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When the time comes to move, some tenacious homeowners are eager to take over the reins of their home sale and figure out how to sell a house by owner in Illinois.
With millions of homes sold each year, a modest portion of sellers — about 7%-8%, historically — choose to list “For Sale By Owner” (or FSBO — pronounced fizz-bow).
In this guide to selling FSBO in Illinois, we’ll cover what can be the most difficult aspects of selling by owner in the Prairie State, including the steps that might be harder than you think. We’ll also provide a comprehensive overview of the full process to prep, market, and close on your home without the assistance of a real estate agent.
Note: Once you’ve seen what’s required, you can roll up your sleeves and get started with your FSBO sale. Or — in the event you’d prefer to work with a real estate agent — HomeLight would be happy to introduce you to highly-rated professionals in your Illinois market who can help you command top dollar and provide a low-stress selling experience.
How does selling by owner (FSBO) work in Illinois?
Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for educational purposes only. HomeLight recommends that you look into the real estate regulations for your area and consult a trusted advisor.
FSBO is a method of selling your home without the involvement of a listing agent. In a FSBO scenario, the seller assumes the responsibilities that would normally fall to their agent such as pricing the home, arranging showings, and negotiating the deal.
In an agent-assisted sale, the seller typically pays a commission amounting to around 6% of the sale price, which is then most often split 50/50 with the buyer’s agent. That 6% is deducted from the seller’s proceeds at closing. By selling FSBO, a seller can eliminate the cost of the listing agent’s commission (so around 3%), though they may still need to offer a buyer’s agent commission.
Buyer’s agents will expect compensation for the work they do to bring a buyer to a sale, such as arranging showings and helping to tee up and qualify the buyer. Plus, when a seller isn’t working with an agent, the buyer’s agent may end up carrying more of the weight to get the deal to the finish line.
Next: Consult our guide on who pays closing costs when selling a house by owner for more details.
Finally, a FSBO sale does not mean that a seller won’t need any professional assistance. In Illinois, sellers are not required to hire a real estate attorney, but FSBO sales typically warrant legal and professional oversight of some kind to avoid an abundance of legal risk.
Most people who sell by owner will need to hire an attorney to review and prepare key documents and make sure paperwork is filled out properly, such as the seller’s disclosures. Let’s take a look at what disclosures are required when selling a house in Illinois.
What needs to be disclosed when selling a house in Illinois?
Whether you hire a listing agent or not, the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act requires sellers to disclose known defects and problems with a property to prospective buyers.
In Illinois, the following disclosures must be listed:
- Flooding or recurring leakage problems in the crawlspace or basement
- If the property is located in a flood plain
- Material defects in the basement or foundation
- Leaks or material defects in the roof, ceilings, or chimney
- Material defects in the walls, windows, doors, or floors
- Material defects in the electrical or plumbing systems
- Material defects in the well or well equipment
- Unsafe conditions in the drinking water
- Defects in the HVAC system, fireplace, or woodburning stove
- Defects in the septic, sanitary sewer, or other disposal system
- Unsafe concentrations of radon, asbestos, lead paint, lead plumbing, or lead in soil
- Any known mine subsidence, underground pits, settlement, sliding, upheaval, or other earth stability defects
- Infestations of, or structural defects caused by, termites or other wood-boring insects
- Presence of underground fuel storage tanks on the property
- Boundary or lot line disputes or uncorrected violation of laws relating to the property
- If the property has been used for the manufacture of methamphetamine
These disclosures should reflect the current condition of the property and do not include previous problems, if any, that the seller reasonably believes have been corrected. Sellers are required to provide disclosures of known problems to buyers before signing the real estate contract.
The Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Report form is available from the Illinois Association of Realtors and other organizations and law offices.
Why sell a house by owner in Illinois?
The top three reasons people cite for selling FSBO include: “did not want to pay a commission or fee” (36%); sold to a relative, friend, or neighbor (30%); or that the buyers contacted the seller directly (8%), according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
To get a firsthand perspective on selling homes in Illinois, we spoke with Andretta Robinson in Chicago, a HomeLight Elite real estate agent with over 16 years of experience and 15 awards in orchestrating real estate transactions a cut above the rest.
We also spoke with HomeLight Elite Agent Kim Alden, a top-performing agent in Barrington whose 17 years of experience have seen 87% more single-family home transactions than the average Barrington agent’s results.
Alden says Illinois FSBO sellers she encounters “are aiming to save money on commission.”
