Military service members are experienced movers, so it’s no surprise some choose to sell their home for sale by owner (FSBO) when it comes time for a permanent change of station (PCS).
Military FSBO can work well for some homeowners. But often, the unpredictable military lifestyle makes selling FSBO challenging.
Plus, there’s little benefit to selling FSBO for service members changing stations, since realtor commissions are considered reimbursable moving expenses. Because you won’t have to pay extra for a realtor, you might as well use one to get full support throughout the process.
Need help finding a good local realtor to help sell your home? Our friends at Clever Real Estate can match you with a top-rated local agent best-suited to your needs.
Clever has veterans on staff who understand the challenges of military moves and can guide you through your home sale.
- For most PCS moves, a FSBO home sale doesn’t make sense, as military moving expenses are typically reimbursed at 95%.
- If you’re selling for sale by military owner outside of a PCS move, FSBO may be a cost-saving option.
- There are a number of housing resources available to service members to help smooth the transition from one installation to another.
Military FSBO pros and cons
✅ Save money on commission
Most FSBO sellers, military or not, choose this approach to save money on real estate commissions.
When you sell a home, you traditionally pay commission to both your real estate agent and the buyer’s. This usually equals 5–6% of the home price, with half going to each agent.
💡 Learn more: How Does a 3% Real Estate Commission Work?
With FSBO, the seller doesn’t pay a listing agent commission, which saves them about half on realtor fees. This savings isn’t much of an incentive during a military PCS move, since realtor fees are reimbursed at 95% (and the remaining 5% can be deducted on your tax return).
If you’re a service member selling your home outside of a PCS, a FSBO sale can result in significant savings. But selling on your own isn’t the only way to score reduced realtor fees.
Our friends at Clever can hook you up with a top-rated local agent who will sell your home for just 1.5% or $3,000. The average Clever customer saves $9,600 in commission on their home sale.
✅ Easy to find a buyer
One of the main benefits of hiring a listing agent is that they do the hard work of marketing your home and bringing in potential buyers.
But if you live near a military base and sell FSBO during PCS season, finding an interested buyer shouldn’t be difficult.
Many military home buyers want to find a house quickly during PCS season, making FSBO an attractive option for sellers who don’t want to pay full-price for a realtor. After all, in this type of hot market, a house essentially sells itself.
💡 Learn more: Do I Need A Real Estate Agent? Learn The TRUTH
✅ Free access to legal assistance
One of the more challenging aspects of a FSBO home sale is managing the deluge of paperwork and ensuring you file it correctly to comply with local laws. Because of this, many FSBO sellers hire a real estate attorney to review their sales contract and other documents to prevent future legal issues.
But, as a member of the military, you should have access to a legal assistance office at your military installation. With free legal counsel at your disposal, you’ll have support for one of the most difficult aspects of a FSBO sale.
💡 Learn more: Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer to Sell My House?
⛔ Homes sell for less on average
Research shows that FSBO homes sell for an average of 5.5% less than those sold with a listing agent. This potentially negates the 2.5–3% FSBO sellers save on commission — plus some.
So, not only will you likely sell for less with FSBO, but you’ll have to do all the work!
Don’t waste your time and money! Connect with a top-rated local realtor today. 🏠
⛔ It’s hard
Selling FSBO requires a lot of time and effort; you’re essentially taking on the full-time job of a real estate agent. This is especially tough when you’re already balancing your full-time work and prepping for a move.
Military FSBO sellers in particular need to devote time and resources to prepping for a sale, since military buyers won’t have time to take on a fixer upper, and those using a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan aren’t permitted to purchase a home requiring significant repairs.
On top of everything else, you’ll have to market your listing, host showings, evaluate offers, and file endless legal paperwork (it’s a lot!).
FSBO can be stressful. For most home sellers, it’s worth it to pay an expert real estate agent to handle this work on their behalf.
⛔ May waste precious time
A Zillow study found that though 36% of home sellers try to sell FSBO, most lose patience and eventually get the help of a realtor. Only 11% of successful home sales are FSBO.
With orders to report to your new installation by a certain date and only 10 days of permissive leave to situate your new housing there, service members don’t have time to try and fail at a FSBO sale.
Plus, if you are currently deployed, it’s nearly impossible to handle a FSBO sale long-distance. And asking your spouse to do that on top of their current solo responsibilities may be too much to handle.
Take advantage of a realtor’s help — an agent can work with you long-distance and take care of any sale-related tasks in case you haven’t closed by the time you need to report to your new assignment.
⛔ Potential legal ramifications
Sellers may be liable for any misrepresentation (intentional or not) in a home sale. If you fail to disclose a defect or fill out a form incorrectly, you could potentially face legal ramifications from the buyer.
For example, you may think your home has real hardwood floors when they’re actually laminate. When the buyer finds out, they may come back to you for a credit to make up the difference in value.
Real estate agents have the experience and knowledge to flag issues like this that most home sellers are likely unaware of. Your realtor’s expertise could potentially save you a lot of trouble and money in the long run.
Important things to know about military moves
There are a number of things to know about moving as part of the military that may impact your choice to sell military FSBO.
Service members are typically notified of an assignment change via email, phone call, or a discussion with a supervisor. Note that things can change until you receive documented formal orders.
You should start prepping for a move now by organizing financial paperwork and browsing housing options at your new destination online. But don’t make any official decisions yet!
Once you receive a document with your orders, you should initiate the moving process immediately, especially if you choose to sell FSBO, as FSBO homes often spend more time on the market.
