How to Sell a House by Owner (Without a Realtor)

Apr 16, 2024 2:00:00 PM / by Madeleine Osprey

How to Sell a House by Owner (Without a Realtor)

Selling your home without a real estate agent, known as For Sale By Owner (FSBO) — or fizz-bo — is a popular option to explore among homeowners looking to save on commissions. In fact, 31% of homeowners who choose to sell their property FSBO do so to avoid paying commission fees, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

It's understandable why homeowners might consider this route, particularly if they already have a buyer lined up. According to 2023 NAR data, 56% of FSBO sellers already knew their buyer before listing their property. Among these sellers, 36% sold their home to a relative, friend, or neighbor, while 20% of buyers contacted the seller directly.

However, for the remaining 44% who don’t have a buyer in mind, the process of selling by owner can present significant challenges. Statistics show that FSBO sales tend to take longer, sell for an average of $46,000 less than agent-assisted sales, and often come with considerably more stress for the homeowner. In 2023, only 7% of homeowners chose to sell their homes as FSBOs.

Selling a house isn’t like putting up your old couch on Craigslist. With the average American homeowner having nearly $300,000 in home equity, the outcome of this sale will likely have a large impact on your finances. If you decide to move forward with selling by owner, it’s important to be well-informed and thoroughly prepared. 

To help you make a sound decision, we’ll run through the essential steps of selling your house for sale by owner — and we’ll even include some tips on how to go about it from an experienced real estate agent. 

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Steps to selling a house by owner

The process of selling a property is complex, so let’s break it down into steps to give you an overview of what you’re (potentially) getting yourself into.

Here’s what you’ll need to do if you want to sell your own house:

Set a competitive listing price

You’ll need to determine a competitive listing price for your home. Realtors typically go about this by running a competitive market analysis (or a CMA; also referred to as “running comps”) to compare the property in question with similar properties in the area. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has a helpful quick-start guide to preparing a CMA, but this can be a challenging task to navigate on your own. Homeowners tend to overvalue their property, which can rule out some would-be buyers before they’ve even seen your living room. In addition to knowing what else is out there in your local market, an experienced Realtor won’t have the emotional ties to your home that may lead to accidental overpricing.

When you’re selling your home yourself, It may be helpful to get your house appraised for an objective opinion of value. An appraisal is carried out by a licensed appraiser who will prepare a full report on your home’s estimated market value based on comparable properties, your home’s specific characteristics, and overall condition. You can expect this to cost around $500.

Prepare your home for sale

This is the part where you’ll need to go through your house, yard, garage — everywhere, basically — to clean and declutter. An agent can help make this process easier by walking through your home with a trained eye to spot any buyer turn-offs.

“The majority of people say yes (or no) to a home when they first walk in, so the simplest thing you can do is declutter and take down all your family photos,” says Vicente Enriquez, a real estate agent and team lead with The Enriquez Group in San Diego. “The buyer needs to be able to imagine what they can do to the property to make it their own.” 

While undertaking a complete renovation probably isn’t necessary to sell your home yourself, do take care of minor repairs that may encourage potential buyers to negotiate down on your asking price. SImilarly, if you’ve painted a child’s bedroom hot pink or have a lime green accent wall in the living room, return those walls to a neutral shade. 

Finally, don’t forget about curb appeal. Tidy up the yard, trim hedges and shrubs, and rake up leaves and debris. Put away distractions like kids toys and recycling bins. As a bonus, add some potted flowers to the entrance for a splash of color.

Market and promote your home

It’s not enough to put a for sale sign in front of your house and wait for buyers to roll through your neighborhood. 100% of buyers are online.

Several FSBO websites, including Zillow, will allow you to post your home details, photos, and even a video for free — but you’ll get the best results if you treat your listing as a professional would. Without the help of an agent, you’ll need to take on these tasks yourself:

  • Take stellar photos. If you’re handy with a camera and can snap them yourself, that can work, otherwise it’s worth considering hiring a professional real estate photographer to come in and get those shiny shots with the right lighting and angles to entice would-be buyers to click on your house.

  • Write a compelling listing. Spend some time scrolling through other property listings and see how they’re put together. Notice which ones pull you in and which ones make your eyes glaze over. Don’t just list your home’s attributes — treat this like a dating profile and let the word know why they should swipe right on your house. 

  • Consider listing on the MLS. The MLS (multiple listing service) is where your home would go if you were working with a real estate agent. MLSs syndicate across all the popular real estate websites to make your property searchable nationwide, increasing exposure and boosting your sales potential. There are ways to list your home on the MLS without a Realtor, including via flat-fee MLS listing services and per-day pricing options. 

