When the time comes to move, some tenacious homeowners in New Jersey are eager to take over the reins of their home sale and figure out how to sell a house by owner.
A house is typically a person’s largest financial asset, and the decision to sell solo is often understandably driven by a desire to save on commission fees and pocket more equity from a hard-earned investment.
In recent years, the hot New Jersey real estate market and a steep rise in equity added extra incentive to maximize profits.
Impulsive home purchases also weren’t unheard of during the pandemic, so maybe you haven’t owned your New Jersey home very long and are concerned about covering the cost of selling your house. As the market shifts, you may have new concerns about how much you can get for your home and the amount of your net proceeds.
With millions of homes sold each year, a modest portion of sellers — about 7% in 2021 and 10% in 2022 — choose to list “For Sale By Owner” (or FSBO — pronounced fizz-bow). Of those, 50% already knew the buyer of the home, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
While the method can work for New Jerseyans, it does come with some risks. Selling a house is a pretty rare event for most people, so you don’t know what you don’t know.
In this guide to selling FSBO in New Jersey, we’ll cover what can be the most difficult aspects of selling by owner in the Garden State, including the steps that might be harder than you think. We’ll also provide a comprehensive overview of the full process to prep, market, and close on your home without the assistance of a real estate agent.
Note: Once you’ve seen what’s required, you can roll up your sleeves and get started with your FSBO sale. Or — in the event you’d prefer to work with a real estate agent — HomeLight would be happy to introduce you to highly-rated professionals in your New Jersey market who can help you command top dollar and provide a low-stress selling experience.
How does selling by owner (FSBO) work in New Jersey?
Disclaimer: While we’ve done our best to research laws, guidelines, or policies for FSBO sales in New Jersey, HomeLight always recommends that you look into the local regulations for your area and when in doubt, consult with a legal advisor.
FSBO is a method of selling your home without the involvement of a listing agent. In a FSBO scenario, the seller assumes the responsibilities that would normally fall to their agent such as pricing the home, marketing it to potential buyers, arranging showings, and negotiating the deal.
In an agent-assisted sale, the seller typically pays a commission amounting to around 6% of the sale price, which is then most often split 50/50 with the buyer’s agent. That 6% is deducted from the seller’s proceeds at closing. By selling FSBO, a seller can eliminate the cost of the listing agent’s commission (so around 3%), though they may still need to offer a buyer’s agent commission.
Buyers’ agents will expect compensation for the work they do to bring a buyer to a sale, such as arranging showings and helping to tee up and qualify the buyer. Plus, when a seller isn’t working with an agent, the buyer’s agent may end up carrying more of the weight to get the deal to the finish line.
Next: Consult our guide on who pays closing costs when selling a house by owner for more details.
Finally, a FSBO sale does not mean that a seller won’t need any professional assistance. In New Jersey sellers are not required to hire a real estate attorney, but FSBO sales typically warrant legal and professional oversight of some kind to avoid an abundance of legal risk.
Most people who sell by owner will need to hire an attorney to review and prepare key documents and make sure paperwork is filled out properly, such as the seller’s disclosures. We’ll address what disclosures are required when selling a house in New Jersey later in this post.
Why sell a house by owner in New Jersey?
The top three reasons people cite for selling FSBO include: “did not want to pay a commission or fee” (36%); sold to a relative, friend, or neighbor (30%); or that the buyers contacted the seller directly (8%), according to NAR data.
To get a firsthand perspective on selling homes in New Jersey, we spoke with top-performing real estate agent Mary Murphy in Marlton, New Jersey, who sells properties 73% faster than average agents in the area.
We also spoke with Jan Elwell, an award-winning single-family home expert in Vineland, New Jersey with 19 years of experience. Elwell works with over 85% more single-family homes than the average agent in her market.
According to Murphy, the New Jersey FSBO sellers she encounters “believe by eliminating commission that they can net more money.”
“They also believe that with the use of the internet and Zillow, and the fact that you can list on your own on Zillow for free, that there really isn’t a use for the agent’s marketing expertise,” Murphy adds.
