When you want to sell your house, you typically begin by getting it listed. This is usually done after contacting either a brokerage or a real estate agent. Some sellers, though, find the paperwork and legal proceedings involved quite a challenging task without representation.
Nevertheless, a big portion of homeowners prefer to sell their property without a realtor’s assistance. Although lacking the experience required in real estate can put obstacles on your road, it is possible to sell your house without any outside help from a real estate agent and it’s legal to do. Of course, you will need to ensure that you go through every process correctly and meticulously to avoid conflicts or misunderstandings with the potential buyer(s).
If you can handle the process successfully, you can indeed save a ton of money from selling your own home! Here are some critical details you definitely need to bear in mind.
Getting Your House Ready to Sell
Below are some handy ideas to know where to start:
1. Know How to Market Your Property
Rule number one is to find a way to entice buyers. Since you won’t be able to list your house on the local MLS (unless, of course, you are okay with paying a few hundred bucks for this service), you could put up a For Sale by Owner sign, especially if you live on a busy street. Then, think of the specifics about your house that make it special (i.e., a great view, lovely backyard, etc.) and market those selling points to the prospective buyer. Online advertising and hosting an open house may also work out well for you.
2. Get Rid of All the Unnecessary Extras
It is paramount to make your property appealing to prospective buyers so that you can sell it at the highest possible price. Admittedly, a professionally staged home will enable you to ask for a much higher price than an undecorated, white-walled, empty house. To manage the staging process all by yourself, start with the basics – getting rid of everything that does not have a place inside (or outside) the property. Donate or discard items that don’t belong there, or you have no use of anymore. This includes eyesores, random junk, and whatever object is not stage-worthy. Perhaps, hosting a good old garage sale will help you get all the extra stuff out of the way one minute sooner. Or why not send them to a storage facility? Nevertheless, you could try using Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay to give away or sell your unwanted possessions. We give more staging details right below (see point #5 and #6).
2. Have It Repaired
The next step is to have handymen repair anything that needs to be fixed, such as the rain gutters or broken pipes. You may also want to replace dated items, such as bath accessories or light fixtures that are older than the house itself! Generally speaking, a handyman will help address issues such as large holes that need to be patched, sticking passage doors, and cabinets that beg for a touch-up, as well as a list of other flaws you may not even be aware of.
3. Clean the Place From Top to Bottom
Don’t forget to ask pro cleaners to come in and scrub everything so that the place looks sparkling and inviting. Depending on the services you need (i.e., do you require carpet cleaning services as well?), the total square footage that has to be cleaned, the number of staff members you need, and your geographical area, these services may cost anywhere from $20 to $80 per person (hourly rate). Do make sure you specify the precise spaces you wish to be cleaned, though, before asking for a quote. Usually, cleaning carpets and washing windows are extra while cleaning appliances, kitchen cabinetry and bathrooms are included in the asking price, most of the time at least.
Now, if you would like to save the specialist cleaners’ money, you could clean your house yourself or with the help of friends and family members. In this case, do make sure you clean everything from furniture, doors, soiled walls and blinds to ceiling fans, door frames, plates, and the areas behind the furniture. If you have a steam cleaning device (you could rent one), you could effortlessly steam clean tiles and steam off the grime from your grill, oven, stove, or exhaust hood.
4. Repaint the Walls
This is a must-do if you want your potential buyers to be able to picture themselves spending their lives in your house. To do that, they need to see a blank canvas, and walls in cream tones, as well as warm white hues, are perfect for that purpose. If you want to add pinches of color in the interior, prefer an accent rug, a colorful bowl or throw pillows. If you turn to professional painters, expect to pay between $100 and $300 per room, plus the cost of the paint itself.
