Expert advice for all aspects of selling your home without the help of a real estate agent.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
March 09, 2021
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Looking to sell your home right now? Many turn to a realtor to help them get through the often headache-inducing process. Though, as Andy Taylor, GM of Credit Karma Home, puts it, "[while]there is no rule that says you have to work with an agent, a real estate professional can help guide you through what is nearly always a stressful and complicated process, and ensure you get the most traffic through the door and close a deal at a great price."

Still, especially now amid the coronavirus pandemic when budgets may be especially tight, many opt to go through the home-selling process without enlisting the help of a real estate agent. "If you choose to sell your home without a real estate agent, you may save several thousands of dollars in commission fees (usually ~6% of the sale price) and you can have full control over pricing and marketing your home," says Taylor, cautioning that unless you or a loved one has a background in real estate, you may have a hard time with certain aspects of selling your home, from setting the right asking price to managing contracts.

"It's not uncommon to see 'For Sale by Owner' (FSBO) sellers make mistakes during this process, including pricing their home too high or too low, and not knowing how to negotiate effectively, which can result in the prospective buyer walking away," he continues. "Remember, taking on the selling process requires lots of time and patience — think of it like a full-time job. You are on the hook for prepping the home for sale, researching other sales to help inform pricing, marketing your home to garner buyer attention, scheduling home showings and inspections, negotiating offers, and reviewing contracts."

To that end, if you do decide to move forward with the FSBO option, Taylor recommends keeping the following advice in mind.

  1. Consider working with other real estate professionals. "If you are struggling to price your home, an appraiser could provide insight into how your home compares to others in the area. Reviewing contracts can be intimidating, especially if there are things you want to negotiate. A real estate attorney is a good person to consult, if this is the case," he says. Ask a friend for a referral or Google "real estate attorney" and your location to start your search.
  2. Leverage real estate or iBuyer platforms. If you're selling your home on your own, such listing sites will become your new best friends. "Digital platforms like Redfin and Zillow are popular options for those who choose not to work with a real estate agent. Typically these sites allow you to sell directly to them or list your home, so they can help you find a buyer," he says. "You'll need to do your research as iBuyer services can vary by market, including process details and cost. You may find that you can save some money this route, but not as much if you were to handle it on your own. In that case, ask yourself if the savings are worth the time and effort of not using a real estate agent?"
  3. Check the value of your property. Knowledge is power, folks. "Tools like Zillow's Zestimate and Credit Karma's home equity tracking tool provide free and easy property valuations," he says.

Taylor also advises FSBO sellers to "put in the work to raise your sale price," though these tips of course apply to anyone looking to sell their home. Here are his top guidelines:

Up your curb appeal. "Your home's exterior is often the first thing a prospective buyer sees. Whether that be planting new flowers, power washing the driveway or adding a fresh coat of paint, these things can go a long way in creating a great first impression," he says. For curb appeal inspiration, check out this landing page.

Declutter your home. "Falling into the same bucket, staging or decluttering the interior of your home is important in creating a good first impression," he says, adding that if you can't afford to stage your home, decluttering spaces like your coat closet and kitchen counters goes a long way.

Get professional photographs taken. "It more than pays off to hire a professional to photograph your home before it hits the listing sites. You only have one chance to make a first impression, and the few hundred dollars will be money well spent," he says. With many events and wedding photographers' schedules currently freed up, you may be able to score a deal with someone who doesn't specialize in real estate photography, but who knows the fundamentals.

Implement marketing efforts to sell your home. "Marketing a home is an important part of the home selling process, and where real estate agents can provide a lot of value because they have access to real estate technologies and systems like MLS [Multiple Listing Service] that gets a home in front of a wide network of real estate professionals who represent buyers," he says. "If you can't get your home into the MLS, leverage social media platforms to get your home in front of your network." Don't forget to put that "for sale" yard sign up, too.

Confirm your buyer's home buying power. "To ensure you are not wasting your time with non-serious or non-eligible buyers, ask all buyers who submit an offer to provide you with a mortgage pre-approval letter," he says. "You can even get in touch with the prospective buyer's lender to learn more about the buyer's mortgage agreement." Again, the more you know, the better you can seal the deal.

When you do sell your home, you may feel like you earned an honorary degree in real estate, but the knowledge you take with you will be well worth it. As will all the extra money in your pocket.