How to Sell Your House (with or without a Listing Agent)

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Putting your home up for sale is a big decision that comes with a lot of questions

The biggest question you’ll need to answer is whether you should hire a listing agent or sell your house privately. An agent can help get your house ready to sell and do a lot of the legwork. But it can cost you 6% of the sale price, which eats into your profit.

Selling your own house can save you money on commission fees, and it gives you more control over showings and the negotiation process. In fact, a recent study by Zillow found that 36% of sellers list their own homes for sale.

Selling your house without a realtor is possible if you follow a few effective steps.

Selling Your Own Home vs. Hiring a Listing Agent

Finding the right agent to sell your home isn’t easy, especially if you can’t get a recommendation from a friend or family member.

Once you find a quality listing agent, they’ll guide you toward setting a fair and competitive price for your home. They may recommend repairs to help you get the highest price. Sometimes all it takes is a new coat of paint in the living room. Other times, you may have to fix some safety problems before listing the home.

Expect to pay a hefty price for all this expertise. As a seller, you have the right to negotiate the fee. Some charge a flat rate to sell your house and others base their fee on a percentage of the final selling price. Either way, make sure you’re clear about what you expect from your realtor and what services they’ll provide before hiring them.

If you sell your house without a realtor, you’re in charge of all the research and preparation, including picking the right price, staging photos, and advertising the home.

You’ll also need to make sure your home gets listed on the right websites since many homebuyers do their browsing online.

Related: How to Buy a House for the First Time

9 Steps to Sell Your House

There are several steps you need to go through before selling your house.

1. Consider Consulting with a Listing Agent

Sometimes it pays to talk to a realtor. Even if you decide to sell your home yourself, consulting with a listing agent can benefit you. They’re familiar with the area and can offer information about the local housing market that you might not know otherwise.

Talk to a few agents who have experience with your neighborhood. Ask about their opinion on recent home sale prices and how they would market your home if given the opportunity. They can also give you professional advice on how to best prepare your house to get it ready to sell.

2. Get Your House Ready to Sell

The most important part of getting your house ready to sell is clearing out the clutter and making it look as clean and presentable as possible. Store your extra things in the garage or rent a storage unit to keep the house as clean and clutter-free as possible.

Giving your home a good cleaning can help make it look more appealing to prospective buyers. Consider hiring a professional cleaner if you’re short on time or don’t want to do it yourself.

Getting your house ready to sell includes assessing for any repairs or regular maintenance. The return on your investment doesn’t always pay off, so pick your projects carefully. Asking an agent for direction can help show you what would have the most impact on selling price.

Related: 15 DIY Home Improvement Projects That Can Increase the Value of Your Home

3. Take Amazing Photos

The quality and number of pictures that accompany a listing can have a significant impact on the sale of your home. Good photos can help sell a house, but bad photos can hide a home’s potential.

The quantity and quality of photos also matter. Include multiple photos of every room as well as the basement, garage, and backyard. If a listing only has a couple of photos, it may look more like a scam or like you’re trying to hide problems with your home.

Including multiple photos can attract attention and increase the likelihood that someone will show interest in your home. Take pictures during the day when natural light is available. Make sure they’re crisp and clear and show your home’s best assets.

4. Research Market Prices

Doing your own market analysis of recently sold properties and applying it to your home can be a bit tricky. Before settling on an amount, remember that most houses include an agent’s commission in the asking price. If you’re selling your own home, discounting your listing is a smart move and can give you an advantage over similar homes for sale in the area.

You can find this information by looking at recently sold homes on sites like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia. Filter the results for homes similar to yours. That will give you an idea of what you can charge.

5. List Your Home

You have to consider how your house will look to an online audience. Listing your home on for-sale-by-owner sites is a good step.

You should also list the house on Zillow, Trulia, and other sites. Many homebuyers check out these sites before talking to an agent.

6. Be Available to Show Your Home

Making the buyer feel welcome is key when showing your home. Part of the decision to buy a house is emotional, and you want the buyer to imagine themselves living in the home. You may want to put away your personal items and family portraits.

Don’t pressure them while they’re looking, and don’t follow them around to comment on the upgrades and amenities in the home. Let them take their time and talk to each other about ideas and features. It might even be best to step outside while they’re looking around.

7. Review Offers

This is perhaps the most stressful part of selling your house. Whether you use a listing agent or are selling your own home, reviewing offers is a stressful process. As the seller, it’s your decision to accept or deny any offers you might get. But remember that you can also counter-offer.

Every offer should include an expiration date, purchase price, down payment, and financing terms. You might also add other contingencies depending on what your jurisdiction requires. It’s important to know that you aren’t held to the terms of an offer until both parties agree to and sign it.

Related: Saving for a House? Here’s the 12 Best Ways to Save for a Down Payment

8. Hire an Attorney

There’s a lot of legal paperwork involved in selling a home. The offer or purchase agreement could contain information on covenants, easements, liens, and anything else registered against the property. Researching these ahead of time is part of understanding the legal aspects of selling a home.

Some states require that an attorney prepare certain documents. If you’re using a listing agent, they’ll typically help you with this. But if you’re selling on your own, consider hiring an attorney to make sure you meet all the legal requirements. Usually, an attorney proficient in contract law can prepare the documents for you. But going with one who specializes in real estate can be the most helpful.

9. Accept an Offer

If both you and the buyer approve of the terms, the next step is to accept the offer. Normally, the seller arranges and pays for a title insurance policy with a title company. Some title companies also act as escrow agents.

They’ll order the property tax information, loan balances, and other necessary paperwork. The escrow agent will also hold the deposit paid by the seller in trust until the sale closes.

To go from accepting an offer to closing, the buyer’s lender typically orders an appraisal and inspections on your home. As the seller, make sure to check with the title company to ensure everything is in order. Staying on top of potential delays throughout the process can keep your closing date on track.

If the appraisal is less than the accepted purchase price, you’ll have to renegotiate with the buyer. You can stand firm on your price, which will require the buyer to come up with the difference in cash. Or you can lower the price to the appraised value.

Related: 10 Mistakes to Avoid as a First-Time Home Buyer

Pros and Cons of Selling Your Home without an Agent

Choosing the DIY route to sell your home carries a lot of responsibility. Sometimes it makes sense to hire a listing agent, but it isn’t for everyone. Consider the benefits of each to decide which is the best option for you.

Pros of Selling Your Own Home Pros of Hiring a Listing Agent
No agent fees or commissions to pay An agent has experience and knows what they’re doing
Complete control over the sale process No scheduling open houses or showings
Choose where and how to market your home Tap into an established marketing network
More profit could mean more money in your pocket Won’t eat up all of your free time

Whether you sell your own home or hire an agent to list it for you, the process is essentially the same. The main difference is who does all the work. If you hire someone, they take care of marketing and showing your home. They’ll also manage the legal aspects like the sales contract, escrow, and title insurance policy. If you sell your home yourself, you will be responsible for every facet of the sales process.

Picking the best way to sell your house comes down to your level of commitment. Opting to work with an agent could be more comfortable than doing it on your own. But if you have extra time and energy to invest, selling it yourself can get you the highest profit.

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