5. Stage the Interior Like a Pro
You can start with paring down furnishings in spaces that are either overly crowded or too small. Your bedroom may look fantastic with just the bare essentials, meaning a bed, a chest, a mirror, and a single nightstand, instead of having too many accessories and things like a desk or chairs. Also, try to define stark spaces by placing well-chosen items, such as a painting or an indoor ficus, to add dimension and warm up empty corners and cold areas. While doing so, ensure that you change your man cave or sports-gear room back to that third bedroom it once was when you first bought the house.
Buyers appreciate living spaces, bedrooms, and garages, not your personal knickknacks, artwork, and embellishments.
Finally, focus on enhancing the focal points in your house (i.e., a feature wall or a fireplace) by, say, adding a large mirror on a feature wall or a set of chests and matching chairs next to the fireplace.
6. Enhance the Curb Appeal
Then comes staging the exterior, unless you live in a condo, of course. Address all issues related to your landscape (i.e., the grass may need filling in and the bushes and trees might need to be trimmed).
At this point, you may also consider applying a fresh coat of paint to give your exterior some color and character. You may use color to create contrast on your front shutters and your front door – just don’t overdo it! Then, have a friend or family member perform a drive-in and see how your home feels after driving or walking past the other homes in the area.
As for some final touches worth mentioning, your front lanterns will probably look great with a nice polish, adding a new doormat will add warmth and a welcoming sensation to potential buyers, and wetting down your driveway and landscaping will help keep your outdoor areas look fresh and glowing.
Steps to Sell Your House Without a Real Estate Agent
Here is what you will need to do to sell your house, from the preparations involved before you list the property to the closing day (roughly sequential order):
- Do some research to determine the right price – You could conduct a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis). You may even want to consider hiring an appraiser to help you decide how much you should list your property for (expect to pay $300-$500 for this). Alternatively, you can also use online tools like the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s HPI calculator to get a rough idea of the ideal price. Or look for sale prices for properties in your area with the same (or quite similar) lot size, bathroom and bedroom count, and square footage.
- Have all the required paperwork (see a detailed list of what is needed in the subsequent section) ready for when you find a buyer that wants to put in a written offer on your property. Better be prepared than look disorganized (hence, unprofessional).
- Get your home ready based on the task list given above.
- Draft your listing after gathering key information about your home, such as parking arrangements, cooling and heating configuration, bathroom and bedroom count, lot size, finished interior square footage, and year built. You can check active MLS listings to see if you have included all the necessary details. And, don’t forget to take photos of every hallway and room (don’t forget the exterior spaces) emphasizing gorgeous views while also incorporating lots of natural light. Note that you will probably need to (1) touch up the pictures with editing software and (2) use your creativity to “sell” the house using appropriate descriptions highlighting your property’s main selling points (150-300 words will do).
- List the house on the MLS site if you believe it is worth your time. It is a cheap way to give your property some serious exposure using a pro broker. MLS packages start at around $100 (involves a 6-month listing of your home), plus the commission of the buyer’s agent (if any).
- Hold an open house after your property hits the market. Make several copies of a glossy sales sheet, where you may also want to add peripheral information, such as the amenities in the neighborhood (i.e., schools and parks), and schedule an early afternoon or late morning open house (it will take you a couple of hours). To spread the word, you can post flyers in community spaces, email your contacts, post details on your social media channels, or put up an ad on Nextdoor or Craigslist. Ensure you are patient with people’s questions, dress smartly, and act professionally since you will be competing against real estate agents that do that for a living.
- Get ready for private showings – To do that, you will need a set of spare keys for buyers’ agents to use for that purpose. You could install a numeric keypad lock on your front door or buy a lockbox and allow (controlled) access to your home when you are not around. Before you give your spare keys, though, verify the identity of the buyers’ agents that contact you. Look for them at state records using their license number. There is a Department of Real Estate (or similar) in each state.
- Be prepared to negotiate and field offers with buyers’ agents – Remember that you do NOT have to respond to unrealistically low, seller-unfriendly, or highly leveraged offers. If the buyer requires you to pay most of the seller’s closing costs or if their downpayment is much lower than the standard 20%, feel free to reject the offer. Chances are they will come back with a new (and more beneficial to you) one.
