What you need to know about selling your house without a realtor

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The traditional model of real estate dictates a process like this: You decide to sell your home, you find a realtor, and you work with them to sell your house. The seller then pays the agent a commission, typically 5% to 6% of the final sale price.

The median sale price of American homes sold in early 2022 was $428,700 according to Federal Reserve Economic Data. That means a homeowner who sold their house for this median price would have paid roughly $21,435 to $25,722 in realtor fees alone.

The steep price tag has many home sellers wondering, “Can I sell my house without a realtor?” While the answer may technically be yes, there are other factors to consider. Before you decide to go it alone, make sure you understand what you’re on the line for when selling your house without a realtor.

Can you sell your house without a realtor?

When you sell your house without a realtor, it’s listed as FSBO or for sale by owner. This means that you will complete the entire transaction without the guidance of a licensed real estate agent.

FSBO listings are exceedingly rare. According to the National Association of Realtors, 90% of home sellers worked with a real estate agent to sell their home, and only 7% of homes sold in 2021 were FSBO.

Of homeowners who list their home for sale by owner, many choose to forgo an agent to save on the commission fees, which are commonly paid by the seller as a part of the seller’s closing costs. But the savings in commission might not be worth it when you look at the big picture.

Learn more about the difference between a realtor vs real estate.

Pros and cons of selling without a realtor (FSBO)

But if selling your house was simple, everyone would do it. Depending on your situation, the cons of selling your house without a realtor might outweigh the pros.

Pros

  • Cut down on closing costs: The seller traditionally pays the agent’s commission, typically 5% to 6% of the final sale price. By eliminating the agent, sellers get to keep that cut of their profits.
  • Own the process: You control your home sale from start to finish when you FSBO. You don’t have to worry about clashing with your agent or wishing they had done things differently. As the homeowner and seller, you have complete command of the process.
  • Sell fast: A report by the National Association of Realtors found that 77% of FSBO sold in under two weeks. This was in large part due to the fact that a majority of FSBO sales were to someone that the seller already knew. 

However, homes listed with Orchard sell in 10 days on average. When you sell with Orchard, you'll get the advantage of world class marketing, stress-free.

Cons

  • You still have to pay the buyer’s agent commission: Sellers traditionally pay the buyer's agent's commission, also known as realtor fees, which can cost as much as 3% of the home's final sale price. Even though the seller pays, they don't get to benefit from the buyer's agent's expertise.
  • FSBO homes tend to sell for less: You might save that agent's commission fee, but getting your asking price up might be worth paying. In 2020, the typical FSBO home sold for $260,000 as compared to $318,000 for agent-assisted home sales. That accounts for a difference of $58,000 (more than 18%), which is significantly more than the standard agent commission of 6%.
  • You’re the underdog at the negotiating table when you sell on your own: Real estate transactions are rarely cut and dry. They require some finesse, some negotiation. Once you receive an offer as an FSBO seller, you have to negotiate with the buyer and their agent. FSBO sellers are at a disadvantage against licensed agents' years of training and experience.
  • Selling a house is hard. In their portrait of home sellers, the National Association of Realtors highlighted the following as challenges for FSBO sellers:
  • Preparing the home for sale
  • Getting the right price
  • Selling on time
  • Having enough time to devote to the process
  • Marketing to buyers
  • Understanding and executing all of the required paperwork

These tasks are second nature to real estate professionals, but without training and experience, they can be real challenges for the average homeowner.

How to sell your house without a realtor

The most common way to sell your house without a realtor is to list your home FSBO and sell it on your own. Here’s how to do it.

1. Prepare your home

To prepare your house for sale, you’ll need to get your home ready for photographing, showings, and ultimately, selling. To do so, you’ll need to:

  • Declutter and depersonalize
  • Spruce up your curb appeal
  • Fix any outstanding issues (this can range from cracks in your foundation to a loose door handle)
  • Collect necessary documents for home sale, like tax records, permits and warranties, utility bills, and homeowners association documents
  • Take compelling photographs for your listing

2. Research a listing price

Setting the right listing price for your home is equal parts art and science — you want to get the most money for your home, but you don’t want to send potential buyers into sticker shock. Your best bet for setting a compelling list price is to mimic what the experts do and conduct a comparative market analysis.

Browse listings in your area to find recently sold homes to get a listing price range. Prioritize homes in your immediate area that sold within a six-month period with similar features to yours. You’ll want to look for the following:

  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Square footage and lot size
  • Home type (single-family, duplex, etc.)
  • Amenities (pool, backyard office, etc.)

