A for sale by owner (FSBO) checklist is a list of tasks that property owners use to help sell their home. Owners selling their home typically need to understand local laws, set a price, prepare the house, and design marketing material. A for sale by owner checklist makes it painless to organize and streamline this process.
Part of selling your own home means printing advertising and marketing materials. ProspectsPLUS! is a one-stop online design and printing platform to help owners create FSBO materials. From signs to flyers, ProspectsPLUS! Can help homeowners market their property to potential buyers without extra design costs or printing efforts.
Free FSBO Checklist
This free for sale by owner checklist download in PDF, Microsoft Word, and Google Docs format gives property owners a step-by-step guide to help streamline the sales process and prevent details falling through the cracks. With helpful tips and a set order for task completion, this checklist gives owners exactly what they need to sell their home on their own.
- Download the checklist in PDF format
- Download the checklist in Word format
- Download the checklist in Google Doc format
8 Things to Include in a For Sale By Owner Checklist
The FSBO checklist makes sure that the timing of the sale is right, and each stage of the sales process is executed properly. Setting realistic FSBO expectations means developing the background knowledge for deciding on a price, mastering the for sale by owner process, and creating a successful sales strategy.
Here are the steps that are part of your for sale by owner checklist.
1. Set Realistic FSBO Expectations
Setting realistic for sale by owner expectations helps owners prepare for market trends and learn more about the sales process in their state. These realistic expectations around the sales process will help owners decrease the time to close and result in more offers for their home. What’s more, it can verify whether or not a FSBO sale is actually right for you.
Consider FSBO State Laws & POA Requirements
Each state has a different set of laws and requirements for real estate sales. For FSBO transactions, there may be different laws that apply from state to state. Reading up on the real estate laws in your state will help you avoid nasty surprises at the end of the sales process.
Most homeowners do not check with the property owners’ association (POA) or homeowners’ association (HOA) in their neighborhood before deciding to start the for sale by owner process. Some POAs/HOAs have strict policies against signage in the yard and open houses. It is best to review your POA/HOA regulations before the violation notice comes in the mail.
Decide Whether to Partner With a Real Estate Agent
Many owners assume that working with a real estate agent is off the table the moment for sale by owner is a consideration. However, working with a qualified real estate agent can bring interested buyers to your door by offering the standard buyer’s commission. Although this is an extra expense, a real estate agent can point qualified buyers to your property and shorten your sales time.
Formulate a Moving Plan
Owners often put off the moving plan until the very last minute because there are many other things to do in the sales process. The moving plan is a vital part of closing the sale, however, because you have to vacate the house to turn over the keys. Instead of rushing around to find a mover at the end of the process when you’re focused on completing the sale, consider your move early — and if you have any limitations around when and how you can complete a move.
Attend Some Open Houses
Attending an open house hosted by a professional real estate agent can give you some really good ideas for your own for sale by owner process. Real estate agents do a good job at creating ambiance in an open house, so use all of your senses to note the smells, visuals, and feel of the house when you tour as well as how the real estate agent conducts themselves.
Once you’ve considered these elements and decided that a FSBO sale is right for you, begin by considering possible pricing for your home.
2. Consider Your FSBO Price
This is when you start to think about pricing your home. Many FSBOs fail to sell because the pricing is off for their home or the neighborhood. It is vital to do some research and find out about the market and what your home is worth for the features in your neighborhood by learning about the market and home sale values to help set a price.
Learn About the Market & Your Neighborhood
Research current sale prices for houses within 10 miles of your neighborhood and with features comparable to your own house. Using Zillow or Trulia, make a listing of the property sales in your neighborhood during the past six months. Now, create a list of property sales in your location of houses with the same number of bedrooms, baths, square footage, and high-level features.
The comparison of these two lists should give you an idea of where to price your house. If you price above the neighborhood average or above the other sales prices for the same features, then you should be clear about the reason because the result will probably be less interest. Remember, MLS search sites are very good at filtering these days, so your house needs to stand out, and the price is usually a major factor in buyers’ decisions.
Set Your High & Low Asking Price
Using the research you have gathered, think about your highest and lowest price for your house. The highest price would be the amount that you would be thrilled to receive as an offer. The lowest would be the bare minimum that you would accept as a seller. Be realistic because this will affect negotiations and, ultimately, your ability to sell.
3. Ready Your House for Showing
Readying your home for showing means making sure that small repairs are complete. By making your home inviting to buyers both inside and outside, you can increase interest and the number of viable offers for your property. Now is the time to get your house ready for visitors and tours.
