For Sale By Owner Basics


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If you’ve chosen to sell your home as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO), then we can assume you already know the benefits (and challenges) of using this method to sell your home. However, knowing where to start might leave you feeling a little uncertain. 


When you’re selling a home, there’s a lot to keep track of, and even the Type A person who is an excellent list-maker can feel a little overwhelmed from time to time. To help you streamline the process, we’ve created a military-friendly guide to walk you through selling your home for sale by owner.

Step #1: Prepare Your House to Sell

When prepping your home to sell, you’ll not only need to clean and declutter, but ensure that your home can pass a home inspection. You’ll need to repair issues such as structural problems, HVAC, or other issues that affect the function of the home itself. Then consider touching up the paint, replacing worn flooring, and updating the landscaping. 

Read also: 12 Repairs You Should Make Before Selling Your Home


Declutter Your Home

When you’ve spent years in a house, you tend to forget everything you have laying around. Much like making a PCS move, selling your home is a perfect opportunity to go through your home and purge everything you don’t need and won’t miss. After you’ve done that, walk through again and remove all the things that you don’t use daily. If you aren’t willing to sell or donate these extra items but don’t use them regularly, consider renting a storage unit to place them while you sell. With buyers traipsing in and out of the house, piling things in closets or the garage won’t do. Extra stuff, even neatly organized in totes, shrinks your space. If you can, it’s best to remove it from the property altogether and create space for potential buyers to envision their own lives fitting into the property. 


Clean the House from Top to Bottom

It doesn’t matter how many times a week you clean your home. When you’re living in it, there are simply things you don’t see and can’t get around to the house. After you’ve decluttered and removed the extras from your property, consider hiring a professional cleaning crew to come in and scrub everything top to bottom. If you’re not sure it’s worth the money, wait until they get to the bathrooms and move the appliances; you’ll be thankful you did. 



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Update as Needed

Many home buyers are looking for a turnkey home, so it’s important to neutralize your space. A fresh slate for potential home buyers to picture their own belongings calls for a handful of updates.

  • Replace dated hardware and fixtures. 
  • Buy new appliances if the current ones are old or outdated. 
  • Apply a fresh coat of neutral paint like white or a light tan or gray to the interior. 
  • Freshen up the exterior paint, railings, and door if needed. 

Stage Your Home

Don’t underestimate the power of staging. While it might feel like an added unnecessary step, staged homes sell faster and for more money than those that aren’t. If you’re unsure of what your home may need, you can hire a professional to step in and help. There are several types of staging to fit your needs: 

  1. Professional Advice. Hire staging professionals to walk through your home and make notes of necessary changes. 
  2. Virtual Staging. Virtual staging is a great solution to increase engagement in your online listing. However, the consistency between the listing and an in-person viewing can throw some potential buyers for a loop. 
  3. Targeted Staging. Targeted staging is more budget-friendly as it helps polish high-impact areas of your home without touching every square inch. 
  4. Full-Service Staging. A staging professional might make more elaborate suggestions regarding anything from updates to placing rental furniture in the home to get it ready to sell. 



Freshen Up the Exterior

Your home’s exterior makes the first impression on your potential buyers. Putting a little money into your curb appeal by updating the front door, updating the landscaping, and touching up faded or chipped paint can do wonders for the buyers stepping into your home. 

Here’s a list to help you get started: 

  • Replace dead plants.
  • Keep the yard trimmed. 
  • Touch up paint. 
  • Straighten up the mailbox. 
  • Fix broken railings. 
  • Pressure wash the front patio and driveway. 

For a more detailed to-do list around the house, check out the Home Buyer Walk-Through Checklist and learn what your potential buyers will be looking for.

Step #2: Set the Asking Price

A frequently asked question among for sale by owner home sellers is, how do I set a price for my home?  


Placing a monetary value on your home can seem difficult, as it can be challenging to set aside your emotions and the memories your family shared in the space to determine the unbiased value of your home. Instead, an objective lens to determine the fair market value of your property is the key.


Here’s what to do: 


  1. Search for comparable listings in your area to learn what price others listed their homes at. Find out what the average price per foot is in your area. 
  2. Consider factors like location, condition, upgrades, and layout as you discuss what price to list your home. 
  3. If you’re marketing to the military community, be mindful of what the local BAH is. How attainable is a mortgage for your home for the average military family?
  4. Study similar homes in the area and learn what’s selling quickly. Find out what they’re doing that you’re not, and adjust your strategy if needed.
  5. The Journal of Housing Research still recommends pricing under whole numbers. For example, use $299,000 instead of $300,000. 
  6. Understand online real estate searches. If the home is priced at $310,000, buyers who are interested in spending $300,000 and enter <300,000 in their search filter might not ever see your property. 

Pro Tip: Hire an appraiser to calculate the most accurate value of your home.



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Step #3: Advertise Your Home

Your online listing carries a lot of weight in the home selling process. It’s responsible for getting potential buyers' attention and drawing them in.  

Take Good Photos

Excellent quality photos are invaluable. Since most people start their search online, your photos will make the very first impression on buyers. 

A great way to ensure that you have stand-out photos for your listing is to hire a professional photographer. If you want to take the DIY approach, you can find some helpful tips here: 

Create Your Listing

Combine your photos with a detailed description of your home and create a listing on MilitaryByOwner. You might also consider paying a fee to list your home on a Multiple Listing Service for real estate agents. Another option is to include (if you’re willing to pay a fee to a real estate agent that brings you a buyer) a Buyers Agents Welcome message in your listing.

