How to Sell a House by Owner Washington
When the time comes to buy or sell a house, most people on both sides of real estate transaction depend on Washington real estate agents to connect them with each other.
But what if you're one of those independent homeowners who love figuring things out on your own? Is it possible to do away with agents (and thus, avoid paying their fees) entirely and take the driver's seat on the process?
We're here to tell you it's totally possible: choose to list For Sale by Owner.
Although the nationwide seller's market seem to be cooling, Washington home prices are still on the rise so it's incredibly tempting to cash in your investment and maximize your profits as much as possible.
In this guide, we're going provide you a walkthrough of this selling method and give you a rundown of things you must be prepared for in going down this path.
What Is For Sale by Owner?
For Sale by Owner, or more commonly known as FSBO (pronounced "fizz bow") is a term in real estate used to indicate a property that is listed by its current owner. This means there is no Washington real estate agent or listing agent involved in the seller side.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), FSBO homes sold accounted for 7% of recent sales nationwide.
Why Choose to Sell a House by Owner in Washington?
The primary motivation of selling FSBO is financial. The more people involved in a real estate transaction means you have to shell out more money in fees and commissions, and, as these are typically calculated as percentages of the sales price, the dent in your profits can be significant.
To illustrate: the median sales price in the United States as of September 2022 is $470,600. That means you'll need to pay 5-6% of the sale price split between the listing agent and the buyer's agent, which could easily be $23,500-$28,200 in agent commissions! Who wouldn't want to avoid paying these and walk away with more money from the sale?
Another reason for selling a Washington house by owner is the potential of a fast sale. Homes that are for sale by owner spend a median of 1 week in the market, in contrast to 3 weeks for agent assisted sales. FSBO listings can even sell faster if the buyer is known to the seller, such as a friend or a relative.
However, deciding to be an FSBO seller is also deciding to devote plenty of time into learning the ins and outs of a real estate transaction. There is a great deal of paperwork you need to accomplish, and doing it without professional help from Washington real estate professionals can be overwhelming. Additionally, in choosing to sell your own house, you assume all the risks that come with it, with no benefit of professional oversight that can spot errors early on.
What Are the Steps Involved in Selling a House by Owner in Washington?
Arrange a Home Inspection
Before you sell a house, it is imperative that you know exactly what's going on with your property. You don't want to pass on a problematic house to a new owner and be liable for damages later on. Additionally, there's no one stopping potential Washington buyers from arranging their own inspections, and if they uncover a problem, that would be akin to handing them a powerful tool in the negotiating table.
A few hundred dollars spent on an inspection allows you to get ahead of possible problems. The inspection would alert you to the presence of mold, termites, or asbestos--in which case, you can choose to address them yourself or disclose it to the buyer so they can fix it themselves, preventing headaches for you down the line.
Prepare the House-- Both Interior and Exterior
When selling a house by owner, or even with an agent, you'd need the house to at least be presentable.
Most first time home buyers look for houses that are move-in ready, so it would increase your chances of getting fair offers if you get ahead of simple maintenance works such as: replacing broken doorknobs and handles; fixing leaky faucets; and changing lightbulbs.
Doing so communicates to your Washington buyer that you pay attention to the little details and that they're buying a home that has been well taken cared of.
If you want to go above and beyond the minimum and are looking to sell your home for top dollar, you can opt for:
Replacing your garage door: Not only does it return 93% on the amount invested, it can improve the vibe of your façade, increase your curb appeal, and make it stand out from the competition.
Refinishing your hardwood floors: With an astonishing 80% return, it has the effect of making your home look and feel like new!
Remodeling your kitchen: The kitchen is the heart of the home--it is where the household gets their nourishment to power them up for the day. During an open house, the kitchen is where potential buyers will naturally be drawn to. As for ROI, it has a decent return of about 60%.
Updating your windows: Your windows are typically where water makes its way into your home, leading to a host of other problems such as rot, decay, or in extreme cases, mold. If they appear warped or discolored, it may be time to replace them. Fret not, because this investment returns approximately 80% of its value, and also gives your buyer the peace of mind.
Adding a fresh coat of paint: A simple change in color can deliver a massive impact in a room's overall look and feel. For instance, lighter shades such as whites, subtle grays, and creams can make a room feel larger. Browns and earth tones can lend a warm and rustic vibe. Teals and shades of green are cool and fresh for the eyes. In any case, you can never go wrong with repainting before you put your home up for sale.
