Selling your home without an agent has its appeal - primarily, not giving up between 3-6% of your home’s selling cost to agent fees.
However, before you throw a “for sale” sign in the yard, there are a few technical, logistical and legal issues to consider.
- What is your house worth?
Pricing your home right is the most important thing you can do when listing it. Agents have access to all kinds of information that they compare to a property when listing it. This information shows them the prices other homes in your area have been listed for, what they’ve sold for, and what kind of features they have that are warranting their price point.Fortunately for homeowners, much of this information is also available on public websites. Your city or county likely has public sales records of homes, so if you know of some houses that have sold around your area, look them up in the public records and see what their tax assessment and their most recent sale price is. You can also look up similar information on sites like Trulia.com and Zillow.com where you can view pictures of the home’s most recent listing to see upgrades and features. But take that information with a grain of salt as it’s not true public record.
Even with all this information, it can be hard to decide where you own home lands in the mix. We tend to be optimistically biased about the value of our own homes, so to get an objective, professional opinion, we recommend hiring an independent appraiser. For around a few hundred dollars, an appraiser will look at all the aspects of your home, sales in your area, tax assessments and other information to give you a good spot-on price point you can work with. Having an official appraisal will also give you leverage at the negotiating table when you do get an offer because you will have written proof that your price is fair.
The few hundred dollars you spend on an appraisal could get you thousands more on the price of your home or eliminate months with no offers because of an inflated price.
- Fix it up
It’s common sense, but it bears repeating - if there are any issues with your home, little unfinished projects or glaring defects, you need to fix them before putting your house on the market. Even something as small as a torn window screen can convince buyers a home hasn’t been cared for. Additionally, consider decluttering your home by putting unnecessary items in storage. Hire a professional cleaner to do a deep clean right before you photograph your home or have an open house.
- A picture is worth a thousand . . . bucks?
Professional photography may be the best investment you can make to try to sell your home yourself. Amateur, poorly lit, blurry or unflattering photographs will turn a potential buyer away before they even look at the square footage or features. Again, a few hundred dollars invested into a professional real estate photographer will get your home shown and eventually lead to better offers. Some real estate photographers even offer services like drone photography for aerial shots of your property as well as video tours - all things that can help convince a buyer to show up to the front door. If you can’t hire a professional photographer, then do your best when taking your own photos. Take pictures in the morning or late afternoon when natural lighting is best in your home. Clean up and declutter before taking photos of areas like a bathroom vanity or kitchen counters. Take photos with as high a resolution as possible with your camera - once they are uploaded to the web, low resolution photos can become grainy.
- You are now an agent
Now that you’ve priced, fixed up and photographed your home, it’s time to sell it. Keep in mind, selling a house is basically a full-time job. You can’t just put out a sign and wait for the buyers to start making offers. There is so much digital marketing involved in selling a house these days, and buyers expect access to them before ever coming to look at your home in person.Research online platforms where you can list your home. Forsalebyowner.com is the most well-known site for this, but other sites with listing services include Zillow.com, HomeFinder.com, Realtor.com and Owners.com. Do your homework and look at other professionally listed homes and notice the things they point out or highlight. Schedule some open houses and promote them through your listing sites and places like Facebook or local neighborhood groups or forums. And don’t forget old fashioned marketing like good signage or an ad in your local paper.
You will also need to show your home in some cases or set up a system where buyers’ agents can access your home to show it when you’re not there. We also recommend having someone with you whenever you show the house to potential buyers, so you are never alone in the house with strangers. If you aren’t able to show your home when buyers want to see it, you decrease your chance of a sale, so carefully consider whether you have the time and availability to take on this part of the process.
- Contracts and Closing
Someone wants to buy your house, which is great, but now you’re faced with reviewing the specifics of their offer, making a counter offer, reviewing contracts and going through closing procedures. This is the point at which you definitely need to call in professionals to help you. A good real estate attorney can review all of this documentation as well as handle closing proceedings. Without an attorney, you may get an unfair offer or contract that could cost you thousands.
At the end of the day, the cost for an appraiser, photographer and attorney will likely still be less than fees you would pay to real estate agents, brokers and title agencies. However, you should carefully consider whether you have the time, patience and skills needed to sell a home in today’s demanding market. If you’re ready to take on the challenge, contact us about your legal needs along the way - we’d be happy to help you sell your home so you can move on to your next big thing.