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Selling your own house ... advice?
Old 03-02-2018, 10:02 AM   #1
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Selling your own house ... advice?

We are planning on selling our house in a few years
(downsizing). The house is worth >$450K.
Giving up more than $20K for realtor fee seems painful to me.
What is the best way for listing and selling a house yourself?
Pitfalls? ... any advice?


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Old 03-02-2018, 10:11 AM   #2
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Add the realtor's fee to the amount you want to walk away with and let them sell it for you. Lot's of potential headaches dealing with potential buyers (and their realtors).

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Old 03-02-2018, 10:31 AM   #3
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I have always sold property/land myself but had my attorney have a buy/sell agreement with the details addressed in writing. The cost for everything has always been under 1000 bucks for the legal part of it for me.

I know from my experience I have saved thousands/thousands of dollars doing business this way. Nothing says you can't go with a realtor if you can't sell it down the road.

That has always been a selling point for me to not go through an agent. I personally would rather buy from the owner instead of a person that really doesn't know the place or is after his/her pay day.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:35 AM   #4
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Use a realtor chances are your buyer will have one and you have to pay you don't save as much as you think .
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:35 AM   #5
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There are quite a few ways to this more effectively than a few years ago. Once upon a time, it was pretty much a requirement to hire an agent so you could get your property on the MLS. Nowadays, there are lots and LOTS of outfits that will basically charge you a small fee (it's about $250 around these parts) to put your listing on the (two) MLS which in-turn "feed" most of the other real estate websites. Also, depending on where you are, you can arrange to either have a closing attorney or title agency do much of the paperwork for not a lot of money. Nonetheless, if you would be successful in selling on your own as like most things real estate, much of it depends on your location.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:39 AM   #6
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My ex and I sold our house that was in that price range using one of the for sale by owner sites...I think it was For Sale By Owner Marketing and Consulting Service but there are several sites out there doing essentially the same thing.

Because of our asking price, we chose to go with the package that included a 1/4 page ad in the print magazine. The package also included being listed on the MLS and I think a street sign. This was in 2006 and IIRC the total cost was about $2K.

I think we intentionally started a bit high on the price, lowered it after a few weeks, ended up with two buyers at the same time (both offering more than the lowered price but less than the original price), chose the better offer, and sold the home in less than a month.

We had bought and sold several homes by that time, so we were comfortable with all parts of the process and doing them ourselves; we didn't need to pay a realtor to coordinate everything. In fact, we sat down with the buyers to fill out the contract and got the whole thing done in about 20 minutes at a Starbucks and it was much easier and faster than the offer/counteroffer process (we did have buyers who were easy to work with).

My advice:

1. Be sure you're comfortable doing all of it yourself - taking pictures, writing ad copy, deciding on a price, engaging with a FSBO site, doing showings, negotiating the offer, dealing with inspectors, doing any needed repairs, dealing with the title company.

2. Pricing was probably the hardest part for us. But if you start a little on the high side, get it into the MLS and get enough exposure, the market will tell you - if you're too high, you won't get any showings or interest; if you're too low, you'll get multiple offers at or above the asking price. I think what we figured was we could misprice by $10K and still come out ahead rather than pay $20K to an agent. The other thing I would do now is objectively go look at some houses for sale (either online at or in person) in your price range. You'll get a sense of what your house is worth that way: "Oh, that one is the same size as ours but 5 years older and they're asking $399K" "That one has an extra bedroom and a walk-in master shower and they're asking $449K"

3. Consider offering half of whatever the normal commission is in your area to any buyer's agent. Buyers' agents generally won't show your house to their clients if there is no (or reduced) commission for them or if they have to negotiate something with you. I think we did this and it was fairly standard at the time. I don't think we ended up paying it though because our buyers happened to not be working with an agent either.

4. We did use a standard "fill-in-the-blank" contract that our state uses. Since we had been through buying and selling several houses, we already knew how to do that, and the actual physical contracts were provided for free by the FSBO place.

5. As hinted above, I would suggest picking an advertising/marketing package that is appropriate to your home's sales price. The FSBO place would have let us try to sell our house with a one line text only ad, or a full page color ad. Look through the FSBO magazines and use common sense and you'll be able to figure it out.

