town, and would love to add your home to my FSBO list.
The REALTOR© code of ethics prohibits me from advertising your home on my website if I don’t have a listing agreement with you, so I can’t publish the details on this website.
However, my goal is to help my buyers find the best home out there that meets their needs. Maybe that is YOUR HOME!
Send me an email or give me a call to tell me about it!