A for sale by owner (FSBO) checklist is a step-by-step guide that outlines the necessary tasks for selling a property without the help of a real estate agent. It covers understanding the local market and laws, setting a price, preparing the house, creating marketing materials, and navigating real estate transactions. By following a step-by-step plan, you can set a realistic timeline and know what to expect at each stage.
While it may seem daunting to sell a home without an agent’s help, it’s certainly doable with the right tools and guidance. Here is a for sale by owner checklist to streamline your efforts, stay on track, and sell your home faster.
1. Decide if For Sale by Owner Is Right for You
There’s a reason real estate agents work full time—it’s because selling a home takes a lot of time and work. If you decide to do away with the professional assistance of an agent, be ready to manage the entire home sale, from researching comps to setting the price, listing the property, marketing and home staging (check out our guide to the best virtual home staging companies), and completing all the paperwork for legal compliance.
While selling your home gives you complete control over the sales process, this may be challenging if you are inexperienced with the homebuying and selling process. Think through the pros and cons of the FSBO process before making a decision:
|Complete control over the home sale process||FSBO homes sell for 25% less than agent-listed homes|
|Save on listing agent commissions||Longer time to sell FSBO homes|
|Direct negotiation with buyers||Listing, advertising, and orchestrating a home sale requires specific skillsets|
|No need to match your schedule with the agent for showings||Limited pool of potential buyers|
|Showcase your home from an owner’s perspective||Risk of drafting your own contract|
Regardless of the pros and cons of the process, there are some instances where taking the FSBO route makes sense:
- When you already have an interested buyer: If you have a guaranteed buyer, like a friend, neighbor, or relative, FSBO may be a viable option. Marketing a home can be challenging for homeowners without an extensive network, but having a buyer in advance can help you skip the marketing stage altogether. Instead, you can hire a lawyer to represent both parties’ interests during the transaction.
- When there is a high demand in the market: When the housing supply exceeds demand, you can sell your home quickly without an agent. While not always ideal, FSBO can save on commission and closing costs in a hot market. Additionally, seasonality is an important factor in understanding homebuying behavior. Knowing the best and worst times to sell your property can benefit those looking to sell their homes.
- When you’re not in a hurry to sell: Selling a home takes time, especially without professional help. Before bringing a client to sign a contract, you must list and market the house yourself. As of August 2023, property listings typically spend 46 days on the market. Without networking capabilities to attract buyers, making a sale may take much longer. If you have the patience, selling your home independently can be an option.
If you don’t have a buyer but still want to take the risk of going the FSBO route, be sure to understand everything that goes into the process of selling a home. Utilize online tools like Zillow to market your FSBO listing for free, including video and unlimited photos. Zillow is a leading online real estate marketplace for rental and for sale properties. Furthermore, Zillow users will receive instant emails once a new property is listed on the site, giving your home more exposure.
2. Research the Market & Price the Home
The next step in the for sale by owner checklist is researching comps and setting a fair price for your home. Many FSBOs fail due to inaccurate pricing strategies; overpricing deters potential buyers, while underpricing leads to profit loss. To avoid this, understand the local market and analyze comparable properties in the area. Doing so lets you set a reasonable price for your home based on its features and the market demand. You can use online listing websites like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia to help analyze properties comparable to yours.
The home price is a major factor in homebuying decisions. Remember that your asking price affects negotiations and, ultimately, the sellability of your home. Another option is to consult a local appraiser for a professional estimate of your home’s value. To find home appraisal services, search online for appraisers near you or contact your bank or mortgage provider.
3. Prepare Your Home for Sale
The third step on the FSBO checklist is to prepare your home for visitors and tours, clean, declutter, and complete minor repairs like leaky faucets and sticky doors. Check the condition of your home, including flooring, ceiling, appliances, plumbing, and lighting. Consider replacing furniture that visitors may come in contact with during the tour. Fix or replace burned-out light bulbs, broken windowpanes, and fixtures that can negatively impact buyers. However, you don’t need to make major repairs at this stage.
Improve your house’s curb appeal by touching up the exterior, landscaping, front entrance, and paint job. Mow the grass, trim the hedges, power wash the house, weed the flower beds, and replace the mailbox or house number if necessary. The outside of your home should pique a buyer’s interest and draw them inside.
Make sure the inside of your home is just as presentable. You can hire a professional cleaner to pay extra attention to the smallest details in your home. This will make it feel well-maintained and impress potential buyers. Also, avoid stuffing items into closets, garages, basements, or attics, as buyers may explore those spaces. If you have excess belongings, consider using mobile storage, having a garage sale, or donating to charity.