Your orders will include:
- Your rank
- Your assigned location
- Your reporting date
- The duration of your job or training
- Whether dependent family can come with you
- What you are allowed to bring and how those items will get to your new location
Selling your home only makes sense for a PCS move. If you have a temporary duty (TDY) assignment, keep your home and consider on-base accommodations or a low-cost rental.
Whether you sell for sale by military owner or not, the military gives you the option to move with military-provided crew and materials or with a personally procured move (PPM).
If you choose a PPM, you arrange your move independently, including truck rental, packing, and transportation.
With a PPM, the military will reimburse you for 95% of the expenses incurred. Receipts and paperwork can be submitted via email, mail, or in person to your designated management official (DMO).
Due to the hot housing market and current labor shortages, there is often a wait of 4–6 or more weeks for military-provided rental trucks and storage, so PPMs are a popular option.
Basic allowance for housing (BAH)
A service member’s BAH is based on:
- Geographic duty location
- Pay grade
- Dependency status
It provides equitable housing compensation for military members based on costs in their local civilian housing markets.
Ask about your BAH as soon as you get your orders (or calculate it here) to determine how much you can spend on your new home and what you can afford to spend on a move.
FSBO sellers can also use the BAH calculator to get an idea of what the average service member in the area can afford, which could help when calculating their asking price.
Many military members take advantage of the VA loan program to purchase a home. One of the biggest benefits is that a VA loan requires zero down payment.
It’s important to note that the VA will not approve a loan on a fixer-upper property. So, if you live near a base and think it’s likely you’ll sell to another member of the military, ensure your home meets the following VA loan requirements:
- Suitable sanitary living space with room for sleeping, cooking, and hygiene
- Electrical and plumbing systems in good working order
- Safe and functional heating system
- Safe access from the street
Also note that if your buyer has a VA loan, you will need to budget to cover their closing costs and processing fees, as these are non-allowable fees according to the VA. (Learn more about the cost of these fees here.)
Military families generally get 10 days of permissive leave for house hunting and moving, so both of these will be on a compressed timeline. On average, typical homeowners spend 3–6 weeks househunting and 8–16 weeks to navigate a move.
Some parts of the buying and selling process could occur while you are deployed or traveling for military service. Instead of worrying about selling your home long-distance, leave it to a trained realtor.
Our friends at Clever will connect you with a highly rated local real estate agent to guide you through the home selling process so you won’t have to rush and stress about it.
Military FSBO resources
Whether you’re selling military FSBO or not, take advantage of the myriad moving resources provided to service members.
|Department of Defense moving portal||The best place to start your moving research — access guides, tutorials, and tools.|
|BAH calculator||Estimate your basic allowance for housing, so you'll be able to budget for your move and new home.|
|IRS forms||Deduct any moving expenses not reimbursed by the military on your taxes.|
|VA loans||Learn about VA lending requirements and seek pre-approval before your move.|
|Military installation information||Find information about U.S. military installation locations and support for your future move.|
|Plan my move||Create moving checklists tailored to your family, home, and current and future stations.|
|Housing benefits||Resources and explanations of housing benefits for service members.|
|Community housing listings||Connects service members with community housing and rental listings near military bases.|
|Housing offices||Most military installations have a housing office that can connect you with resources for buying, selling, renting, or on-base housing.|
|Legal services offices||Shows contacts for the legal services offices at most military installations.|
|Military Relocation Professionals (MRPs)||Realtors can become certified MRPs, showing they have expertise in orchestrating military moves.|
|MilitaryByOwner||List or find homes for sale or rent near military bases.|
|MilitaryForSaleByOwner.net||Post your FSBO listing here, or search for FSBO homes near military installations.|
|Military Real Estate||Another place to post your listing or search homes for sale or rent near bases.|
|HomesByMilitary.com||Listings in military communities for sale by owner or realtor.|
|Reddit military pages||Reddit has numerous forums for service members. Chat with colleagues who have been through moves or connect with others stationed at your future installation.|
|Military SOS||Chat boards and resources for military spouses.|
|Craigslist||List your FSBO property or learn about your new installation.|
Bottom line: Is military FSBO right for me?
Because the nature of military life is uncertain, we don’t think FSBO is the best approach to selling a home for military personnel.
FSBO’s most compelling advantage is cost savings. Since service members are reimbursed for moving expenses, including realtor fees, that benefit is negated. Plus, with tight timelines and the chance you may need to handle some things remotely, it’s best for service members to enlist a professional real estate agent to take on the heavy lifting.
If you’re looking for a great real estate agent to help with your home sale, check out Clever. Their team of concierges will guide you through the moving process and connect you with a proven agent in your local area.
Clever has veterans on staff who understand military life and its unique challenges. There’s no hassle and no obligation. Click below to learn more about Clever.
Can you buy a house on a military base?
No. If you are a service member interested in purchasing a home, your best bet is to buy one near your current station (if it's permanent). There are online real estate services that can connect you with local realtors to help you navigate the home buying process.
How do I find military housing?
The housing office at your installation can help you find on-base or rental housing. If you are interested in purchasing a home, agent matching services can help you find a local realtor. Some even offer significant commission discounts and cash back rewards.
Ready to learn more about FSBO? Whether you’re a military member or a civilian, these articles are full of useful FSBO info.
How To Sell Your House Without A Realtor: What You NEED To Know!: The ultimate guide to selling FSBO.
11 Best For Sale By Owner Websites: If you’ve decided FSBO is right for you, these sites will help you get maximum exposure for your listing.
Read This BEFORE You Pay For A Flat-Fee MLS Service: Posting your FSBO home on your local multiple listing service will get your sale in front of realtors and their clients. Just make sure you don’t overpay!