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How to Sell Your Own House

Four Parts:Taking the First StepsShowing the House and Attracting BuyersGetting a Bid QuicklyClosing the Deal

Selling your own home without an agent can save you tens of thousands of dollars in real estate commissions. But there's a reason most people elect to use a real estate broker when selling their home — selling takes a lot of work, plenty of know-how, and the right kind of patience. Whether you're selling a home for the first time or simply want to know how to do it even better than you did before, nothing beats a good game plan.

Part 1
Taking the First Steps

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    Clean out your home. As soon as you decide to sell your house, thoroughly clean it from top to bottom. Don't forget rarely-cleaned areas such as baseboards, blinds, roof gutters and window wells. A clean home will help an appraiser see your house in a better light and value it more highly, as well as appealing to buyers.
    • Because of familiarity, you're likely to overlook some aspects of cleaning that scrutinizing potential buyers won't. If you want to make the best possible impression, shell out some extra cash to hire a professional cleaning service, at least for an initial deep clean. Don't underestimate the power of a spotless canvas.
    • Clear up clutter while you clean. Make your home look more spacious by getting rid of any unnecessary junk (hire storage space if you have to). You'll see a big difference in how your closets look, as well as your garage, porch and bathroom. Buyers want to feel like they're purchasing sufficient space, and clearing out more of your stuff helps them see themselves in your home. If you can't bear to part with anything, consider moving the items to a storage unit temporarily.
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    Have your property evaluated. As much as you'd like to set the price of your home as high as possible, you have to be realistic. Many for-sale-by-owner listings fail to sell because owners persist in thinking their home is worth more than the market will offer, or because they have already settled on a set amount of money that they want and refuse to budge. Having a professional, third-party assessment of your home's worth will help you get comfortable with a price range, in addition to providing you with a solid reference point if a buyer or realtor accuses you of setting the price too high.
    • Don't just rely on the property tax assessment. Many property tax assessments are out of date, and they don't necessarily reflect the current real estate market.
    • Look at comparables. Comparables are what other similar homes in your area are selling for, or better yet how much they have sold for in the last month. Using this method of how to sell your house what price range your home will fall in. Always use comparables when arriving at a realistic assessment of your home's value.
    • Hire an appraiser. A certified residential appraiser will come to your house, measure the property, take notes and photos, research information about any land parcels, and assemble a list of comparable sales in your neighborhood to determine the value of your home. A visit from an appraiser will cost you far less than the services of a real estate agent, and the value the appraiser sets will be more accurate. Many banks keep a list of reputable appraisers they contact for refinancing or mortgage loans; ask your local branch manager to refer you to an honest, qualified professional. Once you receive your copy of the appraisal, make a second copy and store it in a secure location. Keep the first copy on-hand to go over with serious buyers.
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    Have your home inspected. Many standard real estate contracts are going to give the home buyer the right to inspect the property, so be prepared. Have your home inspected before you advertise. Under a general inspection you might be obligated to make major repairs to appliances, plumbing, septic, electrical and heating systems, etc. You can expect your home’s roof and foundations to be inspected, as well. Follow the recommendations and make necessary repairs. Additional inspections requested by the buyer are customarily at their expense.
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    As much as possible, get your home in move-in condition before you put it on the market.[1] Buyers of homes are inherently lazy. If they feel like they'll need to do extra landscaping, plumbing, appliance and electrical work before they can enjoy the house, they'll balk when it comes to buy, even if the rest of your house is an absolute steal. So make it easy for them. Hire a handyman or general contractor to get the home as ready to move into as possible.