- Close the sale using the professional help of an escrow agent, be it a real estate attorney or a title company rep (depends on the customs and laws of your state). You can find registered title companies at the American Land Title Association directory. Or you could seek the assistance of your state real estate regulator. Having legal representation when the time comes to close the sale is a must if you want to avoid common buyer-related obstacles (i.e., the buyers’ mortgage) – your potential buyer may not pre-qualify for the loan.
Important Documents You Need to Sell Your House Without a Realtor
The amount of the required paperwork can be overwhelming. However, with a little organization and preparedness, you can pull everything through just fine and avoid delays during the process. Here is a list with the documents (alphabetically) you will need to have:
- Appraisal report
- Bank information
- Closing statement
- Comparative Market Analysis
- Contingency removal form
- Copies of gas and electric bills
- Final purchase and sales agreement
- HOA documents (if applicable)
- Home Inspection Certificate/Report
- Insurance records
- Invoices of past repairs or renovations
- List of Chattels
- Listing agreement
- Mandatory Disclosures
- Mortgage statement (payoff sum for your mortgage)
- Original Sales Contract
- Paint Addendum (lead-based for houses built before 1978)
- Pre-Inspection Report
- Preliminary Title Report
- Property Tax Information
- Purchase offer
- Rental agreements
- Residential Property Disclosure form
- Residential Sales Contract
- Seller’s Net Sheet
- Tax Forms
- Third-party Financing Addendum
- Warranties and manuals
It is advised to seek legal counsel for legally binding contracts, such as a sales or purchase agreement or a deed. If you don’t want to spend money on hiring a lawyer, your buyers’ agents may be able to draw up purchase agreements and similar contracts. Since you will most likely be paying the fee for your buyer’s agent, having them draft some paperwork for you will not be an issue.
What Type of Contract Do You Need to Use?
Before you even list your home, make sure you have the original sales contract at hand. This is a document that pinpoints the exact deal you made with the previous owner(s) of the house you are now selling. This agreement maps out all the why’s, when’s, where’s, what’s, and who’s of the transaction that took place when you bought your home. It also outlines the details of the purchase. The original sales contract also notes information like the price at which the property was sold and the terms and conditions under which the house was transferred from the previous owner to you while also elaborating on any property-related disclosures made prior to the sale.
Fees and Costs – Who Pays What? (Seller vs Buyer)
The amount of closing costs you will be called to pay is quite high, and can easily end in thousands of dollars if we count the various taxes, charges, and fees involved. Plus, the sum you need to pay for a downpayment. This does not mean, though, that you, the seller, pays everything, especially when it comes to closing costs (aka settlement charges and include taxes and fees needed to transfer the house from the seller to the buyer and originate the mortgage loan). The table below highlights the most common charges that either the seller or the buyer has to pay during a house sale.
|Buyer pays for…||Seller pays for…|
|50% of escrow fees (1% of the purchase price)||Real estate commission (5%-6% of the sale price) -Goes down by 3% if the seller sells FSBO (For Sale by Owner)|
|Home inspection fees (if one is conducted) – Between $250 and $700.||50% of escrow fees (1% of the purchase price)|
|Appraisal (around $400 on average).||Title insurance coverage for the buyer (between $1,000 and $4,000)|
|Land survey (if one is requested) – Around $600 (depends on the location, property shape, and size)||Home warranty (between $300 and $500 for 12 months of warranty coverage)|
|Title insurance policy for the lender (between $500 and $1,000)||Real estate transfer taxes (varies by state) – charged when an old owner transfers the title for the home to a new owner.|
Note that when it comes to closing costs, some loans limit the seller’s contribution to the buyer’s closing costs to 6% of the sale sum (see FHA loans, for example).
People or Companies You Can Sell Your House To Without Using a Realtor
There are many people and companies interested in buying your home without using a realtor. We buy houses directly from homeowners all the time and we can make the process very quick and easy for you.
