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How to Sell a House by Owner in Florida

Lara ManettaMay 30, 2024

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You’re a diehard DIYer, and you know your home better than anyone. Selling your home yourself instead of shelling out funds for a Realtor® may seem like a no-brainer. But there’s a reason many people opt to use the services of a professional.

Selling a house is a complicated process, even when you are selling to someone you know. It's vital to pay careful attention at every step to ensure you get the results you want. That’s not to say that you can’t do it — but you might not want to go it completely alone. 

As a potential For Sale by Owner (FSBO, commonly pronounced "fizz-bo"), you may find many of the steps below do not directly apply to your situation. For instance, you may not need to learn how to make an effective sales listing because you already have a potential buyer. Over half of all FSBO sellers sell their homes to people they already know. But, about 31% of people who choose the FSBO route go it alone because they want to save the cost of a professional real estate agent. 

The tools available to sellers make FSBO more accessible, but it remains an outlier choice. According to the National Association of Realtors report Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, only 7% of sellers took the FSBO route in 2023. About half of these sellers sold their homes to people they already knew, meaning only around 3.5% of sellers sold their homes themselves on the open market. 

So, if you choose to sell your house yourself, make sure you do it right. Mistakes made when you're getting out the gate could hamstring your success. We talked to Tampa Bay area agent Tricia Stoddard at Charles Rutenberg Realty to get the scoop.

Do your research

When asked what advice she'd give someone wanting to sell their own home, Stoddard said, foremost, "If you are determined to sell by owner, do your research." Stoddard has acted as both a buyer's and seller's agent for nearly a decade, which has given her a great deal of insight into every aspect of the home sales process. 

About 20% of people who sell by owner do it because they've been approached by a potential buyer. Stoddard shared a story about a seller who had been approached to sell his shop. The shop was zoned commercial but abutted a residential neighborhood. He'd gotten as far as the contract when a zoning discrepancy became apparent. The property, which was zoned commercial, was listed as residential in the paperwork offered by the buyer. 

"If he'd gone through with it, he could have wound up not getting paid," Stoddard said.

Most people only buy or sell houses a few times in their lives. Real estate professionals engage in real estate transactions hundreds of times throughout their careers. Realtors® have experience behind them that makes it easy for them to see the intricacies of real estate deals that won't be familiar to most people. "If he'd had a Realtor® involved, they would have caught it right away," she said. 

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About one in three people selling by owner say they made legal mistakes along the way. One option before going it alone is to take a look at Redy. Redy allows you to vet multiple agents and their experience — so you can find one whose outlook and background work for you.

Get the house market-ready

This is a multi-part process. It starts by making small repairs and improvements that can increase the value of your home. You get the best bang for your buck by focusing first on curb appeal. Researchers at the University of Texas found that homes that were visually appealing at first sight garnered prices that were around 7% higher.

These home improvements are also some of the ones that require the lowest investment. A bit of time washing windows, trimming hedges, and repainting the front door can cost little to nothing and dramatically improve your home's appearance, often at no cost besides your own labor.

Be more conservative when it comes to more expensive improvements. Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs Value study showed that most home improvements do not pay for themselves when you sell. A major kitchen remodel, for instance, costs an average of $78K while increasing the sale price by only $32.5K — which is less than 42% of the total cost. 

Removing clutter, organizing closets, and reducing the number of personal items in view all help get your home ready to show. Rooms that are clean with tasteful and minimal decor look brighter and more inviting. Give potential buyers a chance to visualize themselves and their own possessions in the home. 

Take pro-quality photographs

When you sell by owner, you are going up against professional real estate photographers. Luckily, we all carry high quality cameras in our pockets with us day to day, our phones. Getting good photos with your phone takes some special attention. But, with the right approach, you can get crisp, inviting photos that encourage buyers to give your listing a closer look.

  • Use HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode to get the best exposure. This mode adds more detail to dark and light areas for a richer look. 

  • Use optical instead of digital zoom when getting a close-up on key features. Digital zoom simply crops out the edges and blows up the pixels, resulting in a grainy-looking effect. 

  • When possible, open the curtains and use natural light. Try taking photos during the "golden hour," the hour before sunset, when light is soft and diffused.

Take as many photos as possible and select the best ones. Be sure you have photos showcasing your home's most important spaces. The living room, master bedroom, and kitchen are the ones buyers want to see most, according to the National Association of Realtors®. 

Set a realistic price and time frame to sell

What’s one of the top mistakes sellers make when listing a home?

Stoddard says: "Sellers thinking they can sell their house for more than it's worth." Stoddard explains that sellers have an emotional connection to their home that can cause them to overvalue it. This can get between them and setting a realistic price. 

Setting a price that is too high for the type of home or for the conditions of the sale can keep buyers from taking a look. The median home price in Florida was $410,000 in 2023. Obviously, the value of an individual home is going to depend on its size, its location, and other factors. Check against other listings in your market, both agented listings and FSBO, to figure out what is a good value for your home. 

Selling at the price you want also takes patience. FSBO is best for people who can wait a while for a sale. According to NAR, self-represented sellers are twice as likely as those with agents to say they didn't get an acceptable offer within the first three months of listing their homes.

Get the word out

Drive-by traffic alone is not enough to sell your house. You need to advertise your property for sale in the places buyers are looking. There are a number of FSBO websites, each with its own list of benefits and drawbacks. Many will list your home on the MLS — for a fee. Free services typically do not offer MLS access.

You can also list your home on Zillow, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist at no charge. However, be prepared to converse with many people who are not serious buyers before hearing from someone truly interested in buying your home at a reasonable price. 

Many, many people.

Confirm the buyer's suitability and readiness, then arrange a showing

When you do hear from a buyer, find out if they are ready to buy before you arrange a showing. Ask for a copy of a mortgage pre-approval letter from their lender. This is a document that shows their lender has gone over their finances and is more likely to approve them for a loan. In the case of a cash buyer, ask for documentation of the money in the bank.

Once you have this in place, you can arrange a time for them to see your home. For safety, make sure you have their full name, and that a friend or family member knows when the buyer is coming by. If your buyer is represented by a real estate agent, the agent can show the home while you head out for a couple of hours. 

Get your documents in order and close the deal

Your showing was a success and the buyer made an offer! As great as it'd be to hand over the keys for a briefcase of cash, there are a few other steps to take and documentation needed along the way.

Documents you will need include your property deed, a written purchase agreement, a closing statement, title reports, a property disclosure form, and mortgage documents. If your neighborhood has a homeowners association, you'll need to provide the HOA rules and documents.

While home inspections are not required by law in Florida, most buyers will insist on one before a sale. You'll need to include the report after the inspection is complete. Home inspections usually cost between $300 and $500.

As outlined by NAR, closing is a multistep process that will involve electronic signatures and transfers of the funds from the seller's lender to you.

Alternatives to Selling by Owner

Many FSBO sellers report the process is time-consuming, stressful, and often yields a lower selling price. If the prospect has you leery, consider another alternative: featuring your home on Redy. Redy lets real estate professionals approach you and offer financial incentives upfront for the privilege. You get your home in front of qualified real estate agents in your market, where you see side-by-side proposals. 

Redy is an especially good option if finances are your reason for considering selling by owner. In addition to receiving a cash reward, you can compare agent commissions to keep more in your pocket — without stressful negotiations. 

Find out what’s waiting for you at Redy.

Lara Manetta is a freelance writer based in Florida. She's written extensively about local and national real estate, including a book for doctors interested in real estate investing. When she's not writing, you can find her kayaking, reading, or sailing. 

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