4. Market & Advertise Your Property
One of the most daunting tasks in the FSBO checklist is marketing your property. However, with a well-planned marketing strategy, you can attract buyers and increase your chances of receiving offers. There are several ways to get the word out about your home, from professional real estate photos to eye-catching flyers and online listings.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 51% of buyers found the home they purchased through the internet. That’s why listing your property on Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, or other FSBO sites brings qualified people to your door for a tour or open house. If you’re looking for a real estate platform to list and promote your property, check out some of the best FSBO sites:
Free plan available
Starts at $99.95
Free for FSBO listing
Free for basic listing; contact LoopNet for premium pricing
Let’s not forget the power of traditional advertising methods like yard signs, newspaper ads, and direct mail. These tried-and-true tactics can still effectively convey valuable information to potential buyers. If you’re hosting an open house, flyers or brochures can highlight your home’s best features and make great souvenirs. You can either download free open house flyer templates or hire a freelancer on Fiverr to create a print-ready FSBO guide PDF. With the right marketing plan in place, you’ll be well on your way to a successful home sale.
Social media is also a great way to advertise your property to a broader audience. Facebook posts are an easy, low-cost way to reach homebuyers in your area. Join Facebook groups that promote FSBOs and save money on advertising. Facebook also automatically posts to Instagram, providing another free way to advertise your property online.
To help you create a marketing plan for your home, read our 12-step Real Estate Listing Marketing Plan (+ Free Checklist) article.
5. Conduct Showings & Open Houses
The mood of your home during the open house leaves a lasting impression on buyers. Other factors that should be in your for sale by owner checklist are lighting, scent, and temperature, which can make a big difference in the overall atmosphere of your home. Baking cookies and using scented candles can help visitors feel more at home. Keeping the lights on and curtains open can help showcase your home’s best features.
While giving visitors a tour of your home is important, make sure you also give them space to explore on their own. Afterward, engage with them and draw their attention to important features. Don’t forget to ask visitors to leave their contact details on an open house sign-in sheet so that you can follow up with them later.
After viewing multiple houses in a day, your potential buyers may not recall all the details of your home. That’s why it’s crucial to connect with open house visitors within 24 hours to remind them of your property and conversation. You can offer to send a flyer or schedule a follow-up showing. Moreover, ensure clients have your updated contact information so they can contact you anytime with additional questions.
Electronic sign-in sheets, like those from Spacio, make it easy to collect and access contact information on any device. Spacio is an all-in-one solution for marketing listings, capturing leads, and communicating with your clients. It also provides real-time reporting and verified consumer insights to help with marketing strategy.
For more information on planning and launching a successful open house, follow the steps in our article How to Host a Real Estate Open House (+ Free Checklist), which covers the real estate essentials of home viewing.
6. Negotiate & Accept an Offer
Another important item on your FSBO checklist is to prepare the necessary paperwork beforehand to guide interested buyers smoothly from your open house to the next step in the buying process. Note that sales contracts vary by state and may require legal assistance, so ensure compliance with state laws and regulations.
When accepting offers, inquire about your potential buyers’ pre-approval status. A pre-approval letter helps determine the sale timeline and how seriously to consider an offer. Qualified buyers typically have a shorter sales timeline than those without a pre-qualified loan guarantee.
Expect negotiations, as both parties may not agree on the initial asking price. Establish a fair price through market research and propose a high and low range for acceptance or counteroffers. Counteroffers don’t jeopardize a sale, but allow for advocating the home’s value. Once a price is agreed upon, the buyer should provide earnest money as a show of good faith (typically around 1% to 3% of the sale price). This will be deposited and allocated to the buyer’s down payment or closing costs, and protect the seller in case the buyer backs out of the deal.
7. Complete Inspections & Due Diligence
After accepting an offer and securing earnest money, it’s time to schedule the home inspection and set a timeline for the closing. Hiring a professional inspector to check for termites, plumbing, and electrical issues is crucial to avoid future legal issues. Once the inspection is completed, the buyer and seller should discuss any necessary repairs. While some sellers agree to a buyer’s request for repairs, some opt to lower the price rather than make larger, more costly repairs. The decision usually depends on the inspector’s findings and the nature of the required repairs.
If you don’t know the ins and outs of real estate sales documentation, a title company can help manage paperwork and ensure both parties comply with state laws. Find a reliable title company online or through a real estate agent. It is also recommended that you open an escrow account to securely manage the money between you and the buyer until all paperwork is completed. With the earnest money deposited, the remaining amount will be paid by the buyer or the loan company and safely kept in the escrow account until the sale is finalized.
Do home inspections sound interesting to you? Check out our article on How to Become a Home Inspector in 8 Steps.
