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Selling a home yourself has come to be known as FSBO (pronounced fiz-boh), which is common shorthand for "for sale by owner." If you sell your home yourself, you save on a broker's commission which allows you to price your home below comparable homes on the market, while still receiving the same net dollar amount.

Before attempting to sell your home yourself, think about whether you have the time and expertise to price, market and present your home to potential purchasers without a broker's help. There's a lot of work to do.

If you sell the house yourself, you can price it 6% below comparable homes for sale in your market. However, keep in mind that you may still have to pay a 3% commission to the buyer's broker. (The buyer can help you negotiate his/her broker's commission downward when he or she realizes that the buyer ends up paying the broker).

NOTE: Consider hiring a lawyer to help. The lawyer can help negotiate offers, execute contracts and arrange for the closing.

If you want to sell your home yourself, it is advisable to take the following steps:

Step 1. Set an asking price, and a price that is your bottom line.
Step 2. Prepare.
Step 3. Decide how to market your home.
Step 4. Decide who will negotiate with potential purchasers.
Step 5. Set a date by which if you don't sell your home yourself, you'll engage a broker.
Step 6. List the home on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service).


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Step 1. Set an asking price, and a price that is your bottom line.

Before setting an asking (offering) price:

  • Check the current market value of your home. (What it was worth 6 months or a year ago is not relevant). To learn how to do this easily on the internet, click here.
  • Think about whether you are in a buyer's or a seller's market. For information about what to do in each market, see:
  • Think about how quickly you need the money from a sale. The faster you need the money, the lower the price to consider.

If you live in an area where the market is falling, consider "future pricing:" set the price based on what your home is likely to be worth in four to six months considering what has been happening in your area during the past 3 - 6 months. A lower price will make your house look like a bargain. It also addresses potential buyers' fears that the property will be worth less than they paid. You can even explain in the ad that the pricing is set to protect the buyer against future declines.

It helps to think up front what is the lowest amount of money you would accept on a sale. If you use a broker to help sell your home (see below), the broker will want to know this price. It will also help you in negotiations with potential purchasers.

Step 2. Prepare.

  • Make your home look its best. You can ask a broker what would help make the home most salable. (The industry word is "staging" as in "staging your house.") Perhaps the grounds need sprucing up. Barbara Corcoran, a leading real estate broker, speaking on the TODAY show, recommended walking through your house as if you were a visitor who is picturing him or herself living in the house. At least:
    • Get clutter out of the house.
    • Eliminate personal items that are about you and your family such as photos and mementoes. Visitors want to see themselves in the house -- not you.
    • Think about investing in a couple of cans of paint to make the walls light or neutral colors which make rooms seem larger.
    • Get everything off of the kitchen counter.
    • Make closets, the attic, basement and/or garage neat.
    • Make and keep the house spotless.
  • Put together a fact sheet which describes your home and highlights the best features.
  • Pull together the documents a seller will want to see, such as a survey or site plan, recent utility and tax bills. If you're selling an apartment, the documents relating to the entity that owns the building, by-laws and rules.
  • Write up a qualification form to help decide if a prospective buyer is financially capable of coming up with the money. For example, ask for annual income, assets, debts and other liabilities, place of employment, job title/function, length of employment, and credit references.
  • Learn about mortgage financing. What products are available and for what interest rate? A broker would help in this regard. It will also help you determine whether a potential buyer is likely to qualify for a mortgage. To find out how much monthly payments would be, look at calculators such as offsite link. You can do the same with an interest-rate table you can purchase at a stationary store.
  • Depending on the norm in your area, speak with a real estate lawyer or real estate agent to find out:
    • What you need to disclose about your home.
    • What forms may be required.
    • Standard terms in your area.
  • Ask the lawyer/agent to draft the paperwork. You'll also need the attorney to set up an escrow account to hold the down payment until the closing. If you're not familiar with financial terms such as "contingencies" or "warranties," ask your attorney to explain the terms you'll need to understand when people make offers.
  • If you don't want to deal with hearing what people think of your house and of the way you've been living in it, arrange for someone else to show the house.
  • Prepare to show the house at any time - even during work hours.

Step 3. Decide how to market your home.

In addition to the alternatives that may be available in your area, consider:

  • The internet which is a place where buyers look for homes. For example: 
    • offsite link a website that compiles searchable for sale by owner listings with photos and supplies yard signs.
  • A listing on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). The MLS provides major exposure to potential purchasers. According to Money Magazine, MLS displays more than 90% of homes for sale. It's the place agents turn to when they start the search process for a new client. You can list on the MLS via such sites as offsite link or offsite link
  • A "For Sale" sign in your yard.
  • Fliers you can post in your neighborhood.
  • Your local newspapers.

When listing the home:

  • Include special features - and describe them so people understand the neat features.
  • Let people know the home is being marketed without a broker. An easy way to do this is to include "FSBO" in your ads.

Consider how people will see your home.

  • Hold an open home on Sundays. Have fliers available with a description of the property and photos so you can give one to each person who comes. Consider offering to walk around with people, but let them wander on their own if that's their preference.
  • Think about how the home will be shown the rest of the time. If you use a broker, they generally place a tamper-proof lockbox on the front doorknob with a key inside for brokers to have access with their clients. How will you handle this?

Decide whether to offer a commission to brokers who bring clients to see your home. If so, think about offering 3% - which is what a broker for a purchaser usually makes (The "standard" commission is 6%, which is split 3% to your broker and 3% to the purchaser's broker). Include in your ads wording such as "Sale by owner. Brokers welcome at 3%."

Step 4. Decide who will negotiate with potential purchasers.

You may be too emotionally involved. Plus there are many points to consider. For instance:

  • Are you willing to give the buyer time to line up financing? If so, how long?
  • How long will you give the buyer to bring in an independent third party inspector to examine the home for defects?

Perhaps your lawyer can handle negotiations for you.

Step 5. Set a date by which if you don't sell your home yourself, you'll engage a broker.

There is no shame or blame if you turn to a broker after trying to sell your home by yourself without success. The key is to sell the house on your time table for the maximum price.

To Learn More

Step 6: List the home on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service)

In most areas, an individual home owner without a broker or agent cannot list on a Multiple Listing Service. However, you can use an intermediary to list for you. For example: