Selling your home in Massachusetts can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By taking the “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO) route, you can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars on real estate agent commissions and have more control over the selling process. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the steps to successfully sell your home by owner in Massachusetts as a Massachusetts Realtor® that sells homes for a living.
The purpose of me writing this is two-fold: obviously I’m a Realtor® & I get paid when someone hires me to sell their home. My goal here is to give you the tools necessary successfully sell your home on your own & for those that decide listing by owner is not a fit for them, then I would love the opportunity to work with you!
Table of Contents
- Understanding the FSBO Market
- Preparing Your Home for Sale
- Marketing Your Home
- Negotiating and Closing the Deal
- Frequently Asked Questions
Understanding the FSBO Market
The Rise of FSBO Sales
The FSBO market is on the rise across the United States, and Massachusetts is no exception. As homeowners seek to maximize their profits and minimize costs, the FSBO approach has gained popularity.
Considering real estate commissions are based on a percentage of the sale price & home values have soared over the past 10+ years, most sellers can expect to pay out fairly hefty commissions sometimes relative to the work involved. I say this as a full-time Realtor®, of course it will vary from property to property & situation to situation.
Pros and Cons of FSBO
Before you jump into selling your home as an FSBO, it’s essential to understand the advantages and disadvantages. We’ll explore the benefits of cutting out real estate agents, as well as the potential challenges you may face.
- No listing agent commission! (+/- 3% of sale price)
- Complete control of marketing, showings, & presentation
- Direct lines of communication with buyers for feedback & negotiating
- Takes substantial time and effort to manage sale
- Requires reasonable knowledge of MA Real Estate Laws, Contracts, and Processes
- May have smaller pool of buyers as most buyers work with Realtors
- Might still have to pay buyer’s agent commission (+/- 2-3%)
- Will have to cover marketing expenses out of pocket
- Will get prospected & cold called by several real estate agents trying to win your listing
I understand that I have more cons than pros here, but I’m hoping this guide will help you mitigate those cons & delete a few with a few different tips and strategies.
Preparing Your Home for Sale
Setting the Right Price
Pricing your home correctly is crucial. I’ll guide you through the process of determining a competitive and attractive selling price.
Search Comparable Properties
Search for properties that have recently sold nearby in the same town, ideally the same neighborhood or part of town. You’ll want to look at these properties and compare them with yours.
First look at things like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the square footage, lot size, style of the home. That should start to give you a general idea on price, then you’ll want to narrow down further comparing the condition, any special features (garage, swimming pool, etc), year built, and maybe the age of the systems/roof or any major upgrades.
Assess Current Market
After looking at what’s sold & you have a general idea on the correct price range for your home, look at what’s currently available for that amount. If you listed today, what other homes are you competing against? Maybe the recently sold homes suggest that your home is worth around $625,000, but then you find there’s two others just like your home currently for sale at $600,000 and not selling- this will tell you that maybe you need to be a little lower.
Aside from looking at what’s currently available, try and see if you can find out how long your recently sold comparable properties took to sell. If they all received offers within a week, then you know demand for that type and price home in that area is very strong! If they all took between 30 and 60 days, then it’s less strong but now you know where to set your expectations!
Determine Your Price
Once you’ve looked at recent sales and the current state of the market, you should have an idea on what your home is worth (Ideally you should have a range on where you’d expect it to sell for). Where you list in that range will ultimately depend on the current market condition, the better the market, the higher you can start!
Price Negotiation tip: Remember your list price can always go down through a price drop, but not up. If you list at a certain price and increase by $10,000, you’ve already shown your hand and most buyers will see through it
Home Staging and Repairs
Learn how to make your home stand out by staging it effectively and addressing any necessary repairs or improvements.
Most sellers want to do as little as possible prior to selling, which is understandable, but not always the best decision. Definitely stay away from doing any major renovations just to sell (assuming this isn’t a flip), but certainly consider painting the interior and exterior as needed. Also consider hiring a professional pressure washing company for cleaning the roof, siding, any deck or patio space.