However, 2022 data from NAR shows that FSBO homes sold at a median of $225,000, signiﬁcantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $345,000. An independent study from 2016 to 2017 bears this out: FSBO homes sold for an average of 5.5% less than agent-marketed sales.
Alden and Robinson say, based on their lived experience of the market, that deficit may be even higher. “I would guess around ten percent,” Alden says. Robinson says she can see it being even higher than that—“because you see a lot of FSBO homes that are either over- or underpriced, they’ll get much more working with an agent.”
As you can see, FSBO is a mixed bag. So, before we share our selling tips, let’s lay out some pros and cons to help you decide if this is the route for you.
Pros of selling a house by owner
- Ability to save on listing agent commission fees, usually around 3% of the sale price.
- You’re completely in charge and can manage the sale as you please.
- No “go-between” in your communications with buyers.
- It can lead to a faster, simpler process if you’re selling to a family member or friend.
Cons of selling a house by owner
- FSBO listings tend to sell for less, statistically speaking.
- Unless the seller already has a buyer lined up, FSBO listings can take longer to sell.
- You won’t have access to the network of professionals that an agent has. “Every vendor, from the photographer to the attorney to the home inspector,” Alden says, “I mean, we even have preferred plumbers — even preferred chimney sweeps. We know people who are tried and true.”
- Writing your own listing without an agent means needing to have an expert knowledge of Fair Housing Law. “There are many words you must steer clear of in your listings to avoid violating the law, and some of them may surprise you,” Alden says.
- Managing all communications and negotiations yourself is time-consuming. Not having a communication buffer can be a downside if the buyer pushes back or says negative things about your property.
- You’ll be negotiating without help from an expert, which could mean leaving money on the table.
- Setting the listing price is challenging — you may be tempted to go too high. You could also risk under-selling with a low price.
- Marketing your home is time-consuming.
- You’ll still have selling costs, which may include transfer taxes and settlement fees. Not having agent representation could also lead to paying more in seller concessions.
Robinson and Alden both agree that the biggest downside to selling FSBO is that you’ll really struggle to set an effective price.
“Most of the time, FSBOs are using either a Zillow estimate, their tax bills, or information from their neighbor that sold a year and a half ago,” Robinson says. The problem, she explains, is that “these figures won’t accurately reflect your home’s market value.” She says that if she were meeting with you, the first thing she would do is show you, on paper, the market valuation in your area. “We’ve got so much data now at our fingertips, so I would show you what’s really going on with market statistics.”
Alden agrees. “Unfortunately, without an agent, FSBOs won’t know their home’s true value without access to the comps (comparable home sales). And, if they meet with an appraiser, they might not know what to give them for an accurate appraisal. They usually end up selling their house for a lot less money — because of what they don’t know.”
In spite of the cons, we’ll help you navigate the challenges of FSBO if you’re committed to selling your Illinois house without agent assistance. For some, selling a home FSBO is a challenge worth accepting, and success can be measured in more ways than one.
Steps to sell a house by owner
Next, let’s review the FSBO process step by step.
1. Prepare your house for sale
Whether you’re selling with an agent or FSBO, at a minimum you’ll want to get your Illinois home into respectable shape before any showings to increase your chances of receiving a fair price. Here are a few standard tasks to add to the list.
These efforts will go a long way toward impressing buyers looking for a home in Illinois:
- Declutter floors, shelves, and surfaces throughout the home. “Remove all personal items,” Alden instructs. “Pick things up, declutter, make it look neat and spacious.”
- Make small fixes and repairs, like a leaky faucet or broken door handle.
- Lightly update with new light fixtures, faucets, or cabinet hardware.
- Refinish hardwood floors.
- Repaint bold walls (or those that look dingy) in a neutral color.
- Reduce furniture in crowded rooms — consider a temporary storage unit.
- Stage the home with final touches like fresh-cut flowers or a basket of fresh produce.
- Use rugs to define spaces and place them strategically.
- Deep clean until the house is sparkling.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done on the inside,” Robinson says. “That can take you a whole day,” she says. It comes down to cleaning, decluttering, and staging.
“I tell sellers exactly what they need to do to get the top price.” We asked her what makes it so tricky for FSBOs to nail staging on their own. It comes to familiarity, she quips. “Oftentimes, sellers aren’t aware of these details because they’re emotionally tied to the home,” she explains.