Market Your Home


Launch your listing and share it on social media! The world nearly functions on social media these days, and if you can get your listing to circulate by word of mouth in some of the coveted Facebook groups, then your listing is as good as gold. You can also market your home locally by hanging flyers around town or on base. 


Since the pandemic, your online image is more important than ever. A bonus these days is a virtual tour, as many buyers are less interested in touring homes in person until they’re sure they want to make an offer. 

Step #4: Host an Open House

The goal of the open house is to create a comfortable space for potential buyers. Home shoppers should feel welcomed and relaxed as they walk through your home envisioning it as their own. 

Here are a few pro tips for your open house: 


  • Be friendly but stay out of the way. 
  • Remove pets and all evidence of pets for the day.
  • Make your home welcoming with all the lights on, fresh flowers, and even a plateful of cookies. 
  • Remove personal items and photos. 
  • Create an info sheet for prospective buyers to review. Include things like the address, asking price, square footage, the year the home was built, date of the roof and major appliances, etc. 
  • Promote! Don’t forget signage, posting on social media, and your MilitaryByOwner ad.

Pro tip: Be prepared to leave the house quickly. Have an exit strategy that includes either camping out in the car with the kids and pets, heading to a nearby coffee shop or library, or having a generous neighbor on standby who will let you hang out. 

Learn more about putting your home’s best foot forward in your open house: Tips for a Successful Open House.



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Step #5: Field Incoming Offers

Getting an offer on your home is very gratifying and also means that you’re one step closer to closing this chapter in your life and starting on the next one. 

Review All Offers

If you have multiple interested buyers, you need to compare the amounts offered, contingencies, and proposed closing dates.  

Get Legal Advice

Hiring a real estate attorney to evaluate offers may help protect your interests and assist in negotiation and closing.

Learn more about how an attorney can help with your FSBO in Do You Need an Attorney for Your For Sale By Owner? 

Do a Sanity Check

Confirm that your buyer is financially qualified to purchase your home. You should request the buyer provide a copy of their letter of pre-approval from their lender as it’s based on their actual income, debt, and credit history and ensures that they can afford your home. As the seller, you want to feel confident that your buyer can obtain financing.

Step #6: Paperwork and Closing

There are a few things to get through between accepting an offer and turning over the keys to your home. 

  1. Your house goes into escrow. 
  2. The appraisal. 
  3. The buyer pays for an inspection of the home
  4. New negotiations regarding price, timing, and any additional repairs once the home inspector draws up his report. 
  5. Moving day. 
  6. Final walk-through. 
  7. Closing day. 

 Pro Tip: MilitaryByOwner’s partner, US Legal Forms, offers the necessary documentation needed for your FSBO



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Other For Sale By Owner Frequently Asked Questions

1) How do I prepare myself and my home for a For Sale By Owner?

Your home requires necessary repairs, updates, and staging to make it marketable; however, there are a few things that you, the home seller, can do that aren’t mentioned above. 

Gather Paperwork


In the simplest form, selling a home is a transaction, and you’ll need to have proper documentation to make the sale. Start collecting paperwork like property assessments and surveys, declarations, covenants, or deed restrictions. Include pest or environmental inspection results, billing statements from property taxes and utilities, and receipts from household maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.


This paperwork will answer questions potential buyers might have and convey that you have taken good care of the home during your time there. 


Budget for Home Selling Fees


Even though you may save money by selling as a FSBO, there are fees involved with any home sale that need considering. Be prepared for legal fees, broker fees from the buyer’s agent, and taxes on capital gains.


Additionally, be aware of possible fees from the escrow company, a mortgage appraisal, the termite inspection and/or home appraisal, the property transfer or transfer tax, the homeowner's insurance or home warranty, the title insurance, along with any other costs at closing. 

2) Do you have any tips for negotiating a home sale? 

In a For Sale By Owner, you’re negotiating directly with the buyer or their agent. This is the time to exude confidence!

Limit chatter. Let your nonverbals do most of the speaking if you’re chatting in person. Your buyers don’t need to know that you have orders to PCS and you’re working on a tight time frame. Keeping small talk to a minimum will ensure you don’t disclose information that could harm your sale. 


Investigate financing. Know how much your buyer’s pre-approved amount is. This will help you weed out people that can’t afford your home and give you some purchasing power. It’s also important to keep your finances in mind as you start making counteroffers. Understand your limits and set a bottom dollar. 


Counter. Unless you hire an agent to step in for this part of the sale, you’ll be handling it yourself, so setting your emotions aside is crucial. Don’t take low-ball offers personally, as the buyer is getting a feel for how flexible you are. Understand that they don’t see the emotional value in the home that you do. Instead, counter their offer with something more reasonable. 


Keep an eye on the clock. For example, move the counter offer expiration from three days to two. This will help eliminate buyers who aren’t serious about your property. 


As you go through the FSBO process, MilitaryByOwner is here to help answer any additional questions you have. In fact, you can read about more frequently asked questions in our free Answers to Your For Sale By Owner FAQs ebook. 


We provide guidance to help you learn how to market and show your home, as well as resources to help you hire real estate professionals and gather legal paperwork. Every step of the way, MilitaryByOwner is committed to helping you have a successful FSBO!


By Danielle Keech