When the time comes to move, some tenacious homeowners in Washington State 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 Washington State real estate market and a steep rise in equity added extra incentive to maximize profits. The state topped 7.8 million residents in 2022, with people relocating to the area accounting for 86% of the population growth, state officials said.
Impulsive home purchases also weren’t unheard of during the pandemic, so maybe you haven’t owned your Washington State 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 Washingtonians, 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 Washington State, we’ll cover what can be the most difficult aspects of selling by owner in the Evergreen 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 Washington State market who can help you command top dollar and provide a low-stress selling experience.
How does selling by owner (FSBO) work in Washington State?
Disclaimer: While we’ve done our best to research laws, guidelines, or policies for FSBO sales in Washington State, 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 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 Washington, 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 Washington State later in this post.
Why sell a house by owner in Washington State?
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 data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
To get a firsthand perspective on selling homes in Washington, we spoke with Susan Wood in Longview, who sells properties over 63% quicker than the average agent in that area.
We also spoke with Phillip Rodocker, a top real estate agent in Kent who works with over 70% more single-family homes than the average agent in his Washington State market.
A veteran agent of more than thirty years, Rodocker has focused on FSBO sellers for nearly a decade. While most want to save money on paying a real estate agent’s commission, other motivating factors include the perception that they’ll have more control over the transaction.
“They feel that an agency at large doesn’t know what they’re doing. Maybe they had a bad experience in the past,” he says. “Or one spouse believes they’re a good salesperson. The other thing is, they have time — they’re not in a hurry.”
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 that adjusts for square footage also shows a notable 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. “I just give people the analogy with a car,” Wood says. “If you go look at a car and purchase it with a private seller, you’ll typically pay less.”
- Unless the seller already has a buyer lined up, FSBO listings can take longer to sell.
- 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.
Wood agrees. “When you do it yourself, you’re opening yourself up to liability,” she says. “Our team actually has insurance and a legal team, in case anything happens during or after the buying process.”
You’re also missing out on potential buyers relocating to the Chinook State through companies paying relocation packages, Rodocker adds. Washington State is a popular hub for dot-com enterprises, as well as corporations such as T-Mobile (based in Bellevue), Costco (based in Issaquah), and of course Starbucks (based in Seattle).
“Relocation companies want to go with a Realtor®, not a FSBO,” he says. “The buyers, even if they wanted to, couldn’t buy [a FSBO] house.”
In spite of the cons, we’ll help you navigate the challenges of FSBO if you’re committed to selling your Washington State 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.
The best time to sell is the fall and winter, especially around the holidays. There’s much less competition. Our houses are never cleaner and have never looked better. In January, when people are doing their tax returns, is actually a pretty good time too.
- Susan Wood
Real Estate Agent
Real Estate Agent at Coldwell Banker BAIN
Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience
- Average Price Point
- Single Family Homes
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 Washington 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 Washington State:
- 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.
“I actually provide all my sellers what lenders require,” so they can check for items such as chipped paint, faulty plumbing, and so on, Wood says. This gives them time to handle minor repairs.
FSBO sellers might want to hire a home inspector for a pre-listing inspection to ferret out any major issues, such as a tired roof, then fix those items before going to market, she adds. The average inspection costs about $325, depending on your home’s size.
Wood also has a page-long list of preparations for attracting buyers, such as making sure the home smells good. “It’s white towels. It’s cleanliness. You want it to seem warm and inviting, so they can imagine their family there having holiday dinners.”
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.
“The outside needs to be as tidy and pristine as possible. And adding color,” Wood said, even if you add some cheerful flowerpots to brighten those gray Washington days.
She also recommends talking to your neighbors. While you can’t control how they keep their home, you might suggest that they, say, keep their dogs inside when you’re having a showing to avoid any noise that might deter buyers.
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.
“People say, ‘Oh, my Zestimate says this.’ They think, ‘This is what my house is worth.’ They don’t understand the actual market in the area,” Wood says.
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 Washington State 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.
Rodocker cautions that online platforms can be behind. “The market’s moving too fast. [Sellers] need to have a professional go in and look at real-time data for them,” he advises.
“It’s changing daily,” Wood adds, so instead of relying solely on an online estimator tool, look at the homes that are selling within a mile of yours (or five miles, if you’re in a rural area). That’s what appraisers and real estate agents do. If you think your home is worth $400,000, check out everything else in that price range. “Yours better be the biggest and brightest [home] and have the most land” to be competitive.
