Want to sell your house for sale by owner?
I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s really not that hard.
Before I get started though, let me remind you that this is not intended to be professional real estate or legal advice. I cannot guarantee that you will sell your house quickly, or even at all. But I will give you all the tips I have learned!
A lot goes into selling your house for sale by owner. Because there is so much information to include on this topic, I have broken up this post into two parts. Part 1 (this one) includes information on how to get your house listed, and Part 2 details how to hold your own open house and a small note on the contract stuff.
Here is how we sold our house FSBO in less than 24 hours.
We started by getting our house ready to sell. Check out my post on what you need to do to sell your house fast. Once we completed everything on that list and more, we were finally ready to get the house on the market.
Before we could list it though, we needed to come up with a price.
Some people will tell you to have a few realtors come through your home to give you ideas and run some comps for you of other homes in the area. I did not want to do this. I felt bad taking up anyone’s time if I was not going to be using their services.
So I did my own comps. To do this, I used Zillow and looked at other homes in my neighborhood, or within about 2 miles of my home to see what they had sold at. I knew that the neighborhood just north of me was considered much nicer, and that the neighborhood to the east of me was considered not as nice, so I ruled those two out when I did my comps. I also applied filters to my Zillow search so that I only viewed homes that had the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and a comparable square footage range (plus or minus about 100 square feet). Then, I looked through all of the homes that were left and tried to find ones that had similar floor plans if possible, or at least similar styles. I did not want to comp a new craftsman style home with my ranch, because they are apples and oranges. After taking all of this into consideration, I narrowed the comps down to to around five that were actually comparable to my home, and set my price right around where they were. Because I wanted to sell fast, I actually set my price just slightly below the lowest comp. This served to create a lot of interest in my home – I had at least 50 people through it during my 2 hour open house!
A note about talking $$$.
When you list your house FSBO, people will talk to you directly about the price. Be prepared for this so you are not caught off guard. I had a gentleman ask me how low I would go on the price. I replied, “Well, since we just listed it today, we are not willing to budge much on price yet. Given the market and the comps on similar houses, we expect to get close to the asking price.”
A few preliminary steps.
Before you can list that house, there are a few things you need to do.
Take pictures of your home.
You will need to take high quality photos of your house for your marketing materials. If at all possible, use a good camera for this, not your cell phone camera. If you do not have a DSLR camera, see if a friend or family member has one. Grainy pictures will make your advertisements look very unprofessional.
When you are taking the pictures of the inside of the house, turn on all of the lights in the room and open all of the blinds. You want as much light as possible in the room. In fact, my camera also has a setting called “High Key” that I use to make the pictures look as bright as possible. Also, and very importantly, hold the camera at waist height to take the pictures. This makes sure the picture shows the room at just the right perspective. Last, stand as far back as possible when taking the picture. Oftentimes, this means standing outside of the door of the room. This will allow you to get as much of the room in the picture as possible.
Another way people make the room look larger is by using a wide angle lens. Even real estate agents do this. After thinking about it some, I decided not to use a wide angle lens. I have never liked going to look at a house and feeling duped that the rooms were much smaller than the pictures advertised. In addition, I never liked looking at pictures on Zillow that I knew had used a wide angle lens because it skews the perspective of the room. Since I was selling my house for sale by owner, I wanted my potential buyers to have the impression that I was being honest and straightforward in all of my interactions with them (because I was!).
Also take pictures of the outside of your house. Experiment with different angles to make sure your house looks it’s best. Curb appeal makes a big different when selling your house. If the first picture that is listed on Zillow is not amazing, most people will not click through to see the rest.
One more note about taking pictures. Make sure the room is clean when you do. Even clean the mirrors (you will see those smudges in your picture, as I learned the hard way). This may sound silly, but I cannot tell you how many FSBO pictures I have seen with unmade beds, personal pictures up, and clutter everywhere. I have even seen some with people’s children in them. Do not have your children in your FSBO pictures! This looks extremely unprofessional.
If you do all of this, your pictures should come out looking pretty nice and of professional quality.
Make your contact information.
When I sold my home, I did not want to give out my personal cell phone number or personal email address. So instead, I created new ones for my house. I used Google Voice to get a phone number and had it forwarded to my cell phone, and created a new Google email address for my house. The Google Voice number worked perfectly and also had a mailbox if people want to leave a message.
Create your advertisements.
I used Pages to create a House For Sale page. I looked at several examples online to determine how to best word things and came up with a blurb on the home. I made sure to include the square footage, number of beds and baths, any upgrades that we had completed, and selling points such as multiple closets in a room, neutral paint throughout, or a large backyard.
