Selling your house without a realtor is possible, but it’s not easy. Unless you have a lot of experience with the selling process and you live in a hot market, we don’t recommend it. Selling for sale by owner (FSBO) is often time consuming, stressful, and the payoff may be less than what you were hoping for.
On average, (FSBO) homes sell for up to 26% less than homes that have an agent, which more than negates the savings you’ll make by not paying a listing fee.
If you want to save money on your home sale but don’t want to deal with the hassle of FSBO, there are other options.
We recommend trying a discount realtor instead. With a discount realtor, you’ll benefit from a reduced listing fee, but you’ll still have a full-service real estate agent helping you along the way with things like pricing, marketing, paperwork, negotiations, and closing.
If you’re still interested in selling without a realtor, read on to learn more about the pros and cons, how to do it, and state-specific requirements.
- Selling your house without a realtor can save you money on the listing fee, but usually not the buyer’s agent commission.
- Homes sold without a real estate agent typically sell for less than those sold with one, negating some or all of those savings.
- Selling FSBO also involves a huge time commitment and lots of dedicated work.
- There are alternatives to FSBO that let you save money and retain the benefits of working with a real estate agent.
Can you really save without a realtor?
When you sell without a realtor, you won’t pay the listing fee that goes to the seller’s agent. That listing fee is about 2.79% of the final sale price on average. But avoiding the listing fee doesn’t mean that selling FSBO will result in savings overall.
Research shows that FSBO homes sell for 5.5-26% less than homes sold in a traditional agented sale. So you’ll potentially be losing a lot more on the final sale price than you’ll save on the listing fee.
Plus, even if you don’t have your own agent, you’ll usually still have to pay the buyer’s agent commission, which is 2.71% on average. Our own Data Center research shows that many people are unaware that sellers have to pay both the seller’s and buyer’s agent commission.
That said, location makes a big difference in whether or not you can save without a realtor. In some states — especially where the market is red hot — selling FSBO is a viable option, especially if you already have a lot of experience selling homes.
For everyone else, FSBO is probably more hassle than it’s worth. If you want to save on commission and still get the best price possible for your home, you’re better off going with a discount realtor. That way you’ll save money, but without the risks and stress of selling FSBO.
Our friends at Clever Real Estate, for example, can connect you with top-rated local agents who will sell your home for 1%, compared to the typical 2.5-3% commission rate. On the sale of a $400,000 home, you could save $8,000 with Clever!
How to sell without a realtor in your state
The process for selling without a realtor varies between states due to different local laws and regulations. If you’re sure you want to sell on your own, we recommend reading our state-specific guides to selling without a realtor.
To see how the process works where you live, click on your state below.
Selling without a realtor: Pros and cons
The decision to sell your house without a realtor comes with pros and cons. While you will save money on your listing fee, there are other costs to consider. Plus, you’ll need to manage the amount of time and work selling a house entails.
Before you dive in, consider the potential drawbacks and benefits.
|✅ Pros||❌ Cons|
|You won’t have to pay a listing fee, which is 2.79% of the final sale price on average||FSBO homes, on average, sell for less than agented homes|
|In a hot market, your house may “sell itself”||There’s a lot of FSBO paperwork and errors can lead to legal problems|
|You’ll have total control over the entire selling process||Selling FSBO is time consuming and especially difficult if you have work or family commitments|
|You’ll have to do everything yourself, including marketing, showings, pricing, and negotiations.|
✅ You won’t pay a listing fee
For most sellers, the biggest benefit of selling without a realtor is not having to pay the listing fee. The current average listing fee is 2.79%, 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 sale. The other half is the buyer’s agent commission, which is around 2.71% 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 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 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 realtor 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.
❌ FSBO homes often sell for less
Homes that are sold without a realtor tend to fetch lower prices than agented homes. Research shows that FSBO homes sell for anywhere from 5.5-26% less than agented homes on average.
Without a realtor, you risk mispricing your home, which — if it is underpriced — can lead to you getting substantially less for it than you would with a realtor. Our own Data Center study found that pricing the home is among the most challenging aspects for sellers.
Real estate agents are also experienced negotiators and they tend to have a good idea of when an offer is worthwhile and when it isn’t. Since most buyers have a realtor, you’ll be at a significant disadvantage during negotiations.
Plus, if you had your own realtor, you’d have someone who knows what buyers are most likely willing to pay a premium for — such as certain types of renovations or a seller’s willingness to cover closing costs. This insider knowledge of the market can ultimately help you get a better price for your home. Without it, you risk losing out on a higher sale price.
❌ 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 what buyers are looking for, they can better advise you about which renovations are worth the investment, and which aren’t.
How to sell your house without a realtor
🚨 Know your state’s FSBO process
The process for selling without a realtor differs from state to state. The information below provides a broad overview of the process for most sellers, but to get the most relevant information for you we suggest reading our state-specific guides for selling FSBO by clicking the link below.
If you’ve decided selling your house without a realtor is the best approach for you, follow these steps to increase your chances of a successful sale.
1. Determine how much your home is actually worth
Pricing your home correctly is vital. Realtor.com notes that buyers may form negative opinions of a home that’s been on the market for a long time, or that’s had to adjust its price multiple times.
Use online tools like Zillow to research recent sales in your neighborhood. Learn the price per square foot for comparable homes nearby and apply that to your home.
This can only take you so far, though. The unique features and upgrades of your home, the conditions of your local market, and more will impact your ideal listing price.
A lack of knowledge of industry and pricing trends is likely one reason why FSBO homes often sell for less.
2. Prep your home for sale
Depending on your home’s age and the conditions in your local area, it may be worth it to conduct a home inspection prior to selling.