However, 2022 data from NAR shows that “FSBO homes sold at a median price of $225,000, signiﬁcantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $345,000.” This NAR data contrasts the median prices among all FSBO homes (for which we have limited data) against all agent-assisted homes, regardless of distinctions like square footage. However, an independent study from 2016 to 2017 which does adjust for square footage also shows a significant price difference: FSBO homes sold for an average of 5.5% less than agent-marketed sales.
As you can see, FSBO is a mixed bag. So, before we share our selling tips, let’s lay out some pros and cons to help you decide if this is the route for you.
Pros of selling a house by owner
- Ability to save on listing agent commission fees, usually around 3% of the sale price.
- You’re completely in charge and can manage the sale as you please.
- No “go-between” in your communications with buyers.
Cons of selling a house by owner
- FSBO listings tend to sell for less, statistically speaking.
- Unless the seller already has a buyer lined up, FSBO listings can take longer to sell. For example, according to Elwell, FSBO homes in South Jersey can spend 60 extra days on the market.
- Managing all communications and negotiations yourself is time-consuming. Not having a communication buffer can be a downside if the buyer pushes back or says negative things about your property.
- You’ll be negotiating without help from an expert, which could mean leaving money on the table.
- Setting the listing price is challenging — you may be tempted to go too high. You could also risk under-selling with a low price.
- Marketing your home is time-consuming.
- You’ll still have selling costs, which may include transfer taxes and settlement fees. Not having agent representation could also lead to paying more in seller concessions.
- Without the help of an agent to guide you through the disclosure process, you may put yourself at legal risk to be held liable for potential future problems with your home.
In spite of the cons, we’ll help you navigate the challenges of FSBO if you’re committed to selling your New Jersey house without agent assistance. For some, selling a home FSBO is a challenge worth accepting, and success can be measured in more ways than one.
Steps to sell a house by owner
Next, let’s review the FSBO process step by step.
1. Prepare your house for sale
Whether you’re selling with an agent or FSBO, at a minimum you’ll want to get your New Jersey home into respectable shape before any showings to increase your chances of receiving a fair price. Here are a few standard tasks to add to the list.
These efforts will go a long way toward impressing buyers looking for a home in New Jersey:
- Declutter floors, shelves, and surfaces throughout the home.
- Make small fixes and repairs, like a leaky faucet or broken door handle.
- Lightly update with new light fixtures, faucets, or cabinet hardware.
- Refinish hardwood floors.
- Repaint bold walls (or those that look dingy) in a neutral color.
- Reduce furniture in crowded rooms — consider a temporary storage unit.
- Stage the home with final touches like fresh-cut flowers or a basket of fresh produce.
- Use rugs to define spaces and place them strategically.
- Deep clean until the house is sparkling.
“The main things that are always necessary, no matter what, are decluttering and depersonalizing,” says Murphy. While fresh paint and updated floors will often bring in higher offers, she recommends replacing dirty carpets when shampooing can’t get rid of the stains.
Data from HomeLight’s 2022 Top Agents Insight Report shows that on average, “Buyers will pay 7% more for a house with great curb appeal versus a home with a neglected exterior.”
Some important curb appeal upgrades can include:
- Mow the lawn and pull weeds.
- Apply fresh mulch liberally.
- Upgrade your landscaping. Consider a new walkway, flowerbed, or shrubs.
- Add a fresh coat of exterior paint.
- Install a new garage door if yours is looking old or not working properly.
- If you have a pool, make sure it’s clean and well maintained.
Autumn foliage adds color to New Jersey landscaping, but Murphy says fall cleanup is a must. She reminds sellers of the importance of “raking the leaves and trimming the bushes.”
2. Do the homework necessary to set a competitive price
You’ve arrived at a critical moment in your FSBO process: setting a listing price. You don’t want to leave money on the table, yet you want to encourage activity on your listing.
Before listing a home, an agent usually conducts a comparative market analysis (CMA). This is a highly-detailed study of “comps” — similar homes nearby that have sold recently, are pending, on the market, or were previously listed but taken off the market. Some may have even been pulled off the market without a sale.