Any of these upgrades can go a long way in impressing prospective buyers and buyers agents so they'd likely offer more money for your Washington home!
Want to boost your curb appeal? Here you have plenty of options:
- Add stone veneers to your façade
- Make your front door pop by painting it a vibrant hue
- Do some basic landscaping and yard work
- Power wash all the accumulated dirt and grime on your sidings, walkway, and driveway
- Replace your main door's hardware for a noticeable enhancement (e.g. change into smart locks)
You can hire professionals such as renovation contractors, cleaning companies, and staging companies to attract more buyers and hopefully close the sale.
Alternatively, you can just tap into your own sweat equity. You don't even have to spend much, you just need to be strategic on where you spend your money to be able to extract the most bang for your buck.
If the budget is a bit tight, you can simply clean up and declutter. Stash those family photos and other personal stuff in boxes. Move them into a storage unit, so when potential buyers and Washington buyers agents come for the showing, they'd be able to properly visualize how they're going to live in your space.
Your home certainly isn't lacking in beauty. What it needs is a little help in making those beautiful elements stand out so that it'd look its best.
Be willing to do the research necessary to determine your home's sale price
A home's listing price, also known as asking price, is usually different from its actual Washington selling price. The purpose of a listing price is to entice prospective buyers to viewing your listing, therefore you must price it competitively. In order to do that, you can...
Do your own comparative market analysis in Washington
It is the market that ultimately determines how much your house is going to be sold for. No matter how many real estate websites you visit to try and estimate the value of your home, nothing beats doing a comparative market analysis, or CMA, as it is known in real estate circles.
A CMA involves looking at recently sold comparable properties, or "comps" in your neighborhood in order to set a listing price. Comps are properties of the same type (duplex, townhouse, single-family) with roughly similar size and features as yours. The prices that they sold for can be a basis for your asking price. You don't want to price your own home too low as to leave you in the red after all the closing costs, nor do you want to price it too high that it doesn't sell in Washington.
Consider investing in an appraisal
In addition to your CMA, you can also have your home appraised by a licensed real estate appraiser. An appraisal is a professional opinion on the market value of a property, taking into account the local market situation, your home's location and condition, adjacent amenities, lot size, square footage, and features.
It only costs between $300-$800, but if it helps prevent you from underpricing your Washington home that you miss out on thousands of dollars in profits, then it is definitely worth it.
Hire a Professional Photographer to Take Photos of Your Home
Professional photos of your home can be a great marketing tool. In this day and age where everyone and everything is online, having high quality photos taken of your home can pique homebuyers' interest enough that they show up for your open house.
A real estate photographer knows all about the right angles and lighting to showcase your home's best features. They can even guide you to make your Washington house visually appealing. Although their rates can be expensive--up to $300 for a basic shoot--the edge that these photos will give your listing can be worth every penny.
But if you choose to go DIY...
You can definitely save money by taking the photos yourself. Just make sure to do it with a nice camera equipped with a wide-angle lens, ensure that the rooms are well-lit (natural or otherwise), and as for the angles, you can look up posts on Pinterest and try to emulate them. Make sure to take lots of photos!
Hire a Professional Photographer to Take Photos of Your Home
Craft a Detailed and Attractive Listing Description to Entice Potential Buyers
Although professional photos already say a thousand words, they still need a compelling caption to match them.
Highlight your home's key features (for example, a sun room which can be an excellent reading nook, or a fully-furnished basement game room with a working bathroom) and other details that would be desirable to prospective buyers.
Do not skimp on details! Build a narrative around your house.
To illustrate, describe the Washington neighborhood it's in (great for raising children), nearby schools (children could simply bike to school with other neighborhood kids), restaurants (perfect for a family dinner out), and a friendly community.
Don't forget the following information in your listing: age, floor area, lot size, architectural style, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the furniture and appliances that you'll be including in the sale.
If you want to learn more about how you can better market your home through your listing description, you need to pay attention to real estate trends.
To cap off your description, you must explicitly say that your buyer's agent will get a commission from the sale. Remember that even if your Washington house is for sale by owner, it doesn't absolve you from paying the fees on a represented buyer.
If you decide not to offer a buyer's agent commission, you must accept that your listing wouldn't get much exposure as agents wouldn't show properties to clients from which they wouldn't receive anything.
