How to Sell a House without a Realtor
When you think of selling your home, your first instinct might be to send out a social media request asking for realtor recommendations. However, if you’re wondering how to sell a house without a realtor, there’s a lot to think about.
When it comes to selling a house without a realtor, make sure you have your legal and financial bases covered with the proper procedures and paperwork. This includes home repairs, setting an accurate listing price, and deciding where to advertise your home.
Why Would I Sell My House Without a Realtor?
The process of buying and selling real estate is complex and comprehensive. There are many moving parts to consider, making it an emotional and financially-taxing endeavor.
It’s a realtor’s job to understand all those working pieces and guide their client through the roller coaster ride. A good agent knows what questions to ask about property lines, liens, previous work on the home, easements, and many other topics.
So why would a seller choose not to take advantage of this wealth of knowledge and experience? To save money.
When a homeowner uses the services of a traditional real estate agent, they will pay anywhere from 4%-10% of the sales price as a fee.
The average fee lands around 6%, so for a house that sells for $400,000, the agent fee will be around $24,000. That’s a big chunk of change, so it’s not surprising you would consider whether it’s worth it to skip the agent and do the work yourself.
The Actual Savings
One important thing to note is that your selling agent doesn’t get to pocket all that money. In fact, your agent will only receive a portion of it.
Typically around 3% of the fee goes to the buyer’s agent. In the example above, that means your agent may get $12,000, and the buyer’s agent would get the other $12,000. However, either or both agents may also have to pay out to their broker, or the firm they work for.
Regardless, the reason to know this is that even if you sell your home without a real estate agent, you may still be expected to pay the buyer’s agent their portion of the proceeds. If that’s the case for you, it means you’ll save $12,000 rather than $24,000.
That’s still a lot of money. However, note there are other costs you’ll incur during the process.
Since a real estate agent typically takes care of marketing the property, you’ll need to take this on yourself. Do some research on the most popular listing sites and calculate the fees.
Professional images make a huge difference in the quality of your home listing. Real estate agents know this and have photographers they regularly use to take pictures for their listings.
When selling your house without an agent, you’ll want to find an available photographer with experience in real estate photography and include the cost in your line-item budget.
No one says you have to have an inspection. As the seller, you can sell the home as-is or simply wait for the buyer to order an inspection.
However, it’s highly advised you put forth several hundred dollars to hire your own inspector before you put the house on the market.
That way, you know what potential issues you’ll hear from buyers and you can decide to repair, disclose, compensate, or come up with some other resolution.
How to Sell a House without a Realtor
Below we outline the steps in the process of selling your home. Let’s get to it.
Step 1 - Get Your House in Order
When you decide to sell your home without hiring a real estate agent, which is commonly referred to as For Sale By Owner (FSBO), you're in charge of getting your house in order so that people can come to walk through your home.
The first step in getting your house in order is completing basic repairs around the home and making sure things are in working order.
Tighten the loose banister, patch holes in the walls, replace broken screens, ensure all doors and windows are functional, and replace fixtures that are no longer working.
Next, give the home a fresh appearance. A gallon of touchup paint goes a really long way in making your home appear well cared for. Walk through the home, looking top to bottom for anything that catches the eye. Put up that last piece of missing trim, add a coat of stain to the deck, and plant vibrant flowers.
Emphasize the curb appeal for a strong first impression. Spread bark in the flower beds, trim back bushes, repaint the garden bench, and add a few new pots to the beds or porch. Throw down a new welcome mat and perhaps paint the front door.
Consider hiring a professional cleaning crew before walk-throughs just to make sure that everything looks great. Ensuring every surface is free of rust, grease, dirt, and mildew will help make potential buyers feel at home.
Also be sure to declutter every room. Remove all family photos to depersonalize the space. You want potential buyers to see themselves in the space, not your family. Pack up 80% of your belongings to free up space in cupboards, closets, and on shelves.
Create room for buyers to see the potential of the space and feel that it offers plenty of storage.
If you have any rooms painted bright colors or decked out in wild wallpaper, you may have better luck selling the home by taking it all back to a nice, bright white. This will help the buyers be able to see a blank slate for their own style additions.
What Not to Fix When Selling a House?
There are many situations when making home repairs and improvements is not feasible. Perhaps you’re selling your parent’s home after they’ve passed away, or you have a rental property in an area far from you, and you need to liquidate quickly.
If you choose not to make repairs, you can simply list the house “as-is” and make reference to known needed repairs. Also make sure the contract covers the verbiage accurately. This may be more of a stumbling block for lenders than for the buyers.