The main pitfall I would avoid is any sort of non-standard or ambiguous contract language. Talking in person with the buyer and hashing out the language together helps minimize or avoid this.

Another one, I guess, as mentioned by PP, is to avoid problematic counterparties (buyers in your case). Everyone we've dealt with has been fine, but I know they are out there. If you get the sense that you're dealing with one of these, the easiest thing to do is to turn down their offers or counteroffer at a higher price so they pay you for dealing with the hassle (can be hard to assess up front; guess high).

Good luck!
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:39 AM   #7
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List on Zillow for free. Add a buyers agent commission of 2.5% into your final acceptable price. In listing mention buyers agent commission available. This will open up listing to those buyers who have an agent. Has worked for me. Especially in a tight market. Jmho.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:40 AM   #8
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There's a middle ground- one of my coworkers used a cut-rate realtor who provided only limited services but it still got them on MLS and there may have been some screening of potential buyers and some automated scheduling. You can "un-bundle" a lot now.

DH and I used a full-service realtor and some of the things you might Not want are staging advice and professional photos- plenty of advice on the Internet for those topics. You should also have a good idea of what your place is worth. I was grateful for the automated scheduling- realtors would go through a web site and suggest a time to see the house, I'd get an e-mail and could accept or reject it. It got crazy- we had 40 visits over a few weeks (fortunately were out of town for part of that). The advance notice helped.

Maybe others who have used reduced-service realtors can chime in here- not sure if the full-service types will be interested in taking their buyers to see your place if they don't get a very big cut of the sale.

ETA- looks like you got good advice on this already!
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:41 AM   #9
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Also use a real estate attorney to handle contract and closing.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:42 AM   #10
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there are many pitfalls. But it also depends on when your are selling. What will the market be like when your sell. Will it be sellers market?

We help my MIL sell her house after moving into an aging facility. After she had moved we had 5 or 6 auctions of stuff and cleaned the place up. In the process quite a few people showed interest in buying the home. Early in the process (when MIL had just moved) we had RE agents give a proposal of how they would sell and pricing. Well all the people who were interested in a private sale were far short of the earlier proposed prices. We got an agent and put the house up at a higher price. The showed the house for 2 days (they could not get everyone thru that wanted to see it. House sold for as much as others that had been completely modernized while this had not been. It was also sold with no contingent inspections or remediation.

Can you do that without an agent, maybe. But expect low ball offers. And know what the market is like when you offer your house for sale.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:52 AM   #11
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We sold our last two houses without a realtor as well. One in 2011 and one in 2014. The result of both were simply a fluke. My wife and I each had separate houses and were married in 2011. I had my house listed for 6 months with no takers. The listing expired and I was contacted by someone who wanted to buy my house and use as a rental. We negotiated a fair price.

The 2nd house we put on the market with Help U Sell. Again, we accepted an offer a bit lower than our asking price due to the fact that we had now broken even and had found a retirement community we wanted to buy in. We sold for 10k under what we could have gotten on a good day BUT didn't have to pay realtor fees and were just ready to move on with life.

By the way, in 3 1/2 years, the home we purchased is worth 100k more than what we bought it for.

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Old 03-02-2018, 10:53 AM   #12
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I have sold my last 3 homes myself. Put it up on Zillow as a Make Me Move listing. You will get a lot of realtors. Put it up at what you want and when you get a realtor, tell them you want to see that number and do not care what they sell it for.
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:01 AM   #13
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As a lawyer I can easily handle all the legal paperwork BUT I always hire a professional. A GOOD Realtor is worth their weight in gold in my opinion. A bad Realtor isn't worth your time but a good Realtor really is worth it. Find one who is a specialist in listings in your area.
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:03 AM   #14
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The most important thing is to get your house on the MLS, period.
The second most important thing is to have an attorney look over any purchase agreement (PA) you get, and advise-even if it is the "state approved" PA. A buyer's agent could put contingencies into a "state approved" contract you might miss. He/She is working for the buyer, not you.

Are you comfortable with total strangers wanting to see your house at nearly any time of day? (You have no way to "screen" them most likely.) Do you know how to pre-qualify buyers? Will their mortgage rep. give you information on their financial situation, or will he hide behind the "that's protected information" response. Will you be able to negotiate a "tough" inspection and still keep the buyers happy?

