Over the past decade, I’ve sold three houses without the help of a real estate agent. These included two vacation homes that we bought to upgrade the properties, as well as my dad’s house when he decided to move.
During the process, I learned a lot about how to maximize the chances of a successful sale for the best price. Here are four key lessons I learned from selling the homes myself.
1. Images matter a lot
The most important lesson I learned is that most people won’t come to view a property unless they have professional quality photos.
I tried to take pictures myself the first time I listed a place and got very little interest. I finally hired a professional photographer for a few hundred dollars and immediately got tons of other showings because the professional photos made the house so much more appealing.
Since everyone buys online first to find properties these days, good photos can make all the difference in finding the right buyer and getting a good price.
2. Your home must be on the MLS
Another major lesson I learned was that I had to put the house on multiple listing if I wanted it to be in front of the maximum number of people. MLS is used by real estate agents as well as most online home search websites as the ultimate database of properties for sale. If your home is not listed in the database, many potential buyers will never see it at all.
You need a real estate agent to list your home on MLS for you, but you can hire a flat rate agent to do this for a small fee. That’s what I ended up doing, and it was worth it. The downside was that I also had to offer the buyer’s agent a commission in order to list me on MLS, but since most people are represented by agents, I probably should have paid a commission of anyway, it was a necessary cost to incur.
3. Getting the price right the first time is crucial
I also learned that it is very important to establish a fair price for your home the first time it comes on the market. Although you can lower the price later, you won’t get the buzz of the new listing if you do. And when people see that a house has been on the market for a while before the price drops, it can either make them suspicious of what might be wrong or convince them that the seller is desperate and ‘they can come in with a lowball offer.
4. Always look for contingencies when evaluating offers
Finally, I discovered that it is really important to carefully consider the contingencies. When we received several offers, one of which included a possibility of financing and the other not, we finally decided to go with this last offer. This is because the first transaction could have failed after we took the house off the market had the buyers been unable to obtain a mortgage.
Some contingencies, or conditions of sale, are unavoidable, but the fewer preconditions listed in your contract, the more likely your home will close.
Ultimately, selling your home yourself can come with a lot of responsibility as well as savings on a realtor’s commission. I learned a lot in the process, and if you decide to sell on your own, you may need to be prepared to make mistakes that you will also learn from.
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