Ok folks, here it is, the down and dirty on how to sell your PA house yourself quickly and keep thousands in your pocket (by not paying real estate commissions!)
First and foremost, you’re probably wondering how the heck do I know what I’m talking about, right?
I’ve been investing in Pennsylvania real estate for 9 years now and I’ve invested in all different facets of real estate from buying and financing mobile homes to buying bank-owned properties and fixing them up and renting them out to just helping folks get rid of an ugly, fixer-upper house that they didn’t want. I’ve been a landlord (still am,) I’ve fixed and flipped properties (still do,) I’ve fixed and kept properties (still do,) and I’ve wholesaled properties (still do.)
Also, I’m a licensed real estate agent with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and I’ve been licensed for 5 years plus now with Keller Williams Realty Group (now located in Limerick, PA.) And I’m also a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors and the Surban West Realtors Association. Sooooo that makes me, yep you guessed it, a Realtor as well (Didn’t know there was a difference between being a real estate agent and a Realtor, huh?)
Ok so now that all of that is out of the way, let me tell you how you can sell your Pennsylvania house yourself quickly and keep thousands of money in your pocket. I’m going to give you an outline to follow and if you follow it to the T, you should be alright!
Do Your Research About Your Homes Value
You need to find out what your house is worth so you can put a price tag on it. How can you find this out?
-Interview a handful of real estate agents (at least 3) and get Comps (Comparables of houses that have sold like yours) from them. Do not tell them what YOU think your house is worth, just let them do their thing and present you with their evidence of what they feel your house is worth.
-Check public records if you have online access or if you know how to do this at the courthouse yourself (or if you have a real estate agent friend that will allow you to look over their shoulder as they access their public records on the MLS.)
-Drive around your neighborhood and call on ALL of the for sale signs that you see. If they are having open houses too then GO TO THEM.
-Research your local papers classified section for houses for sale in your area. Call the numbers and get the facts on the house (remember, you’re comparing all of these houses to yours.)
-Hop on craigslist.org and reseach the real estate for sale ads there that are in your area. Alot of times folks will have pictures and even videos in here, so you can actually see the houses. If there isn’t much info then email or call the person who is selling their house.
-Go to Realtor.com and research houses that are for sale in your area. Again, if there isn’t much info, then call the agent up and ask for some info about the house.
-Check out zillow and cyberhomes and see what they come up with as values for your house. Also, the comps that they list, drive past the houses to compare at least the outside of your house and the sold house. (I wouldn’t put as much weight on these 2 sites, but there is definitely more information here for you.)
Now, you should have a good idea of what you could sell your house for. By the way, when looking at public records, comps from agents and places like zillow and cyberhomes you only really want to look at sold houses within the past 6 months. Some folks will tell you to go back a year, but I think that’s even too far. Honestly, in this market, I’d say look at them in the past 3 months!
Ok so you have a value in mind. Well I need you to be honest with yourself about the value and how you came up with it, ok? Does the value indicate a house that is in pristine condition and your house isn’t that pristine? Does the value indicate a fixer-upper price and your house doesn’t need any work? Those are the things you have to think about when getting the comps from all of your resources above.
Make note of the condition and location of all of the comps that you get from your resources above then you have to HONESTLY compare it to your house. Honestly being the keyword here. If your house smells like dog, well admit that to yourself and know that it’s going to lower the price of your house. If your house is right next to an active railroad track, well don’t ignore the obvious and know that it will lower the price of your house as well. If your house is totally trashed and needs a lot of work, please, please, please don’t think that you are going to get maybe a couple thousand less than what a pristine house sold for. That is UNREALISTIC!
And always keep in mind the type of real estate market we are in. Right now at the writing of this blog posting, here in Pennsylvania we are in a BUYERS MARKET. Please recognize that and adjust your gameplan (and more importantly) your thinking accordingly. If you don’t adjust your gameplan and thinking accordingly, believe me your house will sit there and it will NOT sell (until you come to your senses.)
Market Your House Like Crazy
Your house being for sale at the prefect price doesn’t mean anything if nobody in the world knows that it’s for sale, does it?
So here’s what you need to do to market your house and to tell the entire world (or at least folks in the Pennsylvania area) that it’s for sale.
– Break out your digital camera, cell phone, disposable camera or what you have and take pics of your house. Outside front, back, side, yard, living room, dining room, kitchen, etc. you get the picture. If you have a video camera, you can do a walk-thru of your place with a video camera too. The pictures are a NECESSITY but the video is not. Upload them to your computer and resize them because you’re going to need them in future steps.