“There’s nothing more important than the price that you set because when you choose your price, you’re basically choosing the category of where you’re putting your home,” Murphy explains. She says FSBO sellers often make the mistake of pricing their home too high so there’s room for negotiation, but then the house ends up in the wrong category and is not marketed to the right buyers.
While multiple offers produce a sense of urgency that drives the price up and removes some contingencies, overpriced homes may be overlooked by potential buyers. With a smaller pool of buyers, FSBO sellers risk getting lowball offers. “They price too high and they often make way less than they should,” says Murphy.
Without an agent, you’ll miss out on the complexity of a full CMA and the know-how to interpret it.
However, with a little time and money, you can set a competitive price yourself.
Conduct your own “CMA Lite”
It’s time to roll up your sleeves and research.
Start with an online home value estimate
As a starting point, look at several online estimators for your home’s value. HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator aggregates publicly available data such as tax records and assessments, your home’s last sale price, and recent sales records for other properties in the same neighborhood.
We also add a new layer of information to our estimates using a short questionnaire. Tell us a few details about your New Jersey home, such as:
- How much work does it need?
- What type of home is it (single-family, condo, townhouse, or other)?
- Roughly when was your house built?
- Are you planning to sell soon?
Using these insights, we’ll provide you with a preliminary estimate of home value in under two minutes.
Whether you use Zillow, Chase, Realtor, or Redfin to get a home value estimate, think of any online home price tool as a first step (not your only source of truth) — and recognize that the data used may be limited.
Narrowly filter your search for comps
When you’re ready to find comps, you can choose from sites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, or Realtor.
You’ll want to filter your searches to the area very near your house (within blocks if possible) and with similar characteristics. If you’re not finding any comps, expand your search map.
You’ll also want to filter results by details like:
- Listing status (look at recently sold, pending, and active)
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Square footage
- Home type (single-family, condo, etc.)
Beyond the above criteria, the more houses you find with floor plans and an age similar to yours, the better.
Use a site like Zillow to collect your data
As an example, let’s take a look at how to filter your search for comps on Zillow.
- Navigate to Zillow.
- Type in your address. If a pop-up with your home’s specs appears, close it.
- Filter by “sold.” Yellow dots should appear on the map surrounding your house.
- Now, filter by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and check the box “Use exact match.”
- Next, filter by home type.
- Next, select the “More” box. Here you can specify square footage, lot size, year built, and — crucially — the “sold in last” (time period) category.
- Scroll down and select to view houses that sold in the last 30 days.
- If you find there are not many results in your area, try expanding to 90 days. However, the further back you go, the less relevant the comps.
- If necessary, click the plus or minus buttons to widen the search area.
- Once you’ve collected data for sold houses, revise or restart the search to view active and pending listings, as well.
Invest in an appraisal
If you want to further reduce guesswork, top agents recommend paying an appraiser to provide a professional opinion of value for your home. An appraiser will combine recent property data, research of the surrounding market, and information collected from a walkthrough of your home to determine an appraised value. The cost for an appraisal in New Jersey typically ranges from $325 to $425 — well worth it to avoid possibly over- or underpricing your house by thousands.
Murphy says an appraisal is particularly helpful for FSBO sellers in New Jersey. “Otherwise they haven’t gotten an opinion from a professional at all,” she explains. This can lead to inaccurately pricing your home and cost you thousands in the long run.
Make sense of the research
Compare your home’s features against the nearby comps you collected. Hopefully, the houses you studied give an indication of an appropriate price range for your home. From there, you can make dollar adjustments based on characteristics that add value (patios, curb appeal, an extra bedroom) versus detracting from it (a busy street, deferred maintenance, less square footage).
Consider the differences and similarities of comps with the appraised value of your home to choose a price that will encourage activity (too high and it may seem out of reach to many buyers), but will also maximize your profit.