Overall, though, when evaluating what to fix and what to let alone, focus on functional aspects of the home. For example, make electrical and plumbing repairs. If you need to leave things undone, skip topical materials the new owner might want to choose themselves. Examples include flooring, paint, and light fixtures.
Step 2 - Take the Perfect Pictures
Once everything has been given a cosmetic facelift, you need to photograph your house for listings. You can DIY your home listing photography or pay a professional, as mentioned earlier.
If you're going to DIY it, turn off any inside lights, open up all the blinds, and make sure your home is filled with tons of bright, natural light before you take the photos.
Step 3 - Develop Your Home Listing
Take some time to figure out the market value of your home and set your listing price somewhere comparable to other homes in your area.
Even if you haven’t hired a listing agent, you can ask them to prepare a comp report. This will list comparable properties and give you an idea of where to price your home.
You’ll see on the report additions and subtractions for features homes have, such as added value for a hot tub, additional bathroom, or more square footage.
From there, you can add in the value of recent updates such as roofing, flooring, a new HVAC system, solar panels, etc. in order to arrive at your asking price.
Step 4 - Advertise
You're in charge of finding a way to get people to see your home listing.
Rely on the power of the internet and maybe even print publications to list your home. There are countless online resources meant to connect you with potential buyers. Run an internet search for options, but vet each one as it applies to your situation. Carefully evaluate any associated fees.
Make sure to put a For Sale sign in your front yard and include all of the relevant information. Even better, use some of those pro photos to design a flyer. Display them in front of the home.
Check your supply often. Running out of flyers can mean missing out on a potential sale, so make it a priority.
Step 5 - Get Your Paperwork in Order
You can hire a lawyer to manage your paperwork, or you can do it yourself. Just know real estate contracts are legally binding, and you’ll want to make sure both parties are protected.
At a minimum, you will need some disclosures, primarily a Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement, a Flood Zone Statement, and a Lead-Based Paint Disclosure.
From there, you’ll have the actual written contract, which will cover everything from easements to liens to inspections. It will outline timelines, funding requirements, and myriad other essential components.
Step 6 - Be Available
Once your home has been listed, be prepared to field phone calls, schedule tours, and answer a million questions. That flyer you created earlier will help answer common questions upfront.
Step 7 - Manage Offers
Hopefully you’ll receive a flood of offers to consider. You can approach offers in a few ways. The first is to take them in order and respond to each one at a time. If you only receive one offer, you can wait a few days for others and then consider the value of each.
Since you’re making the rules, you can even set a date in the future and let interested parties know you will accept offers until that date before reviewing. While this tactic may net you more viable offers, it may also turn away potential buyers who are eager to settle on a property.
Once you have a few offers in hand, you'll need to review them and potentially make counteroffers. Make sure to really vet the people you're looking at working with because home-buying scams are a real thing.
You may also want to prioritize buyers who are pre-approved for lending. If you plan to carry a contract, you’ll need to vet them for the ability to repay.
After accepting an offer, make sure you have all of the legal paperwork signed. A slip-up on this step could cost you thousands, so be very thorough.
Step 8 - Remain Flexible
Unless it is a cash or contract offer, you’ll need to be patient while the buyer jumps through lending hoops. This requires specific paperwork, an inspection of the home, and an appraisal.
During this process, the buyer may decide to renegotiate the contract terms or even walk away from the purchase altogether.
Every real estate transaction is unique. Put your predetermined expectations aside and deal with one situation at a time. Although it’s commonly one of life’s most stressful life events, it will only be that way in the short term, so keep your eye on the finish line.
While there is no standard template for selling a house, we do have some generalized answers to commonly asked questions.
Home Selling FAQ
What percentage do most realtors charge?
4% to 10%, with 6% being the most common
Do I need a lawyer to sell my house?
Not if you feel confident you can dot all i’s and cross all t’s yourself.
Who pays closing costs?
Typically, it’s up to the buyer to cover these expenses since they are taking the loan. However, this is up for negotiation and can make or break a deal. If you’re able, be open to reformatting the contract to pay all or part of the closing costs at the buyer’s request.
A Final Note
All investment transactions should be viewed through a critical lens. Real estate is no different. Depending on your situation, you may have a significant tax responsibility as a result of the sale of your home. You may want to consult with your tax professional before the process begins in order to minimize surprise costs.
Find more pointers in our articles 13 Things Not to Do When Selling Your House and 9 Reasons Your Home Isn’t Selling.