If you have ever sold a home then you know how painful it is to see so much of your appreciation gains/profit from your property dwindle away by all the fees out there involving a real estate transaction sale. If you have not sold a home yet, then you will soon learn that it costs a lot of money to sell a home. The majority of these fees end up going to the realtors involved in the sale transaction. Typically, 3% of the sold price goes to the buyer’s realtor and another 3% goes to the seller’s realtor. So if you are the seller, then a whopping 6% of your sale price is gone just like that. POOF!!
The higher the purchase price, the higher the fees and commission for the realtors! It’s the same process and documentation involved no matter what the sale price is so the realtors are making a killing when selling higher priced homes. Wow good for them! Makes me want to become a realtor. Shoot! I might actually end up getting my license someday and doing realtor stuff on the side but that makes for another post! What you will soon find out is that it is possible to sell your home via for sale by owner and save a ton of money by not having to pay these realtor fees!!
Don’t get me wrong though, most of these realtors bust their butts and do their job very well. I am not knocking realtors at all and actually have a few realtor friends who do their job well. A lot of them earn their commission and can help increase the purchase price because of the knowledge and marketing skills they have. If you don’t know diddly squat about how buying or selling property works then I would highly advise you stick with having a realtor to help you with your transaction.
But imagine if you could save that 6% and keep all that hard-earned appreciation to yourself!! I get giddy inside just thinking about all those savings. After all, I am running a personal finance blog and the premise of it is how to earn and make more money! Well saving money in a sense is making more money so I am all about cutting corners, eliminating middlemen and being a DIYer just to save that money.
**Please note that I am not recommending or promoting selling your house for sale by owner. If you decide to do it this way, please consult a licensed professional for assistance. This is the story of how I sold my house via for sale by owner and how I saved a ton of money doing it.**
How to save 3% to 6% in realtor fees!
Cut out the realtors!! If you decide to take matters into your own hands and sell your home via for sale by owner (FSBO), then you will keep all those fees to yourself! Imagine what you could do with all that extra money! That is exactly what I did when I sold my primary home (well old primary now) last month in Austin, TX. I saved $14,200 to be exact. Holy cow that is an extra $14k in my pocket just like that! That brings tears to my eyes knowing with just a little extra work, I can save so much money. With research, dedication and the motivation to save money, you too can save a lot of money and sell your house for sale by owner.
How to sell your home via for sale by owner
- It is vital you research the documents and steps involved in selling a house in your state. Every state and even local city laws are unique in the types of forms and disclosures needed to legally and properly sell a home. For example, in Austin TX, the city enacted an ordinance years back that require a seller to obtain an energy audit on the home which examines the efficiency of the hvac unites including air infiltration, duct performance, air sealing and weather stripping. This audit must be given to the potential buyer prior to the sale. By googling “forms and disclosures needed to sale a home in YOUR CITY”, you should be able to find multiple sites informing you of your local ordinances and forms needed. It is also advisable to contact a lawyer or any other realtor friends you have to get their input and advice if you do not feel comfortable with this method.
2) Prepare and clean your house
- This should go without saying but if you plan on selling your home, you better get your house in the best possible shape you can get it in. Fix all the minor and major issues with the house that you can, re-paint if necessary and clean up and trash all the clutter. It took my wife and I weeks of cleaning and repairing before we even felt comfortable to list our house for the highest amount we could get.
3) Find a flat fee MLS listing service
- This is one of the most important steps you will have. There are realtor brokers out there who have services in which they will list your house on the MLS for you for a flat fee. This is huge because it markets your house on the MLS and brings A LOT more potential buyers to your house. Each broker is different in the service they provide as well as what they charge. It is important to do some research on all the brokers in your city that provide this service and choose the one that fits your needs. I have already mentioned this but this really is the most important step because if you find the right broker, you can get all the legal forms, documents and local city rules/laws that are needed from them. All you have to do is google “flat fee mls listing in YOUR CITY.” Click on all the reputable links, read their service and even call them to get clarification if you need to. That is exactly what I did and I was able to find a local broker in Austin that fulfilled all my needs.
– Here is the service that my flat fee MLS listing service provided:
- List on the MLS including pictures and MLS description. **I was actually confident that I could take better pictures of my house and even come up with my own MLS description better than the broker so I provided this info on my own to the agent who listed my property on the MLS. So typical of me to do something like that. 😉
- Provided sold comps. Needed to do my own research on how much to list the house for.
- A Realtor Lock box on the front door.
- A for sale sign in front yard.
- All the official TX real estate documents at my disposal and the broker’s assistance on filling out the forms properly. Uh Hello!! that is pretty much everything a realtor does as far as I am concerned. What a great service and it was well worth the cost.
– Here is what the flat fee service did NOT provide for me and I had to do on my own:
- Contract Negotiations. It was up to me to make all my own decisions on any negotiations that would occur with the buyer. I would also be the primary communicator to all parties involved. The listing agent never spoke a word to anyone involved during the whole entire transaction. Only spoke to me when I had questions and to provide me info.
