Should I Sell My House “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO)?

Selling your house or property can be as stressful as you want it to be. Do you have little time and want to avoid as much stress as possible? Then hire a real estate agent to do all the work for you. Do you have plenty of time and are up to the challenge and stress of doing someone else’s job? Then do a For Sale By Owner, or FSBO. Are you somewhere in-between? Then do a flat-fee listing (more on that below).

Despite what some people may think, real estate agents actually do work hard. There are a few lazy ones out there that have given agents a bad name, but most of them do their part and work hard to earn their commission. So, if you decide to do a FSBO, do it because you need to save money or because you want to challenge yourself. Don’t do it because you think an agent’s job is easy and anyone can do it because that’s simply not true.

“To increase the marketability of your house, hire a professional photographer to take the photos.”

If you decide to go the FSBO route there are a wealth of resources at your fingertips. A simple internet search will bombard you with more information than you can read in a lifetime. Here is my own shortened version of some steps you should take:

  1. Place a FSBO sign in your yard. The sooner the better. I have a friend whose agent wouldn’t stop by over the weekend to put out a sign and chose to wait until Monday. So, my friend put out his own sign instead and got a contract that very weekend. He saved thousands in real estate commissions and hopefully taught his agent a lesson about the importance of prompt sign placement.

    For Sale By Owner
    What not to write on your FSBO sign.
  2. Clean up all the clutter in your house. Pack all unnecessary items and put them in the garage or in storage. Keep your house neat, clean, and clutter free until it sells.
  3. Take photos of your house after you have decluttered. But please, don’t make these mistakes. To increase the marketability of your house, hire a professional photographer to take the photos. Use the photos to make a flyer and place them in an info box next to your sign.
  4. Fix all those things you’ve been putting off. A burned out lightbulb or a loose cabinet pull is enough to turn away a potential buyer. Walk through your house with fresh eyes and try to notice the little things that would add up to cause a potential buyer to walk away. Better yet, ask a friend to walk through your house and point out all of its faults.
  5. If you’ve made some very specific custom improvements then convert them back to something more neutral. Make your house more appealing to the general public. See our post on staging your home for more explanation.
  6. Know your property’s value. Before determining the asking price of your property you need to check your emotions at the door. Just because you’ve raised three kids in this house doesn’t make it worth more. Just because you laid every piece of sod yourself doesn’t mean your yard is nicer than the house for sale down the street. You need to use objective facts to determine your asking price. Find out what similar houses have sold for in your neighborhood. Realty websites such as Zillow and Realtor can often tell you this information. But be warned, their info is not always up to date, and it’s a tedious process to find comparable houses that have sold in your area. Be prepared to do a lot of math. This is a difficult step and is one of the highest selling features of hiring an agent. Or, you could shell out the cash and pay an appraiser.
  7. Develop a marketing strategy. How will you let people know that your house is for sale? This is typically a real estate agent’s bread and butter, and it’s what differentiates one agent from another. There are all kinds of options: signs, flyers, mailers, print advertising, word of mouth, the internet, etc. One option is to find a real estate agent who will do a flat-fee listing for you. In this scenario, you would pay the agent (surprise) a flat-fee to list your property on the MLS. This is considerably cheaper than paying the full real estate commission at closing. However, you get what you pay for. A lot of agents who offer this service will do nothing else to help you sell your house. Others have pricing tiers where they will offer additional services for an additional fee. Be prepared to still do all of the heavy lifting outlined in the other steps.
  8. Get an attorney. While you can technically buy and/or sell a property without an agent or attorney, I highly recommend you find a good closing attorney. They will help insure that all of your documents are in place, taxes are paid, the title is clear, and many other things that are too many to list here.
  9. Sell your house. You will be responsible for all the negotiating, showings, and marketing of your property. Be available when potential buyers want to come by to tour the house. Give them the information they need, but don’t talk their ear off about how you’ve had to replace the carpet three times because your dog had a bladder infection. However, you do have to disclose any problems that you are aware of with the house such as a leaky roof, aged furnace, full septic tank, etc. Be sure to know your bottom price before you enter into negotiations. Negotiating is another place where your emotions can get the best of you if you don’t have a solid plan in place.

“Before determining the asking price of your property you need to check your emotions at the door.”

Selling your house on your own is not impossible, but it does require a lot more effort than most people believe is needed. I hope this guide was helpful for you as you try to decide whether or not to do a FSBO. If you have any helpful FSBO tips of your own then please mention them in the comments. And as always, if you don’t want to hire an agent or do a FSBO, then consider selling to a real estate investor. We can close on your house quickly and pay you cash, all without charging a commission.

FSBO sign
A surprisingly successful FSBO sign.

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