When you don’t know what’s personal, it’s hard to depersonalize. Robinson says she’s even seen sellers look past religious symbols built into the tiles of their floors. “You’re so used to looking at it, it may not even occur to you that it is personal — but for buyers, those impressions could be huge. That’s why you need a real estate agent,” Robinson says.
Data from HomeLight’s 2022 Top Agents Insight Report shows that on average, “Buyers will pay 7% more for a house with great curb appeal versus a home with a neglected exterior.”
Some important curb appeal upgrades can include:
- Mow the lawn and pull weeds.
- Apply fresh mulch liberally.
- Upgrade your landscaping. Consider a new walkway, flowerbed, or shrubs.
- Add a fresh coat of exterior paint.
- Install a new garage door if yours is looking old or not working properly.
- Anything required to sell in your specific area of Illinois.
Robinson says that you should always check with your municipal governance before you proceed. “There are a lot of particular things — there are so many villages around Chicago, and they have a lot of different requirements. For example, she says, “You don’t pay attention to every driveway you see — a driveway is a driveway — but there are villages in Illinois where the law says that if you’ve got a crack in your asphalt or in your concrete, you need to have it repaired before you can sell your house.”
“People are going to drive by before they come in,” Alden says. “So first impressions are everything. Make sure you have no clutter — no junk on the front lawn or porch. Put a layer of paint on your front door, maybe a nice planter.”
2. Do the homework necessary to set a competitive price
You’ve arrived at a critical moment in your FSBO process: setting a listing price. You don’t want to leave money on the table, yet you want to encourage activity on your listing.
Before listing a home, an agent usually conducts a comparative market analysis (CMA). This is a highly-detailed study of “comps” — similar homes nearby that have sold recently, are pending, on the market, or were previously listed but taken off the market. Some may have even been pulled off the market without a sale.
How important is setting the right listing price? “It’s the most important thing — price is everything,” Alden says. “Buyers have access to a lot of data. They’re going to know right away — they’ll say, hey, this price is high in comparison to other properties I’ve seen in this neighborhood.”
Or, on the flip side, they might say, “Wow, this is super low, what a great deal — because the house down the street just sold for $30,000 more.” In either case, the seller loses substantial cash “without the right pricing strategy and experience.”
Without an agent, you’ll miss out on the complexity of a full CMA and the know-how to interpret it.
However, with a little time and money, you can set a competitive price yourself.
Conduct your own “CMA Lite”
It’s time to roll up your sleeves and research.
Start with an online home value estimate
As a starting point, look at several online estimators for your home’s value. HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator aggregates publicly available data such as tax records and assessments, your home’s last sale price, and recent sales records for other properties in the same neighborhood.
We also add a new layer of information to our estimates using a short questionnaire. Tell us a few details about your Illinois home, such as:
- How much work does it need?
- What type of home is it (single-family, condo, townhouse, or other)?
- Roughly when was your house built?
- Are you planning to sell soon?
Using these insights, we’ll provide you with a preliminary estimate of home value in under two minutes.
Whether you use Zillow, Chase, Realtor, or Redfin to get a home value estimate, think of any online home price tool as a first step (not your only source of truth) — and recognize that the data used may be limited.
Narrowly filter your search for comps
When you’re ready to find comps, you can choose from sites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, or Realtor.
You’ll want to filter your searches to the area very near your house (within blocks if possible) and with similar characteristics. If you’re not finding any comps, expand your search map.
You’ll also want to filter results by details like:
- Listing status (look at recently sold, pending, and active)
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Square footage
- Home type (single-family, condo, etc.)
Beyond the above criteria, the more houses you find with floor plans and an age similar to yours, the better.
Use a site like Zillow to collect your data
As an example, let’s take a look at how to filter your search for comps on Zillow.
- Navigate to Zillow.
- Type in your address. If a pop-up with your home’s specs appears, close it.
- Filter by “sold.” Yellow dots should appear on the map surrounding your house.
- Now, filter by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and check the box “Use exact match.”
- Next, filter by home type.
- Next, select the “More” box. Here you can specify square footage, lot size, year built, and — crucially — the “sold in last” (time period) category.
- Scroll down and select to view houses that sold in the last 30 days.
- If you find there are not many results in your area, try expanding to 90 days. However, the further back you go, the less relevant the comps.
- If necessary, click the plus or minus buttons to widen the search area.
- Once you’ve collected data for sold houses, revise or restart the search to view active and pending listings, as well.
