How to Sell Your House Without a Realtor: 14 Steps to Selling FSBO

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Your house is spotless, if you can ignore the open house signs and marketing flyers strewn across the dining room floor. It’s time to sell your home, and you’ve made the bold decision to do so on your own — without hiring a Realtor®.

While most homeowners make a beeline for their local real estate office when it’s time to move on from their current home, enlisting the aid of a Realtor® isn’t your only option. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 8% of homeowners opted to sell for sale by owner, or FSBO.

For insight on what it takes to sell a home without a Realtor®, we spoke with Texas real estate agent Stephanie Nash. Not only has she sold 100% of her past listings, but the properties sell 46% quicker than the average agent in her area. She also has experience consulting with FSBOs, offering owners information about the selling process when they don’t involve a listing agent.

Nash explained that many homeowners eventually end up selling with an agent because of the intense time commitment. “Not only are [sellers] working their current job, but they’re now having to do the job of a Realtor® to handle and facilitate the showings, and the transaction, and the marketing, and the calling, and following up … and all of that.”

If you’re still up for the challenge, we’ve put together this roadmap to guide you through the selling process and help you navigate the twists and turns of selling your home without an agent.

A phone used to sell your house without a Realtor.
Source: (Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash)

Steps to selling your house without a Realtor®

It takes more than a for sale sign staked to your front lawn to sell a home without an experienced agent. If you’re intent on tackling the sale of your home, this is what you can expect — from resolving to take the FSBO path to handing off the keys to new owners.

1. Research your home’s market value and set a competitive listing price

Before you list your home on the market, you’ll need an idea of what your house is worth.

Selling solo: Research your home’s market value, then select a list price that doesn’t attract lowballers or scare off potential buyers. To determine market value, create a competitive market analysis (CMA) using free online resources such as HomeLight’s automated valuation tool. Compare your home’s features to recently sold homes in your area, home sales currently pending, and homes currently on the market.

Then step back and analyze the data you’ve collected, without an owner’s bias. For example, buyers in your area may see your beloved $30,000 indoor koi pond as a maintenance nightmare. You may see the koi pond as an added feature worth an extra $30,000 in value, but buyers won’t necessarily feel the same way.

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Selling with an agent: Using the CMA as a guide, Realtors® draw on localized industry experience to advise homeowners about determining a home’s ideal list price — one that isn’t too low or too high. With a list price that’s too low, you could wind up selling for less than you could have if you priced your home higher. And at a list price that’s too high, your home could languish on the market for weeks before you’re forced to drop the price.

Savvy Realtors® also tend to know what attracts buyers to a specific home or neighborhood by keeping abreast of emerging buyer trends. And real estate agents offer an impartial opinion of how your home stacks up against others for sale in your neighborhood, by evaluating your home’s characteristics and condition.

2. Prepare your home for sale

Dirty dishes and dusty baseboards don’t exactly scream “buy me.” Before you invite potential buyers to tour your home, every corner should shine and impress.

Selling solo: Cleaning. You can opt for either a DIY approach or hire professionals to speed the process along. According to HomeAdvisor, hiring cleaners for a deep clean can run between $200 to $400, depending on the size of your home.

Staging. To show your home in its best light, you may want to rearrange furniture and add finishing touches such as plants or art sculptures. Proper staging gives the home a neutral aesthetic that attracts a wide range of buyers. If you follow interior design trends, you may want to stage and style your home yourself. Otherwise, hiring a home stager runs $1,150, on average.

Repairs. If you haven’t gotten around to fixing the loose porch railing or cracked guest room window, create a punch list of repairs or deferred maintenance projects to complete before putting your home on the market. According to Bob Vila, a mid-level handyman job that takes between two and four hours typically runs between $150 and $300.

Updates. You may find the avocado green linoleum floors quirky and delightful, but potential buyers may turn up their noses at the 1970s style. Consider renovating dated spaces in your home with features that appeal to a wider range of buyers.

Selling with an agent: You’re responsible for the actual cleaning and decluttering of your home, but an experienced agent can offer valuable guidance on which belongings should go — and what should stay to give your home an appealing vibe for buyers.

In some cases, agents arrange for staging on your behalf. According to a survey by the NAR®, 31% of sellers’ agents said they staged their client’s homes. Agents also advise on which renovations could see the most return for your money, such as whether it’s better in your market to replace the bathroom tile or reface the kitchen cabinets.