Make Small Repairs & Replacements
You probably know every leaky faucet and sticky door in your house. Be sure that you make small repairs and replace things that visitors are likely to come in contact with during their tour of the house. From burned-out light bulbs to broken window panes, broken fixtures can make a negative impression on potential buyers. Do not, however, make major repairs at this stage.
Increase Curb Appeal
Curb appeal is the first impression people get about your house before getting out of the car. Be sure to mow the grass, trim the hedges, power wash the house, weed the flower beds, and replace the mailbox. The outside of your home should be a candidate for a magazine layout, right down to a new welcome mat at the door.
Declutter the House
Cluttered rooms can look small and messy. It is vital that you remove old furniture, ripped rugs, excessive knickknacks, and any décor that is questionable or unusual. Visitors like to see open spaces with plenty of room and light, so do everything you can to enlarge the space with mirrors and make it look brighter. This allows people to see their own furnishings in the open spaces.
Hire Professional Cleaners
Most people skip this step because they clean their own house, but this small expense can yield large bonus points with buyers. Professional cleaners focus on everything from baseboards to windows to dust removal and mopping.
A professional cleaner pays attention to small details in every room to make potential buyers feel like the house has been well taken care of by the current owners. For around $250, you can focus on the sales and marketing of your home and leave the cleaning to the professionals.
Clean the Unseen
Stuffing things in the closet, garage, or basement or attic is a mistake. If you have too much stuff, then a garage sale or donation to charity might help you get rid of it. Potential buyers with run of the house will look under cabinets, in closets, in the attic, and the garage as well as any storage sheds.
4. Design & Execute Your Marketing
A marketing plan for your home is a vital part of your for sale by owner checklist because this is how you get your word out to potential buyers. From flyers to listing opportunities, attractive marketing pieces and a well-thought-out strategy help you increase the sales opportunities.
Create a Flyer & Signage
Creating printed materials like a flyer and a yard sign can be something most people put off until the last moment. You can download free open house flyer templates to make it easier to design the perfect marketing piece for your for sale by owner sign kit. If you do not have time to create your flyer or signs, then you can connect with a freelancer at Fiverr who can make all of the edits and send you a print-ready FSBO PDF.
List on MLS or Local Real Estate Agency Site
Listing your home on the local MLS or real estate agent site might not seem intuitive if you have decided not to work with a real estate agent, but most home searches start online. Listing your for sale by owner property on Zillow, Trulia, or other FSBO sites can bring qualified people to your door for a tour or open house.
Consider Online Advertising
Facebook lead ads are an easy, inexpensive way to reach a local audience of people. You can select an audience according to demographics like age, gender, marital status, and income as well as people who are looking for a house or FSBO. By targeting a niche audience for your ads, you can draw the right people to your property and save money on advertising.
5. Prepare for an Open House
The most important part of preparing for an open house means preparation for every step of the buyer journey, including the sale. From making sure the sales forms are ready to create the right mood for the buyer and follow up, you have to prepare to meet your buyer and close the deal at the right moment.
Make Sure Sales Forms Are Ready
Some people forget this step of their for sale by owner checklist or add it to a later stage. The reality is that your goal is to attract potential buyers. If a buyer falls in love with your house and decides to make an offer, then you do not want to let them get away. Preparing the paperwork at this stage means that you are ready to sell when the buyer makes the right offer.
Set the Mood
Some agents bake cookies and others use pretty candles to control the smell of a room. Many real estate agents advise that you leave all of the lights on in the house because it helps people to see features more distinctly. The mood is set by many different factors like lighting, the smell of food, and the right temperature, so provide a comfortable setting to make people feel at home.
Here are a few ways to set the mood for the buyer:
- Bake cookies or cupcakes right before opening the door
- Leave lights on in all rooms
- Make sure that the room temperature is comfortable
- Open curtains to show the view
- Offer food or drinks to create a friendly atmosphere
Let Visitors Tour & Answer Questions
It is natural to want to follow people around and conduct a tour of your home. After all, you want to show it off. However, letting people wander through your home by themselves removes the awkward feeling of them being in someone else’s house.
The open house is your opportunity to host potential buyers and share the best parts of your home. Although you should let buyers roam around instead of conducting guided tours, your interaction after their self-tour will be all about answering questions and highlighting important features.