If you are willing to pay the buyer’s realtor’s commission (around 3 percent), list something like, “Realtors welcome” on the sheet. This lets realtors know that you are willing to pay them something, and they will be much more likely to direct their clients your way. I had several realtors call me to make sure I would pay commission if they sent a client through and the client bought, and one that even wanted my agreement in writing! I denied this request, letting them know that we could cross that bridge if we came to it.
I made sure that the paper looked just like a realtor had done it, and included my high quality images and some quick facts at the bottom of the page. The quick facts included the lot size, the home square footage, the property taxes, the year the house was built, the types of flooring, parking information, and appliances included. I also included my home’s contact information in a prominent place so it was easy to find.
Print these advertisements on good quality paper and make sure your photos look perfect. I printed mine at my local Office Depot.
List your home on Zillow.
Now that you have created your contact information, taken pictures of your home, and come up with a marketing blurb, its time to list your home on Zillow. It is pretty easy to do, and you basically just put the information that you gathered for your paper advertisement into the website. Oftentimes, there is previous information from an old listing on your house that you can just update.
You can and should also upload those professional looking photos you took to the Zillow ad. Be sure that the picture of the front of your house is the first picture people see because this is what they are expecting and want to see. I know that when I look for a new house, I entirely skip homes that do not have the front of the house as the first picture.
Once you put everything in, Zillow will say something like, “Your submission has been received. We will get it up on the site soon.” What they do not say is, before we list your house, we will call you to confirm that it is actually you listing this house.
When we listed our house, I waited for almost a week for Zillow to update their site with my house’s new information and for them to mark it For Sale. I was really starting to sweat, because we had planned an open house for the following Sunday and really wanted the Zillow ad up to drive traffic to the open house. After five days, I found a website where someone said that Zillow had called them to confirm that they were actually the ones listing the ad. I looked back through my Google voice account and saw that I had missed a call the day after I listed the ad on Zillow. Since they had not left a message, I assumed it was a telemarketer. Desperate, I called the number back and found that it was Zillow calling to confirm my listing. When I spoke to them, they let me know that I could not have contact information in the advertisement blurb. So I logged back on, deleted that info, and resubmitted my Zillow ad. It was actually not a smooth process at all, as it took several phone calls to Zillow to get them to list the ad. Finally, 18 hours before my open house was set to begin, Zillow updated my house to mark it For Sale.
I also listed my house on FSBO.com, but I am not sure how much that helped. When you list with them, they put big FSBO.com signs on your pictures, which I don’t like. Also, the only guy who came through from them was not very serious. Since its really hard to get the house clean and ready for a showing, I only really want serious buyers to come through!
A note about MLS listings.
As a For Sale by Owner seller, you cannot get your house listed on the MLS. The MLS is the service that all real estate agents use to find homes for sale. You can pay various flat fee real estate companies to list your home on the MLS if you want.
We chose not to do this, and here is why. We were living in an extremely hot market, and knew that most people who are house hunting are searching through Zillow daily. Because of this, we felt confident that potential buyers would be contacting their real estate agents about our property after finding it on Zillow. Our instincts were right, and we had not trouble getting people through the door.
If you are in a sluggish market, you may want to consider listing it on the MLS with a flat fee company. If you do, be sure to make a note that realtors are welcome, indicating that you will pay the realtor’s commission. If you don’t, realtors won’t bring potential buyers through your house anyways. So, to conclude, if you are not willing to pay the buyer’s realtor’s commission, you probably don’t need to list it on the MLS.
Put up a For Sale sign.
I have never liked the traditional For Sale By Owner sign. So, I opted for a sign that said FOR SALE BY OWNER, and had a TEXT FOR INFORMATION section. I went though a few simple steps to link my Zillow ad to the text number that the sign company supplied (which was free), and then posted my sign in the yard. I purchased the sign at Lowes, though I cannot find a link to it now, so they may have stopped selling it. Anyways, I liked this sign because it looked a little more professional to me than the red For Sale By Owner one that you usually see. I also printed my information out on paper and stuck it on with packaging tape to make the sign look nicer than just writing the info on with a marker.
Include an information box.
Right where you buy the FSBO signs, you can also purchase an information box to put your newly created advertisement pages in. Go ahead and do this. People may pick up a flyer, and you will look much more professional when you have one of these in your yard.
There you have it!
This is how you get your house listed as a for sale by owner. The goal is for everything to look as professional as possible because this will make your house get noticed and your potential buyers more comfortable with working with you.
If you have stuck with me this far, check out Part 2 on how to hold your own open house, and what to do when you receive an offer.