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The Dos and Don'ts of listing your home yourself on Zillow

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Listing your own Denver home on Zillow - a how to guide

Sean Ready

With over 2000 homes sold and 500+ five star online reviews, Sean and his team are on a mission to create raving fans out of each client by delivering...

With over 2000 homes sold and 500+ five star online reviews, Sean and his team are on a mission to create raving fans out of each client by delivering...

Oct 22 17 minutes read

Read This Before You List Your FSBO on Zillow (2021-2022 Guide)



Listing your house on Zillow for sale by owner (FSBO) can be a great way to get your home in front of potential buyers, but you should know what you’re getting yourself into.

Selling DIY can help you save on realtor commission, but the process is time-consuming and difficult. There’s also a big risk you won’t actually save money in the long run — on average, FSBO homes actually sell for 6% less than similar properties.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about posting your house on Zillow for sale by owner: fees, pros and cons, improving your listing, and more. But, if savings are your top priority, you may actually keep more cash in your pocket by working with a real estate agent.  In fact, here's a list of 25 FSBOs we've helped sell for more than what they had it listed for themselves.  In fact, these 25 ecstatic sellers sold for an average of 6.8% higher than what they had it listed for...nearly matching the national average cited above.


How do Zillow FSBO listings work?

Most homes listed on Zillow’s website come directly from the multiple listing service (MLS), a database where local realtors advertise the properties they’re selling. But, if you’re listing FSBO and aren’t putting your house on the MLS, you can post it on Zillow manually.

Unfortunately, Zillow puts FSBO sellers at a big disadvantage. When you search for homes on Zillow, the map’s default view only shows you properties that are listed with an agent. 

zillow for sale by owner search

To see FSBO properties, a buyer must select the “Other listings” button. Many buyers won’t even notice this option. 

Unfortunately, this could have a direct impact on your bottom line.

Fewer eyes on your FSBO Zillow listing means less interest from potential buyers and more time on the market, which could make it more difficult to get top dollar for your home.



Zillow for sale by owner fees: The true cost

You pay nothing to create a Zillow FSBO listing – at least not upfront. The true cost comes after a buyer fills out a form to speak with an agent about your home.

How Zillow makes money

Even though you’re listing your house as for sale by owner, Zillow still places a huge “Contact Agent” button near the top of the page. To find your contact information, buyers must scroll all the way to the bottom of the “Overview” section.

fsbo zillow search

Clicking “Property Owner” will open a form where the buyer can email you directly, but the button is intentionally MUCH harder to find. If a buyer isn’t already working with an agent, they’re far more likely to click “Contact Agent” than get in touch with you directly.

There’s a reason Zillow makes it so difficult for buyers to contact FSBO sellers directly. It’s the same reason Zillow lets you list for sale by owner for free. It may not be charging you fees, but it is making money from your listing.

Every time Zillow connects a realtor with a customer on the website, the agent pays a fee. Simply put, if a potential buyer clicks “Contact Agent” on your listing, Zillow makes money. But if the buyer contacts you directly, Zillow makes nothing.

Zillow buyer’s agent commission fees

If you’re listing on Zillow for sale by owner, it’s likely because you don’t want real estate commission fees to eat into your profits. By listing FSBO you can avoid paying a listing agent, but you’ll still likely have to cover buyer’s agent fees — typically around 3% of the sale price — especially if your buyer finds your house through Zillow due to these reasons.

When that agent calls you to arrange a showing, they’ll ask for details about commission. If you aren’t offering buyer’s agent commission, they may refuse to show your home and steer your would-be buyer toward other properties.

The bottom line: Even if you sell FSBO, realtor fees will likely cost you around 3% of the sale price. And it’s more likely that you’ll pay those fees by listing FSBO on Zillow. Of course, that’s way cheaper than listing with an agent who charges standard rates, but selling a house is time-consuming and often leads to a lower sales price. 

For many sellers, listing with a low commission real estate agent is a better option. We offer listing packages as low as 1%. Your total commission will only cost 3.8%. That’s not much more than selling on Zillow FSBO — but you’ll ALSO get the expert local market guidance of a full service realtor from a top brokerage.

Selling FSBO on Zillow is tough. There may be a much better better option for you.


For sale by owner on Zillow reviews

Zillow reviews online for FSBO sellers are generally positive. But, as with any company, you’ll find plenty of complaints too.