Invest in an appraisal
If you want to further reduce guesswork, some top agents recommend paying an appraiser to provide a professional opinion of value for your home. An appraiser will combine recent property data, research of the surrounding market, and information collected from a walkthrough of your home to determine an appraised value. For a single-family home, an appraisal will likely cost $500 to $600 — well worth it to avoid possibly over- or underpricing your house by thousands.
That said, know that appraisals only get you so far.
“You can get an appraisal, but know that you’ll sometimes get a biased result,” Alden explains. “The problem is that when a seller orders an appraisal, it’s for personal use. It’s not from a bank, it’s not an independent assessment of what the value is.”
Make sense of the research
Compare your home’s features against the nearby comps you collected. Hopefully, the houses you studied give an indication of an appropriate price range for your home. From there, you can make dollar adjustments based on characteristics that add value (patios, curb appeal, an extra bedroom) versus detracting from it (a busy street, deferred maintenance, less square footage).
Consider the differences and similarities of comps with the appraised value of your home to choose a price that will encourage activity (too high and it may seem out of reach to many buyers), but will also maximize your profit.
In Barrington, “A lot of people want a nice backyard and a deck or patio,” Alden says. “Young families want fences in the back yard for their kids or dogs — though, ultimately, each buyer is different in what they’re looking for.”
3. Photograph your home
Listing photos are powerful, either pulling in buyers for showings or keeping them away.
“Photos are your home’s first showing,” Alden says. “So put your best foot forward.”
To give your listing an edge, consider hiring an experienced real estate photographer. While they may charge as much as $140 to $180 an hour, this could be one of the most important things you do to sell your home.
“I always urge sellers to get professional photographs,” Robinson says. “They need a real estate photographer, not just someone with real estate experience — someone who can really take proper photos.” She says it can be difficult to find the right expert without the network of connections that an agent has.
Alden agrees. “It can be hard to find a great photographer who specializes in homes. I have a preferred photographer — he’s my go-to guy, and his pictures are phenomenal,” she says. The outcome? “I know before we even get there that the pictures are going to be great.”
Ultimately, Alden says, “It’s knowing who to hire. Because anyone can Google a photographer, but just because someone is listed on Google as taking pictures of houses doesn’t mean that they’re going to have the right lenses, the right editing tools, things like that.”
But if you do go the DIY route, make sure to:
- Use a good camera with a wide-angle lens.
- Pay attention to lighting.
- Include a photo of every room.
- Take multiple pictures of living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms.
- Try shooting different angles.
Review our guide on how to take quality real estate photos for further guidance.
I always like to start at the front door. Take them through the house, highlighting the way the rooms flow. Make sure the description matches what the pictures are doing and highlights your home’s benefits. When I go through a house, I always have my seller give me a tour and find out what’s important to them and try to highlight that. So, if they’ve got an incredible backyard with a pizza oven in the back, where everyone loves to hang out on Friday and Saturday nights, I put that in the description.
- Kim Alden Real Estate AgentCloseKim Alden Real Estate Agent at Compass
- Years of Experience 19
- Transactions 2053
- Average Price Point $338k
- Single Family Homes 1623
4. Create a detailed, compelling listing
Along with stellar photos, you’ll want to craft an informative and compelling listing. Leverage both the listing description (a paragraph or two highlighting key features) and the property details to show potential buyers all about your home and what makes it desirable.
Tell a story with your description
Draw in potential buyers with a powerful listing description that tells a story about your Illinois house, including details like:
- Your home’s most unique and desirable features, like a breakfast nook or sunroom
- Recent upgrades like a kitchen or bathroom remodel, or a new roof or HVAC system
- High-end appliances, materials, or finishes
- Outdoor features like a pool or patio
- Neighborhood features and amenities
- Nearby parks, walking trails, restaurants, and attractions
According to Alden, writing a listing description is one of the trickiest parts of an agent’s job — it’s a brief description, but it carries a huge amount of weight.
“I always like to start at the front door,” she begins. “Take them through the house, highlighting the way the rooms flow. Make sure the description matches what the pictures are doing and highlights your home’s benefits.”
She explains that the key is to know what your home’s big selling points are. “When I go through a house, I always have my seller give me a tour and find out what’s important to them and try to highlight that. So, if they’ve got an incredible backyard with a pizza oven in the back, where everyone loves to hang out on Friday and Saturday nights, I put that in the description.”