“A pool definitely increases the value lately,” says Murphy. While this wasn’t always the case, in recent years New Jersey buyers are looking for homes where they can swim and relax by the pool in the privacy of their own yard.
According to Elwell, “Buyers prefer gas over oil for the most part.” So if your home has gas heat or you have the capability to connect to natural gas, your home could be worth more.
On the other hand, Murphy says a small lot size or busy road can reduce the value of your New Jersey property.
3. Photograph your home
Listing photos are powerful, either pulling in buyers for showings or keeping them away.
To give your listing an edge, consider hiring an experienced real estate photographer. While they may charge as much as $140 to $180 an hour, don’t cut corners since nearly all buyers start their search online. Without high-quality professional photos, Elwell says you could miss out on “that window of opportunity to get them interested in the house.”
“Listing photos are extremely important because they’re your first impression and you want to stand out against your competition,” Murphy adds.
But if you do go the DIY route, make sure to:
- Use a good camera with a wide-angle lens.
- Pay attention to lighting.
- Include a photo of every room.
- Take multiple pictures of living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms.
- Try shooting different angles.
Review our guide on how to take quality real estate photos for further guidance.
4. Create a detailed, compelling listing
Along with stellar photos, you’ll want to craft an informative and compelling listing. Leverage both the listing description (a paragraph or two highlighting key features) and the property details to show potential buyers all about your home and what makes it desirable.
Tell a story with your description
Draw in potential buyers with a powerful listing description that tells a story about your New Jersey house, including details like:
- Your home’s most unique and desirable features, like a breakfast nook or all-season sunroom
- Recent upgrades like a kitchen or bathroom remodel or new roof or HVAC system
- High-end appliances, materials, or finishes
- Outdoor features like a front porch, pool, patio, or fenced yard
- Neighborhood features and amenities
- Nearby parks, walking trails, restaurants, and attractions
- Additional space for a home office or finished basement to accommodate remote work
Before writing your listing description, Elwell recommends reviewing New Jersey’s fair housing regulations. “We have fair housing restrictions and we have guidelines that we follow. Someone who’s not savvy could potentially get into trouble that way,” she explains.
“Highlight the desirable features,” advises Murphy. But she also warns against including aspects of your home that might make buyers hesitate. “If your roof is twenty years old, leave that out. But if you’ve recently updated it in the last five years, you want to include that. Same thing with HVAC, water heater, and any other upgrades,” she says.
Lastly, and this is crucial: specify in your description whether a buyer’s agent will receive a commission from the proceeds. Most agents don’t want to show their clients properties from which they’d receive no commission. You can decide not to offer a buyer’s agent commission, but recognize that doing so could limit your buyer pool as buyers’ agents typically expect to be compensated for their efforts.
Don’t skimp on the property details
Aside from writing the description, you may be prompted to enter information like:
- Age of the home
- Square footage
- Architectural style (i.e., split-level, rancher, craftsman)
- Appliances included
- Exterior building materials
- Flooring types
- HOA fees
- School zone information
- Lot size
Many real estate agents and potential buyers really do read this “fine print” on your listing — so include accurate details, and plenty of them.
Don’t overlook pertinent facts about your surrounding area or school district. Murphy says some New Jersey towns offer full-day pre-K. “That’s been really desirable for a lot of our incoming clients who are coming from out of state,” she explains.
5. List your home online
It’s finally time to post your New Jersey home online. While you can create FSBO listings for free on popular search sites, you’d have to painstakingly post site by site, and your listing wouldn’t reach the majority of buyers and agents.
To give your home the most exposure, pay to have your home put on your local MLS (multiple listing service) — a platform agents use to share properties with one another as well as major real estate sites. Posting there will feed your listing to buyers’ agent databases and to common sites buyers use.
Only licensed real estate agents and brokers who are MLS members can post to the MLS. However, you have two options to gain access: paying an agent to post for you or using a FSBO platform online.
Pay an agent to list your home on the MLS
A local agent may be willing to list your house on the MLS for a flat fee, without any other involvement in your real estate transaction. If you decide to go this route, make sure you ask whether the fee includes updating your listing if necessary.
