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How to Sell a House By Owner in the Lone Star State

Hayley AbernathyMay 30, 2024
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When it comes time to sell their most valuable asset, a typical Texas homeowner wants to maximize every dollar of that sale. Naturally, as a home seller, you may be curious whether you can pocket more money if you sell a home yourself or sell it via a real estate agent. Armed with YouTube and a Texas-sized can-do attitude, you might think you can do an agent’s job as well as they can – and, of course, forego paying commission. 

However, selling a home by owner (also called FSBO, pronounced “fizz-bow”) may not be quite that simple. To help you weigh your options, we’ve laid out an overview below. For expert insights on Texas’ market and FSBO sales, we also spoke with real estate agent Donald Wright from the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area, who has over 21 years of experience and is consistently a top producer in the region. 

We’ll look at the details of how to sell a house by owner in Texas, plus some pros and cons of going solo vs. hiring a listing agent. That way, you can make the most informed, fitting decision. 

What is FSBO?

Most home sellers in Texas (and 89% of sellers in the United States in 2023) work with a real estate agent to list their homes for sale. 

“I don’t see FSBO sales very often,” says Wright, “and the reason why is that most people eventually just realize I need someone to help me get through this process.”

Typically, a listing agent handles most of the paperwork and legwork of a home sale: analyzing similar homes in the area, pricing the home, advising the owner on how to stage and prep the home, photographing, listing the home, managing showings, networking with other agents, receiving and responding to offers, negotiating the deal, and more. 

In return for that work, the listing agent receives a percentage of the final sale price in commission when the deal closes. While commissions vary depending on your region and are technically negotiable with your agent; generally, about 6% of the total sales price is split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent at closing. (As the National Association of Realtors explains, the exact split and other details can vary.) 

However, you forego working with an agent when you list your house on the market as “for sale by owner” (aka FSBO). You must manage all those aspects of the sale yourself, on top of the standard seller responsibilities of preparing the home, keeping it clean for showings, packing up an entire house, and moving out. In theory, all this DIY work done as an FSBO seller enables you to keep at least 3% of the sales price (the commission you would have paid to a listing agent). As we will see, however, selling FSBO may not necessarily result in more money in your bank account after the deal closes. 

Pros & cons of selling by owner

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of selling without an agent compared to an agent-assisted sale. 

Pros of going FSBO

  • More control over the whole process

  • No commission is paid to a listing agent

  • No “middle man” when communicating with buyers’ agents and potential buyers

Cons of going FSBO

  • A significantly greater investment of time and work on your part

  • Potentially reduced profits, even without paying a commission to a listing agent, since the median sales price of an FSBO home in 2023 was $95,000 lower than the median for agent-assisted sales

  • Selling often takes longer for FSBO listings, reports Wright.

  • Pricing the home and negotiating a contract without an agent can be tricky. (15% of FSBO sellers in 2023 reported “Getting the right price” was the most difficult part of FSBO.)

  • You’ll likely still need to pay a commission to a buyer’s agent and other selling costs.

There will be pros and cons, whether you work with a listing agent or decide to sell by owner. When you understand the challenges, risks, and tasks required, you can make the best decision for you. 

So now let’s take a more detailed look. 

Selling a home by owner, step-by-step

Even when working with an agent, selling a home is a multi-step process that takes forethought and persistence. Going the FSBO route to sell your Texas home will require more hands-on work from you each step of the way.

1. Prep your home for sale

Before putting your home on the market, you must prepare it to make a good impression on potential buyers. When you work with an experienced listing agent, they typically give you detailed advice on the specific prep needed for your home. 

When you go FSBO, you must decide how to approach the prep. Depending on your home’s current condition, you may need to: 

  • Make necessary minor repairs: Got a cracked window or a loose light fixture? Now is the time to finally check those off your to-do list. Even small unfixed repairs may give the impression that your home hasn’t been well cared for. 

  • Declutter and depersonalize: Remove personal photos and knick-knacks and maximize space by reducing furniture and clearing off horizontal surfaces. 

  • Refresh and repaint: “If you’ve lived in your house for five years or ten years,” says Wright, It could probably use a fresh coat of paint” – especially if you have kids and pets. While painting prep may seem like a hassle, Wright says this is one of the most cost-effective and important steps to get your home ready.

  • Boost your curb appeal: You do not need all-new landscaping to sell your house, but you should give your yard a manicure. Trim the hedges, mow the lawn, and use a good edge trimmer for crisp results. Fresh mulch and a few flowers near your home’s main entrance can also draw buyers’ eyes and invite them in. 

2. Set a competitive listing price 

It’s time for you to do some serious homework. 

This is a crucial step, as you don’t want to undervalue your home, decreasing potential profit, but you also want to set a price that encourages buyers to look and, in a perfect world, could even set the stage for competing offers. 

Typically, your listing agent performs a comparative market analysis (CMA) to analyze how similar homes in your neighborhood have recently performed on the market. From there, the agent can use their localized knowledge and experience to set a price that’s higher, lower, or similar based on your home’s condition and features in comparison. 

According to Wright, “If you don’t do this (job) every day, it’s hard to know what you don’t know.” However, even if you don’t have the same experience and knowledge that a RealtorⓇ brings, you can still look at “comps” (comparable homes in your area) and use some of the publicly available information online to see how your house may stack up. 