Fill Out Seller Disclosures for Washington
Of course, after highlighting your home's best features, the potential buyers must be made aware of the issues as well, if you don't have the time or the funds to fix them in Washington. You don't have to list every single imperfection in your home--like that little chip off the bathroom tile, for instance--instead, focus on major issues such as a broken HVAC system or aging roof shingles which may be due for replacement soon.
Filling out these seller disclosure forms would shield you from possible concessions or repair credits that a buyer may ask once they have made their offer after reading through the form.
List Your Property Online
Bill Gates said, "If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business," and it rings so true these days. In fact, nearly half of all potential buyers report looking at online listings as the first step in their home buying process.
You can consider posting your Washington house on For Sale by Owner websites--there are free and paid ones, in order to get your property out there.
Pay to have your home in the local Washington MLS listings
A Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a database which centralizes property listings in various areas of the United States. It can only be accessed by members, typically real estate agents and brokerage firms. MLS contains a trove of information such as photos, features, architectural style, total square footage, and lots of other important details in the listing description.
As you know, FSBO sellers aren't licensed real estate agents nor are they working with one, so you might be wondering how you can list your Washington home in the local MLS.
You can do it through flat fee MLS companies. Instead of paying a percentage based commission to a listing agent, you'll be paying a flat fee in order to use the service. This way, your home gets a lot more exposure and you'll be able to get plenty of buyer's agents to see your listing, which can result in attracting qualified buyers.
However, you must also consider your finances, as these flat fees can run up to thousand of dollars--in which case you can consider other marketing alternatives such as an eye-catching yard sign or giving out flyers and brochures.
Invest in Marketing and Advertising for Your Home
Your marketing efforts shouldn't stop with having a listing on the MLS. Even in a hot market where you are quite convinced that your Washington house will "sell itself" you must still do the following:
Install an FSBO yard sign
Customizing an FSBO yard sign is better than just buying something generic off the internet. Do some research on effective signage designs to incorporate it on your own. A little effort can go a long way in enticing potential Washington buyers to take a look at your property.
A thing to note: if you're listed on the MLS, consider simply putting a "For Sale" sign with your contact details instead of FSBO, as some MLS don't allow them.
Have both online and offline open houses
Since you're hiring a real estate photographer to take photos of your home, you can check out if they have packages for a virtual tour , like this one on Matterport. Granted, it could cost up to $1,000, but what's good about virtual tours is that once the video is uploaded, it would be similar to holding an open house 24/7!
Of course, you still must not forget to hold an actual open house. You must update your MLS listing with the information (that's why it's important to check if the flat fee that you're paying allows you to update it), and post it on your Facebook profile. During the actual showing, collect your visitors' information if you can, so you can follow up later and find out if they have any questions.
Post on social media sites (Instagram, Facebook marketplace, Pinterest)
According to Pew Research, around 70% of Americans are on social media to connect with one another, including 77% of people ages 30-49. Considering that the typical first time home buyer is 33 years old, it is a must that your FSBO listings be on social media as well.
Those professionally taken photos would look right at home in your Instagram or Facebook feed. Make sure to tag them properly so they get the most (free!) exposure and generate interest in Washington.
Be Prepared to Answer Inquiries and Schedule Showings
A lot of sellers underestimate the amount of time and work it takes in answering inquiries. When you don't have a real estate agent working with you, there is no communication buffer, which means potential buyers will be contacting you directly.
To be effective in this aspect of the FSBO process, you must have a strict schedule so the amount of work doesn't pile up that you get overwhelmed later on.
Also remember that Washington open houses are not a one-time event. You have to always keep your property clean and presentable.
If you can't be present for each showing, just use a code-protected lockbox in order to let buyers' agents into the house. Take the necessary precautions such as looking up their license number to ensure their legitimacy.
Evaluate Offers and Ensure You Have Qualified Buyers in Washington
Once the offers come pouring in, it's time to evaluate them and filter out unserious buyers. You can require them to present a Washington mortgage pre approval letter in order to find out whether they have the capacity to proceed with the sale.
If the offer is not to your liking, you can present a counter offer, which can start off the negotiations. Looks good? At this point, it's worthwhile to...
Have Professional Help When Closing the Deal
Selling a house is a major endeavor. You've made it alone so far, and you think you've been doing good. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. You're about to sign on that dotted line.
Before you close on one of the largest deals of your life, get a real estate lawyer! Having one could minimize risk and provide you with professional guidance in the closing process.
