How to Sell a House By Owner in New York
When the time comes to move, some tenacious homeowners in New York 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 York real estate market and a steep rise in equity added extra incentives to maximize profits.
Impulsive home purchases also weren’t unheard of during the pandemic, so maybe you haven’t owned your New York 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 Yorkers, 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 York, we’ll cover what can be the most difficult aspects of selling by owner in the Empire 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 York market who can help you command top dollar and provide a low-stress selling experience.
How does selling by owner (FSBO) work in New York?
Disclaimer: While we’ve done our best to research laws, guidelines, or policies for FSBO sales in New York, 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. Since 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 York later in this post.
In New York specifically, both sellers and buyers are allowed to represent themselves at closing. However, it is highly advisable and also common practice in the state to hire a real estate attorney to represent you and assist with the legal procedures of closing a home sale, whether FSBO or not.
Why sell a house by owner in New York?
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 York, we spoke with Dominick Marchesiello in Saratoga Springs, whose team of listing specialists sells properties more than 50% quicker than the average Saratoga Springs agent.
We also spoke with John Lajara, a top real estate agent in New York City, who is a single-family home expert, working with over 77% more single-family homes than the average New York City agent.
Marchesiello says New York FSBO sellers he encounters think, “Oh, I’m going to save the six percent, or the seven percent — whatever the commission is.” But, he adds, “I’ll say that when, at the end of the day, they do it, then they realize, oh, every buyer is working with an agent and they all want me to pay them. So then it’s like okay, so you’re saving three percent” — an amount, says Marchesiello, typically more than made up for by the higher price a home seller can get for a property when working with one of his agents.
Indeed, 2022 data from NAR shows that “FSBO homes sold at a median 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.
- Homeowners who prefer to be present for showings can do so.
- No “go-between” in your communications with buyers.
Cons of selling a house by owner
- FSBO listings tend to sell for less, statistically speaking. Marchesiello says the biggest drawback for FSBO sellers is “how much money they’re gonna leave on the table.”
- Unless the seller already has a buyer lined up, FSBO listings can take longer to sell, often due to the difficulty of setting an effective listing price.
- 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 not maximizing your profit.
- 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.
In spite of the cons, we’ll help you navigate the challenges of FSBO if you’re committed to selling your New York 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.
One of the reasons why we had so many bidder wars and homes selling over asking (the last few years) was because if you priced the listing properly, you had a lot more interest; and when you had a lot more interest, that created a bidding war.
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 York home into respectable shape before any showings to increase your chances of receiving a fair price.
During the last few years in the New York City (NYC) area, Lajara recounts, “home condition really hasn’t mattered much.” Homes were selling with little or no renovation or prep work. In light of the slowing market and high interest rates, however, Lajara says sellers will need to do more work to get homes ready now.
Here are a few standard tasks to put on your to-do list.
These efforts will go a long way toward impressing buyers looking for a home in New York:
- Declutter floors, shelves, and surfaces throughout the home.
- Depersonalize — meaning, put away family photos, collectibles, or other things that could keep a buyer from imagining the space as their own.
- Make small fixes and repairs, like a leaky faucet or broken door handle. Lajara also recommends fixing any broken windows or other things a buyer might flag safety hazards.
- 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. Marchesiello says that in the Northeast, choosing paint colors in a gray palette is essential.
- 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.
- Avoid colorful patterns on things like pillowcases, blankets, and comforters, Marchesiello recommends.
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.
- Trim bushes neatly.
- 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’re selling your home during the winter months when snow is covering the property, especially common in upstate New York, you may need to show off the curb appeal more with seasonal listing photos, which we’ll discuss in step three below.
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.
According to Lajara, strategic pricing is key: “One of the reasons why we had so many bidder wars and homes selling over asking (the last few years) was because if you priced the listing properly, you had a lot more interest; and when you had a lot more interest, that created a bidding war.”
But with the market cooling and interest rates much higher at the end of 2022, he adds, “Now, I would say pricing is even more important.”
In contrast to the last few years when a seller might get away with pricing a house above market value, Lajara is seeing houses priced right at market value that are not moving. Now, according to Lajara, “I am trying to get homeowners to list just a little bit under market value so we are a little bit more attractive in the marketplace.”
To determine a home’s market value before setting a strategic price, 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.
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 York 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 reduce guesswork further, 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.
According to Lajara, “basements are highly-valuable features” in New York — particularly if they’re finished and have an in-law suite — so the lack or presence of one is worth considering when evaluating comps and setting your price.
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, Lajara absolutely recommends FSBO sellers make the investment.
Realtors® know that tools like professional photography, virtual staging, and 3D virtual tours can influence whether buyers schedule a showing. With these, Lajara says, “the buyer can get a better perspective of the home.” Not only that, but “When we do professional photography, we’re doing wide lens, and you’re getting the full depth of the room — and you know, obviously touching it up as well makes a big difference.”
But if you 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 — plus that coveted New York basement.
- Try shooting different angles.
