How to Sell Your House Without a Realtor

Have you ever wondered how to sell your house without a realtor? Typical realtor fees for selling a house range between 5% and 7% of the sales price. 

Selling a house without a realtor could save you a good bit of money if you do it right. Proper pricing, advertising, and knowledge of real estate laws will help things to smoothly.

However, mistakes could end up costing you more than you’d save in realtor fees.

Table of Contents
  1. How Do You Sell a House Without a Realtor
    1. 1. Do Your Research
    2. 2. Stage Your Home
    3. 3. Market Your Home
    4. 4. Make Your Real Estate Agent Preferences Clear
    5. 5. Negotiate Your Deal and Sign the Paperwork
    6. 6. Close the Deal
  2. Should You Sell Your House Without a Realtor? 
    1. You Could Price Your House Incorrectly
    2. You Could Make a Legal Mistake
    3. You Could Hinder Exposure to Potential Buyers
  3. Summary

How Do You Sell a House Without a Realtor

As an experienced realtor with a national real estate firm, I’ve learned a lot about selling houses. You can sell your home on your own. Use these tips to maximize your chances of finding a buyer. 

Selling your house without a realtor should involve several steps.

1. Do Your Research

The first thing you want to do when selling your house without a realtor is to do your research where price is concerned. Check Zillow or other sites and use the following criteria to determine a price for your home:

  • Listing date (use home sales within the last six months)
  • Same house style (i.e. rambler, split-entry, two-story)
  • Similar house size (finished square footage)
  • Similar number of bedrooms/bathrooms

You’ll want to look for homes that have sold and closed, as well as homes that are currently listed, and those that are pending sale. 

Once you’ve found homes meeting the above criteria, check each listing to see how each home compares to yours. Does it have similar updates? Is the lot size similar? 

Is the location within 6-12 blocks of your home, or within 2-5 miles if it’s a rural area? Are the homes in similar neighborhoods? 

You must consider all of these factors to price your home competitively. A home can look nearly identical to yours, but if that home has more (or better) updates, is in a better neighborhood, or near better schools it may sell for a higher price than yours will. 

Keep all of these factors in mind as you work to determine a fair price for your home. 

Here are some tips on how to appraise your own home.

2. Stage Your Home

Staging your home is another crucial step to selling your home quickly, either with or without a realtor. Browse the internet for articles on how to stage your home or for current decorating ideas.

Here are a few quick tips for staging your home for maximum interest from potential buyers.

  1. Do a deep clean of every nook and cranny of your home. Buyers love a clean home. It’s a signal that the house has been well maintained.
  2. Go “minimalist” and declutter each room, including storage areas. The goal is a comfortable, realistic look with as little “stuff” as possible in each room. Take a cue from current online listings for ideas.
  3. Depersonalize your home. Remove all (or at least most) pictures of you and your loved ones. Buyers have a tough time visualizing themselves living in a home that is filled with photos of the current owners. 
  4. Maximize curb appeal. Ensure the yard is neat, clean, and inviting. You want a potential buyer’s first look to draw them in, not scare them away. 
  5. Make minor repairs. Replace cracked light and outlet covers. Touch up wall dings. Ensure all appliances and other items such as garage door openers work properly.
  6. Paint rooms that have bright or intense colors. Neutral is best, and buyers are often turned off if they walk into a home and see that they’ll have to paint right away. 
  7. Remove area, kitchen, and other little rugs. This is a tip my manager gave me and I use it faithfully when listing a home. Removal of little rugs can really open up a home.

3. Market Your Home

When real estate agents list a home it automatically gets added to the area’s MLS (Multiple Listing Service) system where all licensed agents can see it. 

As a FSBO (for-sale-by-owner) seller, you’ve got to take some extra steps to ensure your home gets broad exposure to buyers. Here are some ways you can do that. 

  • Sell on a FSBO site that will list the house on the MLS in your area. One such site is FSBO.com, however not all FSBO.com packages will list your home on the MLS. Be sure to read the fine print before signing up, and know that it’s not free to list on these types of sites.   
  • List your home on Facebook Marketplace. Facebook Marketplace is a popular place where buyers look for homes. However, in my experience there are many “tire kickers” and non-pre approved buyers on the site. 
  • Place a sign in your yard. It’s important for people to know your house is for sale. There may be buyers who live in the area or know people in the area that are just waiting for a home in your area to come on the market. 
  • List your home on popular home sites. Zillow, HomeFinder, and other sites will share your home listing as well. Do an internet search for sites you can use. 
  • Hold an open house. Choose a Saturday or Sunday and hold a 3-hour or so open house. Have flyers prepared for visitors. 

Don’t be shy about sharing your listing with family and friends too, and on your social media pages. Ask people to spread the word. The more advertising you get, the better.

4. Make Your Real Estate Agent Preferences Clear

It’s important when selling your house without a realtor that you make it clear whether or not you will work with local real estate agents. 

Some FSBO listings state clearly that they are not interested in listing their house with a realtor. This is important if you don’t want realtors approaching you with offers to list your house. 

