Home Selling Your Home FSBO: How to Sell Your House without an Agent (and Whether You Should)

FSBO: How to Sell Your House without an Agent (and Whether You Should)

by Shannon Whyte
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When selling your home, you want to earn as much profit as you can. One option many sellers consider is to sell their house themselves, especially during a seller’s market. If successful, they can potentially save thousands of dollars in real estate agent fees.

However, this approach doesn’t work for everyone. According to statistics compiled by the National Association of Realtors, only 8 percent of houses sold in 2020 were for sale by owner (FSBO). These properties also closed for an average of $77,000 less than homes sold with the help of an agent. 

Selling a house involves a lot of moving parts. If you don’t have the expertise or time available to devote to this process, you could end up selling your house for significantly less than it’s worth, if you manage to sell it all. According to Upnest, 80% of sellers eventually engage the help of an agent after attempting to sell their home one their own. 

This guide explores what it takes to sell a home without an agent, including the potential benefits and challenges, so you can determine what is the best choice for you. 

What is FSBO?

Properties sold without a listing agent are classified as for sale by owner (FSBO). When selling your home FSBO, you are in charge of executing all the steps, from getting it prepared to sell, setting the listing price, negotiating the offer, closing, and more. 

Some people choose the FSBO option to:

  • Save on real estate agent commission fees
  • Sell directly to a buyer that they know, such as a friend or family member
  • Be in control of the selling process

What to Consider When Selling Your Home Without a Real Estate Agent

There are multiple steps to selling a house whether you’re putting it on the market yourself or enlisting the help of a real estate agent. If you sell your home yourself, you’ll need to understand each step and be able to complete tasks on time. If you don’t, you could end up losing the sale.

When determining whether FSBO is the right option for you, consider these factors.

1. Do you have the time (and expertise) to oversee selling a home?

Selling a house takes time and patience. You’ll need to understand what paperwork is needed, who to deliver paperwork to, how to prepare for closing, and more. Some parts of the house selling process also require you to complete the step within a set timeframe, such as the buyer’s final walkthrough, which occurs within 24 hours before the closing meeting.

If you’ve never sold a home before, you’ll want to set aside time to educate yourself on the process and find reliable resources to provide guidance if you have questions.

Be prepared to devote most (if not all) of your spare time to selling your home unless you already have a buyer, such as selling to a friend or family member. 

Often, sellers are also looking to buy a new home. If you’re both selling and buying, you’ll want to consider how much time you’ll need to devote to buying a new home as well. 

2. Can you emotionally distance yourself from your home during the selling process?

Selling a home is an emotional process. You’ve created memories there, and for many people, their home represents part of who they are. 

When you sell your home yourself, you must be able to hear criticisms about your house. Potential buyers are often looking for what’s wrong or what aspects might not fit them—not enough storage space, outdated fixtures, or a yard that’s too small. 

Some potential buyers may even point out all the negatives to try and negotiate a better price.

Hearing about the perceived shortcomings of your home can be difficult to manage. Yet, you’ll need to take in these types of comments graciously. Additionally, if your home isn’t selling, you may need to go through comments to help guide you on what to fix or change in your selling strategy.

3. Are you willing to complete tasks like marketing, listing, and paperwork?

Selling a house takes more than putting a ‘For Sale’ sign in your yard. You’ll need to understand sales and marketing tasks like creating a listing description that attracts the right buyers and how to market your home in multiple ways.

You’ll need to set aside time for open houses and private showings.

You’ll need to understand the different kinds of paperwork involved, such as setting up a purchase agreement, creating a full list of disclosures to avoid potentially being sued, and more.

4. What is your timeframe for selling your home?

Selling your home yourself can take longer than when working with a licensed agent. So if you’re under pressure to sell quickly and you’re not selling directly to someone you know, you may want to consider whether FSBO is the right choice for you.

5. Will you feel comfortable negotiating with a buyer’s real estate agent?

Buyers may still choose to work with a real estate agent even if you don’t. Therefore, you’ll need to be able to successfully negotiate with their agent and not let them unduly sway you on issues like price and what conveys with the house. The buyer’s agent will be trying to get the best deal for their client, so you’ll need to consider offers carefully.

Additionally, you’ll hopefully be in the position of having to review multiple offers. While this is a great position, you’ll need to determine what is most important to you when deciding among different offers. Sometimes, the deciding factor isn’t price. For instance, you may need to sell quickly or want an all-cash offer. You’ll need to keep these types of factors in mind when considering which offer to take.  

Benefits of FSBO

Most people consider selling their home themselves in order to keep more of the money from the sale. However, there can be other benefits. Here are some advantages to FSBO.

1. You can save on agent fees.

Real estate agent commission fees typically range from 5 to 6 percent of the house’s sales price. You can potentially save several thousand dollars depending on what your house sells for. 

