Yes, you read that right–when we set out to sell our house FSBO, we thought it would be something we tried for a week or two while we moved to our new home, then get serious and hire a realtor once we settled in. Little did we know that almost as soon as we put our listing up, we were taking it back down–writing SOLD on the sign!
I would say the question we have been asked most since we moved is how we sold our house so quickly. While a lot of it boils down to being very blessed/lucky, there are certainly many steps we took to give our home the best chance we could.
To clarify, we aren’t talking about some luxury home in a desirable school district for a steal–this is our humble, 1,000 square-foot, 1939 cape-code style home. It sold in a very transient neighborhood, without a desirable school district, in February, and it was in far from perfect condition. We even sold it for much more than we thought we would be able to!
So what sort of voodoo magic did we work?
The truth is, there are some basic steps we took that anyone can apply to any house. If you are willing to put the work in (it’s not as much as you might think!) you will find it is well worth it. Wanna learn how to sell a house FSBO? Let’s get to it:
1) Stage Your Home to Sell
You’ve probably seen this advice if you’ve done any research at all, but its still the number one thing people fail to do. I think the reason it’s so hard is because you need to stop thinking like yourself and start thinking like your buyer. So how did I “stage” my home? In all areas, it’s best to think like a minimalist. Here are the three things you absolutely need to do:
- Remove 50% of your furniture. Research shows that homes without furniture don’t sell as well as those with furniture. Research also shows that homes with minimal furniture sell better than homes with all their furniture. Since I consider myself a minimalist anyway, I technically cheated and only removed about 25% of my furniture. Think of it like this: only include furniture absolutely necessary to the function of the room. It doesn’t matter how much you love that extra hutch in the dining room or 4th chair in the living room, if you can strip down to the basics, you will reap the rewards.
- Remove “You” from the house. No one wants to see your photos, your dog, your kids or kids toys when they are house-shopping. I know you are proud of them, but they are deal-killers. So are those happy family pictures you have hanging up. It makes people uncomfortable, like they are in your house, and we want to give them as much opportunity to picture themselves in the house. You can leave a few well-placed wall hangings so the walls don’t look stark, but only if you promise not to overdo it. Oh, and no one wants to smell you either, so light a candle already. Tough love? I promise, when you are rolling in the money from you’re house sale, you’ll thank me.
- Remove your style. Unless you have minimalist style–then ignore this one. If your walls are white or neutral, you are in great shape. If your walls are hunter green, bright pink, or have wall-paper boarders on them, you might consider a quick paint job. I know you are rocking those lime green walls in your kitchen (been there, done that, would totally do it again) but your future home owners just don’t get you like I do. Make the walls white. Do it now.
2) Take the Best Photos Possible
There is no need to go out and buy a DSLR camera if all you have is a point-and-shoot. I promise if you follow some basic tips, you won’t need a professional photographer, either.
- Photograph on a sunny day. Early morning is best for a soft light. If you have photography skills and editing software, go wild and do your thing on a cloudy day, but us non-pros need to wait for nature’s opportune moment.
- Get as much in the photo as you can. You want your home to look spacious, so get the widest shot you can. This might mean standing on chairs or opening a window and shooting from the outside (true story) but you need to get as much of the room in the photo at the same time.
- Show multiple angles. Photograph key rooms from different sides to show everything. Try to work your way through the house the way you would walk through it, so that people looking online can get a feel for the layout.
- Edit your photos. If you have any computer skills at all, you will have no trouble using picmonkey.com to edit your photos. You can upload them and bump up the brightness on your already sunny pics. I would leave the rest alone, unless you know what you’re doing. Editing is optional, but sooooo worth it if you can do it!
3) List It Like A Pro
Now that you’ve staged and photographed, the hard part is over, I promise! Let’s not let all that hard work go to waste. You will want to get your listing in front of as many people as possible, and the internet makes that downright foolproof. To start with:
- Choose popular websites. We listed on Zillow, and only on Zillow. It is free, and it was all we needed. However, there may be some sites unique to your area that it might be worth your while to post on. I would stick with Zillow for starters, as it is the one everyone uses.
- Write a compelling description. I could spend a lot of time telling you what words sell “charming, beautiful, landscaped, fixer upper” and what not to say “motivated seller, move in ready, value, etc” but that gets convoluted really quickly. Here is exactly what I wrote to sell our house. (To protect the innocent, I changed our city name to *Town.)
“Come see this charming, 1930’s Cape Cod just two blocks from the *Town’s Bike Trail. This cozy, 2 bedroom, 1,100 sq ft home boasts an open floor plan and beautiful arched doorways. Features completely updated bathroom, flooring, and newly finished basement. Spend your summers relaxing on the enclosed porch with a great view of the large (almost half acre) lot. Brand new concrete patio and driveway. Includes all appliances! A quiet, friendly neighborhood in the *Town’s School District.”
This is actually very formulaic, and if we break it down, you can actually use my listing description as your very own, mad-libs style! Just add in your own words in the bold italicized places.
“Come see this positive adjective, year and style of house just distance from local spectacle (school, park etc). This adjective, bedroom# and square footage home boasts an insert positive attribute of your home. Features completely updated list of improvements you have made. Spend your time relaxing highlight unique, cozy spot in your home or yard with view. Brand new list anything that is completely new or other exciting features. Includes list of extras that come with your house–appliances, pool, playhouse etc. A adjective neighborhood in the name of school district.
I really hope that made sense and didn’t confuse anyone! Of course, you don’t have to do word for word what I said, but this is a great formula to customize and plug in to your own home’s listing. It seems simple and short–deceptively so–because we don’t want to overwhelm people, we want to hit all the highlights in a succinct way that makes it impossible for potential buyers to ignore your listing!
Okay guys, that is seriously it. This is how to sell a house FSBO in three steps. Remember: Staging, photography, and listing description. If you can nail those three things right out of the gate, you might just be amazed at how quickly your house disappears off the market.