Beyond the “For Sale” Sign
Selling Your Own Home
Have you ever thought of putting your home on the market and selling it without a real estate broker? Selling your own home may sound simple–put up a sign, then wait for buyers to call. Putting up a sign, however, is only one of many actions you must take.
Experts say sellers, who are emotionally tied to their homes, often price them too high. Do a comparative study and match your home against comparable homes, or “comps,” in your neighborhood or town. If houses are not selling quickly, you may have to set the price a few thousand dollars lower than normal. For a unique property, consider hiring an appraiser to get an idea of an appropriate selling price.
All too often, owners skimp on advertising. In addition to the “For Sale” sign in your front yard, post others where legally allowed. Include a telephone number and show your property by appointment only. Compile a brochure or fact sheet listing the asking price, lot size, individual rooms and dimensions, heating and cooling systems (with monthly utility bills for the last year), appliances or other fixtures included, present financing, taxes, and unusual features.
You should screen potential buyers. If they seem interested, ask how much of a down payment they can make. If you’re getting close to a deal, ask the buyer to fill out a financial statement, which you can obtain from a bank, mortgage lender or an office supply store. A serious buyer won’t resist providing the information requested. Ask buyers if they have applied for a mortgage and have they been “preapproved.”
Now, if this sounds like considerable work, it is and that’s why professional real estate agents get paid. If you need assistance, “homeowner’s service agencies” may prove a lower-priced alternative to traditional full commission brokers. These companies generally charge a flat fee based on the asking price of the house to screen prospective buyers, arrange appointments, suggest a price and negotiate with buyers. Showing the house is the owner’s job, the theory being nobody knows the house like the owner.
If you decide to sell your home on your own, remember the following tips:
1. Price it Fairly. Compare your house to others in the neighborhood that have recently sold, and factor in any improvements or unusual assets.
2. Advertise. Use more than just a “For Sale” sign on your lawn. Circulate brochures, run ads in the local newspapers, and put notices on bulletin boards.
3. Screen Buyers. Before accepting an offer, ask the buyer to fill out a financial statement or get mortgage preapproval.
When should you decide not to continue selling the home on your own? Assuming the house is properly priced
in a reasonably active market, a homeowner attempting to sell without professional assistance should allow six to eight weeks without a written offer. With help from a service agency, give it four months. After that call a professional real estate broker.
Selling a home on your own can be a great deal of work. The rationale is to save many thousands of dollars that would normally be “lost” to real estate commissions. While the prospect of improving one’s financial position is tantalizing, the task may be too time consuming or beyond your expertise. Professional real estate assistance, whether from a service or a broker/agent, may “save” you more than you realize as you set out to sell your own home.