Display a Sign-in Sheet
Do not be bashful about asking people who visit your home to sign in. A sign-in sheet gives you the ability to track those who visited and connect with them later to touch base about any questions. You can include a box to check if they are pre-approved for a loan to reduce invasive questions further.
Follow Up With Visitors Within 24 Hours
Most people leave your house with the knowledge of whether or not they want to make an offer. After seeing several houses in a day, it might be hard to remember the specifics of your home. Connecting with visitors to your open house within 24-hours can serve as a reminder and further the conversation.
6. Nurture Leads Until the Sale
After visiting your home, people might need time to look at other houses before making a decision. Staying connected to your leads and nurturing them through the sales process will keep your property in their mind.
Offer to send them another flyer or schedule a follow-up showing to help buyers make up their mind and be sure to provide them with clear contact information so that they can reach out at any point with additional questions.
7. Negotiate a Fair Price
Negotiating a fair price is all about offers and counter-offers because it is rare that an owner and a buyer agree on a price in the beginning. In step two of your for sale by owner checklist, you researched the market value of your home using features and neighborhood. Using this data to determine a high and low price for your home makes it easy to negotiate a fair price.
Find Out About Prequalification
If you have not asked a potential buyer about their pre-approval status, then now is the time to ask the potential buyer about a prelending letter. A prelending letter helps you determine how long it will take to complete the sale and how seriously you can take a buyer’s offer. The timeline is different for the sale of your home for a qualified buyer than a buyer who has not received a prequalified loan guarantee.
Assess Offer & Counter Offer
As you receive buyer offers, you can use your high and low range to accept the offer or provide a counter-offer. Providing a counter-offer does not jeopardize a sale but gives you a chance to advocate for the value of your home. If your home is priced correctly according to your research, then it will be easy to see the value in your counter-offer.
Accept Earnest Money
Once you have accepted a buyer’s offer and set a price, the earnest money will be deposited for your home that is applied to the total amount owed to the owner. This earnest money allows everyone to move forward with the purchase in good faith.
Set Expectations for Inspections & Closing
This is the right time to schedule all of the inspections needed for your home and set a timeline for the closing. With an overall home inspection, owners will need to have a termite, plumbing, and electrical inspection to be sure that there are no problems that might lead to lawsuits later. You can find a home inspector through a real estate agent or online.
8. Complete the Closing
The closing is the place where planning is the most vital because delays can cost money and time. Making sure that the home is inspected and repairs completed are the biggest steps, but finding a title company, opening an escrow, depositing earnest money, and cleaning up the final details are all part of the process.
Settle Home Inspection Findings & Repairs
Deciding with the buyer what will be fixed as the result of the home inspection is another point of negotiation. Some sellers lower the price rather than make larger repairs to the home. Other sellers decide that making the repair is worth the full offer price. It depends on what the home inspector finds and what the repairs entail.
Decide on a Title Company
A title company will help you keep all of the details and paperwork straight. Most owners do not know all of the ins and outs of real estate sales documentation. A title company can help both owners and buyers complete all of the necessary paperwork within the letter of the law. You can find a reliable title company online or through a real estate agent.
Open an Escrow & Deposit Earnest Money
An escrow account is a place where the money is kept and managed between the buyer and the seller until all paperwork is completed. With the earnest money deposited in the account, the buyers or the loan company pay the full amount less the deposit into the escrow for safekeeping until the sale is final on all sides.
Sign Paperwork to Complete the Sale
Bring an ID with you to the closing to make sure that everything is legal. Because legal documents that are notarized are necessary to complete all sales documentation, a form of identification is required.
Address Final Details
This is the final step before handing over the keys to a new owner. At this point, you will want to deploy your moving plan from step one of your for sale by owner checklist and get ready to start a new stage of life.
Here are some of the most important things to consider before closing the door on your home sale:
- Set a stop date for the utilities
- Establish a time and date for the movers to relocate your household goods
- Connect with the insurance company to stop the property coverage
- Change your address with the post office
FSBO Pro Tips to Consider
“Most home buyers find their homes on the internet. How are you going to create an online presence for your home? Great little tip — some of the major online real estate companies will allow you to advertise your home on their site at no cost. Zillow is one of the companies that allow you to advertise your FSBO on their site free of charge.”
― John Myers, Real Estate Agent & Qualifying Broker, Myers & Myers Real Estate
“Conduct comparative market analysis. The most important factor to sell your house successfully is to price it correctly. You don’t want to overprice your home, or it will remain on the market and become less likely to be purchased. However, you don’t want to underprice it, either, as you will be losing money. So, conduct comparative market analysis. Locate three to five homes similar to yours ― number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size, age, amenities, finishing, curb appeal, and so on ― nearby that sold in the past couple of months. See what prices they sold for. The average of this should be the fair market value of your home.”