- Open houses or additional marketing. There would be no open houses done or any other forms of additional marketing on this home. If you live in a HOT Market like I did in Austin, then this is not a problem at all.
- Advice on how much to list my house for. They provided sold comps to me so I could determine my own price accordingly.
– Please note this major caveat when using a flat fee MLS listing.
- If your house is for sale on the MLS, then you will have to decide if you want to pay the buyer’s realtor a 3% commission fee. If you decide not to do this, then there is a high probability your buyer pool gets reduced because the majority of the people out there looking for homes are using a realtor and the realtor will need to get paid for them to provide service to them. So if you do use a flat fee MLS listing service then there is a chance you will only save 3% in realtor fees as opposed to 6%. Although I used a flat fee MLS listing service, I actually found a buyer on my own and without the MLS. I did save 6% in realtor fees minus the flat fee cost because my buyer did not have a realtor. I do not regret listing my house on the MLS at all though because I was able to utilize the other services above to complete my transaction and not to mention, I had multiple offers on my house and only one of them was without a realtor, all the others were MLS buyers. The buyer without the realtor and who found my house not using the MLS is who I accepted the contract with.
4) Find a local Title Company Agency
- Here is another big step. Call a few local residential title companies in your area and ask them about the for sale by owner kit. Tell them you are selling your house without a realtor and would like for them to handle the transaction. Almost every single title company provides this service to for sale by owners and will facilitate the real estate transaction for you. They will handle all the paperwork, forms and disclosures needed after your house is under purchase contract and all the way up to the closing. Man! Talk about making life easy! They do all the hard work and at no additional costs then if you were to use a realtor to sell your house.
5) Prepare to have direct communication with the buyer to deal with negotiations.
- This was pretty much my only gripe about selling for sale by owner although it would never prevent me from selling a house this way again. Dealing with the buyer is a must and negotiations will need to occur with you and the buyer. The buyer will have your phone number and will be able to reach you at any time of the day and will most likely try to negotiate as much as possible with you so that the buyer can save some money. Here is where you need to put your professional business salesman hat on and stick to your guns. My buyer was constantly sending me texts and calling me about every little thing about the house. He wanted to view the house multiple times after having the house under contract and I had to negotiate with him before we went under purchase agreement as well as after the inspection he ordered for the house. It was a constant battle of having to stick to my guns and not go down in value for my purchase price. At the end of the day, I ended lowering the purchase price by $2000 because of some inspection issues that came up. It was sort of a pain dealing with my buyer for a whole month but after saving over $14k in fees, it was well worth it.
6) Cross your fingers and get to the closing date!
- The process of selling your home can be stressful and time-consuming but this is the case whether you sell your house for sale by owner or if you use a realtor. From the purchase contract, to the inspection, negotiations, to the appraisal then finally to the closing table can be an emotional roller coaster. If it all goes well then you will be very happy when you receive your fat check on any of the appreciation gains you have made from the sale of your home.
My Final Numbers, How much did I make by selling FSBO??
If you have read any of my net worth posts, then you would see that I had this primary home listed to be worth $250k and I owed $112k on it at the time I sold this house. My house went under contract in only 7 days from being listed on the MLS for $257,000 and closed with a final purchase price of $255,000. I had multiple offers as well as I noted above and chose the best option for me. After paying off my mortgage, MLS flat fee, and all the other fees from the title company I walked away with $136,497 profit! I owned that house for just under 3 years and because I lived in it as my primary residence, I do not have to pay a dime for taxes on those gains. Talk about amazing!!! If I would have used a realtors and paid the 6% commission fees, I would have only made $121,197. So after paying my flat fee listing of $1100, I saved a whopping $14,200 by selling FSBO. Pretty cool huh?
Great post, I love the detail! My brother recently sold his home FSBO and it worked well for him. It sat on the market for only two weeks and he got his asking price. While he may have left money on the table, not sure if it was enough to pay the extra realtor fees. I think he did pretty well on his transaction, just like you.
RE transaction cost are very prohibitive! I’ve owned my home four years now. We have no plans to move and I’d love to avoid selling it if that day comes. I may decide to turn it into a rental instead.
Thanks! Sounds like your brother did great! You know I thought about possibly making this house a rental also but the numbers didnt work out. I could make more passive income if I pulled that money out and bought rental properties in Indy. Not to mention, Austin is peaking right now so it feels good to cash out when its on top.
Nicely done! I have a few friends in the business, who’d love to list you home. 🙂 With a little bit of research and leg work I’d be happy to save 3-6%. We have no immediate plans to move, but good info to bank for the future.
That’s excellent. I don’t want to knock realtors too much and sometimes they might not bring as much value as they like to claim, especially if you have a good understanding of how the transaction works and know your housing market. It is not worth 6%! This is especially true when you live in a market that is pretty hot…houses almost sell themselves.
Ha yes definitely agree. If you have a good understanding of how the transaction works then there really isnt a point in spending so much money on a realtor when you can do it yourself. The problem is that most people just dont understand real estate in general so realtors are a necessity for sure.
