4 Steps to Sell Your House For Sale By Owner

Selling your own home can save money, but it takes know-how to do for sale by owner.
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Written by Holden Lewis
Senior Writer/Spokesperson
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Edited by Alice Holbrook
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
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Co-written by Linda Bell

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Editor's Note: In April 2024, a judge granted preliminary approval to a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over real estate agents' commissions. See how that will affect home buyers and home sellers.

With the "for sale by owner," or FSBO, option, the homeowner manages the entire selling process from beginning to end, without the help of a real estate agent. The challenging nature of FSBO may be the reason only 7% of sellers went that route in 2023, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors, or NAR.

People often list their own homes to avoid the biggest closing cost for a seller: the listing agent’s commission. Companies that help people sell their homes without an agent say doing so can save thousands.

How much can you save?

It's easy to start imagining the savings, but there are some things to know before putting up that "for sale by owner" sign on your front lawn.

Real estate commissions typically run about 5% to 6% of the home's price, and they're usually split equally between the seller's agent and the buyer's agent. The buyer may ask you to pay some or all of the commission to the buyer's agent.

With some for sale by owner websites, such as houzeo.com and forsalebyowner.com, you can pay for services a la carte, such as agent showings and professional photography, but this will cut into your profits.

4 steps to selling your home FSBO

1. Fix up the home to selling condition

Make repairs and minor upgrades, such as replacing toilet seats and shower heads, and repainting the front door. Consider staging the home to maximize appeal: Declutter to show off how much space the house has, depersonalize it so potential buyers can see themselves living in it, make sure it's clean and keep the front yard tidy and manicured.

2. Set the right price

Setting the price is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when selling your own house. Price your home too high, and it might stagnate without a buyer. Price your home too low, and you might lose potential profit.

🤓Nerdy Tip

FSBO homes draw significantly lower median sale prices than agent-assisted homes, according to the NAR.

If you can, go to open houses in the month leading up to listing your home for sale. Keep track of which homes have sold and at what price. A listing agent can provide you with a list of recently sold properties similar to your own at little or no cost without you having to hire them. This is often called a “comparative market analysis.”

Getting an appraisal to estimate your home’s value can help you set a fair price, but it may cost several hundred dollars. You can also use the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s house price index calculator or an online home value estimator.

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3. Promote your home online and IRL

Online exposure is key to getting your home in front of as many potential buyers as possible. Real estate pros use the multiple listing service, or MLS, a comprehensive database of homes for sale.

For a flat fee, you can use a third-party website to have a broker list your property on the MLS, but that’s where their help would end. You would have to pay the broker to help you with other tasks, such as negotiating an offer.

Other options include listing your home on public websites like Zillow.

Showcase your home in online listings by hiring a professional photographer or videographer.

In addition to a digital listing, add "for sale" signs around your neighborhood directing people to your property. You can also promote your house in your local newspaper and on social media.

4. Hire an attorney

In some states, a real estate attorney oversees the closing of a home sale and prepares certain documents, whether an agent is involved or not.

Even if an attorney isn’t required, it may be beneficial to hire one when selling your own home. An attorney can help you prepare the necessary paperwork, such as legally mandated disclosure documents. If there are questions about the home’s title or boundary disputes, a lawyer can also help you resolve those issues.

Qualities of a successful FSBO seller

It takes a specific skill set to sell a house without an agent.

  • You need to be a strong negotiator to get a fair price for your house and hammer out details, such as closing costs or presale repairs.

  • You’ll need some marketing chops. To get your property in front of potential buyers, you’ll need to arrange open houses, advertise online and more.

  • You'll need to navigate the legal complexities of selling a house, such as writing purchase contracts, setting up escrow accounts, and evaluating buyer contingencies and disclosures.

Should you sell your own home?

Selling your home without an agent is definitely doable. It’s a matter of determining how much time, talent and money you’re willing to spend on the task. Selling your own home is like taking on a part-time job.

Without a listing agent, you’ll not only be responsible for managing the home selling process, including setting the price and marketing the home, you’ll also have to deal with some of the emotional and logistical challenges from which agents typically shield their clients.

  • You might need to drop everything to show the house on short notice.

  • You might dedicate weekends to open houses.

  • You’ll need to accept feedback on your home and keep a cool head during negotiations.

  • You'll want to confirm whether buyers are preapproved for a mortgage. You can ask the buyer to provide a recent preapproval letter from a lender when they make an offer.

If you have the time and the desire, selling your house for sale by owner can be a worthwhile challenge — as long as you don’t take the work involved lightly.

Frequently asked questions

Start with a plan for how you'll manage the entire home selling process. You will be responsible for marketing, showing, staging and setting the price of your home, as well as negotiating with and vetting buyers. Using for sale by owner websites, you can pay for professional help with some of the responsibilities.

It depends on what’s most important to you when selling your home. Some people choose for sale by owner to save money on the listing agent commission and have control over the entire home selling process. However, selling a home without a listing agent can be complicated and stressful, and the savings may not be worth it for some people.

When selling your own home, you'll avoid paying the full listing agent’s commission, but you'll still have to pay the same closing costs any seller would, including title insurance and recording fees, and maybe a commission to the buyer’s agent, if one is involved. Closing costs for a seller are usually 6% to 10% of the home’s sales price.

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