Lastly, and this is crucial: specify in your description whether a buyer’s agent will receive a commission from the proceeds. Most agents don’t want to show their clients properties from which they’d receive no commission. You can decide not to offer a buyer’s agent commission, but recognize that doing so could limit your buyer pool as buyer’s agents typically expect to be compensated for their efforts.
Don’t skimp on the property details
Aside from writing the description, you may be prompted to enter information like:
- Age of the home
- Square footage
- Architectural style (i.e., split-level, rancher, craftsman)
- Appliances included
- Exterior building materials
- Flooring types
- HOA fees
- School zone information
- Lot size
Many real estate agents and potential buyers really do read this “fine print” on your listing — so include accurate details, and plenty of them.
Robinson says that when she walks through a seller’s home, she takes inventory of all the details she can prop up in the listing to help the seller command a higher sale price. The square footage, the flooring, the wall fixtures, chrome finishes — “I’m looking for it all,” she says, because it all has an impact on how much you can list for — and your odds of a successful sale.
In Illinois in particular, Robinson says buyers love a waterproofed basement. “People want to be able to turn the basement into my living space, so a waterproof basement means they won’t have to worry about having any issues.” If yours fits the bill, be sure to mention it.
5. List your home online
It’s finally time to post your Illinois home online. While you can create FSBO listings for free on popular search sites, you’d have to painstakingly post site by site, and your listing wouldn’t reach the majority of buyers and agents.
To give your home the most exposure, pay to have your home put on your local MLS (multiple listing service) -– a platform agents use to share properties with one another as well as major real estate sites. Posting there will feed your listing to buyers’ agent databases and to common sites buyers use.
Only licensed real estate agents and brokers who are MLS members can post to the MLS. However, you have two options to gain access: paying an agent to post for you or using a FSBO platform online.
Pay an agent to list your home on the MLS
A local agent may be willing to list your house on the MLS for a flat fee, without any other involvement in your real estate transaction. If you decide to go this route, make sure you ask whether the fee includes updating your listing if necessary.
Use a FSBO platform with an MLS option
There are a variety of paid websites that you can use to list your Illinois house online as “for sale by owner.” These sites offer packages ranging from about $100 to $400 for just a listing, or a larger flat fee of $3,000 to $5,000 that includes any number of additional professional marketing services.
Some of these companies display their rates on their websites, but others won’t quote a fee until you input your address or select an area of the country. A few examples include:
It’s important to note that most of these companies serve FSBO sellers nationwide, which can cause challenges if the assisting representatives don’t understand the local market trends in your Illinois neighborhood.
Whatever you choose, read the fine print carefully: some sites may have hidden fees or even take a percentage off your sale — a detour you’d rather avoid on the FSBO route.
Not willing to pay for the MLS?
If you’re determined to save money by forgoing the MLS, creating a free FSBO listing on Zillow might be your top option. You can post videos and unlimited photos, and get fairly wide exposure via Zillow and the Zillow-owned Trulia.
6. Market your home
Now it’s time to spread the word about your Illinois home.
Experienced agents like Alden and Robinson know that posting a home on the MLS is just the beginning of the marketing phase. A successful home sale requires a deliberate and targeted marketing plan to reach the right buyers and attract the best offers.
Marketing is crucial, Alden says. And it’s not all yard signs and open houses. In fact, without an agent, it’s sure to be a research-heavy endeavor.
“There are a lot of rules and regulations that go into things that people don’t necessarily realize from being on the outside looking in,” Alden says. “There’s a lot of rules and regulations that we need to follow, to make sure that we’re in compliance with [the law].”
Here are some of the steps you can take to market your home:
Place a nice FSBO sign by the road
Consider getting a custom yard sign rather than purchasing a generic one you write on with a Sharpie. You can order a custom sign on a site like Vistaprint with your contact information, plus a stand, for as little as $25 plus shipping. Note that some MLS providers may have rules about whether you can post a FSBO yard sign while your home is on the MLS.
Share on social media
Share your home across social media — and ask your friends to share, too. Alden and her team market their properties on over 16,000 websites and social media.
“Every one of our properties is on social media,” Alden says. “We have a huge outward cast.”
Hold an open house
Try these strategies for a successful open house event:
- Share details on Facebook and Nextdoor.
- Update your MLS listing with the open house details (if you’re able to as part of paying the flat fee), or update your DIY FSBO listing.
- Place open house signs at nearby intersections.