Nice work! Thanks for the step-by-step on how you did it, too. I wondered how a FSBO seller might handle the forms and the title/transaction process. Makes sense that you would just buy the parts you need on an a-la-carte basis.
Negotiating for yourself is stressful, but I think it’s also kind of fun. It also tends to work out better without middlemen, so it’s great that you were able to do that directly with the buyer. I ended up negotiating a great deal when I bought my fourplex because I was acting as my own real estate agent, and could negotiate directly with the seller’s agent instead of through a middleman. There’s a lot you can pick up from the other guy’s tone and such if you’re dealing direct. Plus, you were already saving $14k on commissions, so even if you botched negotiations and left $5k on the table, you’d still be ahead.
Hey Yeti! A la carte can really come in handy for stuff like this, haha! It can really be a big advantage to negotiate yourself if you understand sales 101 and human psychology for sure and that is great you enjoy doing that. That is super cool you were able to negotiate a great deal on that fourplex. Congrats!
I had no idea that real estate commissions were so high.. My parents are looking to sell their place and I would hate 6% of their house value to go to realtors.. I just might do a ton more research to help their situation out! 14k is a lot of money but as always, sweat equity and putting in the work gets rewarded. Thanks for the post and going into a lot of detail on your selling process!
Oh man yes it really is crazy how much money goes to realtors and if you have the ability to help save your parents some money, I say go for it!
That’s awesome you were able to save this much money by avoiding a realtor. We will be moving into the house that we built this weekend and will have saved a good $60k by doing most the work ourselves.
$60k!!! Holy cow that is amazing. Pays off to be handy and a DIYer for sure. Good luck with the move.
You did an awesome job selling your house FSBO and explaining it here. We will be getting ready to marked our house next spring and we have talked about this, but we’re still not sure. Most FSBO’s we see in our area end up listed with a realtor – but I wonder if it is a price issue or ? This definitely worked out great for you!
Hi Vicki! I think a lot of times it depends on your local market. If the sales arent that great then it makes it a lot more difficult to sell FSBO. When you are in a hot market its no problem at all. You should definitely consider going FSBO at least to start and if it doesnt work out, do it the traditional way.
This is impressive! It’s amazing what information is readily available if you know how to google well. Congrats on saving yourself so much money on this sale.
Thanks ZJ! Appreciate it.
That’s some big savings! Did you estimate the time you spent doing this stuff yourself? Obviously you would still be very involved with a realtor making sure they do a good job, so perhaps it wasn’t too much of a difference. Your hourly rate on this is probably huge!
Hey Brian!! Huge savings for sure. Honestly I did not estimate how much time I spent buy my guess would be probably about 3 or 4 hours combined in about 10 to 40 minute intervals just depending on what I was doing. But yeah at an hourly rate it is pretty cool.
I guess NO to realtors then when we finally decide to sell our house.
Nothing wrong with that!! Save that money!
Thanks for the detail!
We’re planning to move East in the next year or two. We’ve discussed renting our condo, and may do that for a bit at least until Apple’s new campus is built just a stone’s throw away, but won’t want to be tied to California, long term.
Given the outrageous home prices in Silicon Valley, 6% of our place would be $50K-$70K. Given how hot the market is, it’s worth my taking the time to sell the place myself.
I’ve also heard of agents negotiating lower commissions. Did you considering publishing a lower buyer’s agent commission in your listing, e.g. 2% or have any experience with this?
Holy cow I cant imagine how much money those realtors are making out there. That is insane just from one sale! I think its a great idea to hold your condo as a rental until apples campus is up. That should drive value up!! You know I did not consider lowering the buyers agent commission to 2% but looking back, I should have included that in the listing. That is a good idea.
I’m an agent and from what I’ve heard about the Bay Area market is that no one pays 6% commissions. The home prices are so high with many $1,000,000+ that it is not necessary to pay that much in commission. The realtors there know that and normally take somewhere around 4-5%.
I like how the article stated both the good and bad when selling a home yourself. You can do it if you can stomach the process and lack an emotional attachment to the property. Some people start FSBO but get fed up with the process, but for realtors it’s just the day-to-day routine. If you can sell it yourself then great! I like to compare it to getting your oil changed in your car. Can you do it yourself? Yes, but not everyone wants to do it themselves. They would rather pay to have a company handle it.
That does make sense to me that the agents are willing to take a small cut in those super expensive areas. But wow even 2% on a 1 million dollar home is amazing. I agree, selling FSBO is not for everyone but its a viable option especially if you want to save some money.
Wow! Looks like you can really save a bunch of money doing a FSBO. Each time I drive around it seems like this is getting more popular. Thanks for sharing!
Great article, man! My wife and I sold one of our rental properties last summer, and I did a write-up about it very similar to yours. Personally, I think real estate agents are crooks and can’t be trusted. $14k just to sell an asset that you can do yourself (through the title company) is bonkers in my opinion.