Use a FSBO platform with an MLS option
There are a variety of paid websites that you can use to list your New Jersey house online as “for sale by owner.” These sites offer packages ranging from about $100 to $400 for just a listing, or a larger flat fee of $3,000 to $5,000 that includes any number of additional professional marketing services.
Some of these companies display their rates on their websites, but others won’t quote a fee until you input your address or select an area of the country. A few examples include:
- NJ Real Estate Boutique
- Jersey Flat Fee
- Clever Real Estate
- Homie Real Estate
It’s important to note that most of these companies serve FSBO sellers nationwide, which can cause challenges if the assisting representatives don’t understand the local market trends in your New Jersey neighborhood.
Whatever you choose, read the fine print carefully: some sites may have hidden fees or even take a percentage off your sale — a detour you’d rather avoid on the FSBO route.
Not willing to pay for the MLS?
If you’re determined to save money by foregoing the MLS, creating a free FSBO listing on Zillow might be your top option. You can post videos and unlimited photos, and get fairly wide exposure via Zillow and the Zillow-owned Trulia.
However, proceed with caution if you rely solely on Zillow. “Zillow is designed to work for the agent and not for the seller,” warns Murphy. She explains that people browsing online are prompted to click on links to obtain more information, schedule a showing, or get financing. They are connected to real estate agents who pay Zillow to market in that area. Upon realizing that it’s an FSBO listing, especially if it doesn’t offer commission, the agent often deflects them from that house to another listed with an agent.
6. Market your home
Now it’s time to spread the word about your New Jersey home.
Experienced agents like Murphy and Elwell know that posting a home on the MLS is just the beginning of the marketing phase. A successful home sale requires a deliberate and targeted marketing plan to reach the right buyers and attract the best offers.
“The goal is to get as many buyers interested as possible so that we’re finding the right buyer and the best buyer and then the perfect scenario,” says Murphy. A multifaceted marketing approach incorporating the MLS, real estate websites, and social media is the key to achieving this objective. An effective marketing strategy can bring in multiple buyers who compete in bidding wars that drive up the price.
Here are some of the steps you can take to market your home:
Place a nice FSBO sign by the road
Consider getting a custom yard sign rather than purchasing a generic one you write on with a Sharpie. You can order a custom sign on a site like Vistaprint with your contact information, along with a stand, for as little as $25 plus shipping. Note that some MLS providers may have rules about whether you can post a FSBO yard sign while your home is on the MLS. However, in New Jersey, you’ll be able to place a sign on your front lawn even if you sell by owner.
Share on social media
Share your home across social media — and ask your friends to share, too.
Murphy says there are many people who have slowed down their search or taken a break with mortgage rates skyrocketing. “We can reignite their interest,” she comments about the benefit of social media marketing.
“We want to make sure that if that right house is for them and it hits the market, that they see it,” she says. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites can reach people who aren’t actively looking for homes on the MLS, Zillow, or other real estate websites.
Hold an open house
Try these strategies for a successful open house event:
- Share details on Facebook and Nextdoor.
- Update your MLS listing with the open house details (if you’re able to as part of paying the flat fee), or update your DIY FSBO listing.
- Place open house signs at nearby intersections.
- Tidy up the house before potential buyers come through.
- Pass out info sheets with the address, bullet points about the house, your contact info, and perhaps one photo.
- If you can, collect visitors’ info — then follow up later to ask if they have any questions.
Find more expert tips for how to hold an open house at this link.
7. Manage showings
If your marketing is successful, your next step will be to show the home to prospective buyers. Welcome to the busiest phase of the home sale process. According to Elwell, a major reason some FSBO sellers switch to an agent is that they underestimated the time, energy, and expertise needed to manage this crucial step.
“They don’t realize how many people contact for information that are not serious, that are not qualified to purchase, and that takes time and energy to filter out,” remarks Elwell.
Showing your home may be the most critical step for a successful sale. “That’s the time for the buyer to really get a feel of the house, the neighborhood, and what it would be like to live there,” says Murphy.