- Tidy up the house before potential buyers come through.
- Pass out info sheets with the address, bullet points about the house, your contact info, and perhaps one photo.
- If you can, collect visitors’ info — then follow up later to ask if they have any questions.
Find more expert tips for how to hold an open house at this link.
7. Manage showings
If your marketing is successful, your next step will be to show the home to prospective buyers. Welcome to the busiest phase of the home sale process. According to [agent], a major reason some FSBO sellers switch to an agent is that they underestimated the time, energy, and expertise needed to manage this crucial step.
Alden explains that the first impression a buyer gets during the home showing can ultimately make or break a home sale. “Buyers spend 50% less time in a FSBO showing than they would in a showing hosted by a real estate agent,” Alden relays. “Because FSBO showings can make buyers very uncomfortable”
Unfortunately, this can be a fatal blow to your home sale. “If the experience isn’t positive, then the buyer has a negative impression of the house. They can’t put their finger on what it is, but they know it’s not the right house for them.”
To manage the logistics of showings:
- Respond to inquiries ASAP.
- Set end times if you need to fit many showings in one day. This will also create a sense of demand and urgency for buyers to place offers.
- Remove or secure valuables.
- Make sure the home is clean and tidy for showings.
- Follow up with buyers’ agents after showings to get their feedback.
Should you be present for showings?
If you’d rather not be present for every showing, consider using a lockbox with a code to let buyers’ agents enter the house. This is standard industry practice among agents. To ensure you’re working with someone legitimate, use Google or sites like arello.com to check their real estate license number.
With unrepresented buyers, plan to be on the property for the showing. During a showing, we recommend you:
- Point out a few highlights of the house.
- Let buyers look without hovering.
- Be prepared to answer questions.
- Avoid the temptation to tell all — let the house and listing do the talking.
“Don’t follow the people around,” Alden urges sellers. “People get really uncomfortable when the seller is there because they don’t feel like they can speak freely with their agent. So don’t hover.”
Alden also says it’s of utmost importance that no pets be present during showings.
“If dogs are jumping all over you, you’ll be uncomfortable,” she says. Likewise for cats. “Some people are terrified of them. So make sure you take your pets with you before a showing.”
8. Evaluate offers and negotiate a deal
You’ve got your first offer — congratulations! Before signing anything, Alden says to prepare to do some research and practice due diligence.
“There are a lot of details, and without an agent, you won’t know what’s normal,” she explains. “Earnest money, for example. You’ll need to know what normal earnest money is and how it works. You’ll need to know how to counter offers, how to meet in the middle, all these negotiation strategies.”
She points out that FSBOs are often unaware of all the negotiating power they have. “The first thing is always price. Second could be the closing date. And, number three, you can negotiate other conditions — like, for example, I want to leave my lawnmower behind. Whatever it is.”
She points out that the many contingencies sellers can negotiate into a deal may be foreign to them, but they’re indispensable knowledge for landing the best deal. Know your negotiating power — or pay the price. “You always need to be thinking about all these little pieces.”
Here are key considerations when considering an offer on your Illinois home:
- Vet potential buyers by requiring a mortgage pre-approval letter or proof of funds.
- Require everything in writing.
- Remember you can counter-offer and negotiate.
- Look for a good real estate attorney. (See the next step!)
9. Close the sale — with professional help
Time to button up that deal.
Alden recommends every FSBO seller in Illinois hire an attorney to minimize risk and settle the legal documents. “Every single sale I’ve ever had in Illinois, over the last sixteen years, has had an attorney,” she says. So, while not technically a legal requirement, “Consider it an attorney state.”
She adds that you wouldn’t want to navigate the closing documents on your own, anyway. “You don’t want to be by yourself. It would be very difficult.” There are so many moving parts, and no two transactions are ever the same,” Alden says.
“My best advice is that you really need a very good real estate attorney — someone specialized, who can really guide you through the process.”
Real estate attorney fees can vary depending on location and how much help you want or need. In Illinois, they generally charge an average of $326 per hour — well worth it for professional guidance in closing one of life’s largest legal transactions.
FSBO mistakes to avoid in Illinois
On your FSBO journey, watch out for these major pitfalls:
- Forgetting to declutter. “You need to prepare your home so that it’s show-ready,” Alden says.
- Missing out on the MLS.
- Forgetting or refusing to pay the buyer’s agent commission.
