Working in the real estate business is not easy, so it’s not surprising why realtors take a commission from each transaction they help close. Considering these expenses usually come out of the seller’s pockets, many are choosing to sell a house without an agent so that they can avoid them. If you want to learn how it can be done before your next move, our step-by-step guide will take you through the entire process from start to finish.
While real estate transactions usually include at least one realtor in the mix, nothing stops you from selling a property without their assistance. Although only 8% of sellers sold a property on their own in 2020, closing a deal this way means you won’t have to pay the high commissions to professional agents. Considering realtors earn about 3-6% of the home’s sale price, buyers living in San Francisco, LA, NYC, or any other hot marketplace could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars. The same goes for highly valued properties anywhere.
Saving some money is not the only benefit of these types of sales. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) study of buyers and sellers for 2021, almost 80% of owners managed to close deals in just two weeks. However, although this is significantly quicker than the standard realtor-helmed transactions, it’s important to note that most of these properties were sold to someone the sellers knew, like a friend or family member.
With tens of thousands of dollars potentially on the line, why are more people not attempting to get their property sold off without a realtor? For starters, while the process might be quicker, these types of sales are typically closed at a notably lower price point. According to the same NAR report, properties sold on For Sale by Owner (FSBO) had a median value of $217,900, almost 25k lower than the realtor-assisted median of $242,300.
Besides settling for less money, you’ll have to be ready to handle the entire process on your own, including marketing and staging the property, coordinating individual showings, and negotiating with every single buyer. There’s also a ton of paperwork involved, so an owner who’s not good at organizing important documents will have a lot of work cut out for them. If you still want to learn how to sell your house without a real estate agent, the following seven steps should be more than enough to get you started.
If you’re planning on doing everything without a realtor, the first step is to evaluate how much the property is worth in its current state. While you probably already have a specific number in mind, it’s best to set the asking price as close to the actual value as possible. If a place is listed significantly higher than the rest of the houses on the market, selling it will be much more difficult.
If you’re unsure how to do this, checking out the competition is an excellent way to start. Real estate websites like Zillow and Realtor have thousands of listings in almost every marketplace. You can even enter your address to see if there are other properties nearby, allowing you to directly compare prices of homes recently sold in your immediate area.
Considering not everyone is good with math, some industry websites allow you to get automated valuations. However, be aware that these are often inaccurate and can sometimes be off by thousands of dollars. Independent or bank appraisals can also give you a good idea about the home’s worth, but they are rarely used in the final transaction.
While you did just begin learning how to sell a house without a real estate agent, you shouldn’t shy away from asking a realtor for their opinion. After all, these professionals regularly partake in these transactions, so their expertise will surely help. By taking a look at properties that are comparable to your own (known as “comps”), these professionals can precisely evaluate your home’s worth. This process is called comparative market analysis (CMA), and you can even get it for free at Realtor.com.
Although listing a place as it is might cause it to get sold much more quickly, most sellers aren’t willing to accept the initial evaluation. Fortunately, there are a ton of things you can do to increase the home’s asking price. While someone who lives in Los Angeles or NYC could probably list a property for a good chunk of money without making significant changes, most homes will require at least some renovations. If you’re relocating to a new city and want to put the place on the market ASAP possible, ensure that:
While it might be a nuisance to do all these renovations, they will significantly increase your chances of selling the place for a better price. However, many of these improvements are not cheap, with some people spending upwards of $21,000 when preparing a home for sale. Someone with a limited relocation budget will barely have enough money to get some long-distance moving services from cheap cross country movers, let alone spend thousands on renovations.
In that case, try to compromise and focus on repairs that will increase the home’s value the most. Just be aware that leaving some glaring issues could significantly reduce its chances of being sold for the sum you want. On the other hand, remember that these renovations could last days, if not weeks, possibly extending the entire process. Don’t bother doing too much if you feel OK about a lower price point.
Although you might have ironed out all the major problems with the place, there are still quite a few things you could do to make the property more appealing for a potential buyer. Although everyone has their preferences, research has shown that natural light is easily the most sought-after feature. That’s precisely why professional stagers recommend you keep all the blinds and window curtains open.
Rearranging the furniture could also give the place a fresh new look, as well as placing some plants in each room. If you’re not sure what buyers from your area are looking for, don’t hesitate to consult with a local realtor or hire a stager or interior designer to set up the place for you. Lastly, the following video has more than a few tips to help you with the staging process.
Anybody who wants to present their home in the best light possible needs to add decluttering to their to-do list. While stagers agree that not packing painting and some smaller fragile items will prevent the place from looking sterile, try to keep things neutral and get rid of anything that doesn’t go with the overall aesthetic. Anything that sticks out like a sore thumb or takes away from the home’s features should be removed from the field of view.