While you can hire professional stagers, cleaners, and contractors on your own, a well-connected Realtor® can recommend vendors they’ve worked with in the past so that you don’t have to dig through Yelp reviews for a short list of vendors.

3. Hire a professional photographer

When you’re aiming for Architectural Digest and not a blog highlighting terrible real estate photos, it’s a good idea to have a professional real estate photographer capture your images. In 2020, 97% of homebuyers used the internet in their home search. And since most potential buyers begin their search online, photos provide that first impression.

Selling solo: Hiring a professional real estate photographer runs $100 per hour, on average. You could also choose the DIY approach if you’re confident about your camera and photo editing skills. Use a wide angle lens and either natural light or off-camera lighting to make the images look bright and appealing. Then set up a tripod and snap away.

Selling with an agent: In many cases, your real estate agent will hire a photographer on your behalf as part of the listing service.

4. List your home with a flat fee MLS service

For maximum buyer visibility, list your home on the local multiple listing service (MLS) using a flat rate service. Popular real estate search websites pull new listings from the MLS and disseminate the data to potential buyers.

Instead of a commission percentage you’d pay to most real estate agents, flat fee MLS companies post FSBO listings on the owner’s behalf. However, the flat fee MLS company does not represent the owner the way a full-service real estate agent does. The flat fee company posts the listing on the MLS, and the seller is responsible for showing their home, negotiating with either the buyer or the buyer’s agent, and managing the closing timeline.

Selling solo: Fill out a listing input form specifying details such as buyer financing you accept, your home’s features, and showing instructions for cooperating agents. Expect to pay anywhere from $99 to $299, depending on where you live and which company you select. When you list on the MLS and accept an offer submitted by a real estate agent, responsibility for the buyer’s agent commission (around 2.5% to 3%) typically falls on the seller.

For example, a seller would be responsible for $11,250 in commission when selling a $375,000 home while offering the buyer’s agent a 3% commission.

Selling with an agent: Realtors® subscribe to the local MLS and submit your home’s listing on the seller’s behalf. With direct access to the database, agents handle the listing submission on their clients’ behalf.

5. Market your property

Your home may be on the local MLS, but capturing the attention of finicky buyers requires a standout marketing strategy.

Selling solo: Design and print home flyers and a front yard sign letting everyone know

what’s special about your home and why it’s a great buy. Consider branching out to more creative methods, such as filming a walk-through video of your home or adding a fun gimmick such as an inflatable dinosaur to your front yard.

Selling with an agent: Marketing strategy is where Realtors® shine. Every agent has their own marketing strategy based on the local market, and sellers can take a step back while the listing agent designs and prints flyers, posts a for sale sign, emails potential buyer contacts, promotes the home on social media, or other creative marketing  strategies.

6. Field phone calls and schedule tour requests

Selling solo: Once you place your home on the open market, interested homebuyers and their agents will reach out for more information, such as when they can tour your house. Respond to questions and schedule tours in a timely fashion. Also, consider buying and installing a lockbox so that potential buyers can access your home with their agent.

Selling with an agent: The listing agent handles all questions and tour requests on the seller’s behalf. If the homeowner gives the agent permission, the listing agent installs a lockbox that allows buyer agents key access to the home. Many agents use an electronic lockbox, which adds an extra level of security: every time an agent accesses the home, the lockbox records the date, time, and the agent’s MLS ID.

7. Hold an open house

An open house gives your home additional visibility by allowing potential homebuyers a chance to see your home on a flexible time frame and in a low pressure environment.

Selling solo: Arrange a few hours on weekend dates to open your doors for public viewing. Increase foot traffic by advertising the open house dates on your MLS listing and other marketing methods, such as local Facebook groups or newspaper ads. Set up A-frame signs on main roads to direct passersby to your house. Then open the blinds, plump the sofa pillows, and prepare to schmooze with potential buyers (along with lookie-loo neighbors).

Just don’t forget to remove or secure your valuables before the open house.

Selling with an agent: Listing agents arrange open house dates and times with the seller. All arrangements, such as marketing and setting up signage, fall on the agent’s shoulders. The agent also hosts the open house (not the homeowner), allowing the seller to slip away for a few hours for a movie or afternoon at the park.

