Should you sell your house without a real estate agent?
If you’re thinking about how to sell your house without a real estate agent, you’re likely trying to increase the net proceeds from your sale. That’s the biggest pro of doing it on your own: More money goes into your pocket.
Opting to not work with a real estate agent, though, can come with downsides. In 2020, the average listing that had the help of a real estate agent sold for $318,000, according to the National Association of Realtors, while those that were sold by the owners themselves went for $260,000.
In addition to the potential for selling for less money, you might also need to dedicate more time to the sale. If you want to be your own real estate agent, you’ll need to advertise the listing, host open houses and negotiate with potential buyers. It could add up to a lot of work.
Ways to sell your house without a real estate agent
If you’re trying to figure out how to sell your house without a real estate agent, you have three main options:
Get a cash offer
The internet has revolutionized the way people buy and sell homes by eliminating the need to ever list a property. Through Opendoor, for example, you can request a cash offer. Rather than going through the work of staging a home, taking photos, listing it, and waiting for buyers to submit offers, you can get a cash offer within a few minutes. While the cash offer might be lower than the amount you could score in a bidding war on the market, time is money: If you’re aiming to sell quickly, cash offers can be a smooth route to a sale.
Trade in your house
You might not hear about many homeowners trading in their homes for new ones, but this option does exist. Some companies offer the opportunity to sell your home while you’re buying a new one — without the stress of contingency clauses or financing. You might see this model described as a “trade-in” or “buy and sell” option, but the end result is the same: a streamlined process to buy a new place while you’re dealing with the work of selling your current one.
For sale by owner (FSBO)
If you opt for the FSBO route, you’re selling your house without a real estate agent, but there’s a catch: You have to wear the hat of a real estate professional instead. You’ll handle the work of getting your home ready for viewings, taking photos, pricing it, listing it everywhere, hosting open houses, and comparing offers. If your home doesn’t immediately capture attention, you’ll need to assess whether you should take it off the market or drop the price. It’s not easy, but if you have time and marketing expertise, you might be able to keep more money in your pocket.
How to sell your house without a real estate agent
If you want to handle all the responsibilities of selling your home, here’s a rundown of the items on your to-do list:
1. Find the best time to sell
Spring and early summer tend to be the optimal times for making the most from a home sale. With good weather and families on the hunt for a new home before the first day of school, this can be the prime time to put your house on the market.
2. Figure out the best route to sell
Are you willing to put in the hours necessary to secure the best offer, or are you in a rush to sell this home so you can relocate to your new one? If you’re not working with a real estate agent, think about what’s more important: a fast sale or a more profit. Hopefully, both are in your cards, but you might need to settle for just one.
3. Get a cash offer
Even if you think you want to sell on your own, a cash offer can help you get a sense of your property’s value. Provided that your offer comes with no obligation (Opendoor’s is free with no strings attached), a cash offer helps provide a baseline for what you can expect to earn from selling your house.
4. Price your home
If the cash offer feels too low for what you believe you can get for your home, it’s time to think about how much higher you can realistically go. One of the best ways to do this is to look at comparable homes that have recently sold within a few miles of your home to see how much they went for.
5. Get your home ready to show
Now, it’s time to help buyers recognize that your price is fair. Organize, clean, and declutter. Fix any minor needs, such as touching up paint and stage the house to make it feel like someone could move in tomorrow.
In addition to the aesthetics, consider paying for a pre-listing home inspection. Think of this as a way to know of any issues that might arise after a buyer makes an offer. It’s an unbiased set of expert eyes that can help identify any problems that could wind up with a request for a credit — or worse, a deal that falls through the cracks.
6. List it on the MLS
Once you have all your marketing materials in place — that includes photos, information about the property, and a compelling write-up that summarizes why it’s such an amazing place to call home — you need to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
At a minimum, you’ll want to list it on the MLS, the multiple listing service. This will put your home in front of other buyers and other buyers’ real estate agents and on real estate listing websites. Listing on the MLS comes with a price tag, usually a flat fee. For example, FSBO.com’s MLS offering is just under $400.
In addition to the MLS, take advantage of the social media landscape. Post your home on Facebook and Instagram, and ask friends to share the listing, too.
7. Complete disclosure forms
In addition to promoting the positive attributes of your home, you have to acknowledge any potential issues with the property. Every state has laws related to disclosures for sellers. For example, if you are aware of flooding issues, defects with the septic system, or property line disputes, you have to inform potential buyers of these problems ahead of time.
8. Host open houses
Now, it’s time to turn those online pictures into real-life magic. Schedule an open house the Saturday or Sunday on the first two weekends after your listing goes live, and welcome prospective buyers into your home. Keep in mind that they’re likely visiting plenty of other open houses on the same day, so this is your time to turn on the sales charm. It’s wise to consider sending them home with printed collateral to help keep your property top-of-mind. That’s an extra cost, but it can help them continue to picture themselves calling your home their home — which is your ultimate goal.
9. Find the right offer
Depending on where you live and how you priced your home, you might receive offers that are below asking price — or you might get multiple offers above what you feel is fair market value. Outside of the numbers attached to each offer, you’ll want to consider how easy it will be to move toward closing and take a look at the buyer’s mortgage preapproval to verify they have the financing lined up. A cash offer that is $20,000 less than an offer that requires mortgage approval, for example, might be worth considering — without a lender involved, there are fewer chances for hiccups to lengthen the process.
10. Close the sale
While you can sell your house without a real estate agent, you’ll likely still want to work with a real estate attorney to help close the sale. The contractual nuances for selling a home involve a range of complex legal considerations, and while professional legal counsel comes with additional costs, it’s worth it to make sure you’re protected.
To prepare for the closing, make sure the home is clean and everything has been moved out prior to the buyer’s walk-through. As a seller, you’ll pay some closing costs, too, such as recording fees and fees for a title insurance policy. From there, you’ll sign all of the paperwork and hand over the keys. The property is officially sold.