My brilliant husband, Stacy Conaway, generously agreed to write a post on how we sold our home in Texas by ourselves, saving nearly $8,000. I’d like to reiterate that it’s a good idea to do your own research – for your own state – but in our experience, this process was relatively easy.
You can get the yard signs from your local Home Depot or hardware store. You can hold your own Open House. You can take the photos and do the staging yourself. It’s really quite simple. With a little research and elbow grease, you too could save big bucks by selling your home by owner. We spent roughly $350 to have the home listed on MLS and have a real estate lawyer review pertinent documents. That’s quite a savings!
So read on! Stacy shares lots of enlightening information on how you can get on MLS yourself and save lots of money when you sell your home!
FOR SALE BY OWNER
by Stacy Conaway
When we decided to sell the house we thought we could save quite a bit of money on Realtor fees by doing the listing ourselves (aka For Sale by Owner, or FSBO). Last summer I sold my dad’s house this way so I had a little experience to draw on. It’s not difficult if you don’t mind doing some work and you’re available to show the house yourself. We live in Texas so the practices may be different in other states.
In a typical transaction the seller pays 3% of the sale price to a listing (seller’s) agent and 3% to the buyer’s agent. This arrangement is not required by law so everything is negotiable, but that’s how it usually works. The buyer’s agent fee will be negotiable with some Realtors, but trying to reduce their fee could work against you—this is the person bringing you a buyer and you want them to be incentivized to do the job, so I didn’t even try to negotiate this fee down. If a buyer’s agent isn’t happy with a reduced fee they may just direct their clients to another home. In my experience it’s the buyer’s agent who does the majority of the work anyway, so it’s worthwhile to pay them.
The cost savings with FSBO are on the listing side. It used to be that listing Realtors had exclusive access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is where your property gets the broadest exposure to buyers and their agents. But now there are flat-fee services where you can get on the MLS for $99. This is what we did. I found a service on Google and called the owner to ask a few questions about how it worked. He explained things to me, I signed up that night, paid the fee via PayPal, and our house was on the MLS the next morning (actually on HAR.com which is the Houston Association of Realtors site, the local listing website for our area).
The way the flat-fee listing works is that once you sign up, your listing is handed off to a Realtor. If I understand it correctly, there has to be an agent of record on the listing and this person has to be a licensed Realtor. The difference in this scenario is that this Realtor doesn’t really do much other than put your property info into the MLS, and then forward buyer inquiries to you—however, it’s important to keep this Realtor in the loop when you get an offer and when you close so they can update the listing accordingly. In our case I just exchanged a few emails with the Realtor and that was the extent of our interaction.
I had a good real estate attorney that I worked with, and he was a HUGE help. He advised me on the process, offered suggestions on negotiating with buyers, and reviewed documents for me. I highly recommend having someone like this in your corner. Your situation may be different but my cost for this attorney’s time on our house sale was $225. (Last year I used the same lawyer on my dad’s house sale and his bill for that was $250.) I would have gladly paid twice as much, or more, considering the overall value of having an experienced real estate attorney watching out for our interests and guiding me through the process.
Once the house was listed on HAR.com we started getting calls right away. We showed the house a few times and after one showing I immediately got a text from the buyer’s agent saying they loved the house and would be submitting an offer the next morning. What I received the next day was a standard contract of sale with their pricing offer written in. It was lower than our asking price, and lower than what we were willing to accept, so I responded to the agent with our counter offer and they quickly accepted. It made we wonder if we had left some money on the table, but there’s no way to know at this point and we were satisfied with the terms, so it was fine. We were just glad to have a reasonable offer and get on with things. Negotiation is an art, and I don’t know much about it except to say that if you are satisfied with the deal, consider it a good one and move on.
The next step was the buyers hiring an inspector (their cost) to come and check everything out and make sure there were no serious issues with the property. I think the big concern here is with major things like the roof, air conditioners, foundation, electrical, plumbing—big things that could be very costly to remediate. The inspector’s report noted a few minor things, and the buyers asked that we address some of those, but not all of them. We complied on all but one thing on their list and they accepted. This is a negotiable area too, but if the buyers are not satisfied with your response they can still back out within the option period, so it’s good to accommodate them as much as you can.
One of the first things you will want to do before you put a sign in the yard or do your MLS listing is to complete a Sellers Disclosure document. This is a standard form that you can download from the internet. It provides a lot of basic information about the property that any buyer will want to know. A buyers agent will likely ask for this right away so it’s good to have it ready.
There’s more I could say about doing FSBO but those are the key things, just from my limited personal experience. You will certainly want to do your own homework on this, but for us it was easily worth the time and effort to save the $7,650 we would have paid a listing agent.
One thing I want to be clear about is that this is not a criticism of Realtors, or the listing agent relationship specifically. I think that for many people it can be very valuable to just hand things over to an agent and let them work for you, especially if you don’t have the time or inclination to do some of these things yourself. But if your circumstances are anything like ours, I think it’s worth your time to investigate whether FSBO could help you keep a good bit of cash in your pocket at closing time.
So there you have it. Pretty simple, huh? To review:
- Download a generic Sellers Disclosure and fill it out
- Search Google for a Flat Rate Listing Agent and pay your fees to get on MLS
- If you prefer (and we advise) contact a Real Estate Attorney to review Documents
- Set appointments with Realtors to show the home.
- Negotiate price when you receive a contract
- Allow Inspectors and appraisers (hired by the buyer) to inspect your home
- Negotiate any repairs the buyer might request
- The buyers agent will set up the closing date
- Close on the home and enjoy the savings!