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, some 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. For a single-family home, an appraisal will likely cost $500 to $600 — well worth it to avoid possibly over- or underpricing your house by thousands.
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.
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, the expense is well worth it.
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.
You might also consider the time of year when crafting your listing. “The best time to sell is the fall and winter, especially around the holidays,” Wood says. “There’s much less competition. Our houses are never cleaner and have never looked better. In January, when people are doing their tax returns, is actually a pretty good time too.”
Imagine painting a picture of cozying up by the fireplace in the den, for instance, or watching the snow fall on a quiet street.
Tell a story with your description
Draw in potential buyers with a powerful listing description that tells a story about your Washington State house, including details like:
- Your home’s most unique and desirable features, like a breakfast nook or 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 pool or patio
- Neighborhood features and amenities
- Nearby parks, walking trails, restaurants, and attractions
Details such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms seldom entice buyers. “They can see all that,” Wood says. Instead, focus on what you love. “Talk about the great parks where you’re able to walk your dogs. The yearly annual garage sale that the whole neighborhood does. How you’re two minutes from Lake Sacajawea for Fourth of July celebrations, or the fenced backyard is great for iced tea parties: ‘A big dining room that seats twelve and opens into the fenced backyard.’”
However, be careful about using any phrases that might violate the federal Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Institute says this might include saying your property is good for “empty nesters” or “singles only,” or mentioning churches in the area.
Wood adds that there are other words FSBO sellers might not realize are off-limits. “You can’t mention family,” which is why she says “entertaining” or “guests” when describing space.
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.
A valid real estate contract needs an accurate legal description (latitude and longitude, lot size, and so forth), so there’s no harm in gathering those details now. But for the description itself, think about what buyers want in your price point, Wood says.
In her area, “people are wanting to have a little bit of elbow room. They don’t want their neighbors right on top of each other. Most of our lots are 4,000 square feet,” she says. “They would love to have a waterfront, mountains, or a little wet stream running through their property. Usable land is key.”
5. List your home online
It’s finally time to post your Washington State 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.
As Rodocker notes, “90% of people searching for a house look online – and most FSBOs don’t have an online presence.”
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 Washington State 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:
- Washington Flat Fee MLS
- 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 Washington State 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.
6. Market your home
Now it’s time to spread the word about your Washington State home.
Experienced agents like Wood and Rodocker 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.
“Technology has changed so much that FSBOs can’t compete with all the online marketing from the agencies,” Rodocker says.
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 Sharpie. You can order a custom sign on a site like Vistaprint with your contact information, plus 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 Wood’s experience, “people rarely drive past your house and see that it’s for sale.” She suggests creatively working your home sale into another marketing tool: a garage sale or a moving sale.
You already need to declutter and pack, after all. Put your “For Sale” sign in the yard, and point out that your house is for sale to anyone cruising through the garage sale. “It would be very similar to having an open house,” she says. “You also have other people around for protection. Typically, when you have a garage sale, your friend might be over helping you or your meaningful other, maybe your children, but it’s not like you’re by yourself.”
Share on social media
Share your home across social media — and ask your friends to share, too.
Hold an open house
Like Wood, Rodocker mentions keeping your safety top of mind. Where an agent vets potential buyers to ensure they’re serious, an owner selling a home FSBO can be at the mercy of whoever expresses interest — even if they’re just curious lookie-loos.
“Without any data on them, we don’t know who’s coming through the house,” he says. So prepare accordingly. “No alcohol should be out. No firearms. No medicines. No jewelry.”
Beyond that, 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. “Have a guest book and have people sign in, so you have a record of who’s been there,” Rodocker says.
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 Wood, 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.
“You have to be home for all those showings,” which is a huge undertaking, Wood says. “We do it all for you and also protect you. I’ve had people try to break into homes that were for sale.”
While you sometimes can’t hide how old you are, don’t talk about whether you’re single, getting divorced, or some other “compromised situation,” for your own protection, she adds.
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.
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.
Be patient, Rodocker adds. “Be ready to answer questions and not get frustrated when they come in a repetitive fashion.”
Also, since you won’t have all the vitals on a buyer like an agent would, take note if a buyer has a qualified lender, or get ready to do some math using the current interest rate. “There’s a quick way for a seller to know if a buyer’s qualified with one question: How much do you earn annually?” he says.