An envelope used for sell a house without a Realtor.
Source: (Andrew Dunstan / Unsplash)

8. Follow up with potential buyers for feedback — and adjust your strategy, if necessary

What did buyers think about your home after their tour? A best practice employed by real estate agents includes following up with buyers for feedback about the home’s condition and pricing. Make adjustments to your marketing or pricing strategy to keep up with market trends. For example, you may want to consider dropping your asking price if you don’t receive any offers and several buyers note that similar homes in your area are selling for less.

Selling solo: Reach out to potential buyers (or their agent) to ask their opinion about the home. Some may respond with polite answers rather than the uncensored truth to avoid offending you as the owner, so you may need to probe delicately with follow-up questions about what they liked (and didn’t like). Alternately, you’ll need tough skin if home buyers openly criticize aspects of your home.

Selling with an agent: Some agents use software that automatically follows up with buyer’s agents after a tour. Other times, Realtors® call the buyer’s agent or buyer directly, if the potential buyer doesn’t have an agent. Using that feedback (and backed by the agent’s experience selling in your area), the listing agent may recommend tweaks to your listing (such as a new marketing strategy or price adjustment) if your home lingers on the market for longer than expected.

9. Review offers and negotiate with the buyer

Receiving an offer may feel like a relief, but it’s just the starting line of the negotiation process. After reviewing the offer, you have three options: negotiate and counter offer for different contract terms, reject the offer, or accept the offer outright.

Selling solo: When negotiating terms, NAR® recommends using data and statistics to explain your rationale to the other party. Use those same data points to establish the lowest price you’re willing to accept. Then decide whether there are any clauses that you simply won’t accept  (a.k.a., deal breakers like an offer price that’s well below market value or an abnormally long 9-month escrow period).

You may also want to consult with an attorney for help navigating the legalities of the purchase offer, since signing the form constitutes a binding legal contract known as the purchase agreement.

When reviewing an incoming offer, you’ll take into consideration the overall offer terms, such as:

  • the buyer’s ability to qualify for a home loan
  • whether it makes sense counter to a higher purchase price
  • inspection and loan contingency time frames

Selling with an agent: An experienced listing agent helps their client review the strength of an offer holistically, such as the buyer’s ability to close on the sale along with the offer price and terms. An agent also explains how contract terms impact the seller. “Purchase agreements are written towards the buyer’s benefit versus the seller’s benefit,” says Nash. And it’s a lot to digest, she adds.

Finally, the agent uses their industry experience to negotiate on their client’s behalf for the best terms.

10. Manage contract timelines and due dates

Real estate agreements typically include “time is of the essence” verbiage that requires both the buyer and seller to fulfill contractual commitments within a stated time frame. Examples of time obligations include the date you must provide the buyer with seller disclosures, how long the seller has to respond to a repair request, and the home sale closing date.

Selling solo: Compute time periods by studying the wording in your contract. If your contract lists deadlines by number of days (10 days after ratification, for example) rather than month and day, determine whether the number of days includes weekends and holidays. Then set up a calendar to remind you of both your and the buyer’s obligations.

Selling with an agent: Real estate agents stay on top of stipulated contract deadlines and nudge their clients (or the buyer, if the other party isn’t keeping up their end of the contract) as due dates approach. Some agents employ a transaction coordinator who also stays on top of upcoming deadlines.

11. Prepare the required legal disclosures

In most states, you’re required to disclose all material defects about your home when you sell, typically by way of a state-specific form. If a known defect comes to light after a contract negotiation, the buyer may have recourse by canceling the sale or even pursuing legal remedies after closing.

Selling solo: Determine which disclosures you’re legally obligated to provide the buyer. State mandates differ, and new laws may have been enacted since you last purchased your home. Consider hiring a real estate attorney to advise you on the relevant disclosures. According to Thumbtack, real estate attorneys generally charge between $150 and $350 per hour.

Selling with an agent: Agents often provide their clients with a disclosure package of up-to-date and mandated disclosure forms the seller must provide the buyer.

The inside of a house that has been sold without a Realtor.
Source: (Zac Gudakov / Unsplash)

12. Schedule inspection appointments with the buyer

Buyers typically require the seller to make the home and property accessible for inspectors. Depending on your home and the terms of your contract, examples of buyer inspections may include:

  • general property
  • termite and pest
  • roof
  • well pump and well water
  • septic

Selling solo: Communicate directly with the buyer or their agent to schedule inspection

times that accommodate all parties. Keep in mind time constraints listed on the purchase agreement. If the buyer has 10 days to complete inspections per your agreement, you may need to remain flexible with scheduling to accommodate your legal obligations.

