4 smart tips for selling your home yourself

Bankrate.comMay 11, 2014 

Mortgage rates are still relatively low, and qualified buyers are eager. Some owners are opting to take advantage of that enthusiasm by selling their home on their own and saving on real estate sales commissions.

With some work and creativity, you can make your for-sale-by-owner, or FSBO, listing stand out from the crowd. Keep in mind, however, that you may have to invest some money in the process. Whether you need to hire a professional whose craft will help your home shine, or spend advertising dollars to increase your reach, experts in the real estate industry say it's well worth it — and often, still cheaper than paying a real estate broker.

To get your FSBO noticed, be ready to embrace technology and expand your marketing strategies. These four tips will help you gain an edge over the competition.

Hire pros for your marketing materials. Liz Wellinghorst, president of public relations consulting firm W Communications LLC, and her husband, a lawyer, saved the standard 6 percent New Jersey Realtor fee on a home sale last summer. They listed their home in Ridgewood, N.J., a town outside New York City, to move quickly at $599,000.

Pricing a home right is an important first step in attracting buyers to your FSBO.

By visiting comparable homes, pulling public records on recent sales, and doing research on the Internet, sellers can get guidance on setting the listing price.

The Wellinghorsts also realized they needed professional pictures.

"Photos are a major selling tool," she said.

Even brokers opt to hire professionals. "While I as a broker have a special wide-angle, high-performance, low-light camera and years of experience taking good photos, I often pay for a professional photographer with higher-end equipment and professional lighting to photograph a home," said Bruce Ailion, associate broker with ReMax Greater Atlanta.

Wellinghorst created a mock-up brochure for her house, but hired a graphic artist to lay out final copy and print out color brochures. "Your marketing brochure has to look professional. Make sure all of your copy is clear, accurate and lists all features of the house," she said.

Expand your reach through social media. "Home sellers need to use social media because it's the place where relevant, current and hot information is posted," said Stephen Knuth, founder of Remix Design & Media in Nashville, Tenn. "People keep an eye out for what they want on social media."

Knuth advises sellers to use Pinterest, a content-sharing website where users can create "boards" and "pin" or save their favorites, from recipes and art to gift ideas and wish lists. Sellers can use the site to "pin" their FSBO so that users can find it, like it and pin it to their boards, too. "It creates visibility," he said.

For fans of Instagram, Knuth said, sellers can post an image of their home and use hashtags, usually key words preceded by a # symbol, to spread the word. Hashtags are searchable words found through search features within social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Sellers may want to tag a few friends and use hashtags that include keywords such as #homeforsale as well as the city, state and subdivision.

You can also utilize Facebook. "You can boost a post through Facebook's advertising platform, which is a very cost-effective way of promoting a listing to thousands of people," said Philip Lang, co-founder of Suitey, a New York City-based real estate brokerage.

Use the web to develop leads. Listing your FSBO on major sites and creating a website can help you reach more prospective buyers.

"Over 70 percent of potential buyers start looking on the Internet, so our way was to convey everything possible on the Internet and rely less on the MLS, other brokers or agents," said Richard L. Houston, owner of the American Business Exchange, a directory of websites on a variety of subjects. He has successfully sold six FSBOs.

"Because of our experience operating a couple of websites, I established a domain using our street address, 956KnickerbockerRd.com, before we even decided to list our estate for sale," he said of his most recent sale in Colorado.

Many website developers will do a simple website for about $500. In Houston's case, his only cost was registering the domain name for $35 because he already had the software to create a website.

Using relevant keywords in your home's description also helps buyers find your FSBO in Web searches. You can get multiple options for keyword help by searching online for "free keyword tool." These tools allow you to test and determine the best keywords for your listing.

Create videos. Video is important because most people are connected to a device nearly all the time. Creating a video and uploading it to YouTube is a great way to reach potential buyers who will take the time to watch videos of the home they are researching, Knuth said.

"Introduce yourself as the owner, talk about why you love the home, showcase key features of the home and answer some questions people might ask," he said.

If you want higher quality, search the Web for "home tour video company" to find businesses near you that can create a professional-looking video tour.

Make the title catchy and include relevant keywords such as the location, special amenities or other highlights so that buyers can find it in a Web search. Link the video to social media and any websites where you're advertising your FSBO.

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