Based on Zillow reviews across independent websites, these are the pros and cons of selling on Zillow for sale by owner:

  • ✅ Pro: Zillow is the most popular home buying website
  • ✅ Pro: It’s free to list on Zillow for sale by owner
  • ✅ Pro: Zillow offers a free app for creating virtual home tours
  • ⛔️ Con: FSBO homes may get less attention on Zillow
  • ⛔️ Con: You’ll likely get LOTs of cold calls from listing agents
  • ⛔️ Con: Your potential savings may not be worth the time and hassle

✅ Pro: Zillow is the most popular home buying website

Aside from listing on the MLS, posting for sale by owner on Zillow is the fastest way to advertise your home to as many potential buyers as possible. 

For many home buyers, Zillow is their first and only destination when browsing houses online. And not only is Zillow the most popular home buying app, but the company will also post your listing on its other websites (including Trulia), which collectively attract more than 220 million unique monthly visitors.


✅ Pro: It’s free to list on Zillow for sale by owner

Zillow doesn’t charge listing fees, so you can post your home for free, even when you’re selling it yourself. That’s a HUGE advantage over other popular FSBO websites, especially considering how many buyers use Zillow to browse homes. For example, FSBO.com, which has a fraction of Zillow’s users, charges $99.95 just to list your house on its website.

That said, since it’s free to list on Zillow, you may have a difficult time getting help when you run into problems. Many Zillow complaints from FSBO sellers suggest that reaching customer service is a major challenge.

Supposedly Zillow has up to 72 hours to verify a FSBO listing. They are supposed to call and verify. I tried to list almost a week ago. I've opened 3 cases since then with no reply. I have searched everywhere for a phone # to call and there are only #'s answered for "premier agents," not regular consumers. Huge disappointment at a time where frustrations are already high and showings/marketing are difficult.

✅ Pro: Zillow offers a free creating virtual home tour creator

Zillow offers a free app called Zillow 3D Home Tours that allows you to create and add a virtual home tour to your listing.

Including a virtual home tour in your listing is a great way to show off your home to potential buyers. And since some sellers won’t take advantage of this free tool, it could help you set your listing apart from the competition.

⛔️ Con: FSBO homes may get less attention on Zillow

Zillow is one of the best places to advertise for sale by owner properties, but the company’s decision to hide FSBO listings by default will make it harder for you to get your listing in front of buyers.


And, as the following Zillow review notes, this process is confusing for buyers as well.

Most buyers’ agents will only show your home if they’re certain you’re offering a competitive commission fee. So, if your goal is to avoid realtor fees entirely, you may have a difficult time finding a buyer through Zillow.


⛔️ Con: You’ll likely get LOTs of cold calls from listing agents

Since selling a home yourself is more difficult than some sellers realize, real estate agents view FSBO listings as a great potential source of new customers.

Many realtors cold call FSBO sellers regularly, hoping that they’re frustrated that their home hasn’t sold and ready to hire an agent.

So, while your for sale by owner listing may not get as much attention from buyers, you’ll likely get LOTS of unwanted phone calls from realtors.

⛔️ Con: Your potential savings may not be worth the time and hassle

Many FSBO sellers mistakenly think they’ll be able to eliminate realtor fees altogether by selling without an agent. But, as we mentioned above, you’ll likely still be on the hook for buyer’s agent commission — UNLESS you find a buyer who’s not working with a realtor.

Unfortunately, the odds are against you. Approximately 90% of buyers work with an agent, and that remaining 10% includes a large number of people who are buying from a family member or close friend.

As a result, you should expect realtor commission to cost about 3%, depending on the average rates in your area. That’s much less than working with a full-price listing agent — on a $325,000 home, FSBO could save you more than $9,500. But, it means you’ll have to do a lot more work too.

If you sold with a low-fee company instead, you’ll save nearly as much on realtor fees WITHOUT the headache of selling a house yourself. There’s plenty of low commission companies to pick from, and we have listing packages as low as 1%.



How to list on Zillow for sale by owner

If you do decide to list your house on Zillow for sale by owner, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Zillow profile or register for an account.
  2. Find your home by searching the address.
  3. Select “Claim ownership” under the “More” dropdown menu and complete the verification questions.
  4. From your home’s owner dashboard, select “List for sale by owner” under the “List Home” menu.
  5. Create your FSBO listing by setting a price, entering contact information and details about your property, writing a listing description, adding photos, and scheduling one or more open houses.
  6. Upload a virtual home tour using Zillow’s free 3D Home app.
  7. Click “Post For Sale By Owner” to submit your Zillow FSBO listing for review.
  8. Once Zillow approves your listing, your home will appear as “for sale” on the website and app.