But managing showings is often a lot more work than most FSBO sellers bargained for — from taking buyers’ phone calls to setting up appointments and fitting showings into their busy schedules.
To manage the logistics of showings:
- Respond to inquiries ASAP.
- Set end times if you need to fit many showings in one day. This will also create a sense of demand and urgency for buyers to place offers.
- Remove or secure valuables.
- Make sure the home is clean and tidy for showings.
- Follow up with buyers’ agents after showings to get their feedback.
- Check the forecast to avoid showings or open houses during inclement weather. Not only do homes show better on sunny days with natural light, but you don’t want muddy footprints all over your clean floors.
Should you be present for showings?
If you’d rather not be present for every showing, consider using a lockbox with a code to let buyers’ agents enter the house. This is standard industry practice among agents. To ensure you’re working with someone legitimate, use Google or sites like arello.com to check their real estate license number.
With unrepresented buyers, plan to be on the property for the showing. During a showing, we recommend you:
- Point out a few highlights of the house.
- Let buyers look without hovering.
- Be prepared to answer questions.
- Avoid the temptation to tell all — let the house and listing do the talking.
If present during the showing, don’t hover over prospective buyers or overshare information. “They can let them in, but then maybe go in the backyard and try and stay out of the way as much as they can,” Murphy recommends. Otherwise, you might reveal some details that could adversely impact your sale or make a connection with the buyer that could impair your judgment when it’s time to negotiate.
8. Evaluate offers, negotiate a deal, and make disclosures
You’ve got your first offer — congratulations! Before signing anything, Murphy says to consult with an attorney.
Since most buyers in New Jersey are represented by an agent, Murphy says FSBO sellers “have to be careful signing a contract prepared by an agent who’s working for the buyer.” New Jersey has a three-day attorney review period, so even if the buyer’s agent draws up the agreement, there’s still time to have your own lawyer take a look and make any necessary changes.
“A lot of buyers tend to want to double dip,” Elwell cautions FSBO sellers. She explains that buyers may negotiate the price down because of obvious repairs. Yet after the home inspection, they’ll ask the seller to fix the items even though the price reduction took them into account.
Although there are many factors to examine when evaluating offers, Murphy says, “The viability of the buyer would be most important.” She cautions that buyers can get a pre-approval letter online that’s not worth the paper it’s written on. So your due diligence should include contacting the lender to ask about the type of financing and whether the buyer has the qualifications to be approved for a loan.
Here are key considerations when considering an offer on your New Jersey home:
- Vet potential buyers by requiring a mortgage pre-approval letter or proof of funds.
- Require everything in writing.
- Remember you can counter-offer and negotiate.
- Look for a good real estate attorney. (See the next step!)
- Evaluate any contingencies such as home sale or home inspection.
Property condition disclosure
Known as a “Caveat Emptor” or “buyer beware” state, New Jersey places the responsibility on the buyer to determine if the house has any issues. But this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. In New Jersey, a residential property seller is generally required to disclose known material defects that cannot be easily observed. If you purposely withhold information or provide false statements about the condition of your home, the buyer could walk away or sue for monetary damages.
Although not required in New Jersey, real estate agents typically have their clients complete the Seller’s Property Condition Disclosure Statement. FSBO sellers who provide a disclosure should do so before the purchase contract is signed.
Whether required by law or not, some sellers may prefer to provide the disclosures before an offer has even been presented so that a prospective buyer is more informed beforehand and less likely to withdraw from a deal later on.
In an agent-assisted sale, your listing agent would likely provide you with the required disclosure form(s). However, as a FSBO seller, you can find the form online at websites such as eForms.