Be sure to de-clutter inside and de-personalize as much as possible. Your goal here is to make your home as neutral as possible so potential buyers can envision themselves living there. We want to appeal to the masses versus a select few.
Depending on your furniture, hiring a staging company to stage the home can pay off massively. If your furniture shows well, they can often just reposition it, strategically decorate and your home will look like it’s out of a Crate & Barrel magazine in no time. Initial consultations are usually a couple hundred dollars & staging can get up to a few thousand if you want them to bring furniture in.
(Just remember that by creating the ultimate presentation, you’ll likely bring in much more proceeds than the cost upfront when you sell! Would you spend $3,000 now if it meant an extra $15,000 at closing? Of course..)
Marketing Your Home
Creating an Online Presence
In today’s digital age, online marketing is essential. We’ll discuss the importance of creating an online listing and how to make it stand out.
If there’s one section that will put you above every other for sale by owner listing, it’s this right here. Your online presence in todays market will be the difference maker. Done correctly, your listing may show better than many done by real estate agents.
This is also where I see so many for sale by owners go wrong & not get the traffic that their listing likely deserves. A home can be priced correctly or even below market value, but if nobody sees it, it simply won’t sell…
Please don’t use your smart phone to take pictures of your home! This is a big transaction if it’s $200,000 let alone $1M+… The pictures will be the first impression, spend a few hundred dollars to get professionally shot pictures, trust me! First impressions are always the most important because if they’re not good, they’re also the last impressions.
A professional photographer knows how to get the lighting and angles just right. This expense is well worth it & you can thank me later!
Zillow For Sale By Owner
One of the most common ways to sell by owner is on Zillow. You can do it all directly on their website and it’s completely free. Your home will be posted on Zillow along with your phone number for people to reach out and arrange showings. (I recommend setting up a temporary phone number with Google Voice or a second phone number app)
Zillow does have a large audience & the biggest overall for an individual real estate website; however, buyers looking on Zillow are a relatively small percentage of all homebuyers. Many people may prefer Redfin or Realtor.com. Or they may receive listings from their Realtor directly off of MLS. Only people that use Zillow will see your listing – which we solve with the next point.
MLS Entry Only*
This right here is the ultimate cheat code to selling your home by owner! There are several companies that will charge you anywhere from $100 to $1,000 to list your home on MLS (Multiple Listing Service).
What this does is gets your home onto all of the major websites: Zillow, Redfin, Realtor, and all of the small websites that also show listings (Think local brokerage websites). This is essentially like listing with an agent, but you’re still the one in control of the listing and managing all of the showings and negotiations.
If you go this route, plan on having to pay a buyer’s agent commission (~2%) as it will be mostly Realtors bringing you buyers. If you don’t offer one, they may not send their clients or they may just write it into their offer.
This also eliminates real estate agents cold calling you for your listing as technically speaking, you’re under an exclusive right to sell contract with the entry only company.
Traditional Marketing Methods
In addition to the online presence, let’s explore some of the additional marketing you can do to maximize your listings exposure.
Yard For Sale Sign
Putting a “For Sale” sign in the yard is what makes it official! Get one that’s a decent size, looks decent, and legibly include your phone number. Remember most people will just be driving by so try to avoid any small print or a sign that’s hard to tell what it’s saying.
The effectiveness will depend on how busy the street you live on is. If you live an the end of a Cul-de-sac, it wont be very effective & you may want to put one at the end of the street as well with arrows.
Once your listing is posted, you’ll want to host open houses on the weekends to get buyers through while they’re already out looking at other houses! Consider some additional signage and balloons in case anyone is driving by that hadn’t seen the listing online.
Typically, open houses run for about two hours. Make sure you have anyone that comes through sign in with their contact info so you can follow up with them for feedback or to see if they’ll want to submit an offer.
