DIY Resources: For Sale By Owner

Might as well keep with the theme for this week, and save those pictures of me, MysteryMan and his dad stuccoing over the old station doorway for another day. I know, right? Big disappointment.

I’ll make it up to you by giving you all my top-secret info on putting a house up for sale on your own without breaking the bank or crossing the threshold of your sanity. You may toe the line a bit on that last one though.

Really? For Sale by Owner?

Considering my house has been “on the market” for one whole day, it’s safe to say I’m not an expert on whether or not FSBO is a good idea or not. I can tell you that looking seven percent in the eye and waving bye-bye as it flies into the pocket of a Realtor who did not sweat, bleed, or cry over the shaping of this house gives me twitch in my left eye. Edit: I did successfully sell my house by owner (with no realtor fees) in March of 2010 – Three months after “listing” it.

Here are some things to consider:

  • For Sale by Owner vs National Association of Realtors – Here’s an ezine article highlighting some of the good of both using a Realtor or going FSBO (but in the spirit of full disclosure, it is written by a FSBO proponent)
  • Realtor vs FSBO – In the spirit of fairness, here are some thoughts from a Realtor who also has good advice for people choosing “the dark side” (my words, not his)

I think in this day and age we have the technology and information available to us to be just as effective as any Realtor, but it does take time and effort.

Then, how you go about it is another matter entirely. My plan consisted of:

  • Build my own website
  • Create my own sign (and flyers)
  • List (free) on sites like craigslist, zillow, etc.
  • List in the local newspaper

My second tier plan is to pay the flat fee to have someone list it in the MLS, but hey, when this house sells I get to go live in a garage for the winter, so it’s not like I’m in a huge rush.

Also, Wanderluster over at RamblingRenovators brings up a very good question in her post on housebloggers possibly giving a little TMI to potential buyers.

But then there’s another thought… by writing about our houses and the tearing down and building up we put them through, do we expose too much to future owners? I mean, isn’t home-buying an emotional thing? If I don’t know what’s behind the walls, then all I see are the pretty paint colours, your staged furniture, the way the place glints in the sunlight.

And I don’t disagree. I think you can approach FSBO either way… add in a little personality or be your own “Realtor”, but either way, if you’re going it alone there are ways to make it easier.

Informational Websites

There are two points where a website becomes important. One is to find a house, and the other is to find particular information about your house.

I’ve chosen to create a website as a central repository for all information relating to my house. So I don’t have a 23 page informational packet to hand out to potential buyers (brevity not being my strong suit.)

I host DIYdiva using wordpress and godaddy, and it’s about foolproof even if you’re not entirely sure if you are in charge of your computer, or the other way around… so it was an easy choice to set up my house-selling-website the same way.

The original domain name was Once the house sold I let that domain expire, but the site basically looked like this except with information on just my house instead of on multiple listings.

Here are the basics:

Domain Name: The .info domain cost me $1.99 through godaddy for a year.

Backend: WordPress is free, and through your godaddy hosing account they’ll set the whole thing up for you in like, 20 minutes. Super easy.You can see my tutorial on setting up and hosing your own site with Godaddy and WordPress here.

Prettiness: One of my favorite things about WordPress is how easy it is to customize the look and feel of a site. I bought the theme I used for here, for $25.

So the total cost for my house-for-sale website = $26.99


Here’s the thing… these things?

I think the word I’m looking for here, is, um… SUCK.

My goal in DIY is to do it better than could be done otherwise. So I call up my local sign place (Toledoians, 1-Day-Sign is the place to call) and I told them very specifically I wanted a sign to sell my house, I want it custom, and could it please not suck?


(Hey Internet, there’s my phone number. Don’t prank me.)

I got clean, professional, customized, and not suck in 4 hours for $40, which is considerably less the the $10,000 ReMax would want to stick their ugly sign in my yard.

I bought a sturdy sign frame and infobox from Lowes as well, for around $20.

The only thing left was to fill the infobox, and I did that the cheapest way possible… by going to, finding a word template that I liked and modifying the pictures, colors, and verbiage to suit my needs. It took maybe 20 minutes, and ended up like this:

(You can see the full version with readable text here.)

Then I printed them on my home printer, and voila! House for sale.

