Advice on selling a house by owner

Dec 18, 2016
United States
So my Mom and Dad bought a house back around 14 years ago, its a 4 Bedroom, 2 bath modular on a full poured and insulated basement. It is located on almost 10 acres, probably 2.5 acres of grass and the rest woods. Desirable property and its rare that something like that comes up for sale around here in the same price range, or any price range for that matter.

My Father passed away a few years ago and the size of the home and the amount of land is too much for just my mom to handle. I have found myself trying to maintain our place and hers and am not able to dedicate the time to do a good job on either one. Its time for her to downsize.

I already have several people interested in the house just from casual mentioning of it to coworkers and my moms neighbor (word spreads fast around here, and for some reason everyone just LOVES the idea of living "in the country" like it's some utopia, it's not trust me, we live "in the country" and it has afforded us the by far the worst neighbor we have ever had amongst other things so I'm a bit Jaded Lol.)

Anyway, we initially planned on listing it with a Realtor, I am also probably going to contact a local home builder/developer and see what his offer is, he would love to put some more homes on the land, I'm sure.
I am not opposed to using a realtor, although since a surprising number of people are already interested in the house I am questioning if we should just try to sell it by owner.

Honestly if the Home Builder/Developer guy makes an offer in the ballpark I would probably just sell it to him, quick, easy and done. Hes got the funds to buy and the resources to give the house the bit of TLC it could use to bring it to the next level and it would be an As-Is sale, no dealing with buyers picking apart silly stuff.

Anyone been in a similar situation and have any words of wisdom?
I feel like if we did sell it by owner, I would just start out posting it on Facebook marketplace and share details with my local Facebook friends. It seems most people around here are looking for such a place. The problem with that is that you will get every Tom, **** and Harry contacting you asking things such as " If I give you my old pickup truck as collateral will you finance me?"

I am hoping to just get an acceptable offer from the Developer and I can wash my hands of it. It honestly would be a shame to chop up the 10 acres because it is rare around here to find such a parcel under a half million price range as most larger parcels have high end homes on them, is less and less of these larger parcels left even in our Rural County, and my mom's place could truly be some families relatively affordable "Country Dream". In the end it's not really my concern I suppose
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IMO, your real estate agent is like your lawyer; he/she is there to advise and protect you. That's why agent choice is a critical choice. There may be many laws in your area that may come back to bite you.

Best luck to you.
IMO, your real estate agent is like your lawyer; he/she is there to advise and protect you. That's why agent choice is a critical choice. There may be many laws in your area that may come back to bite you.

Best luck to you.
Complete disclosure: I am not licensed to practice law in Indiana, and this should not be taken as legal advice...

In a perfect world @JeffKeryk is correct, your RE agent would work only for you (see the dual agency warning below) and protect only your interests under a fiduciary standard... putting your wellbeing ahead of even their commission check... in the real world things are far from perfect.

In reality their job is to list the house on the MLS, and collect between 3 and 6% at closing. They are not always looking out for your best interests. Ask yourself if you were in their shoes: Would you rather have 6% of a 400K sale tomorrow or 6% of a 450K sale 3 months from now... they have an interest is getting the deal closed, and getting paid, while your interest may be in getting top dollar. Also, you sign a listing agreement with a realtor, and you are stuck with them... sometimes for up to 6 months if you find your own buyer during the term of the listing agreement and sell the place yourself, guess who is still getting a commission that's right, your RE agent.

@zzyzzx is right... if you can get the house on the MLS yourself, that is 80% of the battle...

Now a RE can be helpful if you are in a different state, or if a defect is found and terms need to be adjusted, but most of the time the RE will just ask the closing attorney at that point.

I don't know about Indiana, but in my state a Seller's agent does very little after the purchase and sale agreement is signed.
If you can put together a decent Purchase and Sale Agreement with basic terms (identify the property, identify the sales price, identify the non-refundable earnest money, identify the closing date, identify the type of deed warranty, quitclaim, special warranty, etc. the seller is promising to give, identify any financing contingency, and identify any inspection contingency, and you are off to the races.
Buyer or bank hires a title and closing attorney, Seller has an attorney draft the deed, and comes to closing to pick up the check. Seller gives the deed to buyer and gets a check. All the due diligence is on the part of the buyer and their title attorney to make sure the seller has and can transfer good title.

Yes, it is sometimes more complicated than that, but not by much.

If you can get a P&S drafted, and the buyer has a law firm he works with, there may be no need for a RE agent... sometimes the buyer's attorney will even help push the process through or answer simple questions if it helps their client.

I just have a hard time handing someone $25,000 for putting my house on the MLS and filling in an online form (which 95% of P&S are...)
If you must get a realtor, the brokerage will sometimes try to foist off a new agent... resist that... you want the old tried and true "battle-axe".... bonus points if she looks like this...

If you can read and understand the basics of a form like this (which is even more complicated than it needs to be to scare people away from trying it themselves) and you have a desirable property as a seller, and you know what that property is worth, I might give it a try.