Better yet, use Orchard’s Home Value Estimator to get an idea of your listing price — our estimations are 30% more accurate than the rest.

3. Create a listing

Once you’ve settled on a price, it’s time to bring your home to market. You’ll need to add your listing to the MLS (multiple listing service) for it to get the most exposure. This platform is a centralized database for real estate professionals, homebuyers, and sellers, to post property listings.

Adding your listing to the MLS will cost a flat fee of $100 to $400. While other free platforms exist, the MLS is the most widely used and is more than worth the cost of entry.

4. Market your listing

Putting your listing out in the world isn’t enough to secure a buyer: You’ll need to do a little leg work to bring buyers in. You can do so by putting a for sale sign in your yard, sharing your listing on social media, and holding open houses. 

Don’t discount word-of-mouth marketing. You may never know who you know who is looking to buy a house if you don’t start the conversation. Remember, 57% of FSBO sellers in 2020 knew the buyer of their home.

Consider working with Orchard — we invest over $1,500 to make your listing shine.

5. Show your home

Hosting showings is customary in most markets and a crucial part of the selling process: It helps buyers envision themselves making your house their home, which can be a powerful motivator for putting an offer in.

To help buyers along, make sure your house is clean and inviting. Set a comfortable temperature and allow buyers to browse on their own time. You can encourage them to make themselves at home by putting out light snacks and drinks and leaving a welcoming note by the refreshments.

6. When an offer comes in, negotiate a deal

Money isn’t the only thing to consider when an offer comes in. There are contingencies, financing, and of course, you want to get top dollar for your home.As you review the offers, think about what is going to be best for your unique situation. It may be worth it to accept a lower offer with better terms.

For example, let’s say you want to sell your home fast. You’ve listed it for $400,000 and you get two offers.

Offer A is for $404,000 with contingencies for an appraisal, home inspection, and financing. That means that if the appraisal comes in low, the home inspection reveals problems like foundation issues, or the buyer’s lender doesn’t approve their loan, the buyer is protected, and you have to start over.

Offer B is a non-contingent cash offer for $390,000. That means no inspection or appraisal needs, and no risk of financing falling through. While it’s a lower price, you have more certainty the deal will go through.

If you can’t negotiate with the buyers of Offer A, you might be better off accepting Offer B for the surer, faster deal.

7. Close

You’ve made it to the finish line, but your work isn’t done yet. It can take almost two months to close on a house. In order to ensure that your deal doesn’t fall through at this crucial stage, it’s best to hire a real estate attorney to help you navigate all of the different steps of the closing process.

Real estate attorneys can cost from $220 to $250 per hour, but the peace of mind they offer may be well worth it.

Paperwork for selling your house without a realtor

When you sell your house on your own, you won't have an agent to keep tabs on all the necessary paperwork for the sale. Here are the documents you'll need to have for a seamless transaction:

  • Mortgage statement and loan documents: If you’re still paying off your mortgage when you sell your home, this document will tell you how much of the proceeds from your home sale will have to go towards paying off your lender.
  • Up-to-date utility bills and property taxes: The buyer may request these to understand how much to budget for these expenses once they move in.
  • Title report and deed: The title report outlines your right of ownership over the property, and the deed is the document that describes the property in detail.
  • Warranties: If any of your appliances are under warranty, leave the details behind for their new owners. That way, if there’s a problem after your house has sold, they’re equipped to handle it.
  • Homeowner association agreements: If you’re a part of an HOA, you’ll need to present the new owners of your home with your organization’s rules, covenants, agreements, and fees.

Alternatives to selling a house on your own

If selling your house by owner feels intimidating, you might consider one of the following ways to sell your home:

  • Sell to a cash buyer: Fulfilling lender requirements can be a particularly grueling part of the closing process. Homeowners who want to avoid selling with an agent can sell for cash to skip lender requirements.
  • Sell to an iBuyer: If you’ve gotten calls or texts with unsolicited offers to buy your house, then you’re familiar with the iBuyer model — and it might be right for you. iBuyers buy homes for cash, then sell the house for a profit. Their model of turning homes over quickly can be ideal for sellers in a pinch.
  • Use a power buyer: These real estate companies employ or work with realtors, but also leverage technology to simplify the home buying and selling process. While their services differ company to company, most will guarantee your home sale and help you become a cash buyer.

Find out what your home is really worth

Orchard’s home value estimates are 30% more accurate than our competitors.

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