3. List your home online

Once you’ve decided on your listing price, it’s time to go live! You can list your home on Zillow for free, and the listing will also populate to Trulia. However, to get the most exposure for your FSBO listing, you should pay for access to your area’s local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the online database that real estate agents use to share information about properties. 

Pro Tip: Leverage your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

Technically, listing homes on the MLS is limited to real estate brokers and agents. However, various online brokerages offer FSBO sellers flat-fee options to list on the MLS. That way, when buyers and their agents use any major real estate app or site to view area homes for sale, yours will be included. 

Once you decide where to list your home, you must craft an informative, compelling listing. 

A good FSBO listing should include the following: 

4. Market your home

When an agent helps you sell your home, they use their networking power and proven marketing strategies to put your listing in front of many prospective buyers and buyers’ agents. Without that help, you’ll need to get creative to spread the word. 

Here are some examples of DIY marketing you might try for your FSBO listing: 

  • Place a nice for-sale sign in the yard (depending on local sign regulations)

  • Host an open house and promote it with yard signs and social media

  • Share your listing on social media and ask friends to share it as well

5. Manage showings

It’s time to let the prospective buyers in! When prospective buyers or agents call, you’ll need to be ready to schedule showings quickly and flexibly. 

Here are some things to consider as you prepare for this exciting stage: 

  • Keep it clean: Keep your house clean and tidy at all times so you’re ready on short notice when a showing pops up.

  • To stay or not to stay? Remember that home buyers may not feel as free to look around and imagine themselves in the space if you’re present.  

  • Use a lockbox: If you decide not to stay on the property, you can purchase a lockbox similar to what a Realtor would use so buyers’ agents can access the home without you. 

  • Prescreen potential buyers and agents: You don’t want to let just anyone visit your home, especially while you’re not there. Wright explains why security is challenging for FSBO sellers: “If someone calls you, I mean, you don't know who they are. You don’t know anything about that person. And you’re just letting a stranger in your house. But when you're listed with an agent, that (buyer’s) agent has been vetted, and that (buyer’s) agent has vetted their clients, and there's just less of a chance of something weird happening.”

So, take reasonable measures to protect your home and avoid wasting time with “buyers” who aren’t serious. 

For example, when you receive a call from an agent, look them up online to ensure they have an active Texas real estate license. When you confirm they have a business and a reputation to protect, you can feel more confident they’re not likely to let something happen to your property on their watch. 

Plus, vet potential buyers by asking for proof that they have been pre-approved for a loan. This is common industry practice and ensures you don’t have tire kickers coming for a showing. 

6. Field offers and negotiate a deal

When you get the call you’ve been waiting for – your first offer! – it’s natural to be excited. However, look closely at the written terms before agreeing to anything. (And no, a verbal offer does not count. Everything should be in writing!) 

Of course, the price will be top of mind, but you will also want to look at: 

  • What type of financing the buyer will use (if any)

  • The proposed closing date

  • Any contingencies, such as an inspection contingency or the sale of the buyer’s current home

Pro Tip: Require a pre-approval letter

If you haven’t been given one already for a showing, ensure you have a buyer’s mortgage pre-approval letter or other proof of funds before signing a contract. (Keep in mind that a pre-approval letter and a prequalification letter are not equal.)

And remember, you can negotiate! You don’t have to reject an offer that isn’t up to snuff immediately. You can counteroffer and, hopefully, find mutually agreeable terms. If not, then it’s okay to let that buyer go and continue marketing and showing until you find the right one. 

Consider a lawyer’s assistance: Now that it’s time to manage binding legal documents, you may consider hiring a real estate attorney to advise you on the contract and help manage the documents as you head to closing. Without a realtor guiding you, an attorney may give you peace of mind during this technical part of the home-selling process. 

6. Close the deal

Now that you’ve jumped all the other hurdles of the FSBO sale, it’s finally time to close! Real estate transactions in Texas occur at title companies, so you’ll gather there with the buyer and buyer’s agent to sign your name (repeatedly) and receive your proceeds from the sale.  

A different way to save money on the sale of your home

Now that you know what it takes to sell a home by owner in Texas, you can decide whether that amount of work and time is worth it to you to hold onto the approximately 3% in commission you would have paid a listing agent. Unfortunately, Wright notes that most FSBO owners he sees “end up costing themselves money because a good agent is going to get them top dollar for their home and make it worth it to pay that agent.”

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However, selling FSBO is not the only way to save money on selling your home! With Redy, you can save money while also enjoying the many benefits an experienced agent brings. 

When you use Redy, top agents compete and pay for the privilege of listing your home. You simply share some information about your home, and then within a couple of days, you’ll receive detailed offers on our platform from agents in your area who would like to work with you. Each one will specify their fees and terms so you know precisely what to expect, and – the best part – they’ll also offer you an upfront cash reward with their proposal! 

And don’t worry, you won’t be hounded by agents. You simply review their proposals online, at your pace, and select the best fit for you. Sign up for a free account to get started today!

Hayley M. Abernathy is a freelance writer and editor based in Knoxville, Tennessee, covering real estate, home design, agriculture, mental health, and lifestyle topics.

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