An alternative would be advertising your property on FSBO sites, (besides MLO as it is already mentioned above) such as FSBO.com and Realtor.com, which allow 6-month listings with as little as $100 and $400 respectively.
Another option is real estate sites, the likes of Trulia and Zillow (free to post your listing) or, why not, even posting a pro-grade video tour of your property on YouTube! Of course, if you do you might need to have some video editing and video production assistance.
As you can see, selling your house without a realtor is definitely possible. Just follow these steps above or for an even faster sale, contact us.
If you need to sell your house fast, give us a call anytime at (253) 216-2497 or
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The Pros and Cons of Selling Your House Without a Realtor
Selling your home yourself without a realtor comes with both some advantages and certain hurdles.
- You get to save money from real estate commission – This is around 6%, which means that if your house is sold for, say, $300,000, you will need to pay the realtor a good $18,000.
- You are in charge of the sale – No matter what, you are always in control when selling your home on your own. So, if you feel really strongly about putting your property out for sale without the help of a realtor, then chances are you will be better off.
- You may lowball yourself – Most homeowners usually come up with a price by looking at comparables in their area. Most of the time, they underprice their property.
- You may not have the time required – The amount of time needed to sell a house can be overwhelming. If you cannot be committed and willing to put in the effort, research, and time, it is best to let a realtor handle this sale for you. You may want to consider using the expertise of a real estate agent to sell your property, especially if you are running short of time (i.e., need to move into a different state due to work).
- You may not have the necessary knowledge – Selling a property involves real estate transactions-related stuff like purchase agreements and closing documents that you may not be aware of how to handle. State laws are also to be considered. For instance, some states require that property owners need to disclose a roof leak to potential buyers. In any other case, you may be subject to litigation in the future.
- You may not be objective – Most homeowners have an emotional attachment to their house, which makes their judgment subjective when it comes to selling their property. This can give them blinders. A trained eye will help figure out what needs to be done to have the property in tip-top shape (and, consequently, sell like hot cakes).
- You may be tricked by a fraudster – Con artists usually have a lot of experience in real estate residential contracts (many of them may even be former realtors). If you are not aware of the scams that take place out there, you may end up signing paperwork that gives out far more of your personal details than needed and eventually transferring your house to a con artist. We have heard of numerous mortgage frauds and identity theft cases performed by such individuals who were even caught selling properties with clueless mortgage-paying homeowners still living in them!
Keep in mind that the majority of real estate agents (remember – they do that for a living) sell no more than a handful of homes annually, while half of them sell no homes (the average realtor, at least). Therefore, selling an asset may not be as easy as you may think. However, if you are skilled at keeping things under control and are able to conduct a competitive market analysis while also ensuring that you have the required knowledge, do go ahead, by all means.
What If You Want to Sell Your Home for Cash?
The process remains challenging and does not differ much from the one involved in selling your property with a financing contingency. What is not the same, though, is your buyer’s profile. There are several different types of house cash buyers/investors, depending on the types of home they are interested in purchasing, the intent behind the purchase, and the experience they bring to the table for sellers. For example, instant buyers will make an online offer on your home immediately using web platforms and automated valuation models. House flippers, on the other hand, will buy at a steeper discount, make improvements to the house, and then sell it for a good profit. Then, we have the Buy and Hold investors, who will most likely rent your home out.
Based on which cash buyer you sell your property to, the procedure of getting an offer and closing may be slightly different. In any case, it won’t vary dramatically from the one we have already described. Right after you determine what your property is worth, you:
- Find a qualified cash buyer (i.e., via an online search or by working with a wholesaler).
- Receive a cash offer.
- Review it.
- Evaluate your offer by looking at comparable properties in your area (same condition, similar level of finish and size, etc.) that have been sold recently.
- Ask for things like an initial deposit (usually 3%-5% of the purchase price) and proof of funds to confirm that the buyer indeed has the money to buy your home.