However, keep in mind that sellers are typically on the hook for paying a buyer’s agent commission of 2-3%. When you post a listing on the MLS, you will need to include the amount you are willing to pay to a buyer’s agent. If the commission is zero, agents may not bring their buyers to see the home. 

2. You can streamline the process because you already have an interested buyer.

If you’re planning to sell your home to a trusted friend or family member, FSBO may be the right choice for you. In this situation, you may not need to do some steps like marketing or staging.

You’ll still need to educate yourself on the selling process to ensure all contracts, paperwork, and legal requirements are completed.

3. You are in control of the process.

When you sell your own home, you are in charge. You can set the listing price, negotiate your offers, and decide when to take or leave an offer. Additionally, you will be in control of showings and open houses (if you have them).

If you’re experienced in selling homes or a good negotiator, this may be a great option for you.

Disadvantages of FSBO

There are some potential downsides when selling a home without an agent. Some limitations may depend on your experience with selling homes, available time, and your comfort level with selling and marketing. Here are some potential disadvantages to FSBO.

1. You won’t have access to an expert for guidance.

Licensed agents are experts in selling and buying homes. They can provide guidance and help throughout the selling process from setting up the listing, determining the price, marketing, negotiating offers, handling paperwork, dealing with the buyer or their agent, and more.

Agents are also a valuable resource to consult when a home isn’t selling. They can work with you to determine why your house is still on the market and help you make corrections. 

Having an agent can also save you time and help you sell your home faster and for more money than FSBO. For some sellers, having an agent also gives them peace of mind.

2. You’ll have to pay for aspects of selling your home that a seller’s agent would normally cover.

While you can potentially save money by not paying an agent, some of that commission typically goes towards marketing your home. Many seller’s agents use part of the commission for marketing, including listing your property on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), having professional pictures taken, and more.

Common costs associated with selling your home FSBO

Appraisal$400 – $500
Pre-inspection$300 – $500
Professional cleaning$150 – $300
Organizing and decluttering$250 – $1,500+
Real estate photography and video$300 – $2,500+
“For Sale” sign$70 – $300
Flyers and brochures$100-$500
Home staging$1400 – $2,500+
MLS Listing$99 – $1,000+
Buyer agent feesTypically 2-3% of your home’s sale price

3. You may overprice or underprice your home.

A critical step when selling your house is setting a competitive and realistic listing price. Getting the price right is one of the top challenges cited by homeowners who have attempted FSBO. 

You’ll need to consider several factors when setting your price, such as the current market trends, the condition of your house, what homes similar to yours have sold for, what buyers are currently looking for, where you live, and more.

As a starting point, you can complete an online home valuation estimate from a site like Zillow or Redfin. But, relying on these algorithm-based tools may result in pricing your home incorrectly, as they do not account for your home’s current conditions, any updates made since you purchased your home, or other nuances that may add to or detract from your home’s value. 

As an alternative to an online estimate, you can ask a local agent to prepare a comparative market analysis for you, but you may need to pay for it if you’re not hiring them. You can also hire a professional home appraiser for approximately $400 to $500.

While you may not want to invest in paying someone to help you price your home, having this type of guidance may help prevent you from listing your house for too little or too much. 

4. You may have to pay the commission for the buyer’s agent. 

Typically, the seller pays the commission for a buyer’s agent, even if its FSBO. Plan to spend 2 to 3 percent of the purchase price. 

You can decline to pay this fee during the negotiation process. However, be prepared to have buyers walk away. 

If agents know you won’t pay the commission, they’ll be less likely to show your home to buyers. As a result, you may have a smaller pool of potential buyers.

Sometimes, a buyer may ask for a seller’s credit instead of having you pay the commission. This credit would be applied to the purchasing price, so you’re still essentially paying for the fee. 

5. You may be the only party without expert representation during negotiations.

If your buyer is using an agent, you could be the only party without representation. Depending on your skills, knowledge, and comfort with selling, you could be at a disadvantage when negotiating offers with buyers. As a result, you may sell your home for less than its worth.

6. Your home may be on the market for longer due to less exposure.

Marketing a house takes time and can be challenging if you don’t already have an established network. While you can list your home on online websites, there are some popular sites, like the MLS, that you won’t have access to unless you hire someone to list it. 

While the most popular home search site, Zillow, allows sellers to post their FSBO properties for free, they are less likely to get exposure due to being separated from agent-listed properties in the search results. For buyers even to find FSBO listings, they need to click over to an “Other listings” tab, where your home will be lumped in with other non-traditional real estate listings like bank-owned properties and foreclosures. 

Zillow "Other listings" tab

By contrast, many seller’s agents have paid accounts on real estate sites, which increases your listings’ chances of being included in the daily featured homes emails that go out to buyers searching for properties in your zip code. 

Additionally, an agent understands the current market, including what buyers are looking for in a home. This can give them an advantage when setting up listing descriptions and when deciding where to market. 

