Even if you're a hardcore DIYer, selling your home on your own isn't quite like canning your own pickles. There's a huge price tag at stake, and it requires a lot of time and energy. But if you're willing to put in the elbow grease, selling without using a real estate agent can be a good way to save on commission.
That said, there are certain cities where you might have better luck as a for sale by owner (FSBO) seller, at least according to a new report from Trulia. The real estate site found that FSBO homes sell the fastest in Charleston, South Carolina, where they are on the market for 51 fewer days than homes listed by an agent, followed closely by three California cities: Oxnard, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Houston, Las Vegas, Atlanta and San Francisco also saw FSBO homes go quickly, spending between 33 and 42 fewer days on the market. (New York FSBO homes saw a respectable 20 fewer days.)
And where is it toughest to go it alone? FSBO homes in Detroit; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Rochester, New York, all spent between 28 and 36 more days on the market than agent-listed homes.
Nationally, only about 6% of listings are FSBO, indicating most people aren't willing to act as their own real estate agent. But if Trulia's data is making you think you could, it's important to know what you're getting into. So we asked Kate Loesch, a homeowner from Long Island, New York, to offer up some tips based on her recent FSBO experience.
Be Prepared for a Flood of Pitches. Of course, you'd expect to get offers coming in from buyers' agents — but Loesch also was surprised by the onslaught of calls she got from agents wanting to represent her family. "After I listed as for sale by owner, my phone was ringing off the hook from brokers trying to get our business," she says, recalling that she would get calls sometimes within 10 minutes of posting their home online.
Don't Skimp on Photos. One reason sellers like to use agents is because they can provide professional photography or staging, so if you're going to sell on your own, make sure the quality of your photos doesn't fall to the wayside.
"Photos are super important; if your house doesn't look good online, it's not going to get very far," Loesch says. "The more descriptive you are [in your listing] and the better the photos highlight the house, the better it'll be for you." Fortunately for Loesch, her background in advertising meant she understood how to take an appealing picture.
Also, when it's time to take photos or arrange a showing, get rid of the clutter; Loesch ended up getting a storage pod to hold her kids' toys. "When people see clutter, they get really thrown off," she says. "It's hard for them to see past it."
Be Ready to Negotiate. Although Loesch wasn't personally intimidated by the prospect of negotiating with buyers, she cautions that it isn't for everyone. "It certainly would help to have a broker if you don't want to have awkward conversations directly with buyers," she says. "Having any kind of money conversation isn't comfortable, so if that's hard for you, having a broker would be a benefit."