8. Evaluate offers, negotiate a deal, and make disclosures
You’ve got your first offer — congratulations! Before signing anything, Rodocker says to do your due diligence. “The fallout after you get a buyer to say yes is really high,” Rodocker says. Even agents deal with delayed contracts because of inspection or title issues or other problems. People doing this on their own “don’t really know how to keep the transaction together.”
Here are key considerations when considering an offer on your Washington State 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!)
Property condition disclosure
In Washington State, a residential property seller is generally required to disclose the condition of the home to the buyer. You have five business days to deliver a completed disclosure statement after mutual acceptance of a written contract, unless otherwise agreed, according to state law.
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.
What will you be asked? In Washington State, you can expect to disclose any significant defects or issues you’re aware of concerning:
- Your legal authority to sell the property
- Any boundary disputes, easements, or encroachments
- Lead-based paint (a federal disclosure required for residences built before 1978)
- Water and sewer systems (plumbing, water heater, irrigation, well, septic, etc.)
- Homeowners’ association interests
- Electrical systems (light fixtures, garage door openers, smoke and burglar alarms, etc.)
- Heating and cooling system (central air, furnace, fireplace, propane tank, etc.)
- Roof (age, leaks, number of shingle layers, etc.)
- Hazardous conditions (methane or radon gas, lead paint, mold, asbestos, etc.)
- Other disclosures (foundation problems, land use, zoning or code violations, moisture or water problems, damage from wind, termites, or rodents, etc.)
Washington State also has specific environmental requirements when selling property, according to Stowe Law PLLC, a Point Roberts firm handling real estate property rights and land use. These include an on-site septic inspection report before closing and compliance with the Washington Forest Practices Act.
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, Washington State 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.
An attorney also can help you navigate the inspection, negotiate if a buyer tries to make last-minute changes, and counsel you on how to handle problems with the title report, says Anderson Hunter Law, a Snohomish County firm handling real estate matters. Plus, an attorney can ensure all the documentation and financial details are correct.
“Closing packages are often 100 pages or more, so there is plenty of room for mistakes and misunderstandings,” Anderson Hunter Law notes on its blog.
Real estate attorney fees can vary depending on location and how much help you want or need. In Washington State, they generally range from $100 and $400 per hour, although some highly experienced attorneys may charge as much as $1,000, depending on a case’s complexity — well worth it for professional guidance in closing one of life’s largest legal transactions.
FSBO mistakes to avoid in Washington State
On your FSBO journey, watch out for these major pitfalls:
- Missing out on the MLS.
- Not having a good marketing platform to reach as many people as possible. “We actually market internationally,” Wood says.
- Forgetting or refusing to pay the buyer’s agent commission.
- Over- or under-pricing.
- Letting your house sit on the market too long.
- Becoming emotional, letting that cloud your judgment and muddy the process.
Alternatives to selling by owner in Washington State
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.
Wood recently dealt with one woman who wanted to sell a small horse farm on just over two acres that included a house of 1,784 square feet, a barn, and an arena. “When we first spoke, she said, ‘What is your commission?’ Then she canceled her appointment.”
But a short time later, the woman called back. The paperwork and other details were overwhelming. “As a FSBO, she wanted to ask for $680,000,” Wood says, adding that she’d originally thought the property might go for about $714,000. But by closing three weeks later, the market had changed, and the owner ended up selling for $635,000 in cash.
“She told me, ‘I don’t know how I would’ve done this myself,’” Wood adds. “That’s like pulling your own teeth at the dentist.”
Rodocker shares a similar experience with a woman who was going through a divorce. She’d originally considered going FSBO because she thought she didn’t have enough equity to pay the agent’s commission. “She felt stuck.”
Rodocker helped her put a lock box on the house, then looked at the comps and the price analysis. “She was just looking at online data,” he says. “I found that I could put this on the market and have all the fees built into the price of the house, and she was going to come out OK.”
Once the house hit the market, it sold in less than a week. The woman had such relief “because she had someone mediating with the phone numbers, et cetera, where it didn’t have to go to her directly,” he says. “She really didn’t want to go through this by herself because she just didn’t want anybody walking up to the door,” he says.
Interested in such expertise? HomeLight can connect you to top-performing agents in your Washington State 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 Washington State 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 Washington State home?
Unless you already have a buyer lined up, selling a house by owner in Washington State 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 Washington State market.
Header Image Source: (Pavł Polø / Unsplash)