So, you have decided to sell your home by yourself! You can save many thousands of dollars if you are successful. I have written this guide to assist you. I have seen many FSBOs have unrealistic expectations, and make mistakes along the way that ultimately prevent them from being successful. Did you know that 80% of FSBOs ultimately list their home with a Realtor? I hope these ideas will help put you in the other 20%.
Am I trying to put myself out of business? No. Do I think everyone has the right to sell their home however they see fit? Yes. If your circumstances change, and you decide you want a professional to sell your home for you, please call Gold Valley Realty. We are a full service brokerage firm with a flexible commission structure that is hard to beat.
Tip 1 * Plan Your Strategy
First of all, by when must your home be sold? Is nine months from now OK? Or will you not be able to close on your new home if your current home isn’t sold in nine weeks? What are the consequences and financial impacts if your deadline is not met? Time is a FSBO’s friend.
As of October 2008, the average marketing time for an average priced home listed by a Realtor in the Tucson MLS (Multiple Listing Service) was 78 days. This time varies considerably by location and price range. Ask Gold Valley Realty what the average is for your neighborhood. As a general rule, it normally takes a FSBO about twice as long to sell their home as it does a Realtor with MLS access. In either case, add to that the normal 30 day period from contract negotiation and acceptance until the final closing of the deal.
The name of the game in selling a home is getting as many qualified buyers through the door as possible. Who is a qualified buyer? One who can afford your home! One who verifiably has either the cash or financing available to buy your home. Realtors quickly learn to qualify their buyers before spending a lot of time working for them. You should too.
Speaking of Realtors, are you going to “cooperate” with them? That is, if they bring the buyer that ultimately buys your home, are you willing to pay them? If so, how much? The vast majority of homes listed in the MLS offer compensation of three percent of the sales price to the buyer’s agent. In my experience, around 90% of FSBOs offer compensation to buyer’s agents.
How do you plan on getting qualified buyers through YOUR front door? Various methods are discussed in detail below.
What is your marketing budget? When and on what are you going to spend it?
Who is going to negotiate and prepare the contract for the sale of your home? Who is going to monitor escrow to quickly identify and resolve any potential deal breakers?
Tip 2 * Price your home correctly.
This obvious step will have the single biggest impact on the success or failure of your temporary career as a FSBO (For Sale By Owner). Yet for most FSBOs this can also be one of the most challenging actions.
The market value of your home is what a ready, willing, and able buyer is willing to pay you for it.
How much a buyer is willing to pay for your home is dependent upon his personal circumstances and motivation; available competing properties in your area; and the prices of recently sold comparable homes in your neighborhood. Information on competing properties and recently sold “comps” is available through several sources. We highly recommend getting a professional appraisal of your home. That will cost you around $300. Having an objective appraisal in hand has several advantages, not the least of which is being able to provide your buyer with a solidly defensible price established by an independent expert.
There are situations in which it may be more important for you to sell your home quickly rather than getting every last dollar out of your home. In this case, you may wish to price your home a few percent below the appraised value. However, your best bet if time is a serious consideration for you is to list your home with a Realtor. One of the extra benefits of listing with Gold Valley Realty is that we reimburse you for the appraisal at closing! Even if you had the appraisal done while FSBO.
Tip 3 * Marketing Materials
The single most effective marketing tool, by far, is the yard sign! Make yours professional looking. Look for a sign company in your city. Buy one of the information tubes that hang below your yard sign, and stuff it with flyers.
Your flyer should include at least one color photograph, and highlight the facts about your home, especially the asking price, number of bedrooms, square footage, special features, and schools.
Ask if you can post your flyers at nearby grocery stores, churches, schools, apartments, health clubs, country clubs, golf courses, travel agencies, insurance agencies, beauty salons, title companies, mortgage companies! Give some to your friends and neighbors too.
Publish your home information on the world wide web. An increasing number of homebuyers use the internet as a valuable information source.
Newspaper ads can be somewhat useful, more so if used in conjunction with open houses.
Tip 4 * Staging Your Home for Showing
As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression! Make sure it is a good one. Make sure your front yard is looking good. Is the handle on your front door showing its age? Replace it. Make sure your home is clean and tidy. Open all drapes, blinds, and shutters. Turn on every light in the house, day or night. A sparsely furnished room shows better than a cluttered room. If you have accumulated a lot of extra stuff over the years, put it in storage! You are moving soon anyway. Does your home pass the sniff test? If you have pets, or are a smoker, it might not. In that case, either replace or professionally deodorize your carpets. If you are having an open house, bake some bread or cookies to make your home smell great.