– Place a for sale sign in your front yard and rear and side yards if you have them. I get mine from banditsigns.com Make sure you get the 18 x 24’s and make sure you pick up some metal stakes (get extra to use in the next step) so you can stick them into the ground. By the way, please do not under any circumstances forget to put your phone number on your signs when you get them home. (Sounds silly to say that doesn’t it? But some folks have done it.)
– Now here is a tactic that will get your phone to ring off the hook of potential buyers. You need to buy anywhere from 10 to 50 blank corrugated plastic signs (you can get these from banditsigns.com too.) They should be 18 x 12 in size and they can be any color you want, but white probably works the best and is the cheapest. After you get them home you’ll need to get a thick, black, permanent marker. When you have that you want to write in your own handwriting with the marker on the signs the following:
3 bed/2 bath House Must Sell! Pottstown Area, $150k 610-555-1212
Of course, you’re going to change out the information above with your appropriate information for your home. If you house is a fixer upper try something like this:
3 bed/2 bath Needs Work! Must Sell Quickly. Area, Price, Phone Number
You can use any combination of wording, but make it seem URGENT that you need to sell. Now you need to place these signs all around your neighborhood. Put them at popular intersections, at popular stores (like Walmart, WaWa, etc.) and just put them in heavy traffic locations. You want extras because some of these will get taken down, some will blow away and some will just become dirty and ugly so you’ll want to replace them with fresh ones. I promise you that you will get calls.
– Next you’re going to want to create what’s called a Postlet. Go to Postlets.com and create an account. It is free. You’ll want to create a postlet about your house. Post your pictures, list all of the features, write up a nice description. People want to know about square footage, school districts, beds and baths, taxes, etc. You can upgrade to Postlets Plus and this will allow you to post more pictures on your postlet and also allow you to post a video, but honestly, I don’t think it’s necessary. But it can only help you market your house.
– Now, you want to go to craigslist.org and post your house for sale there too. This is free also. You’re going to want to post in the portion of Craigslist that’s for your area. Most of you will be either posting in the Philadelphia section or the Reading section of craigslist. You then go to housing and real estate for sale. Follow the steps, it’s pretty easy. Also, there is a craigslist section in your Postlets, so you can merely click that link and copy and paste the code they give you into your craigslist post and a nice little ad will appear. Don’t forget that you’re craigslist ad is NOT posted until you get the email from them and publish it. That is the final step.
Those few things should get your phone ringing, but since you are saving thousands by not using a real estate agent you should really market even more. So here are some extra things you can do that will cost some money.
– Place a classified ad in your local paper. There are all kinds of papers that will work. You can place an ad in a daily paper, weekly paper, monthly paper, throw away papers like the Penny Pincher, etc. You can even try them all if you like. The smaller papers will be more cost effective. And keep in mind that you do not want to just run the ad for a day. That’s a waste of time and money. I suggest running it at least from Thursday to Monday for a month. See what kind of action you get and go from there. If you are under major budget constraints then you can work out a game plan that works with your pocket book. Generally, your ad will look something like this:
Downingtown, 3 bd/2 ba twin for sale by owner. New roof, central air. Must sell. 610-555-1212
Of course, insert the info that is appropriate to your home. You can even use the same type of ad that you handwrote on your blank corrugated plastic signs. Remember that with classified ads you are pretty much paying per word. One word of caution: don’t try to create crazy abbreviations for your ad so you can fit more words in. A lot of folks may not know what your abbreviation means so it may confuse them and keep them from calling. The classified ad rep from the paper will sometimes suggest abbreviations for words to make things fit, just be cautious that it is a standard abbreviation that most folks know what it means like br for bedrooms or ba for bathrooms. Don’t get fancy with abbreviations, trust me.
– Post an ad on ForSaleByOwner.com (or any other type of FSBO site) They have all different pricing levels starting at $89.95 (which I don’t like because it’s a monthly fee) all the way up to an $899 one time fee. The basic plan is pretty decent, it gets you an unlimited listing on their site until it’s sold and an awesome thing about their ads is that you get a private voicemail system (so you don’t have to give out your home phone number!) Just so you know, the Gold package for a $699 one time fee is definitely worth checking out. It’s the cheapest of the packages that gets you listed on the MLS (multiple listing service, which is what all real estate agents use to list properties and find properties for their buyers) and on realtor.com Please keep in mind though, if you got with an MLS option, you are going to have to pay a commission to the agent that brings you a buyer (typically between 2 to 3%, but commissions are negotiable and you state when you pick your package the commission you are willing to pay.) Keep in mind, if you make the commission for the agent with a potential buyer they may not even show your house. So, personally, I’d stay within the 2 to 3% mark.