- Include an image of the home’s floor plan, if you can. Lajara’s team likes to include these in listings, especially for large homes, to help buyers make better sense of the pictures.
- Include both current and seasonal photos. If you’re selling when the ground is covered with snow, for example, Marchesiello says, “Having some photos of the beautiful backyard in the middle of spring and summer is very important.”
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 York 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
- Basement features
- Travel time to amenities and attractions, especially if you’re upstate. “Because in upstate New York,” says Marchesiello, “you could be forty minutes from a grocery store. You could be five.” This also helps buyers who are unfamiliar with the area or want to purchase the home as a short-term rental for others to enjoy.
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, rowhouse, rancher, brownstone)
- 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.
5. List your home online
It’s finally time to post your New York 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 York 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:
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 York 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 New York home.
Experienced agents like Marchesiello and Lajara 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.
In fact, Marchesiello explains, marketing is actually the first step to ultimately negotiating a favorable sale price. “The key is to list their home, expose it, and try to do as much marketing as possible,” he says, “to create the demand to create a negotiating power. So that’s my first step.” Great marketing brings in offers, hopefully driving up the sale price.
Here are some of the steps you can take to market your home:
Place a nice FSBO sign by the road
According to Lajara, yard signs are one of the most common marketing tools he sees FSBO sellers using in New York.
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, plus a stand, for as little as $25 plus shipping. Note that while FSBO yard signs are allowed in New York generally, some local MLS providers may have rules about whether you can post a FSBO yard sign while your home is also on the MLS.
Share on social media
Share your home across social media — and ask your friends to share, too.
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 — and a crucial one, since a buyer’s first impression could make or break a deal.
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.
“Savvy” New York homeowners, according to Lajara, will also pre-screen buyers before showings to avoid tire-kickers or people whose needs simply won’t be met by the home.
Here are some questions and issues Lajara recommends discussing with New York buyers or their agents before scheduling a showing:
- Does the buyer have a pre-approval letter?
- If so, how much are they pre-approved for?
- What kind of financing will they use? (FHA, VA, conventional, etc.)
- Reiterate the specifications of the home (beds, baths, basement, parking, etc.) in case any of them may be deal breakers. “I’m asking their needs and wants just to make sure that the house actually fits those needs,” Lajara explains.
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.
8. Evaluate offers, negotiate a deal, and make disclosures
You’ve got your first offer — congratulations! Before signing anything, you’ll need to make sure this buyer is qualified, so that you don’t go under contract with someone who cannot actually afford the home or procure financing.
Lajara cautions, “A preapproval letter only tells you so much.” To help, his brokerage has an in-house lender that offers local FSBO sellers the free service of screening buyers. Find a lender local to you, he suggests, that may offer a similar service for free for the chance of possibly underwriting the loan themselves.
Here are other key considerations when considering an offer on your New York home:
- Vet potential buyers by asking for 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!)
Marchesiello advises that if you’ve effectively marketed your home — even if you get an offer under asking price — “It’s always a negotiation. So no matter what, you’re always counter-offering. Even if (you’re) willing to take it, always counter-offer with the terms that (you) want.”
Property condition disclosures
In an agent-assisted sale, your listing agent would provide you with New York’s appropriate seller disclosure forms and facilitate their delivery to potential buyers. However, as a FSBO seller, you’ll need to complete and share the required forms yourself.
Property Condition Disclosure Statement
According to New York’s Property Condition Disclosure Act (PCDA), enacted in 2002, a residential property seller is generally required to complete a Property Condition Disclosure Statement, which must be delivered to a buyer before they sign a “binding contract of sale,” also known as a purchase agreement.
What will you be asked? You can expect to explain certain characteristics of your property and to disclose any significant defects or issues you’re aware of concerning:
- General information about the property’s age and any legal issues affecting it (liens, easements, shared features, etc.)
- Environmental conditions (floodplains, wetlands, and fuel storage tanks, plus hazards like radon, asbestos, and lead)
- Structural damage from things like water, fire, smoke, or pests
- Other structural concerns (age, type, and condition of the roof, plus any “material defects” with footings, beams, columns, etc.)
- Water source and quality, sewage, and electrical systems
- Any flooding, drainage, or seepage problems
- Known material defects with plumbing, security systems, smoke detectors, air conditioning, water heaters, and more
You can find the condition disclosure form online here.
What happens if you don’t fill out the disclosure?
The PCDA says that if a seller fails to deliver a completed condition disclosure to a buyer before signing a purchase contract, the seller will be required to pay a $500 credit to the buyer when the sale closes.
According to Lajara, under these guidelines, most sellers in the New York City area opt to pay that $500 credit rather than fill out a disclosure form for which they’ll be held liable. “I’ve done this for thirteen years,” he says, “and to date right now, I’ve never had a homeowner waive the five hundred and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll take the responsibility of filling that form out.’”
However, if you live in another area of the state, that may not necessarily be the common practice. Marchesiello says that buyers in upstate New York are more likely to be wary of a property whose seller opted not to complete the disclosure: “That’s a red flag to a buyer that something’s wrong with a property.”