It’s also smart to print out any flyers or listing sheets with all of the homes information and of course your contact information so people have something after they leave to take with them.
Advertisements in Newspaper & Online
If you’re having a couple of open houses, you may want to run an ad in the newspaper to let people know! There’s a way for you to add in open house times on both MLS and Zillow so be sure to do these as soon as possible so people can put it on their calendar before anything else comes up!
Be sure to post online and on social media to also advertise your listing and open houses. Even if your friends aren’t looking to buy, they may know someone so just make sure it’s shareable!
Negotiating and Closing the Deal
Handling Offers and Negotiations
You’ve received an offer – now what? We’ll guide you through the negotiation process and how to evaluate and respond to offers.
Read The Terms, Consult an attorney if necessary
The first step after receiving an offer (a written contract to purchase not a verbal offer) is to review all of the terms. Of course your eyes will want to jump to the purchase price, but don’t neglect to read the other terms. Is there a home inspection? When must it be done by? How soon is the Purchase and Sale? How large are the first and second earnest money deposits? Is the offer contingent upon receiving financing? If so, who’s the lender, are they pre-approved? When is the closing date? Are there additional terms?
These are the questions you should be asking yourself when looking at the offer. Carefully read through this and any other supporting documents.
Reply to the Offer: Accept, Reject, or Counter
Make sure you know the duration of the offer so you know when you have to respond by. You have three options: you can accept if everything looks good, you can reject the offer if the buyer is simply too far away and unwilling to meet your desired terms, or you can counter the original offer with your desired price and/or terms.
Closing the Sale
The final steps, including the legal aspects and closing procedures, are crucial. We’ll provide a step-by-step guide to ensure a smooth closing.
Determine Escrow Agent
Likely your attorney will be the best option to hold the earnest money deposits in an escrow account until closing. If there’s a buyer’s agent involved, their brokerage (assuming they’re a reputable company) will also be a reasonable choice.
Purchase and Sale
This is where any terms from the contract to purchase will be finalized along with any additional wording on how the home will be delivered, the closing, and any items that will or won’t be included in the sale.
Title V & Smoke/CO Certificate
As the seller, you’ll be responsible for getting your septic system inspected and repaired/replaced if necessary.(If applicable). Ideally do this before selling as a title V inspection is good for two years.
You’ll also have to schedule a smoke detector and CO alarm inspection with the local fire department. This can take a few weeks so definitely schedule in advance!
Once all of that is taken care of, the buyer has their financing clear to close, it will be time to close and for you to receive your funds!
Selling your home in Massachusetts as an FSBO can be a rewarding experience when done right. By understanding the market, preparing your home effectively, and employing smart marketing strategies, you can successfully navigate the process. Remember, you are not alone; there are resources and professionals available to assist you.
Connect with a Local Realtor®
Frequently Asked Questions
Is selling my home as an FSBO the right choice for me?
Selling your home as an FSBO can be a great choice if you have the time and resources to manage the process effectively. It allows you to save on real estate agent commissions, but it also requires a significant amount of effort and knowledge.
How can I determine the right selling price for my home?
To determine the right selling price, you should research the local real estate market, consider recent sales of similar properties, and take into account the condition of your home. It’s also a good idea to get a professional appraisal.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when selling as an FSBO?
Common mistakes include overpricing your home, inadequate marketing, neglecting necessary repairs, and ineffective negotiation. This guide can help you avoid these pitfalls.
Can I use a real estate attorney to help with the legal aspects of the sale?
Yes, many FSBO sellers choose to work with a real estate attorney to handle legal aspects such as contracts and closing procedures. It can provide peace of mind and ensure a smooth transaction.
Where can I find resources and tools to help me in the FSBO process?
You can find various online platforms and resources designed for FSBO sellers. Additionally, you can seek guidance from local real estate experts and professionals who specialize in assisting FSBO sellers.