Side note: Every time I write the word “voila” I think of my badass-hatchet-wielding mother, who one time wrote that word to me in an email and spelled it “vouaala”. Still makes me laugh. (Hi Mom!)

Listing It All Over The Internet

Just type “For Sale By Owner” into google and you’ll get hundreds of places to list your house, some of which are even free. The two best free places I would say, are Craigslist and Zillow. The people who bought my house were actually from out of town and found the listing through one of these sites.

Zillow listings look decent in and of themselves, and you can punch up a craigslist listing to look something like this:


With the help of some free HTML from

Listing it Local

I love the internet, but sometimes good old-fashioned newspaper will do the trick with these kinds of things (I hear) and it doesn’t hurt to go old-school so I’m also listing it in the newspaper and other local real estate mags (which is the bulk of the cost for this kind of thing between $50 – $100)

And you know, we’re also getting a little creative by asking friends and family to pass the web address out to friends and post it on facebook, because hey, every little bit of exposure helps.


My whole theory with creating a comprehensive website was to give people a good feel for the house before they came to see it, but I know that actually seeing it in person is when potential owners will know if it’s “the one”.

I’m not a salesman by nature, and in every house showing I’ve been to I felt the real estate agent was trying to sell me on things I could very clearly see for myself, or it felt like they were trying to find selling points that were frankly a little lame. Even so, I did what I’d seen Realtors do with the first couple that came through my house… walked them through room-by-room awkwardly announcing “and this is the kitchen!” and pointing out really obvious features like the stainless steel stove! dishwasher! wood floors!

Okay, duh. I wasn’t telling them what they couldn’t already see for themselves, and I wasn’t giving them time to do what I would want to do in that situation… think of the possibilities.

So I took stock, and the next time people came through I said, ” I know it’s traditional to show you each room of the house, but I trust that you can tell the difference between the kitchen and the bedroom (hint: the kitchen has a stove) and since I’m the owner and not a realtor, I want you to feel comfortable poking your heads in the closet and stuff… so go check it out and I’ll come in to point a few things out to you in a couple of minutes.”

Different things work for different people, but that way definitely worked better for me. When I had subsequent conversations with the owners I didn’t feel like I was pulling a used-car-salesman routine on them, but having genuine conversations about the things they liked and didn’t like about the house.

The Exciting Conclusion

As I mentioned above, we listed the house in October 2009. We had 4 showings and sold the house to an awesome couple from Florida who emailed us in January, and then came to look at the house (and subsequently made an offer) in March of 2010.

The closing process wasn’t exactly smooth– even after the buyers and I had agreed on a sale price, the appraisal came in too low for them to get a loan for the agreed amount, and so we had to do some “creative accounting” so that things worked out for both of us.

In the end though, I think selling the house by owner gave us a personal connection that helped us be “on the same team” when it came to dealing with banks and loan officers… we were there to support eachother and figure out how to make the deal work, instead of sitting on opposite sides of the table with our realtors trying to work things out by proxy, and I believe that made all the difference.

If you’re a non-traditionalist like me, once you sell that house you might also find my advice for unmarried couples building or buying a house together helpful.

7 Responses

  1. Me and my ex sold our house by owner in one month back in 2006. I staged the house to showcase our hard work and renovations, took great pictures for flyers, used free websites, same as you are doing now. I know you will sell this house quickly because you’ve done your homework and have a wonderful strategy!

  2. Vouaala? Isn’t that a town in Finland? 🙂

    In any event, it beats “viola” that I see frequently. What’s a large violin got to do with this? :p

  3. I work in real-estate for a living and I think you’ve done a great job with what you have. I think if you don’t have traffic by a certain date, you can do the flat fee MLS thing. Our neighbors up the street sold their house that way. Should you get listed into the MLS—make sure its very clear in regards to commission and if you’ll work with buyers agents. In NC, we have a buyers agency agreement that states that should a buyer choose a FSBO and they owners will not provide commission, the buyers then have to pay for the 3% due to the agents…blah blah blah.

    Regardless, I love what you’ve done. It looks great, it’s what I would tell you to do if you were our client, and I think it’s great that you’ve peppered it with a sense of humor. Good job!

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.