If this sounds like a lot of work, there's another option worth considering: featuring your home on Redy. Redy is the only platform that allows real estate agents to compete for the privilege of selling your home. Agents on Redy offer you upfront cash rewards as a direct investment in your home sale, demonstrating their commitment to getting you the best results. By featuring your home on Redy, you can compare proposals from multiple agents and choose the one that best aligns with your needs and preferences.

Respond to buyers and coordinate showings

If you’ve priced your home right, made the right preparations and marketed it well, hopefully you’ll have potential buyers calling and emailing to find out when they can come see your home in person. It’s important to keep on top of your schedule and make sure your home will be available when buyers have time for a viewing — this doesn’t mean eschewing all personal boundaries, but if you’re living in your house as you’re selling it, you’ll need to accommodate buyers coming in and out.

Since 87% of buyers work with agents, you’ll likely coordinate with their agent to find a time that works for everyone. Have a plan for somewhere to go — it’s awkward for everyone if a seller is hovering during a buyer walkthrough — and be ready for evening and weekend showings.

Hire an attorney 

Some states require real estate attorneys to complete a real estate closing (in other cases this role is fulfilled by a title company or settlement agent). Even if yours doesn’t, it’s a good idea to have someone in your corner who knows the law and can process the sale of your home accordingly — especially if you’re not working with a Realtor. While they’re not legal experts, Realtors have knowledge of local and state laws and would normally flag to you if something needs an attorney’s attention. Without that set of eyes, it’s strongly encouraged to work with an attorney.

Sellers also must typically provide disclosures to buyers sharing any known issues with the property that could affect its value or livability. Your exact obligations here will depend on your state – each one has its own set of rules. Disclosures can involve anything from knowledge of lead-based paint to underground storage tanks to knowledge of existing damage to the property. A Realtor would typically provide you with these forms and answer your questions about them, but a lawyer serves this role if needed. 

When the time comes, your buyer may have a closing attorney lined up, but it’s helpful if you’re prepared to hire your own to help guide you through the closing process.

Tips on selling FSBO 

Selling your home on your own is a big undertaking. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to be successful: 

Don’t take it personally

There’s a lot of rejection when it comes to real estate, and it’s important to not take it personally when a potential buyer decides your house isn’t right for them. Offers that may seem low aren’t an insult to your home — they might just be more in line with current market value than the price you’ve decided to ask. 

And remember that not everything is about price — no amount of negotiation can change the fact your house doesn’t have a finished basement or is a two-story instead of a ranch. Let that buyer go find the property they’re really looking for and trust that the right buyer will come your way soon enough.

Be punctual 

If someone is reaching out about your home, be sure to respond in a timely manner. Reply to their email or return their call as quickly as possible — and be sure your home is clean, well-lit, and ready for presentation when a potential buyer arrives for a walkthrough. 

Know what you want

It’s a waste of everyone’s time to list your house for sale as a FSBO “just to see what happens.” If you want to sell your property, commit to the process for best results.

“Know what you’re looking to accomplish with the sale,” says Enriquez. “Have a number in mind and factor in whether you would reduce that price if issues turn up on the home inspection report.”

Enriquez suggests paying a home inspector to inspect your property before listing it to avoid being blindsided by unexpected damage, outdated wiring, or a roof that’s months away from needing repairs. 

Not sure about selling FSBO?

There’s a lot to consider — and it won’t cost you anything to discuss your options with a Realtor first.  

“There’s a difference between a good agent and a bad or inexperienced agent,” says Enriquez, who notes that not all agents have the same processes — and this doesn’t necessarily make an agent better or worse than the next. Finding a Realtor whose process aligns with your sales goals and whose personality matches well with yours is key to a smooth transaction. 

To find an agent who’s a strong match for your needs, we’d recommend featuring your home on Redy as a starting point.

Redy is the only platform where agents pay you for the privilege of selling your home. On Redy, you can compare side-by-side proposals to ensure your potential agent’s experience and expertise makes you feel confident about the process.  

Redy offers a low-pressure environment where you can compare proposals from real estate agents privately and on your own timeline. Unlike other platforms, Redy doesn't share your personal information until you've chosen an agent, giving you full control over the process.

Redy is especially useful if you’re budget-conscious and are considering selling your own home to save money on commissions — aside from the upfront cash rewards, an agent may have the flexibility to negotiate their commission rate with you or provide a level of service that best suits your needs. 

Madeleine Osprey is a freelance writer and a former Realtor. Using her firsthand experience and network of industry professionals, she writes about real estate with the aim of helping homeowners better understand their options and make confident decisions about their property. Madeleine is based in New England and enjoys long walks with her Whippet named Gregory.

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