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For Sale by Owner Guide

Guide for Sellers

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Work With Buyers


One of the biggest potential problem with by owner sales is that it is hard to get an appointment to see the house. You must make your house easy to see, while keeping yourself and your valuables safe.

Watch for "buying signs" from buyers. These include: staying in the house a long time, discussing where their furniture would go and asking you about your timeframes for moving. These are possibly your most serious buyers. Follow up with them.

Make sure you initiate and continue a successful chain of communication with interested buyers.


Don’t discriminate! Treat every prospective buyer the same, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, family status, or national origin. Discrimination is against the law!


Handling the phone:

  • Put an answering machine on the phone.
    Leave an outgoing message announcing that the house is for sale and you would love to show it to the buyer. You don't want to miss a prospective buyer's call.
  • Prepare the kids.
    If you have children - and they are home alone or with a sitter - have them say that a parent is busy right now but will call back within a specific timeframe. They shouldn’t answer questions about the house. Remind your kids to never indicate that they are alone or open the door to drop-ins.
  • Get the caller's information.
    Always ask for the buyer’s name, phone number at home - and at work - so that you can confirm the appointment. Double check the phone numbers in the phone book for security reasons. If a caller refuses to give you this information, they probably are not a serious buyer anyway.
  • Don’t discuss price over the phone.
    Don't get into a discussion over price with someone who hasn’t even seen the house. If a caller says your price is high for the area, respond that you priced it according to the comparables and that you’d be happy to show them the comparable report when they come to see the house.
  • Don’t negotiate over the phone.
    Many buyers will ask you if your price is negotiable. Again, indicate that you priced the house according to the comparables and that you expect your price is in the correct range. Say that you will consider offers made in writing from qualified buyers, and that you’d like to have them see the house.
  • Agent Calls.
    You will get calls and drop-ins from real estate agents who will want to list your home or show it to a potential buyer. When agents call, always ask them what they think about your price - keeping in mind that they want your business. Use their information with your other research - the more information you have, the more successful you will be.

Talking to Interested Buyers

Congratulations! You’ve gotten that call from buyers you showed your home to last week, and they are interested in talking further about buying the house. They want to come back and see the house one more time and then sit down and discuss the possible purchase. At this point, there are several steps to get to an actual written contract.

First, invite the buyers back immediately and put the house in absolutely great condition. This visit is when the buyer will make the decision to make an offer to you or move on to another house. Make sure everything is spotless, clear the walks of snow or ice if necessary and turn on lights. Do everything and more that you would do for an open house. Be sure you have created a calm and relaxed atmosphere in the house.

When the buyers arrive, greet them warmly and offer soft drinks, coffee or tea. Then let them take another look at the house. Offer to answer any questions they may have about the house, but stay out of their way. Hopefully, when they are finished looking they will have several questions. Remember that questions are buying signs. If they aren’t interested enough to ask questions, they probably aren’t interested enough to buy. Answer the questions truthfully. You are setting the stage for future negotiations, so be calm and friendly.

It is possible that the buyers will indicate that they are interested in the house and will ask what the next step is. You should always be prepared for this question. The next step is always for the buyers to put their offer in writing. If you have hired a contract attorney to negotiate the contract for you, the attorney should provide you with contract forms to give to the buyer. If the buyer says that s/he would just like to talk about the sale and be sure you are on the same page, use common sense. Obviously you and the buyer have to come to terms and there is nothing wrong with friendly discussion, but nothing is binding until it is in writing. The best advice is to not negotiate price verbally. If the buyer asks you how low you will go, indicate that you need to see their entire offer and evidence that they can qualify for the mortgage before you can negotiate price. Indicate that you have priced your home to sell and, while everything is possibly negotiable, price is only one part of the equation, and you will have to see their offer in writing.

Remember to remain calm and friendly. Don’t take negative comments about the house or your price personally. This is critical to your success. Even if the buyer seems to be difficult (and some will be, it’s a fact of life) REMAIN CALM AND FRIENDLY. By owner transactions require a win-win. Do not allow the discussion to become confrontational.

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