7 Tips for Military Home Sellers Considering a 'For Sale by Owner'

against a suburban backdrop, a red real estate sign with white letters says "for sale by owner"
(Adobe Stock)

If you have orders to move and you've spent time Googling, "How do I sell a home without a realtor," "Selling my home by owner" or "How to sell your own home," then you've come to the right place.

A "for sale by owner" (FSBO) is a home sale managed by the homeowner and is primarily done to save on agent commissions, along with other reasons such as familiarity and confidence with selling a home or needing to sell a home within a specific timeframe. But before undertaking a FSBO, it's important to understand the components of home selling that a realtor would otherwise handle for you.

Here's what you need to know in order to have a successful FSBO.

1. Understand the Market

Before diving into a FSBO, research the local housing market. Understand the housing demand, average selling prices and any trends that may affect your home's sale. Consider details such as renovations you made to the property, whether you have a pool, proximity to the base and local attractions, and access to community amenities.

Then compare them to the competition. Being knowledgeable about the housing market can help you set a realistic asking price and make informed decisions throughout the selling process.

2. Set the Asking Price

Take all the research you've accumulated and funnel it into setting an appropriate price. Be cautious, as overpricing can deter buyers while underpricing may leave money on the table.

Use online valuation tools, consult with real-estate professionals and look at recent sales in your area to help determine the optimal listing price for your home.

See How to Estimate Your Home's Value for more tips.

3. Prepare Your Home for Sale

First impressions matter, especially in real estate. Declutter, clean and stage your home to make it as appealing as possible to potential buyers. Make minor repairs or updates that can increase the value of your home and attract more interest from buyers.

If you're uncertain which areas need love, have a neighbor or unbiased friend walk through the house to point out areas in need of attention.

Issues to look for:

  • Curb appeal: Ensure that the lawn is cut and green and that plants look happy.
  • Fresh paint: Fresh, neutral paint throughout the home creates a blank slate for home shoppers.
  • Functionality: Light fixtures, outlets and appliances should all be in working order.
  • Clean surfaces: Repair and clean any dings and smudges on the walls and baseboards.
  • Decluttered spaces: Messy spaces tend to look smaller and keep potential buyers from envisioning their own belongings in the home.

4. Create a Marketing Plan

Without the assistance of a real-estate agent, it's up to you to market your home effectively. Use online listing platforms such as MilitaryByOwner, social media and traditional marketing channels to reach potential buyers.

High-quality photos and detailed descriptions will make your listing stand out and attract more attention.

5. Negotiate Wisely

When offers start coming in, be prepared to negotiate terms and conditions with potential buyers. Don't lose sight of your bottom dollar if you're aiming for a specific profit margin while making counteroffers, but keep the lines of communication open. Being communicative can help facilitate a smooth negotiation process.

6. Consider Hiring a Professional

While an FSBO can save you money on agent commissions, it's still important to seek legal guidance to ensure that all paperwork, disclosure documents and contracts are handled correctly.

A real-estate attorney can review documents, offer advice and help protect your interests throughout the transaction, helping you achieve a successful FSBO while retaining most of the profit. In fact, some states require a real-estate attorney for closing an FSBO.

7. Have a Backup Plan

Despite your best efforts, military life teaches us that things can go wrong at any moment. In the world of FSBO, challenges can arise, such as dealing with difficult buyers, navigating legal issues or encountering delays.

It's important to stay as flexible as you can be while under PCS orders. But if your home doesn't sell quickly, you may decide to list it with a real-estate agent after all or to rent it out. Becoming a landlord may not be an option you'd considered, but it can help build equity and create passive income.

Selling a home yourself isn't for everyone. But if done right, you may just find a financial reward at the end of the process.

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