Part 2
Showing the House and Attracting Buyers

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    Know your selling points. Before you start marketing your home, write up a list of special selling points you think will attract buyers. Potential items include good school districts, recent renovations, benefits that have been grandfathered into the property, energy-saving windows or insulation and new appliances. Highlight these items in your ads, when you talk to people about your home or while you're showing it. Memorize them so that you don't forget anything.
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    Time it right. Be aware that the real estate sector sees a noticeable uptick in business over the summer — people prefer to move when it's warm, and they're reluctant to have their children change schools in the middle of the school year. Start trying to sell your home in April or May and continue to promote it throughout the summer. If you haven't sold it by late fall, scale back your efforts and begin marketing more intensely when the weather warms up again.
    • Another thing to be aware of is the trend your neighborhood is going through. If your neighborhood is undergoing a mini boom of strong residential sales, those transactions will increase the value of your home. Conversely, if your neighborhood has seen a lot of short sales or foreclosures, your home's value will be decreased. Try to time your listing so that you're not affected by distressed sales. For instance, in most areas, a comparable sale can only weigh against the value of your home for 90 days after the sale date. It might be worth it to wait a few months to list your home if you can do it at a higher price.
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    Get your property ready for a staging. A staging is an especially important part of selling your house. During the staging, potential buyers begin mentally imagining their own items, and their lives, in your home. If they can't make the imaginative leap because the house is too cluttered, dirty, colorful, or quirky, you've probably lost their business. Best to stage the house to be as spacious, clean, bland (yes, bland!), and typical as possible.
    • Try to limit furniture in your house to the absolute essentials. If you haven't used it in three months, store it, sell it, or throw it away. This helps the rooms appear larger. Replace or hire replacement for items that are outdated or don't complement your home.
    • Show items in groups of 1, 3, and 5 items, erring on fewer items when possible.[2] It's not clear why odd groups of items are mentally appealing, but they are. Freshen up rooms with fresh flowers and bowls of fruit. Use scatter cushions and glass vases to liven up the room.
    • Go into each room and paint as needed. Paint the walls white to brighten up your home. Remember, neutral is best when you’re selling so potential buyers can customise the property to their tastes. Check the carpets and windows in each room and clean as well.
    • Don't neglect bathrooms and the kitchen. Use fluffy white towels in the bathroom and even put an orchid in there. Don't have too many appliances and or pots and pans visible in the kitchen, a bowl of fruit and 1-2 appliances/pans are more than enough for the kitchen to look homely but not crowded.
    • Remove any personal photos and items - these tend to make buyers uncomfortable.
    • The style of your house should appeal to the demographic of your potential buyers. For example you will use different property styling if you're selling a bachelor pad or a family home. And remember: if your house is decorated in a very specific style, this might not match the style of your potential buyers.
    • Pay attention to how the outside of your home looks. Clear away any plants that obscure significant parts of the home, weeding and mulching as necessary. Check in on the condition of the paint on the outside of the home; inspect how it looks from both the curb and up-close. Invest in potted plants and place them at the entry or on the balcony/courtyard. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer!
    • Take professional photos that show the best of each room (and outside area). If you have a room bathed in sunlight, take a picture of that room on a sunny day (early morning or late afternoon), even if the photographer wouldn't approve. In other rooms, turn on all artificial light when taking pictures, even if there is enough light - it creates a special ambiance.
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    Market your home. Staking a "For Sale By Owner" sign in your yard is good if you live in a high-traffic neighborhood, but you can go further.
    • Advertise online. Put an ad for your home on a website like Craigslist. Take out classified ads in your local newspaper and ask if they'll be available on a website as well. If you use social media sites, mention often that you're selling your house.
    • Put up fliers. If local ordinances permit it, place fliers on stoplight poles at prominent intersections.
    • Fish out potential buyers. Call local bank managers, as well as school principals, and let them know that you have a great home for sale if they know a family who's looking. If you know that a nearby company often relocates workers to your area, contact their recruiting or human resources department and tell them you have a home you're ready to sell. Do whatever you can to get the word out.
    • Rely on word of mouth. Alert your friends, family and business associates that you're selling your house. If you need to sell quickly, offer them a carrot — say that if they can find someone who's looking for a house and that buyer makes an offer, you'll buy them an expensive bottle of wine, a nice dinner out, or some other reward.
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    Know how to show your home. When potential buyers or their realtors contact you and want to see the home, try to be as available and flexible as possible. Be aware that many people will want to see the home in the middle of the day, when you might be working. If you can't be home for appointments, try to arrange for a close friend or family member to be there.
    • Set a peaceful, enticing mood. Before your potential buyers arrive, quickly clean up any clutter. Put away food on the counter, throw dishes into the dishwasher, and gather up laundry. Light a scented candle if you have one, brew fresh coffee or put a few drops of vanilla on a cookie sheet at put it in the oven at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 Celsius). Put some light, soft classical music on in the background. If the weather is nice, open a few windows; if not, light a fireplace or turn the heater up a bit. Turn on the lights for mood lighting. These extra little steps will make your home seem inviting and calm.
    • Be a good host. This might seem like obvious advice, but some people are so anxious about selling their home that they forget basic etiquette. When your potential buyers arrive, greet them with a firm handshake and look them in the eye. Introduce yourself, and ask and remember their names. As they step inside your home, ask if you can provide them with a glass of water or light refreshment. Home in on their interests (i.e., do they have kids? Do they like animals?) and talk about the house in those terms. Lead them from room to room without rushing. At the end of the tour, ask if they have any questions or if they'd like to see anything again. Have your contact information ready to give them on a small note or card. Coming off as polite and prepared will make you seem like someone with whom they could enter a real estate transaction with minimal hassle.
    • Keep it positive. Be honest, but do not dwell on the home's flaws or offer apologies like "Sorry it's so messy in here!" If you're selling your house because of a divorce, lost job or other personal tragedy, do not discuss these issues with your buyers, even in jest (i.e., "I could have kept this house if my husband could have kept his pants up!") Make your entire interaction with them as positive as possible. You want them to leave your home feeling happy and excited at the possibilities.
    • Secure your valuables. Lock up everything truly irreplaceable in a safe location before you open your home to strangers. Don't let your buyers walk around unsupervised; if they ask for a moment alone, try to give them some privacy in the yard or the kitchen.