Tip 5 * Security & Showing Your Home
You can show your home either by appointment or by holding an open house. Setting appointments can be difficult if you are not usually available to answer the phone number on your ads and flyers. You might consider using a voice mail or a live answering service (starting at about $35 per month) to field your ad calls rather than using your home telephone. This offers some security benefits as well.
It is unlikely, though unfortunately not impossible, that criminals will use this opportunity to steal your possessions or hurt your family. A little preparation can go a long way to minimize that possibility.
Consider renting a safety deposit box to store your valuable jewelry, coins, guns, stamps, and memorabilia. Make a list and videotape the contents of your home, and store them in your safe deposit box, or at work. You should also hide cash and prescription drugs in a non-obvious place prior to showing your home.
Have your spouse, friend, or neighbor with you when you show your home. If the “buyer” is making you nervous or acting suspiciously, ask them to leave.
Tip 6 * Cooperating with Buyer’s Agents
Virtually all homes offered for sale in the Tucson Multiple Listing Service (MLS) have a standing offer of cooperation for a three percent (3.0%) or more commission for the agent that ultimately procures the buyer. You might want to make the same offer to any Realtors that contact you. Why?
Most homebuyers are either already working with a real estate agent, or will be soon after their home search starts. Why? They can get professional representation at NO COST, as the buyer’s agents commission is paid for by the home seller. This means that a buyer can have an agent screen homes for him, set up appointments, accompany him on appointments, advise him as to a home’s market value, write up the offer, negotiate with the seller (or the seller’s agent), set up escrow, be there for inspections, handle any problems that arise, coordinate with the other businesses involved (mortgage company, home inspectors, escrow, title insurance), review final documents for contract compliance, and be there at the closing, all for FREE. Why then would a buyer buy a home without a Realtor working for him?
Tip 7 * Pre-qualify Potential Buyers
Failure of the buyer to qualify for a loan is the single most common cause of a FSBO’s deal falling apart.
Realtors get their buyers pre-qualified with a lender before spending much time and effort on their behalf. I personally will meet with a buyer for an initial consultation whether or not they are pre-qualified, but won’t go beyond that until I know they can either obtain financing or pay cash. I certainly recommend that you don’t enter into a contract with a buyer until you have independent confirmation of their ability to get financing or pay cash. Ask for the name and phone number of their loan officer. Call the loan officer and explain the situation; ask him or her if the buyers can qualify for a mortgage sufficient to buy your home.
Tip 8 * Use Professional Contracts
The contract in use by Realtors nationwide have evolved over time to cover almost all contingencies and disputes that have arisen in the past. I highly recommend that you use this contract, rather than a generic, do-it-yourself real estate contract. Arizona has unique laws and customs about selling real estate. A contract that is useful in another state will not be optimized for use in Arizona. If you have found a buyer, and want to write up a contract, contact a local real estate brokerage and see if you can get a copy of a blank contract.
Tip 9 * Monitor Escrow Closely
You are almost there! You found a buyer, negotiated and signed a contract, and opened escrow with a reputable title company. Actually, there is still much to be done before you sign over the deed at the title company and collect your money.
The buyer will normally have the right to perform whatever inspections he desires in the first 10 days or so after contract acceptance. If he finds problems with the house, roof, appliances, heating, cooling, plumbing, etc., he can either cancel the contract, or ask you to repair or replace the deficiencies. This can be a vexing situation. You as the seller may feel that the buyer is asking for too much. This is something that can be negotiated, but needs to be done diplomatically. Try to keep your pride and emotions from interfering with you ultimate objective of getting the house sold.
Get a written Conditional Loan Approval (CLA) from the mortgage company within the first 10 days after contract acceptance. This is much stronger than a verbal “pre-qualification”, and means your deal has a high probability of closing. Contact the mortgage company about 5 business days before you are scheduled to close; make sure that their documents will be available to the escrow company at least one day before you are due to sign the closing papers.
Tip 10 * Closing Escrow
One last note about closing. Closing on a home sale in Arizona is defined as the documents being recorded at the County Recorder’s Office. After the buyer and seller have signed, the loan package must go back to the mortgage company for final inspection. The mortgage company will then actually transfer funds to the escrow company. Only then can the escrow company send a runner down to the County Recorder’s Office and record the sale. The bottom line is, sign the paperwork the day before the actual closing.