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How to sell a house without a real estate agent

Some homeowners prefer to sell their house on their own, without the help of a real estate agent. This is known as “for sale by owner” (FSBO), which accounts for about 10% of home sales.1 
 
With agent commission fees as much as 7%—or $24,500 on a $350,000 home—the savings from selling your house yourself can be significant. But is it worth it? The National Real Estate Association suggests otherwise, reporting that agent-assisted homes usually sell for more than for-sale-by-owner homes, while for-sale-by-owner homes sell more quickly—often because homes are sold to someone the seller already knows.2
 
Still, in some cases, it may make sense, like if you already have a buyer lined up or if you truly have the time, resources, and experience to act as your own agent. In addition to pricing your home, marketing it, and negotiating with buyers, you’ll need to learn local real estate laws, which can be complex and confusing. This includes knowing what forms to fill out, who must sign which papers, who can conduct the actual transaction, and what to do when obstacles arise during the sales process. 
 
For sale by owner is not without its risks. Before going it alone, consider these potential items:2 
 
  • Real estate is a full-time job for which you may not have the time or energy. 
  • You may be exposing yourself to legal risks in terms of disclosures. 
  • Homeowners are prone to emotionally driven decisions. 
  • You may overlook your home's flaws and overprice it. 
  • Buyers' agents may not show your home to their clients. 
 
If you do decide to sell your home on your own, help is available. Try searching for information online, talking to friends with expertise (unless you already happen to be a lawyer or similarly informed professional), or hiring a lawyer for a few hours' consultation. Also, FSBO websites offer tips, documents for download, and other services, such as listing your home on the multiple listing service (MLS) for a fee.3

Tips to help price your home

The right price attracts buyers, while a wrong price may result in your home sitting on the market, which can create a feeling among potential buyers that something’s wrong with it.4 Consider these tips to figure out the best price for your home. 
 
Factor in local features 
 
Good location doesn’t mean only the town or city where you live. Consider proximity to places like parks, grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee houses that may make your home more appealing. Easy access to a highway or public transportation can be valuable for commuters. However, being too close to a major road, a fire station, hospital, or community center can negatively impact value because of traffic or noise. Be sure to consider future development planned for the area as well. 
 
Look at comps and competition 
 
Research prices of recently sold homes in your immediate area with similar characteristics, such as lot size, square footage, year of construction, and number of rooms. Ideally, only look at homes that have sold within the last 6 months. You should also look at your competition—the listing prices of other homes for sale in your neighborhood can help you price yours appropriately.5
 
This is something a real estate agent generally assists with but if you’re not using an agent you can search public property records or use the “recently sold filter” on a real estate website. 
 
Consider the condition 
 
Your home’s condition has a major impact on its value. Has it been well maintained, or does it need major repairs and updates? Balance your key selling points with the overall shape of the home. For example, does its proximity to the beach outweigh its need for new air conditioning? Recent updates can also be factored into your price, although you likely won’t recoup the full amount you paid for most updates. The home’s condition and updates also factor into the appraisal, which can impact a buyer’s ability to get a mortgage.5
 
Stay objective 
 
Remember to keep personal feelings out of the process. Buyers won’t know, or care, about your home’s history. It may be hard to accept at first, but your home may not be worth what you think it is. On the other hand, the right price may result in a bidding war with offers above your listing. Be sure to set aside any emotional attachments and come up with a realistic figure that makes sense.4 
 
Be smart about the dollar amount 
 
Consider that people search online for homes based on price ranges. If you list at $405,000, for example, those searching for properties up to $399,000 may never see your listing. The difference in price may be small, but it could make a big difference in how many people find your property through search. If your pricing is on the line between two search ranges, consider rounding down to create more exposure. 
 
Overpricing vs. underpricing 
 
If a home is overpriced, it usually won’t sell until the price lowers, closer to what similar homes are selling for. Underpricing, on the other hand, can potentially have the opposite effect, as it makes the home stand out from the crowd and can spark a bidding war that drives the price over what the home is worth. However, many sellers aren’t comfortable with such a risky approach—so be sure to consider the pros and cons before intentionally underpricing your home.

Listing your home on MLS

One of the most valuable tools for selling a home is the multiple listing service (MLS)—a series of private databases featuring listings of currently available real estate properties. While only agents can create listings on the MLS, some Realtor services will list your home for a flat fee if you choose to sell without an agent. Buyers access MLS listings through their real estate agent or through popular real estate websites. 
 
An MLS listing is like a snapshot that includes asking price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, photos, tax information, days on market, and other vital information about your property. Key features of listings and tips to keep in mind include: 
 
  • The description. Be sure to highlight the home’s most appealing features that may not come across in photos, such as upgrades, brand-name appliances, or nearby parks and amenities. Be descriptive and specific. Instead of saying the house has a patio, say it has a large patio perfect for entertaining. Your description should tell the story of your home.
  • High quality photos. Prep for photos by tidying up bookshelves, cleaning light fixtures, dusting, vacuuming, and turning off TVs. Outside: move cars off the driveway and hide trash cans, garden hoses, and kids’ toys. Consider using a professional photographer, they understand angles, lighting, and other ways to best capture your home.7 
  • Video or 3D tour. Keep in mind that with more buyers shopping online as their first (and sometimes only) option to see your home, a video or 3D tour is important. Like photography, videography is often better when left to the professionals. 
  • Disclosures. Be sure to include disclosures mandated by your state, such as lead paint, asbestos, or other known issues. Typically, real estate agents provide this form to the seller. However, you can also easily find state-specific disclosure forms online. The seller's disclosure is often added to the MLS listing.  

