9 Smart Tips for Selling Your Home

When it comes time to sell, some homeowners with do-it-yourself inclinations try to pocket more cash by selling on their own and avoiding agent fees. But this strategy takes extra effort in today’s troubled housing market, where jittery buyers may want the hand-holding provided by an agent and homes may sit longer on the market.

The for-sale-by-owner, or FSBO method has become easier in recent years thanks to the rise in popularity of the Internet and discount real estate agents that will help with certain specific tasks like putting a home on multiple listing services online, providing blank sales contracts and helping with issues like advertising and setting the asking price for only a few hundred dollars.

But the do-it-yourself seller faces one big obstacle: Because the seller is the one who pays the usual 6% commission that is split equally between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s, buyers who prefer to use an agent will have to pay those fees themselves.

Buyers are especially cautious today, largely because of uncertainty over where property values will go in the future, and because it’s hard to sell a home today, the market favors first-time buyers who don’t have to sell an old home before buying a new one. Many of these first-timers will choose to use an agent, who knows the area, has a good sense of prices, handles negotiations with the seller, and can even offer some guidance on choosing a mortgage.

The FSBO practice can definitely be a financial boon to sellers, though. On a $300,000 home, the standard real estate agent’s 6% commission would come to $18,000. For a seller managing the transaction, that saved money either stays in the seller’s pocket or presents an opportunity to trim the price, which might improve the chances of finding a buyer.

Here are a few tips for you if you are considering the FSBO option:

Offer to pay a buyer’s fees

To lure nervous buyers, consider splitting the difference by offering a 3% commission to any agent who produces a buyer. Since a full 6% commission is usually split between agents for the seller and buyer, the buyer’s agent typically makes only 3% anyway.

Commissions are negotiable and there are lots of hungry agents out there these days, so you could try offering even 1.5% or 2%.

Offer a home warranty

Another lure is a home warranty, a seller-provided insurance policy that typically costs only a few hundred dollars and covers things like appliances and heating and cooling systems for 12 months after the sale. Promoting this with your ads and lawn sign is an inexpensive way to reassure buyers.

Use good signage

It always makes sense to use professional-looking signs and brochures, which can be purchased through discount agents you can find by Googling “FSBO” or “For Sale by Owner.”

Push your insider knowledge

As the owner, you are in a good position to sing the praises of your home and neighborhood. Buyers’ agents are sometimes unfamiliar with many of the homes they show, and agents are often reluctant to say too much about the neighbors for fear of violating fair housing laws. The seller is sure to be more knowledgeable about upgrades done over the years, how the sunlight traverses the garden, the location of the school bus stop and other details buyers care about.

Do your research

It could also pay to provide data on comparable home sales to support your asking price. Discount agents can help with this, and you can do your own research on sites like Zillow. Have a computer running during showings and use the BankingMyWay.com mortgage calculators to show buyers how affordable your home is at today’s low mortgage rates.

Make a flyer

Be sure to provide flyers so buyers don’t forget your home’s features after they leave.

Don’t take it personally

Of course, to sell on your own you need a thick skin, as buyers can be critical. You may have slaved for hours to polish the floors and clean the windows and repaint the bedroom, but if a buyer thinks it looks tacky, they will say so. Taste is subjective, so don’t let one person’s opinions get to you.

Be flexible

You also need to be available to show the property even if you’re allowing buyers’ agents to participate.

Get the contract right

The title insurance company, usually chosen by the buyer, does most of the work in preparing for the closing, but if you’re saving thousands in agent’s fees, you might spend a few hundred on a real estate lawyer who can study your sales contract and help with any snags.

With enough time and motivation, selling your own home can be a great way to save significant cash, so take these suggestions and good luck! Just make sure you have a bed lined up, because if you do everything right, you could have a buyer before you know it.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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