Possible FSBO Seller Pitfalls in Washington
1) Not Asking for Professional Help
A lawyer knowledgeable in real estate law can be a huge help when selling a house by owner.
There is a truckload of paperwork needed and when you get overwhelmed, it's easy to miss out on things and commit errors which you can be liable for. Sure, you can just purchase a "For Sale by Owner" document package from a reputable title company, but there'd be no one to tell you if you're going at it correctly.
With a Washington real estate attorney by your side, they'd be the one to draw up the contracts, and you can be sure you got all your bases covered. Although you can expect to spend over a thousand dollars on a real estate attorney, you'd be spared from possible costly litigation later on.
2) Not Disclosing Enough About the Property
In certain states (known as caveat emptor states), you are only legally obligated to disclose the presence of mold, asbestos, or lead paint. Even if you live in such a state, it is better for you to play it safe and disclose all known issues as it can come back to bite you in the future.
Being upfront about your home's condition from the get-go would also help filter out unserious buyers or those who aren't ready to be saddled with repairs when they move into the Washington property.
3) Not Doing Enough Research, Leading to Over or Underpricing
This is possibly the biggest pitfall that trips up FSBO sellers.
Sometimes, in a rush to sell the Washington property, you deem a listing price good enough only to find out later that your property should've sold for much higher. Or maybe, greed takes over and you price it too high that buyers are turned away without even setting eyes on the property.
Here's where a thorough CMA, or even an appraisal performed by a real estate professional, is valuable. Remember, a house is probably the biggest investment you have made in your life. You owe it to yourself that you don't ever sell short!
4) Not Taking Advantage of the MLS
When selling FSBO homes, you naturally don't have access to MLS. However, with a bit of research, you can easily get in touch with flat fee MLS companies or a local real estate agent and have your home on it in no time. Voila! Your Washington listing is instantly visible to a lot more people, increasing your chances of effectively closing the sale by owner.
5) Not Paying the Buyer's Agent's Commission
The buyer's agent needs to be compensated for their efforts in closing the deal. You have to give them what is due to them.
Alternative Options to FSBO Sale in Washington
Option 1: List With Licensed Real Estate Agents
Having a real estate professional on your side has a lot of perks. They can recommend upgrades or repairs so that you can get top dollar for your home (note that you'll have to spend for these upgrades out of pocket); and, they'll also be the one to represent you throughout the sale process. That means you don't have to deal with the endless open houses and negotiations before you close in Washington.
But what's the catch?
You have to share quite a big slice from your pie. Realtors receive up to 6% of the selling price in commissions, and you still have to pay the closing costs (approximately 5-6%), with the end result that you only walk away with less than 90% of the proceeds from the sale.
If working with a real estate agent is not financially viable for you, then you can try to...
Option 2: Sell With a Discount Agent
As the name indicates, they charge less than usual (approximately 1.5% of the selling price, or a flat fee), with the tradeoff being that they offer fewer services compared to full price realtors.
For instance, discount realtors typically won't include staging your home in their catalog of services. There could also be a limited number of Washington open houses in their package, so it is important to find out whether they could be the right fit for your needs before signing with them. Take note, in a hot seller's market, you can forgo certain marketing strategies as the supply could barely keep up with the demand.
It's a different story in a Washington buyer's market, however. Since discount brokers typically juggle multiple clients at once, they may not have enough time and personal attention to devote to your listing, which can be detrimental for you, as there are several sellers competing with each other.
Another thing, if you happen to sell your house to a represented buyer, you'd be responsible for paying the buyer's agent commission. Add it up, and you'd pay between 4-5% in commissions.
If this doesn't sound good to you, then you could...
Option 3: Find an All Cash Buyer
Want all the benefits of a fast sale without the downsides and the associated costs of a traditional home sale? Skip all inspections, repairs--cosmetic or otherwise, pack up your stuff, and just sell your house in as is condition.
When you sell a house as is, that means everything will be left where it is, in whatever condition it's in. It spares you the hassles of arranging inspections, planning remodels and upgrades, vetting and supervising contractors who'll perform the said remodels and upgrades, scheduling the clean up, staging the Washington house, and hosting an open house.
All of these things require an upfront investment of thousands of dollars without the guarantee of recouping everything once the house is sold. In addition to this, you really can't put a price to the time and energy required to accomplish all of that.
Now, who would be willing to buy an as is property?