What will you be asked? In New Jersey, you can expect to disclose any significant defects or issues you’re aware of concerning:
- Roof (age, replacement, repairs, leaks)
- Attic, basement, and crawl space (sump pump, water leaks or dampness, mold, repairs, cracks or bulges in basement floor or foundation walls, ventilation, attic usage)
- Termites/wood destroying insects, dry rot, and pests (presence, damage, repairs, inspections, treatments, pest control contract)
- Structural items (movement, shifting, or other problems with walls, floors or foundation, driveway, walkway, patio, sinkholes, retaining walls, damage by fire, smoke, wind, or flood, fire retardant plywood, repairs)
- Additions/remodels (structural changes, alterations, permits, and approvals)
- Plumbing, water, and sewage (water source, type of sewage system, wastewater discharge, water purification, plumbing leaks or problems, water heater, abandoned or disconnected wells or tanks)
- Heating and air conditioning (type and age of heating and cooling systems, number of zones, unheated areas, above or underground storage tanks)
- Wood-burning stove or fireplace (presence, last flue cleaning, permits)
- Electrical system (wiring, amp service, additions to original service, permits and approvals, switches, light fixtures, outlets)
- Land (fill or expansive soil, mining operations, flood zone, drainage or flooding, wetlands, encroachments, easements, boundary disputes, water retention basins, tidal water, shared or common areas, maintenance agreement, survey)
- Environmental hazards (notifications from agencies, conditions adversely affecting air, soil, water, or physical structures, underground storage tanks, toxic substances, tests for presence of lead-based paint, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, asbestos, or other toxic materials, corrective actions, airport safety zone)
- Deed restrictions, special designations, homeowners association/condominiums and co-ops (restrictions or use limitations, historic district or Pinelands designation, covenants or restrictions, association dues or assessments, issues with common areas, changes to rules or by-laws)
- Miscellaneous (existing or threatened legal action, violation of laws, zoning ordinances, or building codes, encroachments, non-conforming use, unpaid assessments, mortgages or liens, title issues, ongoing fees)
- Radon gas (testing, mitigation)
- Major appliances (garage door opener, smoke detectors, pool or hot tub, refrigerator, range, microwave, dishwasher, trash compactor, garbage disposal, in-ground sprinklers, central vacuum, security system, washer, dryer, intercom, other appliances)
- Solar panels (installation date, finance or lease agreement, payments, energy certificates)
- Lead plumbing (presence in service line, piping, fixtures, and solder)
- Water intrusion (leaks, accumulation, or dampness, mold, repairs)
If in doubt about a problem with the home’s condition, most top real estate agents would recommend you disclose it. If you know of an issue and choose not to disclose a major problem, and that defect is later discovered, you could be held liable for damage or subsequent costs.
9. Close the sale — with professional help
Time to button up that deal.
While some states require that FSBO sellers hire a real estate lawyer to help close their sale, New Jersey does not.
However, it’s still a good idea to invest in the services of an experienced attorney as you close one of the biggest and most complex deals of your life. By doing so, you’ll minimize your legal and financial risk, plus simplify the process for yourself.
“If you’re not represented by an agent, you’re really taking a risk if you just completely go in blind,” Murphy says. “You’re headed for disaster,” she warns FSBO sellers who don’t consult a real estate attorney.
Elwell adds that an attorney can explain all the terms of the contract so FSBO sellers fully understand what they are committing to. “The price may be great, but they may have to provide all the certifications and that could be very expensive,” she says.
Real estate attorney fees can vary depending on location and how much help you want or need. In New Jersey, they generally average $371 per hour. Flat fees are more typical, ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 — well worth it for professional guidance in closing one of life’s largest legal transactions.
Real estate agents may refer their clients to top attorneys they’ve worked with in the past. But if you are selling by owner, ask your family and friends for referrals or search on Lawyers.com and FindLaw.
FSBO mistakes to avoid in New Jersey
On your FSBO journey, watch out for these major pitfalls:
- Missing out on the MLS.
- Forgetting or refusing to pay the buyer’s agent commission.
- Over- or under-pricing.
- Letting your house sit on the market too long.
- Selling your home in the winter when potential buyers don’t venture out in the cold.
- Being inflexible when it comes to issues found in a home inspection.
Murphy says one of the most common errors FSBO sellers make when selling a home in New Jersey is not getting a viable buyer. “So they never really had the ability to get to the closing table,” she explains.
