Saturday, July 6, 2013

FSBO: How we sold our house!

When I was telling my mum on the phone that we were going to try to sell by owner and she said 'ah yes Fizzbo'ing!' I kind of thought it was some dorky word that moms say (hi mom!!). Haha. But it turns out that it's a thing, people. Selling by owner is all over the show, and what's more, it's totally do-able. You know, if you work close enough that you can run home for a showing, aren't afraid to chat with every stranger that calls you, and enjoy inundating your neighborhood with signs and fliers.

Just joking...kind of...I mean, I think FSBO'ing makes sense depending on how valuable your time is and how much you don't mind doing it. But for us me it was really enjoyable! I mean, how often do you get to show off your house and listen to everyone rave about how much they like it? Usually I seriously don't like talking on the phone, but I got quite used to it, chatting with everyone who wanted to buy our house :)

We definitely don't know 'everything' about selling a house, and I am so thankful and grateful that we sold our house for 2K below our asking price after 13 days on the market! Here are just the strategies that worked for us.

I texted David this photo from Lowes when I was picking out this sign.
It was more expensive but those red FSBO signs are so ugly!
I bought a metal frame to go with this one. SO worth it.
1. Research, yo. The first thing I did was stay up late at night reading forums, blogs, articles, everything...for tips from other people. I picked out the tips that I liked (keep fresh flowers in all the main rooms! yay! a few smelly candles to light quickly when people are coming, and turn on all the lights for showings to display house in its best 'light' ;) ) and dumped the ones I didn't (take down all personal photographs to help people 'see' themselves there...umnothankyou)

The other part of researching was choosing an asking price. This was hard. We compared our house with other houses on the market in our area, talked to a couple of realtors, and compared notes with a few people we'd known who had recently bought houses in our area. We ended up pricing our house 7K higher than our realtor friend suggested. I was worried (what if it doesn't sell? We have to take advantage of those first few weeks on the market!) but demand has been high in our neighborhood lately - freshly paved streets, Sprouts market going in a couple blocks over - a couple people we met told us they had tried to buy in our area but couldn't because the houses sold too quickly! And there were not a lot of homes on the market in Norman this spring apparently (picture me casting a sour face at any comparable looking home that I drove past that had a For Sale sign out, haha, and cheering when it sold and was off the market ;) ) so I think that helped. Husband made a spreadsheet estimating the money we'd spent on house projects, and that plus our original purchase price set our "bottom line" price. We ended up selling for about 12K more than that, so hurray for extra savings!

2. Use Lovely Excuse to Glam Up House. I might be weird but this was fun. We aren't cluttery, but I still went through and de-cluttered each room, putting knick nacks in a box, clearing off any shelves I thought looked better empty or almost-empty, even hiding all but our classiest shampoo and conditioner (husband rolls eyes at self). I loved the excuse of having fresh flowers around! We kept fresh flowers in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom - I bought a couple larger bouquets and then re-arranged them to spread them out. Even simple bud vases in the bathroom and library with a couple daises made a fun touch.

How our bedroom looked for showings - I used selling as an excuse to finish a few last projects,
like renovating that ceiling fan, caulking around all the crown molding, and replacing the curtain rod with
spray-painted conduit from Lowes ($2 for an uber long rod that doesn't sag!! best ever!!).
I bought this bowl for the dresser (Threshold line from Target, how you seduce me!!)
because I liked how it tied the green of the wall into a cooler blue.
Filling the bowl with water and adding the flowers was such a happy and simple touch!

3. Market, advertise, and show off house! We posted on Craigslist (renewing the ad every few days), Zillow, in the local paper, and with flyers at the curb in a box with the For Sale sign. Surprisingly to me, most of our traffic (including our buyers) came through Craigslist! I also posted FSBO signs with arrows and our address at a few different major intersections near our house (our friends joked that they could find our house a mile away by following signs...haha..!)

I actually tried to post on through an agency (it's a web site many realtors use to find houses to show their clients), but had some difficulties with the agency and was already getting so much traffic through Craigslist that I canceled the MLS subscription before it went live. Saved us $200 for the listing and we definitely still got enough traffic!

Those flyers at curb in box...I read that one should be sure not to let that box get empty. I swear we went through about 200 flyers in two is that possible?! Curious neighbors? Other people thinking about FSBO'ing?

We also had two open houses on Sundays, from 2-5pm (advertised on Craigslist and with Open House signs with arrows and balloons at intersections and in front of our house!). I kind of felt one gets less-serious lookers at open houses, but hey, all publicity is good publicity, right?! And it was fun to meet some of our neighbors that we hadn't met yet!! I made cookies and had the dining room table as a semi-permanent display of fliers, details, and an energy-usage sheet from the power company.

Fresh flowers!! Surprisingly not that many people took the cookies...
but totally worth it for the kids and husbands being dragged around to open houses ;)
Also did you see the updated globes on the chandelier?
Another pre-sell touch, I bought these white translucent ones from Lowes for $6 each.
The previous ones that came with the chandelier were much more yellow-y and cast a brownish glow :\
I read that you shouldn't follow people from room to room but let them wander through so they feel comfortable. It was hard but I learned to do this! I found keeping my laptop at the dining room table, I could have music playing on Pandora and do work on the laptop while being able to keep an eye on everything and be convenient for answering any questions or strike up conversation with anyone who was standing around awkwardly. :)

The second open house was on Mother's Day, but we held it anyway since it was the only other Sunday we'd be in town before moving. And I actually liked it. We had fewer people but they were more serious about looking - I guess only the really motivated ones are out looking on a holiday!