Typically, a home inspection is initiated by the buyer after their offer is accepted. But you can use a seller’s pre-inspection as a bargaining tool, plus it will give you a heads-up on any repairs you may want to do proactively.
Depending on what the inspector finds, you may want to perform some repairs on your home.
If you’re aware of things that need repair, you’ll usually have to disclose that to potential buyers (actual rules vary by state, so check your local requirements first). In most cases, it will make more sense to just go ahead and take care of smaller repairs (like a leaky toilet or sticky door jamb) before listing your home.
Typically, realtors can advise on whether major home improvements will net a positive return on investment. For example, remodeling a bathroom may cost you $7,000, but it could boost the overall home value $12,000.
On the other hand, some improvements will net a negative return on investment.
Without the guidance of an agent, you’ll have to decide which improvements (if any) will help your home sell, and which will be a waste of money.
You may want to consider staging your home to maximize appeal.
This can be as simple as decluttering, putting some personal items in storage, and rearranging your current furnishings. Or you may choose to move out and hire a professional company to stage your home with rented furniture and decor.
Home staging costs about $1,500 and a storage pod goes for around $100/month. While this may seem expensive, it will help your home look its best to buyers.
It’s a good idea to make your home look welcoming from the outside as well as on the inside.
Make a good first impression by tidying up the landscaping and adding inviting details. This can include trimming the grass and shrubs, planting some seasonal flowers, power-washing walkways and the exterior of your home, and adding a simple welcome mat.
3. Market your home
Photos are one of the most effective ways of attracting potential buyers. About 87% of buyers who used the internet in their home search found photos very useful.
Since browsing properties online is so popular, photos that show your house in its best light are crucial to a successful sale. Potential buyers want to see clear photos of key areas around the home, like the kitchen, main gathering areas, and backyard. If you’re selling without a realtor, we strongly recommend getting a professional photographer to take pictures of your home.
Get on the MLS
One of the most effective ways to market your home is to list it on the multiple listing service (MLS) with a flat-fee MLS service. The MLS is the main directory buyers’ agents use to find homes and it is how your listing will get syndicated to major real estate websites, like Zillow and Realtor.com.
Only a person or company with a real estate license can post on the MLS. That requirement would typically shutout most FSBO sellers. Flat-fee MLS companies solve this problem by having their own real estate license, so they can post your listing to the MLS on your behalf.
Fees and services offered by flat fee MLS companies vary. Some are as low as $100, while others charge upwards of $1,000 if you need more hands-on service (at which point you’re probably better off just hiring a discount agent).
» MORE: The Best Flat Fee MLS Companies
4. Negotiate offers
As offers start coming in, negotiations begin. Negotiating a deal can be difficult for a FSBO seller because you’re usually dealing with buyer’s agents who are seasoned pros.
The negotiation process will be influenced by how much interest there is in your home. If you have a few decent offers to choose from, you’ll have some leverage at the bargaining table.
If you only have a single offer, a bunch of low-ball offers, or your house has been on the market for a while, the buyer will likely enter the negotiations with more power. Of course, you’re under no obligation to accept any offer at any time, but when you’re desperate to find a buyer, you may end up selling for much less than you planned.
5. Gather the closing FSBO paperwork and sell your house!
After you’ve found a buyer, compiling all the necessary documents and filing them correctly is one of the most challenging tasks for a FSBO seller.
Below is a checklist of items you’ll need in most transactions. Research your local and state regulations, as requirements may vary. Not sure if you’ve set up your paperwork correctly? Reach out to a real estate attorney for support.
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)|
Ensure everything is submitted correctly, otherwise you may jeopardize the sale or put yourself at risk for future litigation from the buyer.
» LEARN: Paperwork You’ll Need to Sell FSBO
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 an agent.
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 fee 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.
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% commission rate (or a flat fee of $3,000 for homes that sell for less than $350,000). It’s a way to save big on realtor fees. For example, on the sale of a $400,000 home, you’ll save $8,000!
How much does selling without a realtor cost?
One of the top challenges FSBO sellers encounter is determining how to price their home.
For that reason, you may want to hire an appraiser. A professional appraisal ensures your home is priced accurately before it ever hits the market. According to Home Advisor, this service costs an average of $341.
Eye-catching home photos are essential, especially given the popularity of online home sales platforms like Zillow. Professional home photography costs an average of $165, according to Thumbtack.
You may also need to invest in drone photography, videos, or a 3D tour to ensure your listing can compete with other homes in your price range.
Depending on your home and your local market, you may need to spend a few dollars or even thousands to attract the attention of the right buyer.
Marketing can range from a free Craigslist ad and a lawn sign you picked up at the dollar store to an ad in your local newspaper.
The multiple listing service (MLS) is how agents in your local area learn about homes on the market.
Unfortunately, only licensed agents can put a home on the MLS. But there are companies (called flat-fee MLS services) you can pay to list your home. The price of a flat-fee MLS listing typically ranges from $100-$300, but this will vary depending on your location and add-ons.
If your contract to sell contains any errors, you could face legal trouble down the road.
You can find websites that offer free contract templates, but we recommend you hire an attorney to give your contract a review to make sure it will hold water. The average cost of this service is $300.
Should I sell without a realtor?
Selling your home without a real estate agent is a lot of work.
And it probably won’t save you much money. In fact, you could end up selling your home for less than what you save in commission.
Unless you live in a hot housing market and you’re an experienced seller, we think it’s more prudent to work with an agent. It will save you time and countless headaches throughout the home sale process.
The good news is that you no longer have to pay full price to get a full-service agent. Our friends at Clever, for example, can match you with a full-service realtor from major brokerages like Keller Williams and RE/MAX, but with a substantially reduced listing fee.
You’ll get the reassurance that comes with having your own realtor, but at a fraction of the price. In fact, the average Clever seller saves $9,600 in realtor fees!
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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