If you do decide to fill out the condition disclosure, you may prefer to make the completed form accessible to potential buyers and their agents before they even have a chance to draft an offer — perhaps by leaving a copy in the property during showings and uploading it to your online listing, if possible. That way, a prospective buyer is more informed beforehand and less likely to withdraw from a deal later on.
Important: If you find yourself in doubt about a problem with the home’s condition while filling out the form, most top real estate agents would recommend you disclose it. If you know of a major problem and choose not to disclose it, and that defect is later discovered, you could be held liable for damage or subsequent costs.
Lead-based paint form
If your home was built before 1978, you’ll also need to fill out the Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards in order to comply with federal law. You’ll need to complete this at the same time as the property disclosure and make it available to buyers’ agents and potential buyers as well.
Note: Although an agent would normally take care of this as your representative, as part of the contract process, you’ll also need to provide a buyer with the EPA’s pamphlet called “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home,” available in a variety of languages.
Read more here about your responsibilities regarding potential lead hazards.
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 York technically does not. Any seller or buyer can represent her or himself at closing. However, the practice of having one or more attorneys present (one representing the seller, one the buyer) is both customary and legally advisable in the state of New York, for both FSBO and agent-assisted sales.
One of the main reasons: no one other than an attorney is allowed to give you legal advice concerning the closing documents.
According to Ian Kelley, an NYC attorney specializing in real estate law with the firm McCanliss & Early LLP, “Most think that a non-attorney appearing at a closing to assist a residential purchaser or seller is both an ethical and legal violation related to the Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL). It is well settled in ethical opinions of the New York State Bar that explaining legal documents and advising a person regarding the effect of legal documents constitutes the practice of law even if it takes place outside of a court case or administrative proceeding.”
Not only that, but it’s best to work with a buyer who has hired a lawyer, as well. Kelley advises that if you’re working with a buyer who doesn’t have an attorney, you “should be concerned about possible post-closing claims by an unrepresented party claiming to have been cheated or defrauded in some way. An unhappy and unrepresented party can make specious claims about what occurred at the closing.”
So beyond following custom, it’s simply a wise idea to invest in the services of an experienced attorney as you close one of the biggest and most complex deals of your life — and work with a buyer who does so, as well. By doing so, you’ll minimize your legal and financial risk, plus simplify the process for yourself.
How much will an attorney’s services cost you?
Real estate attorney fees can vary greatly depending on location and how much help you want or need. In New York City, for example, the Levin Law Group charges a flat fee of $850 from contract to closing. Kelley’s firm in NYC charges on a sliding scale, beginning at $3,000. Meanwhile, MCV Law in the Syracuse area charges a flat fee of $1,000.
Nationally, Thumbtack reports that real estate attorneys who do not offer flat-fee services may charge anywhere from $150 to $350 per hour — well worth it for professional guidance in closing one of life’s largest legal transactions.
FSBO mistakes to avoid in New York
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.
- Not pre-qualifying potential buyers.
- Closing without an attorney’s help.
- Denying a buyer the opportunity to complete a home inspection. Marchesiello says that, while New York FSBO sellers can technically say no to an inspection, that can be a red flag to a buyer, who may then walk away.
- Failing to complete the required disclosures, depending on your area of the state’s typical practices. Not only will this cost you $500 — it could scare off buyers, if it goes against the local trend.
Alternatives to selling by owner in New York
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.
Lajara remembers one FSBO seller in Yonkers that had previously worked with an agent and let that arrangement expire, then later opted for FSBO, and finally came to him for help. He had priced his home based on Zillow’s “Zestimate” without understanding the complexity of the neighborhood and appropriate comps.
“He didn’t have an understanding of what the price should be,” Lajara recalls. “So when we looked at the listing, he was way overpriced.”
A 3D tour and professional photography also improved the listing, since the house was large and easy to get lost in with only DIY photos. And with more effective pricing, “the house literally sold and in about a week or so,” at $50,000 over the new asking price.
An experienced agent will also manage the demanding logistics of showings and negotiation so you don’t have to worry about them.
Marchesiello shares an experience selling a luxury home in Saratoga Springs for an owner living in California. The owner hated real estate agents, so he tried FSBO from afar, unsuccessfully, for two or three months. “As you go up in price point and try to do FSBO — and luxury — it’s even more challenging,” comments Marchesiello.
Ultimately, when the owner enlisted Marchesiello’s team, “We ended up getting seven offers on the property and sold it for the exact dollar amount he wanted.” Marchesiello recalls that the seller went from “‘Never wanted to work with an agent’ to ‘Thank you so much. I love you. Can you go sell my mom’s house as well?’ I totally flipped his idea of an agent around.”
Interested in such service and expertise? HomeLight’s Agent Match platform can connect you to top-performing agents in your New York 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 York 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 48 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 York home?
Unless you already have a buyer lined up, selling a house by owner in New York 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 York market.
Header Image Source: (Clay LeConey / Unsplash)