8. Exchange Paperwork & Money & Close the Transaction
The final item on the for sale by owner checklist is ensuring that all the necessary paperwork is completed. Closing usually occurs at the attorney, title company, or the lender’s office. Your buyer will be required to sign several documents to complete the sale.
On closing day, make sure to bring an ID with you, as identification is required to notarize legal documents. To complete all sales documentation, you will have to sign multiple legal papers. Though closing documents vary by state, they often include:
- Promissory note
- “Truth in lending” statement
- Title or deed
- Monthly payment letter
- Bill of sale
- Completed loan application
Before handing over the keys to a new owner, iron out all the final details and deploy your moving plan. It’s also time to get ready for a new stage in your 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
For Sale by Owner Statistics
If you’re wondering how FSBO properties fared in the real estate market, we compiled a list of the most recent statistics according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2022 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers and Quick Real Estate Statistics. These statistics help you decide whether to perform FSBO and which strategies to use when selling your home.
- Only 10% of home sales in 2022 were FSBO
- 50% of FSBO sellers knew the buyer of the home
- 13% of homes were sold via FSBO in rural areas, while only 6% in suburban areas
- $225,000 is the median sale price of homes sold via FSBO, compared to agent-assisted homes at $345,000
- Top three most difficult tasks for FSBO sellers are setting the right price (16%), performing paperwork (13%), and selling within the planned time (10%)
- 28% of FSBO sellers market their home through friends, relatives, and neighbors; 20% used a yard sign; 19% used a third-party aggregator; 17% used social networking websites; and 3% used an FSBO website
Alternatives to FSBO
Selling a home requires a lot of time, work, and skills. FSBOs may bring several risks to the homeowner, such as not knowing how to price or negotiate properly, making emotional decisions, and having no experience or expertise to navigate all the legal requirements. In most cases, the risks of FSBOs could outweigh the benefits. If you’re not confident in selling your home yourself, consider the following alternatives to FSBO.
Hiring a real estate agent can help you get better offers and sell your house faster. Furthermore, an experienced professional understands your local market and can act as your adviser as you navigate through a highly competitive and volatile housing industry.
Since agents use proven strategies to sell properties, they can assist you in setting a listing price, conducting prelisting inspections, prioritizing repairs, and effectively marketing your property on the right platforms. Getting professional assistance will save you a lot of time since agents will do all the legwork for you.
Need a real estate agent? Read our article How to Find a Real Estate Agent.
Real estate wholesalers act as middlemen who put your home under contract and find interested buyers looking for investment properties for sale. They then shop the contract at a higher price for investors, landlords, or house flippers. Selling to a wholesaler is an alternative to FSBO that can help you close faster and get paid in cash while avoiding failed deals due to financing issues.
To successfully sell your property, find a transparent wholesaler with a robust network of investors. However, they may cancel the contract if they cannot find a buyer, requiring you to start over.
If you’re looking for a hassle-free alternative to FSBO, consider selling your home to iBuyer.com and get a quick cash offer. iBuyers, short for “instant buyers,” are typically large companies with huge capital looking to purchase real estate investment properties.
Enter your home address to get an accurate valuation estimate of your property, and the platform will connect you with iBuyers across the country. You can receive instant cash offers for your home in as little as seven days—no need to list or market your home. You also don’t have to deal with repairs, upgrades, and showings, as the buyers will purchase your home as is, saving you time, money, and energy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Owners typically list their property as an FSBO to save money on commission fees that would be paid to a real estate agent. By cutting out the middleman, they can potentially sell their property for a higher price and keep more of the profit for themselves. However, listing a property as an FSBO also requires more work and responsibility on the owner’s part, such as handling negotiations, advertising, and legal paperwork.
Yes, you should declutter your home before selling. Not only will it make your home look more presentable and spacious, but it can also help potential buyers envision themselves living there. When decluttering, focus on removing personal items and excess furniture to create a clean and organized space.
As a seller, there are a few things you should do to prepare for a closing. First, make sure you have all the necessary paperwork and documents related to the sale of your home organized and easily accessible. This can include the purchase agreement, title report, and any other legal documents. You should also ensure that any repairs or agreed-upon changes to the property have been completed prior to closing.
This can include fixing any issues found during the home inspection, and ensuring that the property is in the same condition as agreed upon in the purchase agreement. Finally, communicate with your attorney to ensure all necessary steps have been taken to finalize the sale. This can include arranging to transfer funds and signing all necessary paperwork.
An FSBO checklist guides homeowners in performing specific tasks and observing realistic timelines when selling a property. The selling home by owner checklist outlines all the necessary steps to prepare and complete a home sale. Download the checklist to make the home sale process more organized, saving you time and money.