- Prepare the purchase contract (if you accept the offer).
- Sign it.
- Close on the sale (it may take up to 15 days). Sales that require a purchase loan need around 45 days to close the loan.
- Have a title company or an attorney draft the paperwork.
How to Sell Your House Like a Professional Real Estate Agent
The first thing to remember here is that you do NOT need to start negotiations as if you are about to go into battle, turning everything into a conflict. Instead, do set your goals straight from the beginning (why are you selling your home) while figuring out why the buyer wants to purchase your property. That way, you may have a win-win sale.
Knowledge is power. In this case, make sure you provide as much information about your property as possible – from square footage and comparables to average market time, taxes, homeowner association fees, and room counts. Then, let data drive your decisions and negotiations. The more you seem to know about your stuff, the more reliable you will appear to your potential buyer(s).
Besides, never underestimate the power of NO. Psychologists say that NO is one of the most empowering words you can say when in the middle of a negotiation. This is because a YES usually makes people nervous, distracted, and scared about what they have committed themselves. So, if you need to say NO, just say it.
Needless to say, being truthful and not trying to hide anything from a buyer will also give you credit and bring you closer to the final deal. Finally, bear in mind the following:
- Never commit anything to paper before negotiating by phone.
- Let the buyer know that you have other options and offers.
- Prefer live conversations instead of emails and texts.
How to Determine the Fair Market Value of Your Home
A fair market value is quite the same as a property’s market value and refers to what your home will fetch on the open market. Although there is no precise formula to calculate the fair market value of a property (the free market is always changing), having a reasonable knowledge of property-related facts is key. Some of the factors that usually influence the value of a home include the location, size, school district, current market conditions, the market around the property, any updates or remodeling you have done, the current condition of the home, the mortgage rates, and others.
Given that understanding things like the current activity of the local real estate market and the economics of a free and open market will probably not be your cup of tea, it might be best to hire a professional (licensed) appraiser to help determine the exact fair market value. The information gathered by appraisers is also used by various agencies, including insurance companies, attorneys, and lenders to estimate the market value of a home.
Now, if you want to evaluate your own comparables (aka comps), you can consider using any of the many online comparison tools and sites available, such as the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s HPI Calculator, the Homesnap search portal, and Neighborhood Scout.
How to Obtain a Competitive Market Analysis
A Competitive Market Analysis or CMA is a report that usually contains the following information:
- Active listings of homes for sale at this given moment – These are NOT indicative of market value – you can set whatever selling price for your property.
- Pending listings of properties for sale – These refer to homes that were now under contract (once active listings, though). Pending listings indicate the direction of the current market but are NOT a comparable sale as the actual sold price is not disclosed before the close of the transaction.
- Sold listings – Your comparable sales are the properties that have closed within the past 90 days. Along with the pending sales, these sales will be used by an appraiser when they appraise your property for the buyer.
- Expired listings – These reflect the highest sales price (median) of homes that did not sell probably due to an excessively high asking price or because they were in need of repairs or were not aggressively marketed.
- Off-market/ Canceled/ Withdrawn properties – These include homes that were withdrawn from the market, for whatever reason (usually too high prices).
To conduct a proper CMA, follow these steps:
- Collect the necessary property data (location, square footage, year built, number of bedrooms, extraordinary features, interior finishes, etc.).
- Gather information like the previous sale of the property, as well as 5-year property listing data (i.e., days on the market, terms, price adjustments, and final sales price).
- Assess neighborhood quality (i.e., proximity to amenities or unpleasant locations like highways, significant curb appeal issues, etc.).
- Assess historical and current rental values and sales in the neighborhood to feel the pulse of the local real estate market.
- Search for comparable properties to determine the market value of your home. Make sure you compare apples to apples.
- Calculate the price per square foot for each (comp) home by dividing the selling price of each comp you have found by its square footage.
- Adjust your property value estimations to compensate for property differences. No two homes are exactly the same.