― Daniela Andreevska, Marketing Director, Mashvisor
“A lot of FSBO sellers don’t sell homes all the time and might not understand that the best chances to sell for the most amount of money is when your home first hits the market. You need to put your best foot forward at first. You do this by making your home look really, good both in person and online ― staging to sell and then take great photos. Second, the best form of marketing is an appropriate price. If you are overpriced, it will hinder your FSBO efforts. Buyers will pass over your home and go see the competition.”
― Kris Lippi, Real Estate Broker & Owner, ISoldMyHouse.com
“For sale by owner is the right choice for some sellers if handled correctly. The most important thing is to take a step away from your personal attachment if possible so that you are more objective when it comes to prospects. You also need to keep a business mindset and find the right avenues from which to advertise your property.”
― Chinh Nguyen, Co-founder & Vice President of Marketing, Finale Inventory
“All listings that are on the MLS hit all of the websites ― both those that are proprietary to agent access and those that are public sites. By not having your listing on various websites, you are limiting the number of showings. Increased visibility to the consumer ultimately yields a greater number of buyers who come through the door. The more buyers, the more likely you will have an offer.”
― Alison Bernstein, Residential Real Estate Expert, Suburban Jungle
“Just because you’re selling FSBO doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to work with any real estate agents. Offering buyer agents a commission for bringing you a buyer is the fastest way to sell your home for the most money. Get a list of emails for real estate agents in your neighborhood and send out an email blast about your property. If you’ve priced it right, then you are likely to have an offer in no time.”
― Evan Roberts, Real Estate Agent, Dependable Homebuyers in Maryland
“Hire a transaction coordinator — your buyer’s agent does. There’s lots of paperwork that goes back and forth that is required by their brokers. Agents fear having to explain all of their paperwork and having to hold a seller’s hand with it. It’s just easier to work with another agent who is familiar with the locally required forms. Hiring a transaction coordinator tells the prospective buyer’s agent that you are professional and will not make their job any harder than necessary.”
― Robert Taylor, Owner, The Real Estate Solutions Guy
“Specify buyer agent commission is at market rate. Buyer agents hesitate to show a house if they believe they will get below market rate commissions. FSBO sellers need to make sure the buyer agents know they will be appropriately compensated to ensure relevant buyers consider the property. Explicitly state in the listing ‘3-percent commission to buyer agents’ so they know they will be compensated at market rates.”
― Earl White, Founder, House Heroes LLC
“Clear, visible, and decent-sized signage for your yard is essential to draw in local buyers. Don’t miss out on the free websites that can draw thousands of potential buyers to your FSBO listing without additional costs to you! Make any repairs that need to be done and consider low-cost cosmetic improvements that can make a big difference aesthetically. Clean up your home so that it’s minimally decorated and clutter-free. This helps potential buyers imagine themselves in the space.”
― Nathan Oulman, Realtor, Sandpoint Real Estate
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I Need a Real Estate Agent to Sell my House?
In most states, you do not need a real estate agent to sell your house. Like any other private property, you have the right to sell it. There might be some unique laws for real estate sales that you need to add to your FSBO checklist, so be sure to consult a real estate lawyer in your state or find out what your state specifically requires.
What Are the Most Important Questions I Should Ask a Buyer?
There are many questions you should ask a potential buyer before accepting an offer. First, you might want to know if the buyer is working with a real estate agent already and if they are pre-approved for a loan. Another important thing to know is if the buyer needs to sell their home before buying your home, which is known as a contingent sale.
Is a Lending Letter Important?
A lending letter is a letter of intent from the bank promising a maximum amount of money for a loan. A lending letter can help you seriously consider a buyer offer because this means that they already have the approval for the amount of the offer.
Are There Safety Issues With FSBO Listings?
With FSBO open houses, you are letting strangers into your house to walk around and check out every nook. You should never show your home alone and take steps to protect yourself from harm. Noting specific home security features in your flyer can help deter unsafe behavior.
The Bottom Line
A for sale by owner checklist is a schedule of tasks and timelines for owners who want to sell their house. The checklist above puts all of the steps in one place to prepare and complete a home sell. Download our free for sale by owner PDF checklist to organize your efforts and stay on track.
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