FSBO: How to Sell Your Home on Your Own

For Sale By Owner, also known as FSBO, has become very popular in recent years. Selling your own home doesn't have to be the death trap many real estate agents would have you believe, but you DO have to be willing to do the legwork yourself.

Your most important goal in a FSBO sale needs to be to reach potential buyers. If you think of everything you do to sell your home in that light, you will be much more likely to succeed. That being said, here are the basics you need to accomplish in order to sell your own home.

Prepare Your Home for Sale

Before you can even think of selling your home, you need to get it looking as good as possible. This means:

  • Making all necessary repairs
  • Cleaning your house from top to bottom, inside and out
  • Staging your home to make it look like a model home

Now, doing repairs doesn't mean you need to do a complete remodel. In fact, in most cases it is recommended that you don't, as the improvements usually don't generate that big of an increase in the final selling price. However, a new coat of paint, steam-cleaning the carpets, and fixing that pesky dripping faucet all add to how well your home appeals to potential buyers.

Properly staging your home is also very important. Be sure to get rid of all the unnecessary knick knacks and furniture. Rent a storage unit, and pare down your furniture and belongings to the necessities. Think of how a model home looks — idealized, without the everyday clutter of real life. That's what potential buyers want to see!

Plan Your Marketing Strategy

Proper marketing is perhaps the most important part of selling your own home. If potential buyers don't know your home is available, it won't sell. It's as simple as that. Furthermore, the more buyers see your listing, the greater your chances of selling, so it is imperative that you market your home via as many channels as possible.

1. Get an MLS listing number. This is the first and most important thing to do, as it will enable buyers to find your home via conventional methods, such as Realtor.com.

2. Hire a photographer or take professional-looking pictures. The majority of people start looking for homes online, so good photography is the second most important part of a good marketing strategy. Take pictures of all the rooms and include several 360-degree spins. Pictures should be taken when your home is clean and staged, and in bright lighting — blinds open and all the lights on. Avoid anything "ugly" in the pictures (no trash cans, open toilets, or streets or sidewalks in the exterior shots) and pretty things up with some flower arrangements. Remember, buyers are looking for their dream house, so make your home look as idyllic as possible!

3. Write a solid listing. A poorly written listing is a red flag to potential buyers that you don't know what you're doing. If you're not sure how to write a good listing, browse through some agents' listings to get an idea of how it's done.

4. Put up signs. Some HOAs do prohibit everything except window signs, but always put a sign in the yard if you can — two signs if yours is a corner lot — with your phone number so that potential buyers can call and set up a showing. Also be sure to design an attractive flyer, with several pictures, the price, and a bulleted list of the home's best features, and put the flyers in a plastic tube affixed to your sign.

5. Advertise. You are saving a lot of money by not paying an agent 6 percent, so be sure to put some of that money into decent advertising! Run your ads in all the major and neighborhood papers in your area, as well as on websites such as Craigslist.

6. Use direct mail. Small, colorful postcards aren't expensive to make or mail, and are an attractive way to showcase your home to potential buyers. Plus, if the recipients you mail to aren't interested, they might know someone who would be. A postcard can easily be stuck on the fridge or given to a friend.

7. Start a website. One of the biggest cons of not using an agent is not having a website, since most buyers these days do a great deal of their home search online. Having a website allows you to better showcase your photos and virtual tour. It also enables you to include your URL on your flyers and postcards, ads, and your MLS listing. Google Analytics offers you free website stats so that you can track where your visitors come from, and focus your marketing push on the most effective channels.

Lots of homeowners decide to list their homes as For Sale By Owner in order to save money — and granted a 6 percent commission is a lot of money to save — but don't make the mistake of thinking that FSBO is free. You still need to spend some money on good marketing, because if you don't, your home won't generate the interest you need to get worthwhile offers.

Set a Price

Price is another very important factor in how quickly your home sells. Many homeowners who are selling their own homes think that they can set a price, and if they don't get enough interest, simply lower it. Not true! The first two weeks after you first list your home for sale are crucial, as that is when the interest will be the highest. If you don't price the home appropriately from the very beginning, you will lose potential buyers.

The best way to price your home is to find out what other, comparable homes in your neighborhood have sold for in the last three to six months. Calculate price per finished square foot, and look for upward or downward trends during that time. You are better off setting a competitive price and selling your home quickly, than setting too high of a price and lowering it later on.

Set Yourself Up for Success

A great deal of FSBO homes don't sell, and the homeowner ends up listing with an agent after all. This isn't because For Sale By Owner is a bad idea, but because most sellers don't set themselves up for success.

Because the first two weeks are so critical, it is important to get all your ducks in a row before listing your home for sale. Plan ahead so that the website will launch, the ads will run, and the direct mail postcards will all be sent out at the same time as the listing goes live. That means repairs have to be done, pictures have to be taken, and local papers have to be contacted all well in advance of when you plan to list your home. You have one shot at making a grand entrance into the real estate market — make it count, and make FSBO work for you!

This is a guest post by Jason Kay. Jason has sold two homes on his own in the last five years. He started FreeHomeOwnerListings.com to provide an affordable online location to advertise your FSBO home for sale.

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Guest's picture

I've got my home up for sale FSBO. I paid $300 to get it on the MLS, which unfortunately is the only way to go. Of the 22 showings we've had in the past 40 days, only 1 came from a non represented buyer. I spent a few hours putting a web site together, and a couple hours with photos and listing details. Buyer's agents show the house, so you don't need to be present for that. We've had two offers to date, but nothing high enough for us to bite.

Guest's picture

We sold our first home as a FSBO and at a higher price than those who hired a realtor at the time. Granted this is a different marketplace then back in 2004, but some other tips I'd offer up:

- Create a flyer to remember. We used Microsoft publisher and my husband did a great job highlighting our home's features (e.g. ceiling fans, jacuzzi etc.). We included the high quality picture we took ourselves, the benefits of living in our gated community and captivating copy.
- We sold our home relatively quick - during the first open house. I found great open house tips on the internet (baked an apple pie, all lights on and pointing out features).
- Be positive and upbeat

Guest's picture

We tried FSBO on our condo.It was clutter-free and move-in condition. We tried an open house-twice. After a couple months, we ended up handing it over to a realtor who sold it, but for less than what we paid. At that point, we had already moved out and the condo was vacant. The town had lost many jobs and there were at least 5 homes for sale on every street. So, we had alot of competition. We are open to FSBO, should we lose our jobs again!!

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