The answer is a cash buyer!
Cash buyers can either be real estate investors, house flippers, or cash buying companies who purposefully look for properties in as is condition in Washington. Once purchased, they're the ones who'll do the renovations before eventually renting it out or selling for a profit.
When you sell to a cash buyer, expect to sell slightly below market value as they factor in all the repairs they have to do. But with the time saved and a stress-free selling experience, you can say it's worth it.
Frequently Asked Questions: How to Sell a House by Owner in Washington
What Documents Do You Need to Have When You Sell a House?
You must have these documents on hand before you initiate the selling process: invoices, and warranties for any renovations or upgrades done on your home;
- Permits and as-built plans for any additions to your home. For instance, buyers will likely ask whether that patio extension had been carried out according to Code, with the involvement of licensed professionals;
- Tax and utility bills so the buyers can have an idea how much they'd likely pay if they go ahead with the purchase;
- Property survey indicating the boundary lines of your lot;
- Occupancy certificate to show that your house is safe to live in and everything has been construction per Code; and,
- Title which shows that you are the legal and rightful owner of your property.
What Are the Advantages in a For Sale by Owner (FSBO) Arrangement in Washington?
You save on commissions
In an FSBO sale, you skip the middleman--that is, you don't need to work with a real estate agent--and you let the buyer engage with you directly. This means you don't have to pay your listing agent commission fees which average 3% of the final sale price. You still have to pay your buyer's agent commission, though.
You can list your house whenever you're ready
In selling FSBO, you are in control of your timeline. You can even skip some upgrades or repairs and list your home in as is condition. You don't have to look for a Washington real estate agent before you can begin selling, saving you plenty of time.
You have control over the real estate transaction
When you sell a house by owner, you have full control over all aspects of your home sale process: the listing price, the marketing strategy, the showings, and the negotiations.
What Are Things to Prepare for If You Sell FSBO in Washington?
Do lots of research to compensate your lack of familiarity with the selling process
Since you'll be doing away with the expertise of an experienced Washington agent, it's possible that you may have set unrealistic expectations regarding the home sale process. With hardly a dearth of knowledge available on the internet, information is literally at your fingertips.
You'll just have to...
Be ready to invest time and effort in marketing your home
Real estate professionals have a built-in network and a body of knowledge they could readily tap into in order to successfully market your home to the widest range of buyers as possible. As you're doing this yourself, you'll have to depend on the strength of your own network and online and offline resources to try and catch up to them and market your Washington home alongside them.
Selling a house is a stressful process
Realtor.com reports that selling FSBO homes are 70% more stressful than agent assisted sales. As a novice home seller, you can vastly underestimate the mental, physical, and emotional fortitude required when fielding calls, organizing stagings, arranging open houses, evaluating offers, negotiating, and closing the deal in Washington. You'll soon find that it can be as demanding as another full-time job and it can easily drain you.
Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney?
When selling a house by owner, you need to draw up legal documents such as a real estate contract. Although templates are available online, it would be better if an actual lawyer does it to ensure its validity. The extra cost is also worth it considering you'll have someone looking out for your interests so you don't miss out on anything that could potentially blow up in your face later on.
Are There Other Ways of Saving Money as a Seller in Washington?
Ultimately, choosing to sell a house by owner is driven by financial need and the desire to cash in a larger share of equity from your home.
In order to save more money, you can:
Check if you qualify for discounts or incentives from housing programs
There are federal and housing programs that could give you substantial discounts from real estate agents, title companies, home inspectors, real estate attorneys, and mortgage lenders as long as you qualify.
One of these programs, Homes for Heroes, is extended to people working for the benefit of their local community, such as those in public health, public education, military, or law enforcement. If you or your spouse works in one of these fields, you may be eligible.
Closing Thoughts: How to Sell a House by Owner Washington
Selling a Washington house is a long and complicated process.
Trying to go it alone by joining the ranks of FSBO sellers can be incredibly stressful and time-consuming. That's why, here at House Buyer Network, we can offer you a quick and easy alternative if you're not ready to pour your time, energy, and money into selling a house.
Simply fill in your Washington property details in our form below and you can have our no obligation cash offer within 24 hours. If it's all good on your end, we can draw up the contract--no need to bother yourself with all the paperwork--and we can close in as little as 7 days! We even cover all closing costs!
If you have questions, you can reach us at (855) 835-2544 and we'd love to discuss our process with you.