Ask yourself truly... what are you actually paying this seller's "agent" for? Some are great, some are not, but for informed sellers, I am not sure one is necessary.

And for the love of God do not fall into the "Disclosed Dual Agency Trap"... your agent must be your agent, and no one can slave for two masters...

Again I am not licensed in Indiana, and this is not legal advice.
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What is your reason for possibly going the no-realtor route ? I'm guessing to avoid paying commission ? I respect that, just knowing the reason is important so people can understand.

Most buyers will have a realtor and you really can't control that so you'll still pay 50% of the normal commission.
This is an easy one.
First one must remember no matter what advice you are given in here, real estate transactions are state law and will vary among all the states.

There isnt anyway to know what the highest price the property will bring without an agent to properly put the house on the MLS system for maximum exposure.
I vote for you to enlist an agent, who will be working for you. You would insist that the agent put the home on the MLS system, no excuses, no delays, no exclusives, as that is the main reason you are enlisting them.
A good agent will also have experience in dealing with issues that may arise and who to contact to work through issues that may or may not come up.

With the above said, it would not be uncommon if an agent wants your business that you can give that agent a list of people that you found yourself and might be interested in the property and if they buy the property (enter contract) during a specified time period of up to a couple weeks, they would be excluded from a commission but you would handle the sale with your attorney (after that time period, if they buy the full commission would be due) you could actually turn the transaction over to the agent who would maybe still earn part of his/her fee if that agent agrees.

Typically the real estate commission, for example might be 6%. YOUR agent "the listing agent" representing you would collect 3% and in the MLS listing your agent would be offering the agent selling the home 3%. If your agent finds the buyer that agent could collect 6% for the sucessful sale. This is just an example, commissions are all over the board and also vary by property type.
Different state specific laws govern agency and that will be disclosed to you by the agent.

I was what would be considered a successful agent in the NY Metropolitan area for a number of years if this helps with a tiny bit of creditability of what I am saying, where at any given time I had over 10 million dollars (pre inflation dating back to late 90s early 2000 worth of homes in contract at any given time and was in any given year at the top 3% out of over 5000 agents. Some good some not as good.

However, back to state law, this isnt the place for advice other then I am a strong believer that maximum exposure will bring best price and in most cases more than make up for the fee for most people, of course there are exceptions. But for me a good real estate firm with a full time agent is the way to go.

With all the above said, being I dont know how your state works, not that it matters, I would CERTAINLY of course have an attorney handle the transaction once the agency finds a buyer. I would also depend on legal advice from an attorney rather than an agent or anyone else in here including myself.
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Don't screw around trying to sell it yourself . Ask for referrals from people you know and use a Realtor . It will be a lot less painful in the long run . People love to tell horror stories about them but they do that about most professions anyway .
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The Title company does all the work . A great real estate agent can make his commission worth while if there are any problems as they carry insurance.
Find a seasoned realtor and use him/her. I have spent years working with realtors and there are some real air heads out there. No idea how they got a license. Any way. Don't mess around trying to sell it yourself. A good realtor is blessing to have.
Complete disclosure: I am not licensed to practice law in Indiana, and this should not be taken as legal advice...

In a perfect world @JeffKeryk is correct, your RE agent would work only for you (see the dual agency warning below) and protect only your interests under a fiduciary standard... putting your wellbeing ahead of even their commission check... in the real world things are far from perfect.
This is exactly why your choice of RE agent is critical. I've dealt with the good and the not-so-good.
As someone who is FSBO'ing my house - use a realtor!!!!!! Even if it's not listed on the MLS, the realtor will do all the work and sort out all the deadbeats for you . Due to the cluster that ensued by not using a realtor, I've spent more on keeping the house for an additional six months than if i had just used a realtor.
We've done it both ways and even though I really don't like paying the commission I would have to say go with a Realtor unless you are an attorney and can handle all of the State specific paperwork yourself.. I know people who like to make it seem simple as "download the forms off the internet and fill out" but based on your State and local laws that can snowball into a real headache real fast. That doesn't mean that no one has had good luck with it but based on my experience find a good Realtor..
I didn't read anything posted so realize that when you read what I write.

If selling anything of 100k or above take the few weeks to register a business with your state. Talk to you CPA about what works best tax wise for you. S Corp, LLP, LLC, one can answer that with what you provided. I'm in NY and it's $250 to register a name with state department. Fully worth the potential legal exposure of selling your own premises should things go downhill.

If this isn't registering, do not sell on your own. There are many laws added in the last decade to protect a buyer that you may not be aware of.
Interview 2 or 3 agents asking what they would list property at. If builder is within 25K of what they plan on listing it for sell to builder.
As a Realtor my advice is find an agent instead of trying to sell it yourself. An agent will protect you from the scammers and flippers. Plus the market has drastically changed with the increasing interest rates. A good agent will work for you and get you the maximum they can for that piece of property.