Agents also typically have established relationships with buyer’s agents who may be representing a buyer who would be perfect for your house. 

5 Tips to Successfully Sell Your Home Yourself

1. FSBO doesn’t have to mean you do it all on your own.

If you sell your home yourself, you may want to reach out to experts for some help along the way. For instance, you may want to hire a home appraiser to help you accurately estimate the value of your home. 

You might also consider paying a discount broker to list your property in the MLS, so you can advertise your home to a wider range of buyers and buyer’s agents. MLS listing services vary in price depending on both the provider and package features, like the number of photographs included. The average listing costs anywhere from $200 – $500, with most services charging extra for assistance with pricing, showings, and contract paperwork.

When attempting FSBO, it may also make sense to bring on a separate party to host your showings and open houses. Having someone else show your home may make potential buyers more likely to say what they really think about your home. This type of feedback can provide useful insights if your house isn’t selling. Additionally, you’ll avoid having to hear negative comments in the moment. 

This third party can also monitor your home during showings to ensure your property is kept safe while people are entering and leaving.

However, keep in mind that hiring for these services can add up. You may want to consider pricing what it will cost to cover expenses like this and compare it to what it will cost to hire a licensed agent. 

2. Set a competitive list price that attracts the right buyers.

You want your list price to be close to your sales price, so you’re attracting the right buyers. But, the list price typically isn’t the same as the sales price. For example, if you believe the market value of your home is around $300,000, you may want to list your price a little under that to attract a larger pool of buyers. 

Just don’t list it too low, or you’ll potentially end up attracting the wrong buyers who can’t afford (or don’t want to pay) for the price you’re wanting.

3. Hire a real estate photographer to take photos and video of your home.

Most buyers search online listings to determine if they’ll go see a home. Having the right photos that accentuate the selling points of your home can make all the difference when attracting buyers. 

A professional real estate photographer will know what resolution to use so photos appear their best on online platforms, will select the right angles, and know how to highlight the unique selling points of your home in the pictures. 

Video can also be a useful tool for marketing your home. In fact, 58% of home buyers want and expect to see video when looking at homes online. Buyers are also more likely to call about a property with a 3D video tour attached to the listing.

While you will have to pay for this service, your online listing will look more professional, showcase your home, and help you attract buyers.

4. Hire a broker to list your home on the MLS.

The MLS is a critical resource for getting your home seen by buyer’s agents. Many agents will automatically receive a notification when a home in their area goes on this list. Therefore, the MLS can be one of your most effective marketing tools, especially if your home isn’t in a highly trafficked area. 

To get your home on the MLS, you can either find a local agent with MLS access or use a flat-fee MLS listing service like Houzeo or FSBO.com. There are several options to choose from, with prices ranging from $99 up to a thousand dollars or more, depending on the package you choose. However, if you decide to list with a flat-fee MLS service, you’ll want to pay attention to the fine print, as they sometimes tack on hidden fees at closing.

5. Make it clear in your listing that you’ll pay the buyer’s agent commission.

One advantage of FSBO is that you don’t have to pay a seller’s agent commission fees. However, as discussed earlier, you likely will be expected to pay a commission to the buyer’s agent. 

While you can decide not to, this decision can result in buyer’s agents not showing their clients your home. As a result, selling your house may take longer, and you may have fewer offers to choose from.

If you’re willing to pay for the buyer’s agent’s fees, make it clear in the listing. Buyer’s agents will be reassured and may be more likely to show your home compared to other FSBO houses in your area.

Is Selling Your Home Yourself Right for You?

Only you can decide whether FSBO is the best option for you. Before making that call, you’ll need to determine whether hiring a listing agent provides you with enough value to justify their commission. Remember, even if you sell your home yourself, you will have out-of-pocket expenses when selling your home, including some that you might be able to get for free with an agent. 

If you’re trying to decide between hiring an agent or FSBO, consider contacting some agents and asking them what they can do for you. For example, some agents may be willing to lower their fees to earn your business. Also, don’t hesitate to ask them what their commission is and whether parts of it are used to help market your home. 

The types of incentives offered by different agents and brokerages may influence your decision on whether to hire an agent or sell your home yourself.

Get Lower Fees and Zero Hassle with REX

If you want the help of an agent but don’t want to pay the traditional agent commission, you can sell with REX for a low fee of just 2.5%, compared to the 5-6% charged by most agents. With REX, sellers enjoy an average commission savings of $10,435 while enjoying all the benefits of working with an experienced local agent.

In addition handling the details like pricing, photography, setting up your property listing, marketing, hosting showings and open houses, negotiating with buyers, and handling the contract paperwork, REX can help cover the upfront costs of getting your home ready to go on the market, with no additional fees or interest.

Learn how REX can help you keep more of the equity from your home sale, while skipping all the hassle of FSBO.

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