real estate

7 steps lead to for sale by owner success

Happy family cheering in front of their sold house
  • Only a third of buyers learned of the home purchased from an agent.
  • A seller can access an MLS without hiring a real estate agent.
  • An early home inspection and title search are worth the expense.

If you want to get every possible dollar from the sale of your home this spring, it may be time to stick that for sale by owner sign out in the front yard.

In this difficult economic time, it may be the difference between profit and loss.

People who can sell their homes the for sale by owner -- or FSBO -- way essentially are going to save 6 percent of the selling price, the money they would have paid real estate agents, says Greg Healy, vice president of operations at

But unless you're living in a model home, there are some things you should do well before you think about planting that sign in the yard this spring.

"It's a tough market," says Healey. "If you can get five or 10 people to come to your house, you don't want to turn them off because your place isn't ready."

Following these seven steps should increase your odds of for sale by owner success:

1. Design your selling strategy

Once you determine who your potential buyers are, you can craft a plan to market your home to them. Only 36 percent of homebuyers first learned of the home they bought through a real estate agent in 2009, according to the National Association of Realtors, so your approach may be to advertise on Web sites such as, or to put up fliers in local neighborhoods. You can also use sites such as or to list your home on your local multiple listing service, where buyers or their agents will see it. Determining your game plan now allows you to set up a realistic time line and allocate sufficient funds.

2. Know your home's strengths and weaknesses

"The last thing you want as a seller is to be surprised," says Healy. Get a professional home inspection done early so you can identify problems that are almost certain to be discovered and have time to fix them. Even if you don't fix them, you can incorporate the knowledge of any problems into your pricing, Healy adds.

3. Check the property's record

This is the time to make sure there are no liens against your property, says Piper Nichole, author of "The For Sale By Owner Handbook." Go to the county courthouse and ask for help finding any claims that have been filed. You may want to hire a title insurance company to do a search or even a real estate attorney who can help you clear up any problems.




4. Get an objective price evaluation

Spend $300 or $400 to hire an appraiser, Healy says. In the current market, there's no room for wishful thinking about how much you can get for your home. Armed with a professional evaluation, you can price the home more accurately and show the appraisal to potential buyers as an official documentation of your home's value.


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