- Over- or under-pricing. For the record, the more common mistake, Alden says, is “overpricing — almost every time — because we all think our house is better than everyone else’s. A little too much emotion can go into it.”
- Letting your house sit on the market too long.
- Neglecting to hire a professional photographer. “FSBOs often use their phone cameras to take pictures — that’s a terrible move.”
“Trust your gut — and interview agents,” Robinson says. “There are just so many moving parts to a home sale, and you may feel like you can just put your house on the market. But you may not be prepared for the amount of strangers that have to come into the house.”
“When one seller who had previously listed without an agent hired one of the agents on my team, they ended up getting around $40,000 more than they were asking on their home,” Alden says. Previously to that, they’d been inundated and unsure of what to do. With multiple offers to review, “it became a whole other playing field. After hiring an agent, they ended up getting much more money for their sale.”
Her takeaway for sellers? Know this: “FSBOs always aim to save on commission, but they never do — because, without the right experience, they grossly overprice or underprice their houses.”
Alternatives to selling by owner in Illinois
If you decide you don’t want the hassle or pressure of FSBO, you’ve got other solid options.
Enlist the help of a top-rated real estate agent
Ultimately, the services and price gains you can get with an experienced real estate agent may put more money in your pocket than FSBO. A proven agent is also better equipped to help you achieve your selling and moving timelines.
Robinson has made working with former FSBOs one of her many specialties, and she says she’s seen it all.
In fact, her first-ever sale was a converted FSBO — “Baptism by fire,” she jokes. “By the time I got there, the seller was so weary. I had to sit down with him and explain why the contracts weren’t going through.”
Ultimately, the issue was that the property was overpriced and would need to be reduced by $40,000 to sell. It wasn’t an easy process. “He was adamant about getting every penny out of the deal as possible.” Unfortunately, when a property is overpriced, sellers may end up losing more in the long run. “Eventually, I got through to him.”
The takeaway? “We got it done — and he got the right amount of money.”
Alden shares a similar assessment of the major problems FSBO home sellers contend with in Barrington.
“Hire a real estate agent,” Alden says. “Because here’s the thing: Anyone who hires an agent is going to get their commission back three times over just by dodging all those mistakes.”
Alden again names not pricing the home correctly as “the costliest mistake you can make,” followed by the creepiness and inefficiency of having no agent to “make sure the property is secured and that the people coming in are actually vetted Realtors® and buyers.”
Interested in such expertise? HomeLight’s Agent Match platform can connect you to top-performing agents in your Illinois market. Our free tool analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs. It takes only two minutes to receive your matches.
Request a cash offer to buy your Illinois home
If you’d like to skip the sale prep altogether — plus avoid paying agent commissions — you can opt to sell your home “as-is” to an all-cash buyer instead.
For a low-stress experience, consider requesting a cash offer from HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. Tell us a few details about your home, and in as few as 48 hours, we’ll send a no-obligation all-cash offer your way. If you decide to accept the offer, Simple Sale sellers have the ability to close in as little as 10 days.
Without leaving the Simple Sale platform, you’ll also be able to compare your cash offer to an estimation of what your home would sell for on the open market so you can make an informed decision.
Ready to sell your Illinois home?
Unless you already have a buyer lined up, selling a house by owner in Illinois requires a significant investment of time and effort. You’ll need to pull your own comps, capture excellent pictures, create a listing, market the house online, field inquiries, host showings, negotiate, and close the deal. And that’s after preparing the house itself.
You also have to consider that FSBO listings tend to sell for less than agent-assisted sales. An experienced agent who knows the area can make recommendations for targeted upgrades to help you maximize your sale price and get a premium offer. This can help to offset or, in some cases, more than make up for the cost of commission — while saving you time and headaches.
If you choose to go FSBO, you should have a good idea now of what to expect from the process. Otherwise, our internal transaction data at HomeLight shows that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for as much as 10% more than average, and we’d be happy to introduce you to some of the best agents in your Illinois market.
Writer Hayley Abernathy contributed to this story.
Header Image Source: (Danylo Istominov / Unsplash)
- "RESIDENTIAL REAL PROPERTY DISCLOSURE REPORT," Illinois Association of Realtors (January 2015)
- "2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers," National Association of Realtors®, Jessica Lautz et al. (November 2021)
- "Top Agent Insights for New Year 2022," HomeLight (January 2022)
- "SAVING REAL ESTATE COMMISSIONS AT ANY PRICE," Black Knight (August 2017)