Should you sell your house without a realtor?
Selling your house without a realtor is doable, but it’s not easy — especially in today’s market, where buyers hold more negotiating power.
We don’t recommend selling on your own unless you already have a buyer in mind or a lot of experience selling. Selling a house for sale by owner (FSBO) is risky — and the payoff may be less than what you’re hoping for.
On average, FSBO homes sell for 5.5–26% less than homes sold with a real estate agent. So whatever you save by not paying a listing fee may be negated by a lower selling price.
For most homeowners, there are better alternatives to selling without a realtor, like using a full-service discount broker or a flat fee MLS service. These options let you save money and get the expertise of a real estate agent.
Can you really save without a realtor?
When you sell a house without a realtor, you’ll save money by not paying a listing fee, which is typically 2.5–3% of the final sale price. But that doesn’t mean that selling on your own will result in savings overall.
Whatever you save by not paying a listing fee may be negated by a lower selling price. Historically, for sale by owner (FSBO) listings have sold for significantly less than homes represented by a real estate agent. In 2022, for example, FSBO listings sold for a median of $225,000 compared to $345,000 for agent-assisted listings.
Plus, you’ll usually still have to pay the buyer’s agent commission, which is typically 2.5–3%. And FSBO sellers often end up paying more in buyer incentives and repair concessions than those who work with an agent.
FSBO sales also fall through at a higher rate than traditional home sales. In fact, Zillow data shows that an estimated 36% of sellers have tried to sell for sale by owner, but the success rate is only 7–10%. And half of the successful sellers already know the buyer.
If you want to save on commission and still get the best price for your home, you’re better off with a realtor who offers a competitive rate.
How to sell your house without a realtor
🚨 Know your state’s FSBO process
The process for selling without a realtor differs by state. These steps provide an overview, but for more specific information, read our guide on how to sell without a realtor in your state.
1. Determine how much your home is worth
Getting a comparative market analysis from a real estate agent can help you price your home based on:
- Your home’s unique features and upgrades
- Your local market
- The sale prices of comparable homes in your area
“Pricing your home properly will give you the best chance to bring in interested buyers and potentially create a multiple offer situation,” advises Delaney Juarez, a real estate consultant at Keller Williams.
A lack of insider knowledge on pricing and market trends is likely one reason FSBO homes often sell for less.
“A lot of people have this mindset of, we’ll price it high and see what happens, then lower it if we need to,” says Juarez. “This idea is actually really harmful to the sale of your home because it essentially wastes the first two weeks on the market (which is usually when your home will generate the most interest) with a price that isn’t realistic.”
You’ll want to price your home right the first time, since buyers tend to form negative opinions of a home that’s been on the market a long time or changed price multiple times.
2. Prep your home for sale
“The buyers who are currently in the market aren’t in as much of a rush as we saw during the frenzy of 2021,” says Juarez, “so they have time to be more discerning and raise their standards when they look at a home to potentially buy.”
If your home is move-in ready (or you’re willing to repair and update it to get it there), “then you are in a really great position to sell your home, and possibly even get multiple offers on it in the process,” says Juarez.
Here’s how to get your home ready to sell in 2023:
3. Market your home
Unless you already have a buyer lined up, you’ll need to market your home to attract buyers. Here’s two ways to get buyers’ attention:
4. Negotiate offers
With the buyer and their agent, you’ll need to decide on the purchase price and terms of the sale, including:
- The closing date
- Concessions the buyer asks for, like help with closing costs or repairs
Negotiating a purchase agreement can be difficult for a FSBO seller, especially when dealing with a buyer’s agent with more negotiating experience.
“You can help yourself out by asking, what do buyers want right now?” says San Antonio-based realtor Delaney Juarez. Currently, many buyers want a lower interest rate. “If you offer to buy down the interest rate of your buyers by a percentage point or two, you’ll make your home more enticing.”
If you can garner more interest in your home, you’ll have more leverage at the bargaining table. If you have only one offer or your house has been on the market for a while, the buyer will likely have more negotiating power.
5. Accept an offer and complete the closing paperwork
Once you and the buyer agree to the purchase terms, you sign the final purchase agreement. Then you start executing your part of the contract.
At minimum, you need to provide the buyer with the mandated seller’s disclosures and other documents (such as your HOA agreement) that allow them to do their due diligence. You may also need to grant inspectors and appraisers access to your home.
