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Selling solo? Here's how to do it right

You won't have to pay a sales commission if you sell your home yourself. But the savings come at a price: You have to do the time-consuming work that real-estate agents do for other sellers.

Here are four main steps for selling your home from experts such as Lee Burbidge, author of "For Sale By Owner: How To Sell Your Home Yourself and Save Thousands of Dollars in Real Estate Commissions."

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1. Find out the house's value and price it accordingly. The biggest mistake people make when trying to sell their own home is "not being realistic to values," Burbidge says. People generally think their houses are worth more than they are because it's their home. You put in expensive walnut cabinets, but the guy who wants to buy it doesn't like walnut. What's important is how much the house is worth, not how much you paid to buy it and fix it up.

2. Prepare the house by making repairs, cleaning and painting. The buyer is going to hire an inspector. Before you show the house, why not hire one yourself to point out problems? Based on the inspection report, you can seal cracks, fix a faulty furnace or repair a leaky roof before visitors arrive. Spiff the place up by cleaning it and reducing clutter. Tidy up closets, kitchen counters and put excess furniture in storage. Wash the windows and get the floors as clean as you can. Never underestimate the power of paint, which almost always pays for itself and more.

3. Market the house effectively. Specify your asking price everywhere you advertise. Give details on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of garage, number of stories and the approximate square footage. A drawback to selling your house yourself is that you risk drawing from a smaller pool of potential buyers. It would be a mistake to rely solely on the Internet. Signs, handbills, word of mouth and newspaper ads all can help bring a buyer to the house. Burbidge recommends reading advertisements written by professionals to get an idea of which words and phrases to use. Experts differ on the value of holding an open house. It seldom leads directly to a sale, but you can consider it as just another marketing tool, along with advertising and word of mouth.

4. Close the sale properly and legally. Choose the right title company. The title company will make sure that the mortgage company, appraiser, insurance company and government agencies get the proper paperwork on time. It can provide you with sale prices of comparable properties in your neighborhood. A title officer usually is a real-estate lawyer who is trained to spot problems before they topple a deal, Burbidge says. He or she can answer your questions and walk you through the tricky parts of a real-estate sale. It's also a good idea to have an attorney to consult you along the way. Your attorney can give you referrals to title agencies, too.

For more details on FSBOs, read: For sale by owner is not for everyone.

-- Updated March 18, 2004





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