If you’re wondering do you have to list your property on the MLS for sale, the answer is no. I just want to make you aware that the MLS is what over 32,000 real estate professionals in this area use to view properties for sale. That’s a HUGE market that you’d be missing. But it’s ok, the basic package will at least get you in front of folks who are searching for a house to buy for themselves.
– This marketing method may be a little more than most of you want to get in to, but you can send out postcards to either folks in your area or to renters in your area. At vistaprint.com you can get some free postcards and more for relatively cheap.
You’re going to most likely want to purchase a list of renters or homeowners in your area from a list broker (you can search on google or look in your phone book.) For homeowners in your area you can get their names and addresses from public records and that is free, especially if you go to the courthouse. Just get a simple House For Sale postcard or Why Rent When You Can Own Postcard? And send them out.
– A free alternative to use is the same kind of House for Sale or Why Rent When You Can Own ad for the postcard above but print it out and make flyers at home. (Btw, if you are savvy with your computer you can even print out postcards.) A flyer that I like to put together to hand out to the neighbors on the same block as a house I have for sale is the “Pick Your Own Neighbor” flyer. Folks love that and you never know? They could have a friend or family member that is looking to move into the neigborhood. Your general flyers you can post in laundromats, grocery stores, around rental apartments, etc.
– One last free marketing tip that I forgot to mention is word of mouth. Don’t forget to tell everyone you know that your house is for sale. You never know who knows someone that is looking to buy.
When You Get The Calls Coming In
A lot of folks are just gonna wanna know the price at first if you don’t have it listed already. Then they may want to set up an appointment to check the house out. If you’re not careful you could be wasting ALOT of time. Here’s what I do:
– First I tell interested folks to do a drive-by of the house. If they like it after driving by I tell them to call me back to set up an appointment.
– If they call me back to set up an appointment I ask them if they are pre-approved for a mortgage. If they say yes, I inform them that they must send me their pre-approval letter before I will set up an appointment to show them the inside of the home (be nice about this, not rude.) If they say no, then I tell them that they must be pre-approved before I will set up an appointment to show the inside of the home. I generally will refer them to a mortgage person or a small, local bank that I use. (You should do the same. Hook yourself up with a small, local bank in your area that will get people pre-approved to buy your house. You can do this with a mortgage person too, if you have one in mind.)
– If they pass all of the above then I will set up an appointment. PLEASE BE CAUTIOUS. These are strangers that you are letting into your home. Always have more than one adult home when having showings and it’s a good idea to have a sign-in sheet for folks to sign and you should make them even show their driver’s license or some form of i.d. I know that you may feel uneasy asking this stuff, but it’s for your own protection.
Word of Caution: If you ever, ever feel uneasy about someone that you are talking to on the phone, do not, under any circumstances let them into your home, especially when you are alone. Women..use that women’s intuition that you have. Fellas, use that gut feeling that you can get.
(This is probably the scariest part about selling your house yourself, in my opinion.)
– If folks are interested in your house then write up an agreement with them! (we’ll get into that in a few.)
– If they aren’t interested, ask them if they could give you some feedback so that you can improve your chances of selling your home. Tell them to be honest as you won’t be upset or take anything personally (and hold true to that!)
When You Find A Qualified Buyer
After you find a qualified buyer you want to write up an agreement of sale. I’m going to assume that you don’t know anything about an agreement of sale or about how to fill one out. With that in mind, my advice is to then NOT DO IT.
– You should have a competent real estate attorney that you use to help you draw up an agreement of sale and that helps you with all of the rules and laws associated with selling your house (like fair housing laws, seller disclosure forms, etc.) The real estate attorney can even do the closing for you and your buyer (they will take care of EVERYTHING associated with getting your transaction done and getting you your check in your hand.)
– If you know how to fill out an agreement of sale then you should have a title company that you want to work with to get your transaction to the closing table and get your check in your hand. They can help you with any questions that you may have, but they may not be permitted to give you legal advice in regards to rules and laws regarding selling your house, but ask, because a lot of them have real estate lawyers within their company that will be happy to help.
Now take you big check to the bank baby and you can now say “I can save tons of money on commissions because I can sell my house myself in Pennsylvania!”