Also, be clear about whether or not you want to work with buyer agents. If you don’t, and you only want to work with buyers who don’t have agents, make that clear in your listing. 

If you’re okay with an agent bringing in a buyer, make that clear too. State what you will pay the buyer agent. For instance, add a note to your listing that says “Successful buyer agents will be paid 3%.” 

5. Negotiate Your Deal and Sign the Paperwork

Once you’ve got a buyer on the line you’ve got to be willing to negotiate with them to make a deal. This is an important time to not let your emotional attachment to the house get in the way as you work with a potential buyer. 

Keep your end goal in mind: selling your house. Negotiate accordingly and be willing to work to find agreed-upon terms that both you and a potential buyer can live with. 

Paperwork is important as well. Be sure that you have a signed purchase agreement in hand before you make that handshake. And don’t accept an offer from a buyer without a mortgage pre approval unless you’re willing to accept other terms such as a contract-for-deed.

Collect the buyer’s earnest money too. Earnest money is a “good faith” deposit of cash that goes toward the down payment and closing costs your buyer will pay. The typical earnest money amount is one percent of the purchase price. 

6. Close the Deal

So you’ve found a buyer and you’ve got a signed purchase agreement in hand – congratulations! Now it’s time to close the deal. 

I recommend finding a local real estate attorney or title company who will complete the transaction for you. Remember that you will pay a fee for these services. 

Possibly the biggest hurdle when selling your home without a real estate agent is handling any mortgage issues. You’ll need to ensure your mortgage gets paid off with the purchase funds, and that the buyer’s mortgage rep helps ensure you get those funds. 

The title company or real estate attorney can help with that, but this is often an area where the realtor is involved with coordinating efforts too. Now the job to verify that all of this is happening falls on you. 

Now that you know how to sell your house without a realtor, let’s talk about whether you should sell your house without a realtor. Yes, there can be huge money savings to be had if you do, but are they worth it? 

Should You Sell Your House Without a Realtor? 

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that for-sale-by-owner homes accounted for 8% of home sales in 2018. 

There’s a reason why that number is so low. I think we’d all agree that realtors have a vested interest in convincing you to sell your house with a realtor: money. 

However, selling your house on your own doesn’t typically mean you’ll pay zero out-of-pocket money to a realtor. There’s little chance you’ll nab a buyer who doesn’t have an agent of their own. 

Since listing and selling agents split the commission that sellers pay, an agent bringing in a buyer will expect a 2.5% to 3% commission if their buyer purchases your home. 

In addition, selling your house on your own can come with some risks. Here’s a breakdown of those potential risks.

You Could Price Your House Incorrectly

We talked above about some basic rules on how to set a price for your house. However, there are other determining factors that realtors – and only realtors – can use to set prices. 

Realtors have access to the area’s MLS (Multiple Listing Service) website. This realtor-only website has data about every home sale in the area for the past 20+ years. 

There are multiple reasons why two seemingly similar houses might sell for vastly different prices, and many of those reasons are shared on the MLS system. 

As a non-realtor, you don’t have access to that information. And that could hurt you as you go to sell your house. You could price your house too low and lose out on profits.

Or you could price your house too high and risk it sitting on the market for months on end. You might not care if you have to wait six months to sell your house, but buyers do care. 

There’s a saying in the real estate business – especially these past few busy years – that if a house hasn’t sold in the first thirty days then it must have mold. 

It’s a joke among agents but it outlines the mindset of buyers perfectly. If they see that a house has been on the market for awhile they often won’t even bother to look at it. 

Why? Because they figure that if no one’s bought it after a few weeks then there must be something wrong with it, and so many buyers won’t even risk wasting their time by looking. Hence the importance of pricing your home correctly. 

This is another area of concern. The real estate arena is ripe with laws written to protect buyers and sellers. And real estate agents are required to have a working knowledge of those laws.

You could easily spend what you saved in realtor fees (and more) if you make a legal error when selling your house without a realtor. And you need to decide whether that’s a risk worth taking.

You Could Hinder Exposure to Potential Buyers

Right or wrong, some agents simply won’t share FSBO listings with their buyers. They worry about the hassle of working directly with a seller who may have little understanding of the business. 

In addition, if you don’t choose to list your house with MLS exposure, you automatically cut your buyer pool drastically since most buyers work with agents. 

According to the above-reference NAR report, 88% of home buyers in 2018 used a real estate agent to help them buy. 

Summary

You do have the potential to save a lot of money if you learn how to sell your house without a realtor. However, you also have the potential to cost yourself a lot of money in time and mistakes. 

Only you can decide if it’s worth the risk. 

Have you ever sold your home without a realtor? Or have you purchased a home from a for-sale-by-owner listing? If so, feel free to share your experience in the comments section. 

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Laurie Blank

About Laurie Blank

Laurie Blank is a blogger, freelance writer, and mother of four. She’s psyched about teaching others how to manage their money in a way that aligns with their values and has been quoted in Bankrate.

She's a licensed Realtor with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, Minnesota (also licensed in Wisconsin too) and has been freelance writing for over six years.

She shares powerful insights on her blog, Great Passive Income Ideas, that will show you how you can create passive income sources of your own.

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