Historically, most homeowners have chosen to work with a real estate agent to get their home listed and sold – but in the digital era, there are countless resources available to those who wish to fly solo. The "for sale by owner" approach, or FSBO, has never been more accessible.
The primary benefits of selling a home without an agent are probably quite clear. You don’t have to pay commissions, which means you keep all of the profit. You have more control over how to sell the place. You can do things on your own terms and on your own time.
However, that doesn’t mean FSBO is the best option for everyone. Some people are more qualified to handle it than others.
Before you decide to go the FSBO route, there are three key questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have a flexible schedule?
- Can you identify and handle potential home renovations?
- Are you willing to learn?
Your answers to these questions will determine whether you’re ready to tackle the home selling process on your own, or whether you should consider seeking out a professional agent for help.
Do You Have Some Spare Time? A Flexible Schedule?
The first factor to think about is the amount of time it takes you to handle an FSBO transaction. When you’re selling a house without a real estate agent, it means everything is on your shoulders. Specifically:
- You need to price the house accurately.
- You need to take photos, create a listing and market it aggressively.
- You need to be available to do open houses and showings.
- You need to handle offers and negotiations.
All of this can be time-consuming. What’s more, it requires flexibility. If you really want to get the place sold, it’s important to accept any requests for showings, even if they’re last-minute or during the middle of the day.
Also note that handling offers and counteroffers typically comes with some time sensitivity. If somebody puts in a bid, it’s important to get back to them within a day or so, not wait a week.
The FSBO route is best for those who have flexibility to handle these diverse requirements. If you have a jam-packed schedule without a lot of wiggle room, this may not be the option for you.
Are You Handy?
One of the primary roles that an agent plays is appraising your home, spotting issues that need to be updated and repaired and advising you on what steps to take to ensure the house is listing-ready.
The question is, are you a handy enough person that you can assess your home, identify some problem areas and either make the needed fixes or ensure that a contractor makes them and does a thorough job?
This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it can certainly make your FSBO experience go a little more smoothly.
Are You Willing to Learn?
Selling a home without the help of an agent may require you to learn some new skills. For example, do you know how to properly price a listing? Failure to do so can compromise your entire sale. Are you comfortable asking prospective buyers for preapproval letters from their mortgage company? And once you receive them, do you know what you’re looking at? Making sure you’re prepared to address these details is essential to handling the home selling process on your own.
On a related note, you may also need to brush up on some legalities or consider hiring an attorney to help you with the negotiations and paperwork. Even if you’ve sold a home before, the laws and regulations around home sales may change from year to year, so you will either need to refamiliarize yourself with your state’s laws or hire an agent to take care of this part.
There’s a lot to take in and absorb, and plenty of resources available – but it’s important to do the reading and make sure you’re knowledgeable about all aspects of the home sale.
Get the right energy to sell.
Whether it takes a kitchen cabinet update or extensive home staging, a little extra work from a home seller can go a long way toward attracting more buyers who are willing to put up more money. The secret to optimally staging your home may be what you least expect: the art of feng shui. The ancient Chinese practice meant to bring balance and harmony with the natural world indoors isn’t just about properly aligning energy – or chi – but it can ensure you’re not accidentally turning off buyers. A 2015 Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and Asian Real Estate Association America survey of more than 500 Chinese-Americans found 86 percent of respondents plan to factor in feng shui for future homebuying decisions. To avoid unintentionally sending a fair share of potential homebuyers away from your property, it’s important to consider the basics of feng shui as you prepare your home for the market.Get familiar with the bagua map.
Get familiar with the bagua map.
A key concept of feng shui is use of the bagua map, which assigns energies and purpose to various parts of the house. These include career, knowledge and cultivation, family health, wealth, fame and reputation, relationships, children and creativity, and helpful people and travel. To determine which part of the house is suited to each focus, there are two schools of thought: the classic compass bagua, which uses a magnetic compass and assigns a direction to each focus, and the three-door gate of chi bagua, which places the entry to the home in either knowledge and cultivation, career or helpful people and travel sectors.Use the bagua to encourage a good deal.
Use the bagua to encourage a good deal.
Depending on the school of thought you prefer, you can play up certain colors, materials and themes to help provide the right energy for each space. Focusing on certain areas you’d like to improve in your life – or your home – can help you achieve your goals. “When you’re selling, focus on the helpful people sector – those are the people that are going to buy your house,” says Jennifer A. Emmer, a feng shui master and interior designer, and owner of Feng Shui Style, a company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The helpful people sector is a good place to express gratitude for the people and things that have helped you succeed in life through art or photos, as well as playing up the use of metal and silver or gray colors, per the bagua recommendations.Make the front door appealing.
Make the front door appealing.
Regardless of where your house’s entrance may fall on the bagua map, you want to focus on curb appeal to attract buyers. Feng shui calls for a clear path to the entrance, a well-lit front door and an easily identifiable home – so make sure it’s easy to read the house number from the street. Flowers and plants are always a welcome addition, but they should be healthy. Dead plants on the front step should be removed. “It may seem obvious, but people do overlook them,” Emmer says.Keep the windows clean.
Keep the windows clean.
Cleaning is a must when it comes to preparing your home for market, but it may be a good idea to place an emphasis on clean windows. Carol Olmstead, owner of Feng Shui for Real Life and author of “Feng Shui Quick Guide for Home and Office: Secrets for Attracting Wealth, Harmony and Love,” explains that feng shui considers windows the eyes to the home, and dirty windows can make your goals for the home difficult to envision. “If you have clear windows, you have a clear vision of what’s going to happen with this house,” she says.Put a table in the entryway.