Selling with an agent: Agents typically coordinate inspection appointments with the buyer’s agent and ensure that the timeline suits the seller.

13. Renegotiate with the buyer’s agent based on inspection findings

During the inspection process, the buyer may uncover defects or faults about the home. If the inspection contingency deadline hasn’t passed, the buyer generally has one of three options: back out of the transaction, continue with the purchase — or renegotiate the terms of the contract with the seller in light of the new information.

Selling solo: As with the original contract negotiation, renegotiate directly with the buyer or their agent if they present new contract terms based on the inspection findings. Decide whether the buyer’s proposed terms are deal breakers or something you’re willing to accept. For example, the buyer may request a repair credit of $8,000 toward a new roof after the roof inspector noted damage. You can reject the proposal and risk losing the sale, accept and pay the credit, or counter to a different credit amount, such as $4,000.

Selling with an agent: Seasoned agents harness their negotiation experience to advocate on their client’s behalf. That includes fielding the back and forth phone calls and fighting for contract terms that are most beneficial to you while keeping the sale on track to close.

14. Navigate the settlement process and close your home sale

With the inspection period and the second round of negotiations behind you, it’s time to focus on the closing, or escrow, process.

Selling solo: You’ll work directly with the settlement rep (escrow officer or attorney) to:

  • Clear any outstanding title liens
  • Review the settlement statement and fees
  • Schedule the document signing to transfer title
  • Arrange for the transfer of utilities, when applicable
  • Finalize the sale and transfer of funds

Selling with an agent: The listing agent remains in contact with the settlement agent throughout the closing process. Acting in the background, the agent also ensures that the closing progresses within the timeline stipulated in the purchase agreement. This includes working with the settlement rep to resolve potential issues such as delayed closing documents and incorrect fees on the settlement statement. Ultimately, a seasoned agent uses their industry knowledge to settle closing hiccups that cause closing delays and undue seller stress.

Another FSBO option: sell to a cash buyer instead

If the FSBO route sounds more complicated than you expect, there’s another option to selling your home without an agent: a direct sale to a cash buyer. With a cash buyer, you can skip home prep, repairs, home tours, and back and forth negotiation. Instead, you receive a fast cash offer and a quick close. Selling to a cash buyer typically nets the seller less than listing on the open market, but the convenience could be worth it to some homeowners.

HomeLight’s Simple Sale program helps you sell your home quickly without the hassle — or listing and marketing costs — of a traditional sale.

That’s the number one reason why we’ve had for sale by owners call us, is the time …  they felt like they were wasting their time with fielding calls and having to show the property on a whim and things like that.
  • Chester Nash
    Chester Nash Real Estate Agent
    Chester Nash
    Chester Nash Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Realty
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    • Years of Experience 10
    • Transactions 188
    • Average Price Point $162k
    • Single Family Homes 182

Selling by owner could save you on fees, but there’s a trade-off

Homeowners often underestimate the time commitment needed when handling a home sale: phone calls, follow-up messages, and reviewing legal documents can overwhelm sellers. Nash has received calls from sellers who try to sell on their own and eventually list with her office.  “That’s the number one reason why we’ve had for sale by owners call us, is the time …  they felt like they were wasting their time with fielding calls and having to show the property on a whim and things like that.”

Also, FSBO sellers tend to receive lower offers, since buyers know you’re not paying commission for a listing agent. Homes sold by owner typically closed for 10% less than the median sales price of agent-assisted home sales, according to NAR’s 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Along with managing your home sale, sellers shouldn’t forget the time needed for packing belongings, moving, and arranging future living arrangements.

Nash says that while homeowners can “absolutely” sell as FSBO, most sellers opt for agent representation. “We met [homeowners] that have sold three and four homes for sale by owner … but that’s not the norm,” says Nash. “I still feel like people are not going to want to handle the legalities of selling their home on their own.”

The Fast, Convenient Way to Sell a Home

Don’t want to deal with the hassles of showings? Can’t afford to wait months to sell your home? Get a cash offer through HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform instead.

Header Image Source: (Marco de Winter / Unsplash)