Hiring a real estate attorney

Hiring a real estate attorney helps protect you from costly lawsuits or other legal problems that can be triggered by mistakes made during the home selling process. Generally, a real estate agent organizes the deal, and an attorney reviews the paperwork to make sure your interests are protected along the way.8 This might especially be of interest if you’re selling your home on your own. 
 
Many states require that an attorney be involved in any real estate transaction, while it’s optional in other states. Check your local laws or talk to a real estate agent to find out if you’re required to hire one.9

What does a real estate attorney do?  
 
A real estate attorney adds an extra level of scrutiny to make sure the deal closes without a problem and that no legal issues surface after the sale. Some of their tasks and responsibilities include:  
  • Review the listing agreement to make sure terms are fair. 
  • Review offers to find red flags or other considerations. 
  • Draft and review contracts, including the purchase and sale agreement. 
  • Clear the title of liens and judgments. 
  • Review escrow documents for potential red flags. 
  • Check the final breakdown of settlement funds at closing. 
Costs for real estate attorneys typically range from around $800 to $5,0008—this could be an investment worth making considering the risks of proceeding without an attorney. 
 
Finding a a real estate attorney 
 
A real estate agent can usually recommend an attorney they’ve worked with in the past. However, you may want to find someone on your own to ensure their interests are aligned with yours. Talk to friends and family for referrals or search your local bar associations online. 

Use an iBuyer: another way to sell your house

iBuyers like Opendoor, Simple Sale, Offerpad, and others could offer a simple, hassle-free approach to sell your home, but may come at a significant cost. 
 
iBuyers buy homes directly from sellers, sight unseen, for cash, eliminating most traditional steps involved in selling a home, like making repairs, staging your home, holding open houses, soliciting offers, negotiating with home buyers, and signing a purchase agreement. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense way to sell your home quickly, without hiring a real estate agent, selling to an iBuyer may be worth considering. 
 
Generally, here’s how it works: You go to an iBuyer’s website, enter your home's address, and provide a few details. Within about 24 hours, you’ll receive a cash offer on your home. You can decide if you want to move forward and, depending on your preference, the deal can close in days. For sellers who want to buy and sell at the same time, some iBuyers will even make an all-cash offer on your new home as they work to sell your current one.10
 
The catch? Cost and price. While commission rates vary, on average home sellers end up paying as much as 13% to 15% in fees and other costs to an iBuyer, compared to the 4% to 7% paid to a traditional real estate agent.10 Offers also tend to be lower than you’d receive on the open market, with a traditional real estate agent working on your behalf to market your home and negotiate the best price. Also, iBuyer sales are still contingent on a home inspection, flagging potential repairs that could reduce your final price. 
 
Consider using an iBuyer if you want a quick and easy sale without focusing too much on maximizing profits. They can help you sell your home fast and with less hassle. 

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1. "2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report," National Association of REALTORS® Research Group, March 28, 2023, https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2023-home-buyers-and-sellers-generational-trends-report-03-28-2023.pdf. 2. Amy Fontinelle, "For Sale By Owner or Use an Agent: Which Is Best for You?," Investopedia, March 19,2022, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/071514/8-reasons-not-sell-your-home-without-agent.asp. 3. Carol M. Kopp, " For Sale by Owner (FSBO) Meaning, Risks & Benefits," Investopedia, May 28, 2022, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/for-sale-by-owner.asp. 4. "The Ins and Outs of Setting a Price for Your Home," HouseLogic, August 11, 2021, https://www.houselogic.com/sell/how-to-sell-step-by-step/how-to-price-your-home/. 5. Dena Landon and Taryn Tacher, "How to Set Your Home's List Price – 5 Factors that Matter Most," April 20, 2023, HomeLight, https://www.homelight.com/blog/how-to-set-list-price. 6. Dorothy O’Donnell and Christopher Rogacz, "7 Steps to Writing Creative Real Estate Listing Descriptions," HomeLight, September 27, 2022, https://homelightblog.wpengine.com/creative-real-estate-listing-descriptions/. 7. Krisztina Bell, "8 Tips To Make Your Listing Picture Perfect ," National Association of REALTORS®, March 2, 2020, https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/styled-staged-sold/8-tips-to-make-your-listing-picture-perfect. 8. Thomas O'Shaughnessy, "Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney to Sell My House?," Realestatewitch, December 28, 2022, https://www.realestatewitch.com/do-i-need-a-real-estate-attorney-to-sell-my-house/. 9. Troy Segal, "What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?," Investopedia, December 10, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/101314/what-do-real-estate-attorneys-do.asp. 10. Daniel Bortz, "What Is an iBuyer? An Essential Guide to iBuying: The Pros, Cons, and Costs," Realtor.com®, October 26, 2022, https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/what-is-an-ibuyer-a-guide-to-ibuying-pros-cons-costs/.

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

Opendoor is not affiliated with Fidelity Brokerage Services, member NYSE, SIPC or its affiliates. Opendoor is solely responsible for the information and services it provides. Fidelity disclaims any liability arising from your use of this information. Fidelity may receive a fee from Opendoor if you use the link on this page to contact them about their services. Simple Sale is not affiliated with Fidelity Brokerage Services, member NYSE, SIPC or its affiliates. Simple Sale is solely responsible for the information and services it provides. Fidelity disclaims any liability arising from your use of this information. Fidelity may receive a fee from Simple Sale if you use the link on this page to contact them about their services. Offerpad is not affiliated with Fidelity Brokerage Services, member NYSE, SIPC or its affiliates. Offerpad is solely responsible for the information and services it provides. Fidelity disclaims any liability arising from your use of this information. Fidelity may receive a fee from Offerpad if you use the link on this page to contact them about their services. 1094433.1.0