“They just don’t know what they don’t know,” Elwell remarks about FSBO sellers, which can lead to mistakes that may delay or even kill a deal. “Every township may be different in what they require to get the certificate of occupancy, the CO,” she says. Elwell adds that rural areas of New Jersey may have septic systems, but sellers don’t understand all the ramifications of getting them inspected or installing a new system. Without the proper inspections and certifications, both the buyer’s financing and the sale could go down the drain.
Murphy shares this insight with New Jerseyans contemplating for sale by owner. Since most buyers are represented by a real estate agent, FSBO sellers usually pay half the commission as well as attorney fees. Homes listed with an agent generally sell for higher prices, which more than offset the listing agent’s commission. “At the end of the day, they’re putting less money in their pocket to have a really aggravating experience,” Murphy remarks.
Alternatives to selling by owner in New Jersey
If you decide you don’t want the hassle or pressure of FSBO, you’ve got other solid options.
Enlist the help of a top-rated real estate agent
Ultimately, the services and price gains you can get with an experienced real estate agent may put more money in your pocket than FSBO. A proven agent is also better equipped to help you achieve your selling and moving timelines.
Murphy relates her experience with a FSBO seller in Florence, New Jersey who became her client after trying to sell by owner without success for a year and a half. They finally realized they didn’t have the time to put in the tremendous effort it takes to sell a home.
“They were never available for showings so they declined showings all the time,” she describes one problem the seller encountered. They were so busy getting their children ready for school that the house was always messy whenever they could fit a showing into their hectic schedule.
Murphy says the photos posted online didn’t do justice to the beautiful custom-built Tudor home. Nor did the property get much exposure since it was only listed on Zillow in the wrong town and without a description.
“It did take some extra marketing to make sure we were reaching the right people,” says Murphy, noting that the unique home was unlike other houses in the neighborhood.
To avoid the huge inconvenience of numerous showings, she held two open houses that were heavily marketed. The home quickly sold to a buyer from New York who wanted more space for $50,000 over asking and nearly $100,000 more than the previous FSBO listing price.
Elwell shares a similar experience in South Jersey where she’s listed homes after failed attempts by FSBO sellers who got tired of people knocking at their doors at all hours or found the sales process to be outside of their comfort zone. According to Elwell, these sellers-turned-clients realized the value of a top-rated real estate agent “who really knows how to get the most for the home and knows the market, and has a clientele and a database to pull from to market the property.”
Interested in such expertise? HomeLight can connect you to top-performing agents in your New Jersey market. Our free tool analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs. It takes only two minutes to receive your matches.
Request a cash offer to buy your New Jersey home
If you’d like to skip the sale prep altogether — plus avoid paying agent commissions — you can opt to sell your home “as is” to an all-cash buyer instead.
For a low-stress experience, consider requesting a cash offer from HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. Tell us a few details about your home, and in as few as 72 hours, we’ll send a no-obligation all-cash offer your way. If you decide to accept the offer, Simple Sale sellers have the ability to close in as little as 10 days.
Without leaving the Simple Sale platform, you’ll also be able to compare your cash offer to an estimation of what your home would sell for on the open market so you can make an informed decision.
Ready to sell your New Jersey home?
Unless you already have a buyer lined up, selling a house by owner in New Jersey requires a significant investment of time and effort. You’ll need to pull your own comps, capture excellent pictures, create a listing, market the house online, field inquiries, host showings, negotiate, and close the deal. And that’s after preparing the house itself.
You also have to consider that FSBO listings tend to sell for less than agent-assisted sales. An experienced agent who knows the area can make recommendations for targeted upgrades to help you maximize your sale price and get a premium offer. This can help to offset or, in some cases, more than make up for the cost of commission — while saving you time and headaches.
If you choose to go FSBO, you should have a good idea now of what to expect from the process. Otherwise, our internal transaction data at HomeLight shows that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for as much as 10% more than average, and we’d be happy to introduce you to some of the best agents in your New Jersey market.
Header Image Source: (David Vives / Unsplash)