Research your local and state regulations for specific paperwork requirements. Most real estate transactions require the following:
|For sale by owner paperwork checklist|
Must-haves for closing:
|Your sales contract (documenting the chain of ownership from the previous owner to you)|
|Property survey (illustrating the legal boundaries of your property)|
|Certificate of compliance with local property laws|
|Mortgage documents (including your latest mortgage statement and payoff amount form)|
|Tax records and final tax statement|
|Pre-inspection and/or appraisal reports|
|Comparative market analysis|
|Final purchase agreement|
|Homeowners association documentation (if applicable)|
|Nice-to-haves for new owners:|
|Receipts for past maintenance and home improvements|
|Manuals and warranty information for appliances|
|Recent utility bills|
|Useful for some sellers:|
|Net sheet to track expenditures, offers, and negotiations (find one from our partners at Clever here)|
|1099s tax form if your profits exceed your capital gains exemption (more info here)|
For peace of mind, you may want to hire a real estate attorney. If you fill out paperwork incorrectly, you may jeopardize the sale or put yourself at risk for future litigation from the buyer.
Potential risks and benefits of selling without a realtor
|❌ Risks||✅ Benefits|
|On average, FSBO homes sell for less than agented homes.||You don’t have to pay a listing fee, which is an average of 2.72%.|
|Errors in FSBO paperwork can lead to legal problems.||In a hot market, your house may “sell itself.”|
|Selling FSBO is time-consuming.||You have control over the entire selling process.|
|You have to do everything yourself, including pricing, marketing, showings, and negotiations.|
❌ You’ll likely get less money
Homes sold without a realtor can sell for 5.5–26% less than homes sold with an agent. FSBO homes often sell for less for several reasons:
❌ FSBO paperwork can be overwhelming
Paperwork is one of the most daunting aspects of selling a home and it can quickly become overwhelming. In California, for example, the average property sale is 180 pages long, according to realtor Marlene Bertrand.
Paperwork errors also carry significant risks. In many states, disclosure laws require sellers to inform buyers of defects with the property. If you fail to disclose a defect, you could be held liable by the buyer, resulting in potential legal and financial consequences.
Paperwork risks even tend to drive buyers away from FSBO homes. Our Data Center survey found that legal risks were the number one reason buyers were hesitant to consider purchasing a FSBO property.
Actual paperwork requirements also vary a lot from state to state. We recommend checking out how to sell without a realtor in your state to better understand what the requirements are where you live.
❌ Selling FSBO takes time and work
Selling a home is a lot of work and can easily overwhelm even experienced sellers. In addition to the paperwork already mentioned, some of the other tasks you’ll likely have to tackle include:
- Prepping the home (including possible renovations)
- Creating a listing
All of this work can mean that selling your house is a full-time job. Not only that, but you may end up creating more potentially unnecessary work for yourself in the process. For example, you could end up investing in renovations that you think will help your house sell faster, only to find out later that those renovations aren’t a priority for most sellers.
Because a real estate agent is much more likely to know how to attract buyers, they can better advise you about which renovations are worth the investment, and which aren’t.
✅ You won’t pay a listing fee
For most sellers, the biggest benefit of selling without a realtor is not having to pay the fee charged by a listing agent. The current average listing fee is 2.72%, which on a home sale represents thousands of dollars. That’s a lot of money that you’ll get to keep in your pocket at the end of the day.
However, what our own Data Center survey has shown is that many sellers overlook the fact that the listing fee is only one half of the commission on a real estate sale. The other half is the buyer’s agent commission, which is around 2.65% on average.
While it’s technically up to you whether you offer a competitive buyer’s agent commission, failing to do so means your property is unlikely to attract many buyers’ agents.
Buyers’ agents make their living off of commission, so if you’re not offering a good commission those agents are disincentivized to show your house to their clients. Since 87% of buyers use an agent, a low buyer’s agent commission means your house will likely miss out on a ton of potential interest.
✅ In a hot real estate market, your house may “sell itself”
If you live in a hot real estate market, you may not have as great of a need for a real estate agent. Where homes routinely sell above asking price and within days of coming on the market, things like marketing, staging, showing, and negotiations tend to require a lot less time.
However, you will still need to do some work if you live in a hot market, such as getting your house listed, hiring a photographer, and taking care of the paperwork. That’s why you should have some experience selling a house already.
If you do feel comfortable selling on your own and you think your current real estate market conditions are favorable, you’ll need to find out what the actual process is for selling without a realtor where you live. Laws and regulations vary widely from state to state, so arm yourself with information that pertains to your area before taking the leap.