(I personally know buyers who want a discount from FSBO's since they or their Realtor will be doing extra work without a seller agent involved.)

Not trying to talk you out of FSBO. I am a 20 year plus Realtor and before that had sold two of my own properties FSBO. But know what you are getting into. If you have a short selling season (northern & midwest USA), which basically is spring and summer until school starts up again, you cannot afford to be jerked around by buyers and buyer agents and waste a couple of months of prime selling time. People who tell you to "try it yourself for a couple of months, THEN call in a Realtor if it does not sell." are not thinking through your short season for prime sales.

Others here have suggested looking into "ala carte" or limited help Realtors. For many people, that is a good suggestion and one that will save you thousands.
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:09 AM   #15
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Hire a professional to photograph the home. Most people shop online now so do not skimp on this step.
I have also heard from brokers that they do not like to show for sale by owner homes, knowing that they may have to pick up the slack in knowledge and expertise that the seller does not have.
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:16 AM   #16
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Realtors' fees are negotiable. Get a realtor, negotiate the fee, and get it done.

Originally Posted by CaliKid View Post
As a lawyer I can easily handle all the legal paperwork BUT I always hire a professional. A GOOD Realtor is worth their weight in gold in my opinion. A bad Realtor isn't worth your time but a good Realtor really is worth it. Find one who is a specialist in listings in your area.
I agree with Calikid that a good realtor is worth his weight in gold. Mine saved me many times as much as his fees and yours should too. Don't just go with a random real estate guy. Put some effort into choosing a good realtor, just as you would do when choosing a surgeon.
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:51 AM   #17
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There are so many factors in deciding to go FSBO or not. In my case, my condo was 50 miles away from where I live now.
I felt it was money well spent, because of a number of issues. The state mandated wired smoke detectors and low flow toilets, so I let the Realtor deal with the retrofits.
The condo sold in one week, and she handled all the paperwork. I was very happy with the outcome.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:21 PM   #18
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If I were buying a FSBO property, I would definitely expect a lower price knowing that the sellers aren’t paying an agent. And if I were a buyer’s agent, I definitely would not show any properties where I wouldn’t get the normal amount of commission. But maybe some buyers aren’t as savvy and/or maybe their agents are willing to work at a discount or for free?

I feel like you get what you pay for.
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Old 03-02-2018, 10:30 PM   #19
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Here is an old thread with some good info on the subject:
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Old 03-02-2018, 11:29 PM   #20
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If you are an experienced seller in a hot, seller's market then some people can be successful FSBO. But, bear in mind that does not usually mean saving all of the commission.

First, you will probably have to pay an agent to get you into MLS. There are relatively few markets where you can get enough exposure without being in MLS. Getting into MLS is not free. You may be able to pay a flat fee just get listed or may be able to sign with a limited broker.

You have to have the personality to be able to handle the sale of your house like a business rather than as a homeowner. FSBO sellers are notorious for overpricing their homes because they can't be objective.

Anyway back to costs. If you don't have an agent, then you probably will need to hire an attorney to write you and review a contract of sale and other paperwork. Factor in that cost.

Most importantly, it is highly like that the buyer will have an agent. In my area, for example, typical broker fee is 6% but 3% of that goes to the buyer's agent. If you want to sell the property through MLS you need to be offering the same commission to a buyer's agent that is typical in your market. If 3% for each agent is typical in your area and you sell a house for $450k, then you may save $13k or so on the selling agent (less the cost to get into MLS and less whatever you pay to your attorney), but you won't save on the buyer's agent. Of course, some FSBO sellers won't pay a buyer's agent. They tend to not sell their house very quickly although maybe in an extremely hot neighborhood it might work.

Oh - another thing. Buyers aren't idiots. If you sell FSBO they know you aren't paying a seller's agent. So they usually offer less for the house to compensate. In other words, they think the savings should benefit them.

I am not against FSBO for someone in the right situation. If I was experienced in selling, could be objective, had a way to get into MLS, had an attorney to do the legal work and was in a very hot market where a quick sale is the norm -- then I might try FSBO and might save a few thousand dollars. However, I think relatively few people will meet all those criteria.

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