The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Saving Money When You Sell Your Home

Nowadays there a numerous options for a homeowner to save money when selling their home.  Below are our best 8 tips to doing just that.

1. Sell it on your own (aka For Sale By Owner)

The term For Sale By Owner used to refer to a home owner putting up a generic red and white for sale sign in their front yard and listing their house in the local newspaper listings.  The new version of that is Craigslist, where you can see hundreds of for sale by owner listings.  In all but a few large markets, such as San Francisco, listing your home on Craigslist is entirely free.  In fact, my brother in law sold his home to a buyer who found their house on Craigslist.  The obvious major downside is much less exposure since it won’t be listed on the MLS.  This can be mitigated by manually posting your home for sale on Zillow however, which is also completely free. The fact that you need to handle the entire process on your own, including the contracts, negotiations, and closing, means this route is not for everyone. Check out our step by step guide on how to execute a (mostly) hassle free for sale by owner deal.

for sale by owner sign - save the 3% listing commission when you sell your home on your own
Please don’t act as desperate as this guy.

 

2. Do a partial For Sale By Owner

List your home with ForSaleByOwner.com and purchase one of their packages ranging from roughly $100 to $500.  You will still have to do everything on your own, except you have the added benefit of getting your house listed on the local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) which drastically increases its exposure to buyers and their agents. Note, with the MLS option you will be required to offer a commission to the buyer’s agent who has probably spent months working with that buyer.  You likely want to offer the same to a buyer with an agent even if you do a true for sale by owner, but putting it on the MLS makes it explicit.  

In this same category would be one of the many flat fee MLS listing services, which operate largely the same as the service described above.  For a flat fee, usually $300 to $500, a real estate broker will list your house on the MLS but provide no other services.  You may even have to pay additional fees to make any changes to your listing such as adding more photos, changing the price, the description, etc.

 

3. Utilize one of the many “instant offer” companies or wholesalers

If you list your house as a for sale by owner, such as on Craigslist, you may start getting calls from cash buyers known as wholesalers. These are the same folks that staple signs to utility poles like in the photo below. They will definitely want to offer you less money so they can turn around and resell the purchase agreement to an investor at a profit, but there is likely no faster or cheaper way to sell your house. These people will close fast and and you won’t have to pay any realtor commissions. Very recently, there is a new type of cash buyer in some markets, which are essentially sophisticated, well capitalized technology companies.  The largest of these appears to be Opendoor, but as of this writing, none appear to be operating in Michigan.  For a more detailed explanation on how these companies work, check out our other post on the 6 biggest real estate trends that will change the way you buy or sell your next home.

We Buy Houses Sign on Utility Pole
And please don’t sell to these utility pole people.  (Photo courtesy of Andy Alfaro aalfaro@modbee.com)

 

4. Pay for professional photos and video

I know, I know, this article is supposed to be about saving money.  But hear me out.  If you do decide to go with one of the above options, you will be tempted to take photos of your house on your smart phone.  While I readily admit the last two Samsung Galaxies I’ve owned take much better photos than my old 2004 era Canon digital camera, trust me….the photos you take of your home are going to look awful.  They always do.  Go ahead and try to take a photo of your bathroom and get more than just the corner with the toilet, and also without yourself in the mirror.  Unless you want to have a selfie in all your listing photos, don’t try it.  Or try to take a photo of your bedroom that doesn’t make it look twice as small as it is.  Don’t get me started on the awful lighting you will inevitably have compared to a professional.  Thankfully, here in Michigan there are some great and affordable options for photographers that specialize in real estate photography.  Check out Mixed Media, and HouseLens, which even offers options for video walk-throughs, aerial drone photos, and 3D tours.  You will save money in the long run when your house sells faster because it doesn’t looked haunted in all the photos.

bad mls listing photo of bathroom
Checkout this Bad MLS Photos blog for more cringeworthy examples.

5. Pay some of the buyer’s closing costs

This is another one of those non-intuitive ways to make money by spending money.  Let’s say Suzy Seller lists her home for $300k, and Barry Buyer makes an offer for $285k.  Suzy could counter with an offer to pay $5k of the buyer’s closing costs but increase the sales price to $295k.  In many cases this scenario is a win-win, as Suzy and Barry each have have an extra $5k in their pocket, and Barry’s mortgage payment only increases by $47 per month (30 yr fixed at 4%).  In many cases Barry may have approached the Suzy with a similar offer. Think first time home buyer doing an FHA loan with very little to spare beyond the down payment.  Saving on the closing costs would be super attractive for such a buyer. This is especially good when interest rates are low, like they are now, since Barry’s mortgage payments don’t increase much and it’s easy to find investments that will beat his 4% borrowing costs.  There is a limit to how much of the closing costs a seller can cover and what they are allowed to cover, which you can review on the Fannie Mae website

 

Occupancy Type

Downpayment

Max Seller Contributions (% of sales price)

Principal residence or second home

<10%

3%

25% to 10%

6%

>25%

9%

Investment property

All amounts

2%

6. Get creative with negotiations

Instead of accepting a lower price or paying some of the buyer’s closing costs, think of other things you can offer that the buyer may want.  Maybe throw in that pool table or piano in the basement that you aren’t sure how to get out anyways.  Or the patio furniture that won’t fit in your new condo.  When we were having trouble agreeing on a purchase price, I once asked for an old truck that I saw in the seller’s garage that appeared to have not been used in some time (alas they said no).

Get creative with negotiations when selling your home such as by leaving a huge 2nd story piano for the new owners
http://funcycled.com/projects/updating-nursery-furniture-into-a-rustic-bedroom-set-tuesdays-treasures/

7. Do these 10 super affordable yet brilliant home improvements prior to selling

Here are 10 super affordable yet effective fixes when getting ready to sell your home.  This is an excerpt from our upcoming guide with hacks to get your home ready to sell without breaking the bank:

  1. Re-paint with a fresh coat of neutral paint
  2. Replace old light fixtures with new modern fixtures
  3. Staining/Painting dingy cabinets
  4. Replace oxidized or rusty door handles/hinges with new modern versions
  5. Reglaze colored 60’s and 70’s bathroom tile white (see before and after photos of my actual bathroom below)
  6. Removing carpets if hardwood is underneath
  7. Refinishing hardwoods
  8. Removing wallpaper
  9. Replace old and mismatched light switches and electrical outlets
  10. Spruce up outdoor spaces such as a deck, pergola, or patio
Bathroom with 60's era pink floor and wall tiles and tub
The actual bathroom in my house when we bought it with 60’s era pink tiles and tub.
The same bathroom after re-glazing the tiles and tub white and painting the walls
The same bathroom after re-glazing the tiles and tub white and painting the walls

6. Use VendCasa Realty

You may have noticed that the first 5 tips do not require even using a real estate agent!  That’s because here at VendCasa we have no hidden agenda. We recognize that there are countless options available nowadays, and want to help everyone sell their home in the way that best suits them, even if it means not using us.  So where does VendCasa fit on this list?  If you like the idea of saving money, but don’t want the hassle associated with doing a for sale by owner, give us a call.  You will pay just half the normal listing commission, and we will take care of everything.  You can feel good about yourself using VendCasa Realty knowing that you will have more money in your pocket, and that you’ve helped a family in the community keep a house over their heads.

VendCasa Realty Slider bar showing how much money you save when selling your home and how much is donated to charity
Save money when you sell with VendCasa and feel good knowing that each deal helps local charities that provide housing services to needy families.