House prices continue to remain fragile -- a fact that's painfully clear to homeowners who are trying to sell.
Despite the challenging housing market, many owners are choosing to sell their home on their own, without the help of a licensed real estate agent. For sale by owner, also known as FSBO, can yield significant savings in real estate brokerage fees, which typically represent a percentage of the home's final sale price.
Are you up for the challenge? Here are 11 tips that can help you.
1. Ask the HOA
Your homeowners association might limit the number of signs advertising your home you can post in the neighborhood or the number of open houses you can hold. Know the rules and plan accordingly.
2. Price Your Home Right
"Buyers might expect to get a deal when they're buying a house that is FSBO," notes Diane Brooks, USAA real estate product management director. "You have to weigh this when you are pricing your house and considering how much commission you might save."
Get to know the local market by attending open houses and compare your home and asking price to that of similar houses for sale in the area. Check your local Multiple Listing Service listings to see what nearby or similar homes are listed for.
- Requesting a comparative market analysis from a qualified real estate agent who is licensed by and in good standing with your state's real estate commission.
- Paying for an independent appraisal, which places a value on your home based on its size, condition, location and other such factors.
- Monitoring trends on home valuation websites. These sites, while not always accurate on individual home values, can help you identify pricing trends.
3. Spruce Up the Place
"Nothing says 'Buy me!' like a clean, well-maintained home," says Bill Kuhl, a USAA MoversAdvantage® preferred agent based in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He suggests these four relatively simple ways to improve the first impression of your home:
- Enhance the curb appeal. A freshly painted front door, some updated landscaping and a new mailbox will improve the look of your home from the street.
- Neutralize the decor. Make your home a blank canvas for buyers by repainting colorful rooms in a neutral shade and removing wallpaper. Don't forget to declutter and pack away family photos and knickknacks, as well.
- Make repairs. Do your screens need to be replaced? Is there a leaky faucet in the bathroom? How about peeling paint on the porch rails? Tackle all those little to-do items before you put your home on the market.
- Clean inside and out. Think military-inspection clean. This means that in addition to normal housecleaning, you'll want to wash windows, clean appliances, shampoo carpets, wipe down baseboards and clean light fixtures.
4. Learn the Legal Stuff
Understand your legal rights and responsibilities as a seller by checking with your local government. Some regulations vary by state. Also, learn about the rights of your prospective buyers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A real estate attorney and/or a title company should draw up the final sales contract, but other required documents, such as disclosure forms, are available online. Sites, such as Legal-Forms-Online.com or USLegalForms.com, offer low-cost or free legal forms.
"This step is critical," says Rich Novak, USAA assistant vice president for home event management. "Your home is likely your biggest asset and you need to understand the legal and settlement process."
5. Market Your Home
In addition to posting a yard sign, list your home with a for-sale-by-owner online service and advertise it on Internet sites and in the local newspaper and real estate circulars. Wherever you advertise, do it often and do it well. Include attractive photos and engaging descriptions that highlight key selling features: the home's location, recent remodels, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and architectural features, such as fireplaces, finished basements, closet organizers and crown molding.
6. Stay Safe
One aspect you may overlook when you sell your home on your own is the safety of having an independent representative show your house to strangers and screen buyers before they enter your property.
Take a tip from the pros and gather basic identification — name, address, driver's license numbers, license plate numbers — from prospective buyers before you let them into your home. This precaution could help deter would-be criminals and provides a record for law enforcement authorities in case someone is targeting people with homes for sale in the area.
Kuhl shared a story about showing a home with a business partner several years ago. "We had a feeling that some people were casing a home while we were showing it to them," he says. "They'd separate and go in different directions. Fortunately, there were two of us so we could stay with them the whole time."
His advice? "Lock up and hide anything you can't afford to lose." Also, whenever possible, do not show your home alone.
7. Sharpen Your Negotiating Skills
Know your bottom line and counter low offers with it early. If the buyer still isn't satisfied and you're eager to close the deal, try compromising on requests, such as replacing appliances or making repairs. You also can consider splitting the savings from brokerage fees with the buyer.
8. Understand Financing
Make sure your buyers are preapproved for a mortgage with a reputable lender. You also should study other financing options, such as lease-to-own and seller financing and know what you're willing to consider.
9. Remain Accessible
From the moment you put the house on the market until you sign the last page of the closing documents, make yourself as available as possible. This means returning calls and emails promptly and setting up showing appointments when a potential buyer requests one.
10. Control Your Emotions
Your house is your home, a place full of memories, but to the buyer it's a business transaction. Say goodbye emotionally before you put the house on the market, so you can be objective when it comes to negotiating with potential buyers.
11. Be Open-minded
In a buyer's market, offers that at first glance may seem insulting, could represent an opportunity to negotiate and close the deal.
"In this market, too often I've seen sellers reject an offer-out-of-hand and months and thousands of dollars later, reduce the price to that same level," says J.J. Montanaro, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner with USAA. Consider the carrying costs as you evaluate an offer. Ongoing expenses, such as mortgage payments and utilities, could make getting the deal done, at a lower than ideal price, more attractive.
MoversAdvantage® offered by USAA Relocation Services, Inc., a licensed real estate broker and subsidiary of USAA Federal Savings Bank. Not available for employer-sponsored relocations, or for transactions in Iowa or outside the United States. This is not a solicitation if you are already represented by a real estate broker.
Obtaining a mortgage from USAA Bank is optional, not required to utilize the MoversAdvantage® Program, and can be acquired from other sources.