Part 3
Getting a Bid Quickly

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    Give yourself a timeline to lower the asking price if no serious bids have come through. Many sellers price their homes too high. And then they keep them too high for too long, all while paying for maintenance, upgrades, and property taxes. Before you start in earnest, set a timeline for how you'll lower the price of your home if you're not getting any bids: "If I haven't gotten a bid within two months, I'll lower by $25k; and if I haven't gotten a bid within 6 months, I'll lower by another $75k," for example. Having a pre-determined outline of how you'll lower the price in the absence of bids will help take emotion out of the decision and ultimately help you sell you house more quickly.
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    Put yourself in the buyers' shoes. Take a walk around the neighborhood if you aren't getting any bids. Put yourself in the buyers' shoes and ask yourself, would I want to buy my home or another home given their prices? Remember to be as honest with yourself as possible. If you come to the conclusion that other homes around the neighborhood might be better options, it's time to lower your asking price in order to make your home more appealing.
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    Offer an incentive. Find a way to sweeten the pot a bit. Don't underestimate the power of a small rebate, a security blanket, or simply a kind gesture. Here are some things that you can do to make the deal more attractive:
    • Offer a credit on the closing costs, or offer to pay them entirely.[3] Closing costs can get expensive quickly (upwards of several thousand dollars), so this becomes a great incentive.
    • Give a transferable home warranty to cover home appliance malfunction. These typically only cost $300 to $500, but give the potential buyer peace of mind that if anything goes wrong, they won't have to shell out extra for it.
    • Offer expedited closing on the home. Many buyers who see their dream house want to live in it right away. If you can assure potential buyers that closing will only take 30 to 60 tops, this could swing the balance in your favor.

Part 4
Closing the Deal

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    Navigate financing. Most sellers assume that the buyer has been through the process and know the stages of buying a home. The fact is, that this is one of the many valuable services that a Realtor would normally provide, but now it is left to You, the seller, to walk them through choosing a mortgage broker to getting to the closing table. By aligning yourself with a local mortgage company first, you are giving the loan officer leads in return for assisting you with the transaction, a virtual win-win. Mortgage brokers often have clients that are approved but have yet to find a home; this is a great way to tap into their client list to find a qualified buyer.
    • The broker should also estimate the closing costs for your home and give you strategic financing tips for marketing (Zero Down, 2-1 Buydown options, Interest only options or community funding & grants available). Financing can sell a home just as quickly as good staging.
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    Be prepared to negotiate . If a buyer says he or she likes your home but is not sure about buying it, again, this is your opportunity to sweeten the deal. Did you notice the buyer looking longingly at your new barbecue? Throw it in. Did they seem dismayed that the patio hadn't been varnished for awhile? Say you'll come down $500 to cover the cost of re-varnishing. Giving up an appliance or making a small concession for home improvements could cost you less than continuing to pay a mortgage on a house you don't want.
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    Try to close cleanly and quickly. Once the buyer is making offers and negotiating, try to close the transaction as quickly as you can. Make sure you've provided all the necessary disclosure documents required by your state. If you don't like the buyer's offer, don't just say no. Always make a counter offer. Try to accommodate the buyer wherever you can afford to. Also, consider taking the offer to a lawyer for professional evaluation. Once everything is settled, move out as quickly as you reasonably can.


  • Never lie about Property Flaws: Property disclosure laws may mandate that sellers list any flaws in the home that are required by your state. If you are unaware of flaws or make an effort to cover them up, you can risk losing the sale and finding yourself in court.
  • If you need to sell quickly, try locating a group of investors that buys real estate to turn a profit. They might offer you less money than the market normally would, but you'll be able to sell rapidly.
  • If you're going to make improvements before selling, choose wisely. The three most valued returns on your money to price of the home are in the kitchen, bathrooms and windows. Don't pay as much attention to the yard or other cosmetic improvements.
  • If you are looking at listing your property on the internet so it is available to millions of viewers, you can try websites like and, they both offer free listings.


  • Many mortgage brokers will tell you what you want to hear to get you to commit to working with them. The best way to find a good one is through a referral from someone in the real estate business.
  • Most buyers know you are not paying commission to a realtor and will offer you a price that has been reduced by the commission it would have cost to use an agent - effectively eliminating any cost savings.

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