We also had quite a few private showings, people and realtors calling to come by and see the house. We got pretty fast at throwing open all curtains, turning on all lights, hiding any clutter, fluffing pillows, lighting candles, and laying out fliers on table. I loved keeping the kitchen OCD clean while we were on the market - no dishes in sink! Nothing left on counters ever! - to keep preparing for a showing easier. We even used it as an excuse to eat out a couple times to keep the house spotless for showings, hehe.

Anyone who reads YoungHouseLove will probably notice I modeled our flier after theirs! I really liked seeing other FSBO listings to figure out how to make mine, so here ya go (sans pertinent details). Click on the image to see it larger:

I re-measured all the square feet of the house to be sure the listing was accurate!
Once again Ribbet was my friend to quickly optimize the photos for the ad!

4. Know what to do with an offer...and haggle! Since we didn't have a realtor to handle this, as FSBO'ers we wanted to be prepared for this stage. We realized we'd need someone, either a lawyer or a realtor, to handle the closing paperwork (especially since we wanted to close from abroad). Oklahoma doesn't really have professional 'closers' who will do the paperwork for $500-$700 (some places do - Washington does I think?). So we figured we'd end up paying one realtor fee for the buyer or the closing realtor (2.5-3%, usually paid by the seller). We talked ahead of time with our realtor friend, and he agreed to act as agent if our buyer didn't have a realtor, so we could direct interested buyers to him if they needed help writing up an offer.

And when we did get offers (one fell through, one contingency and one we haggled and then accepted), don't just take the first offer without negotiating (unless they offer your list price I suppose!). If they are interested enough to make an offer, they are interested enough to negotiate. We almost wish we'd haggled a little more, but we know we got a good deal, we wanted to pack and leave the country - oh yes and then we wandered over to the east coast for a wedding, so we were a little distracted :)

Step four: Meander off to another part of the country and forget about house stress for a few days.
Yay wedding in vineyard!
Look how tall my heels are. Such awesomesauce. ^_^
Yep so we actually faxed the counteroffer paperwork from a Kinkos in Virginia. Thanks Tim and Laura for driving us by there before the rehearsal ;)

Just like it was difficult to choose an asking price, it was difficult to know if we'd made the right choice by accepting an offer so quickly for $2K below our asking price. We probably could have held out and gotten a higher price. But the house also has to appraise for the price of the buyer's loan if they get one. And we didn't really want to stay in Norman for another month just to sell our house...we were eager to get to CERN and leave Norman before the summer became boiling hot :)

Our buyers included an inspection stipulation in their offer, which was fun because the inspection gratifyingly came up with almost nothing to fix. But it was also annoying, because then the inspection included some really small-but-hard-to-fix things (small holes in screen windows - our windows were so old that we couldn't just pop them out and put in new screens like you can with new windows - and a couple windows that wouldn't stay open without being propped up). We ended up paying $400 of the $500 stipulation to fix the window balances, and I'm confident that the windows are so old that it was not worth it. I almost wished I'd kept one or two bigger repairs for the inspection to notice instead!! Weird. But then, the inspector didn't notice the leaking spray nozzle at the kitchen sink (which I replaced anyway, because *I* noticed it). So I guess what I'm saying is...I'm not the biggest truster of inspections anymore!

5. Enjoy the fact that the paperwork to sell a house is a lot easier than buying! We just signed a few forms, told them our loan # to pay off, and gave them our account # to wire the rest of the money. So easy. Did you know that profit from the sale of a house is tax-free (unless it's above some threshold like $200k) even if you don't turn around and buy another house!? It used to be tax-free if you put that money into another house within a year, but GWBush changed that law, apparently. It's the American dream, folks.

I'm already looking forward to buying our next house someday...but for now I'll just enjoy crossing off two of my 2013 goals: sell house and move to Europe with Husband!


  1. Yay! Love all the info. So helpful especially seeing the flyer and the excuse for fresh flowers. We're secretly planning on putting our house on the market in Jan/Feb (FSBO). I'm a lot less nervous after reading this, but we still have a lot of projects to finish. Eeks. :-)

    1. Yay! You can totally do it!! And oh man I'm so addicted to having fresh flowers around now. :D I had forgotten about being so nervous at first, I was too!! If one day went by without any phone calls for showings, I would start wondering aloud to husband that we should lower our asking price. Fortunately we agreed from the beginning we'd give it a couple weeks at our first price. But I also reasoned it's like a garage sale: even the good ones have lulls, you just have to advertise and be patient for people to come :) Also Jan/Feb sounds like a good time, or even March/April! I really liked having the spring weather to help our yard look great (grass growing and plants coming up) but I think it was even prettier about a month earlier when the daffodils are blooming. It seemed to me a lot of people start looking in early spring, but there's always some interest year-round! You'll have to keep me posted!!


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