Your FSBO listing will remain active on Zillow for 90 days, unless you cancel it before then. If your home doesn’t sell within 90 days, you can extend the listing from your owner dashboard.

How to price your Zillow for sale by owner property

Choosing the right list price is one of the most important steps to selling FSBO. Research your local market to find homes like yours that have sold recently, then consider whether yours has any upgrades — or defects — that affect its value.

Pricing a home can be tricky, especially if your property is unique. Value your house too low, and you risk leaving money on the table. Price it too high, and you may scare off buyers who would otherwise be interested.

✍️SHOULD I USE ZILLOW’S ZESTIMATE TO SET MY LISTING PRICE?


No, you should never price your home based on its Zestimate alone. Based on Zillow’s own data, Zestimates for off-market homes have a median error rate of 6.9% — on a $400,000 home, that’s a difference of more than $27,000!

If you’re considering selling FSBO, but not 100% sure, it’s worth talking to a few real estate agents for advice on pricing. An experienced realtor knows the ins and outs of your local market and can give you an objective assessment of what buyers are willing to pay for homes like yours. 

Agents will typically give sellers a home value report (often called a comparative market analysis or CMA) for free, and you can use that information to set your price, even if you decide not to list with them.

How to edit your Zillow FSBO listing

To edit your Zillow FSBO listing, navigate to your owner dashboard by clicking on your profile icon at the top-right corner and selecting “Your Home.” 

Click “Edit Listing” to add photos, change the asking price, revise your property details, or update your listing status once you’ve gone under contract.

How to maximize your Zillow FSBO listing

Ready to post your house on Zillow for sale by owner? Here’s how to get the most out of your Zillow listing so you can find a buyer quickly and pocket as much profit as possible.

Take incredible photos

When you’re selling FSBO, photography is an area where you should NOT pinch pennies. Hiring a professional photographer is one of the best investments you can make. It generally only costs a few hundred dollars, but it can have a huge impact on your sale.

Research has found that homes with professional photos sell up to 32% faster. And homes that go under contract quickly tend to sell for more than properties that sit on the market for a long time.

Plus, since so many FSBO sellers pay too little attention to getting their photos right, investing in incredible, professional-quality listing pictures will make your home stand out.

Nail your listing description

After taking care of your photos, you should write a listing description that will help buyers form an emotional attachment to your home before they even step foot on the property.

Buyers look at lots of Zillow listings, so you only have a few seconds to capture their attention. Think carefully about your home’s most important details, and highlight those in your description.

A classic marketing technique is to “turn features into benefits.” Don’t just state facts about your home, help buyers visualize themselves living there. For example, instead of stating  that your property has a large backyard, emphasize that the “enormous half-acre lot gives your furry friends plenty of room to run.”

✍️ THE #1 MISTAKE IN ZILLOW FSBO LISTINGS


Way too many sellers forget to put their phone number and email address directly in their listing description. 

If you want to maximize your commission savings by cutting out the buyer’s agent fee, you need to make it easy for house-hunters to find your contact details before they click that gigantic “Contact Agent” button.


Improve your FSBO Zestimate

While Zestimates (Zillow’s estimate of what a home is worth) are improving over time, they’re often still wrong — sometimes by tens of thousands of dollars. Home buyers may not realize this, so do what you can to increase your Zestimate, especially if it’s far below your list price.

Zillow does not let you change your Zestimate directly, but you can influence it by ensuring that Zillow is calculating your estimated home value based on accurate information. Update your home facts to fix incorrect or outdated information details, especially to major features like the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage.

The algorithm Zillow uses also bases your estimate on public records, including tax assessments and previous sale prices. If your home profile has errors — an outdated tax assessment, for instance — you can alert a customer service representative through the Zillow Help Center.

Should you list your home FSBO on Zillow?

ProsCons

You avoid listing agent commission (saving you 2.5-3%)FSBO homes sell for 6% less than agent-listed properties on average
No one knows your house better than you doYou'll be negotiating price and contracts with an experienced agent
You control the sale process from start to finishYou control the process from start to finish… which means everything falls on your shoulders


If you’re a skilled negotiator, experienced home seller, in a seller’s market, and have lots of time on your hands, you can save on real estate commission by listing your house on Zillow for sale by owner.

However, for most homeowners, selling FSBO carries huge risks — and may have limited benefits in the long run. Remember, the average FSBO house sells for 6% less than comparable homes. If you “save” 3% on realtor fees but sell your home for 6% below its true value, you’re coming out WAY behind, especially considering how much time and effort it takes to sell a house yourself.  Make sure you know ALL your options before getting too tunnel visioned down the FSBO trail.

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