✅ You’ll have full control over your FSBO sale
For extreme DIYers, selling a house without a real estate agent is appealing. You’ll have full control over every aspect of your sale, including pricing, prepping, photography, marketing, and negotiations.
While for many people all that work is less than appealing, it may suit your personality just fine. So long as you have the time to be able to commit to it, selling FSBO may be worthwhile if you prefer a more hands on approach.
Keep in mind, however, that there is a steep learning curve when it comes to selling without a realtor. No matter how much of a DIYer you are, you should at least have some experience selling homes already and, ideally, you should live in an area where there is a lot of demand.
How much does selling without a realtor cost?
Here are some of the expenses you’ll need to prepare for when selling FSBO:
Buyer’s agent commission
The buyer’s agent commission is typically 2.5–3% of the home’s final sale price.
You’ll want to offer a competitive buyer’s agent commission. This incentivizes buyer’s agents to bring their clients to your home, which can increase the pool of potential buyers and lead to a higher selling price.
Appraisals cost an average of $350, according to HomeAdvisor.
A professional pre-listing appraisal ensures your home is priced accurately. One of the top challenges FSBO sellers face is pricing their home.
Professional home photography costs an average of $120/hour, according to Thumbtack.
Professional photos attract buyers on popular sites like Zillow. You may also need drone photography, videos, or a 3D tour to compete with similar listings.
Marketing costs can range from free ads to a few thousand dollars.
Your home and market will determine how much you need to spend to attract the right buyer. A free Craigslist ad and a yard sign might work for you, or you might need to pay for an ad in your local newspaper.
The price of a flat fee MLS service typically ranges from $100 to $300. Some companies offer more hands-on service for up to $1,000.
Getting on the MLS is crucial to maximize your home’s exposure. The MLS is how agents learn about homes on the market. If you don’t have a real estate license, you need a flat fee MLS service to list your home on the MLS.
Real estate attorney
The average starting cost of a real estate attorney is $300.
An attorney can ensure you have an error-free purchase contract so you don’t face legal trouble later.
How to sell a house without a realtor in your state
The process for selling without a realtor varies between states due to local laws and regulations. Before selling on your own, we recommend reading a state-specific guide to selling without a realtor.
To see how the process works where you live, click on your state:
Alternatives to selling without a realtor
If you want to save money when buying or selling your home, FSBO isn’t your only option. There are ways to save on commission while retaining the benefits of working with a listing agent.
Choose a discount brokerage
Some brokerages (like Redfin, for example) offer reduced commission rates while still providing you with a full-service real estate agent. Discount brokers provide a good balance between savings and service. You get to keep more money in your pocket, but because you have a realtor you’ll face fewer risks than if you sold FSBO.
Be sure to do your research into each discount broker beforehand, since service and savings do vary. With some, for example, you’ll be working with a team rather than one agent, which can lead to a reduction in service quality.
Others assign you just one agent, so you’ll get a more traditional realtor experience, but for less. Clever’s partner agents, for example, are from big-name full-service brokerages like Keller Williams and RE/MAX. They’re vetted top sales performers in their regions.
When you sell your home with Clever, your agent will list your home for a 1.5% commission rate . It’s a way to save big on realtor fees. For example, on the sale of a $500,000 home, you’ll save $7,500!
Work with a flat fee MLS company
Most flat fee MLS companies allow you to pick and choose which services you need. For example, you may want help with listing on the MLS and with contract review, but you prefer to opt out of a yard sign and video tour.
Many companies price their offerings by service tier, while others allow you to choose each service à la carte. They typically charge a flat rate ranging from as low as about $100 for the most basic service to over $1,000 for a more premium package. A few are priced as a reduced commission percentage, especially if you need more personalized attention.
Flat fee MLS companies are best for individuals with a few real estate transactions under their belt who know exactly what they need and what they can handle on their own.
How much does it cost to sell a house without a realtor?
FSBO sellers usually save about 2.5% compared to those who sell with a traditional real estate agent. However, FSBO homes generally net a sale price of 5.5-26% less than agented sales. So, you may end up losing money by selling your home without a realtor. Because of this, working with a full service low-commission company may be a better option.
How can I sell my house fast without a realtor?
The best way to sell your house fast is to ensure you’ve priced it right, listed it on the MLS, and staged it to make it look more appealing. You’ll also need to know the process for selling without a realtor in your state as regulations vary and mistakes with paperwork can slow down a sale.
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