Put a table in the entryway.
Just past the front door, the entryway to the home is also important. Renae Jensen, founder of the Conscious Design Institute, says the entryway is the space where a visitor steps from a public space to a private one, so it’s important to ensure that transition is positive. She recommends placing a small side table beside of the door: “It’s important that there’s a small table there – it’s called a compassion area. It shows that you’re a compassionate person, and it allows the person to pause.” It's also a good place for your real estate agent to leave business cards, Jensen notes.Strategically place mirrors throughout the home.
Strategically place mirrors throughout the home.
Mirrors hold a lot of power in feng shui because they reflect energy, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what they capture. “Watch what your mirror is reflecting,” Jensen says. “If it’s reflecting clutter or garbage, it’s going to double it.” But when placed in the proper spot, a mirror can help harness the energy of the space and increase it positively. Emmer says she previously helped stage a home featured on an episode of HGTV's "Flip It to Win It," where the master bedroom was in the wealth sector of the bagua map – a part of the home that, when focused on, can help encourage your personal wealth. At Emmer's suggestion, the property owners used the reds, blues and purples that are best for that section, and she placed an octagonal mirror – a powerful shape in feng shui, as it’s the shape of the classic bagua map – above the bed. Emmer says the home sold for almost 40 percent over asking price.Use color according to a room's bagua alignment.
Use color according to a room's bagua alignment.
As with the wealth section, there are colors that best play into each part of the bagua map. If you’re looking to add a fresh coat of paint to the interior parts of your home, you may as well play off the recommendations that best harness the chi in each space. “Paint the front door an appropriate color based on the sector,” Emmer recommends. For example, a front door in the career section of the home could be best improved if painted blue or black, while a room in the love and relationships section can become a shade of red, white or pink.Declutter your home.
Declutter your home.
Regardless of whether you want to embrace feng shui, you should declutter your home before displaying it for potential buyers – and the reason is the same both in and out of the design practice. “Clutter is about procrastination [and] depression. It will show you are blocking life, and it will … make people feel overwhelmed,” Jensen says. Plus, no one can decide whether they like a room if it’s stuffed with furniture and feels small.Depersonalize the space.
Depersonalize the space.
Like decluttering, it’s important to remove images of yourself, your family and your friends. These photos not only make it hard for a buyer to picture himself or herself in the home, they also give off an energy that you’re not ready to leave yet, Jensen says. Packing up those photos and other mementos that hold a lot of personal value but aren’t important for staging “allows the seller to make a physical, emotional move,” she says.Pack a few boxes.
Pack a few boxes.
Since you’re already packing up some of your more personal pieces of décor, you should also take a few items that help symbolize to you that you’re ready to move on to a new home. Olmstead tells her clients to pack five of their prized possessions in boxes to “show they are ready and willing to go.” It not only helps you prepare to start new elsewhere, but when potential buyers see a few boxes off to the side or in the garage, they can sense you’re ready to go and the house is ready for new memories.Incorporate images of nature.
Incorporate images of nature.
When it comes to displaying art in the home, Jensen recommends images of nature because they often appeal to everyone. She recalls working with a senior living facility that had artwork throughout the property featuring women on their own. “I told them, ‘One of an older adult’s fears is being alone, and you have single pictures [showing that] all over,’” she says. Colorful images of trees or flowers are far more likely to help incorporate cheer rather than play into someone’s subconscious fears.Bring in fresh plants and flowers.
Bring in fresh plants and flowers.
Flowers and a houseplant or two can be solid additions to any staged room. Plus, by bringing nature indoors, you’re creating the balance you’re looking for. “It’s important to see something alive in the house,” Emmer says. It also hearkens back to the primary goal of feng shui: to harness the balance we get in the natural world and achieve that same feeling indoors. As Olmstead explains: “Feng shui principles give us a way of making our indoor flow, and make it feel the way we feel when we’re outdoors.”Keep scent in mind.
Keep scent in mind.
No one wants to walk into a house and smell garbage, stale air or an overwhelming chemical scent. A person’s sense of smell is also important in harnessing a positive energy with feng shui. “Smell is almost more powerful than visual,” Jensen says. Fresh flowers and plants can certainly help, as well as scented candles and general cleanliness. You want your house to both look and smell inviting.Don't block a room's pathways with furniture.
Don't block a room's pathways with furniture.
Promoting the right energy in a space also comes from allowing it to flow freely around the room, so don’t block natural pathways in your home with furniture. Jensen particularly notes that seeing the back of a couch when a person walks in the room gives a closed-off feeling that can turn off potential buyers. “It’s like the house is saying, ‘I really don’t want you here,’” she says.Know when you've got bad feng shui.
Know when you've got bad feng shui.
There are some things about a house that just doesn’t give off a good energy that followers of feng shui will likely notice. A property that stands at the end of a T intersection, for example, has too much energy pushed toward it all the time. An irregularly shaped lot can also be problematic, Emmer says: “A triangular plot represents fire,” which can make it difficult for those inside the house to feel positive energy. While those features may serve as red flags to devout feng shui fans, you can use the principles of feng shui to repair the problems and appeal to other buyers with the right focus and energy.Read More
Haas’ team advises homebuyers and sellers on how to make the most of their experience by connecting them with the optimal agent partner for their needs. With over 10 years of experience in the real estate industry, including previous roles at Zillow and Auction.com, Haas is an expert on the ins and outs of home sales.