Six Tips for Selling Your Home Without a Real Estate Agent

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With all the online real estate information available to home sellers nowadays, it's not surprising that some of them consider selling without the help of a real estate agent.
The biggest advantage of the for-sale-by-owner strategy is that a commission won't need to be paid to a listing agent. But those taking on the job themselves need to roll up their sleeves and prepare for a little work to get the home sold,


With all the online real estate information available to home sellers nowadays, it's not surprising that some of them consider selling without the help of a real estate agent.

The biggest advantage of the for-sale-by-owner strategy is that a commission won't need to be paid to a listing agent. But those taking on the job themselves need to roll up their sleeves and prepare for a little work to get the home sold, understanding that they will be the ones taking care of tasks ranging from marketing to showing the property to interested buyers.

Those interested in trying their hand at selling a house might also consider the following tips:

1. Prepare the House

Before doing anything, make sure that the house is in good shape to show, said Piper Nichole, author of 'The For Sale By Owner Handbook.' That means making sure it is clean, decluttered, odor-free, brightly lit and freshly painted. Curb appeal is also important. See what projects to consider before selling.

She also advises thinking about offering buyer incentives such as flexible move-in arrangements, help with closing costs or providing a home warranty.

2. Price It Correctly

"The biggest mistake for sale by owners make is pricing their home too high," Nichole said in an e-mail interview. If the home subsequently ends up sitting too long on the market and the asking price is lower, a potential buyer might speculate that something is wrong with the property, she said.

Use Web sites such as Zillow.com and HouseValues.com to get a starting idea of what a house is worth, said Colby Sambrotto, chief operating officer of ForSaleByOwner.com. A look at a listings site, such as Realtor.com, will reveal what sellers are asking for in the neighborhood, he added.

Nichole also advises asking at least three agents for a free comparative market analysis before setting an asking price -- as long as you're prepared to hear their pitches on why you should enlist their help to sell the home. But Sambrotto cautions a seller not to be disingenuous to a real estate agent, and to bring one in only if he or she is considering hiring an agent to help in the process.

Finally, go to neighborhood open houses to see what other homes are selling for. If the home is unique and difficult to compare to others, consider having it appraised, Nichole said.

3. Decide How to Use the Commission Savings

Sellers also need to ask themselves if they want to use all or part of the commission they would otherwise pay in order to discount the property, said Steve Udelson, CEO of Owners.com. The alternative -- extracting as much profit from the home as possible -- is attractive at first blush, but often isn't the most efficient way to price a home.

Translation: Those opting not to discount should probably brace for a longer time on the market, Udelson said.

"Probably the best route for most people is an in-between approach -- use part of the savings to attract a buyer faster and part of the savings as added profit," he said. The biggest mistake that sellers will make is trying to get top dollar for the property as well as a fast sale, he said.

4. Market It Correctly

The Internet can be a big help in marketing a property. Sites ForSaleByOwner.com and Owners.com, for example, allow a seller to post a listing to gain Internet exposure.

Other online options include community marketplaces such as Craigslist.org and portals such as Yahoo. When placing a newspaper ad, also make sure to ask if it will be posted online for free, Nichole said.

But don't underestimate the power of a sign, she added. Directional signs can call attention to a home from nearby roadways, and signs in front of the home should have an information tube or box filled with informational flyers. Just make sure you're clear on area sign laws.

And consider listing on the Multiple Listing Service as well, she added.

"The MLS sells more homes than any other method," Nichole said. "If a buyer's agent finds a buyer for your home, you would only pay one commission."

5. Get Support Lined Up

Decide early on whose services to use for the paperwork, Sambrotto said. That means either finding a title company or a real estate attorney to assist in completing the sale.

When interviewing professionals, a seller might want to ask whether they have worked with for-sale-by-owner clients before, and how many of those clients they've had in the past month, Udelson said. "Pick the one that's most enthusiastic," he said.

6. Make Sure a Buyer Can Afford It

"When it does come time to deal with a buyer, it's a good idea to have a written preapproval," Udelson said. Working with a buyer who is preapproved for a mortgage will remove some potential surprises from the closing process.

Nichole said that one of the most common problems that a for sale by owner will run into is getting to closing only to find out that the buyer couldn't afford the house -- "causing them to start the selling process all over again."

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