Since we’re already talking about what to get rid of, this is the perfect opportunity to deal with unwanted appliances you’ve been keeping for no reason. Avoid stuffing the place with too many things, as this could easily distract a buyer or even put them off. For example, if you’re going to show off all the home’s creative storage ideas, remember to pack clothes, shoes, and jewelry in advance. Feel free to box up china, stemware, and other rarely used dishes as well.
Anything that you don’t want to display during the showing can be put in a storage facility. If you don’t have a unit already, go on the internet and search “long distance movers near me.” Almost every company that pops up should provide storage as a part of their cross-country moving services. Lastly, any unwanted items can either be donated or sold through a garage sale.
Once all the details have been set, you’ll need to clean the place from top to bottom. This includes tasks such as dusting, wiping, vacuuming, and mopping, taking out the trash, and cleaning the kitchen appliances. Food is one of the more common items movers won’t move for a good reason. It can easily go bad, potentially making a mess and leaving a very unpleasant smell throughout the place. It’s often best to either eat it, donate it, or throw it out before the showings start. On that note, if you didn’t finish packing the dishes, ensure there are no dirty pots and pans in the sink.
While everyone makes the indoor parts of the property look suitable for any potential buyer, most people completely forget about the curbside before it’s too late. Considering it’s the first thing every buyer will see, ensure their first impression of the place is good. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much for the front door area to look good. Most of the time, you only need to trim the grass and keep the curbside clean.
Once the place has been properly staged, you can finally start promoting it. Before you officially list the property, try to take a high-quality picture of each room. Considering these can make a big difference, anyone who doesn’t have a good camera will probably need to invest in a professional photographer. Writing a summary of the place is up next, so see if you can scout what other homes sold in your area had in their descriptions. When all this is done, you can finally list the property and start the marketing phase.
Considering you’ll be doing it without a realtor, it’s best to list the property on the FSBO website. Although the basic package is $99.95, it will keep your real estate listed for six months, which is basically a steal. There’s also the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Package, which will put your place in front of many more potential buyers. This is because it also lists your property on Zillow, Realtor, and many other similar websites.
However, this package is significantly more expensive, costing $399.95 for the same duration. Additionally, if a buyer finds the property through a broker, you will also be responsible for covering their buyer’s commission, which is about 2-3% on average. Still, all of these options are much more affordable than hiring a realtor right from the beginning.
Getting listed on FSBO is only the beginning, as there are many other ways you can promote the place. For starters, try putting up a For Sale sign in front of the property in a way that anyone who passes by can easily notice it. The more information it displays, the fewer calls you’ll have to deal with.
Buying advertising space in your local newspaper is also an excellent way to promote the listing in your local area. Although this form of marketing is less common these days, you never know who the ad might attract. Lastly, don’t forget to buy ads on social media networks. These can cast a much wider net, allowing you to get to hundreds if not thousands of new potential buyers.
If you did everything correctly up to this point, you should start receiving calls almost right away. Arranging viewings is not as easy as it sounds, though, as it takes a lot of time and a free schedule to fit as many of them as possible within a single day or a week. Sellers who are actively working won’t be able to show the place to many people over the week, often leaving them with one of two options. Either they have to schedule the viewings in the evening and on weekends or have someone else like a friend or a family member show a buyer around the property.
Considering there’s no realtor to barter on your behalf, you will be required to take offers and negotiate with each and every buyer or broker that comes across your listing. Most real estate agents recommend you set the lowest bid you’re willing to accept before the viewing even starts. Depending on the state of the property at the time it was listed, be ready to negotiate 5-10% of the initial asking price.
Don’t be discouraged if the offers don’t start pouring right away. A typical buyer will usually shop around for several offers at once, but they will always request to see a listing a second time before making an offer. If the buyer is significantly undervaluing the property or disrespects you in any way, don’t hesitate to reject their bid respectfully. Negotiations are tough, but if you’re patient and know how to make counteroffers, there’s no reason to believe your home will stay on the marketplace for too long.
Once a mutual agreement with a buyer has been met, you’re finally ready to close the deal. This is usually done over the phone or via email a few weeks before the actual contract is even drafted. Although some deals can fall through in the meantime, it’s wise to start acquiring all the important papers right away. Considering that only the things in the contract are legally binding, remember to double-check all the information before forwarding it to the buyer for signing. To be extra safe, have a lawyer draft the document for you and go over all the details again before putting your name on it.
Congratulations! If you managed to come this far, you probably just sold your home without a realtor. While that is now behind you, another more urgent thing needs to be dealt with right away. Mainly, you have to move out and vacant the property within a week or ten days after the deal is closed. Unless you’ve already prepacked most of your stuff, there’s no way you’ll manage to do everything yourself on such short notice.
Considering you’re relocating in a hurry, hiring a cross-country moving company is probably your only option. If you have a ton of belongings, getting a professional packing service will help you pack the entire inventory in just a day. Lastly, if you don’t want to leave your car in your former garage, know that every long-distance moving company also offers auto transport services. This means you won’t actually have to drive across the country just to get it to your new address.