How to Sell Your House Without Putting it on the Market

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sell your house without putting it on the marketClean, call the realtor, get an estimate on the list price, get pictures taken, take down all your personal photos, make the house look like only a housemaid lives there, list it through your agent, host an open house,  and then be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice when someone wants to come look at it…right….now. This is the joy of listing and selling your home through a real estate agent out on the open market. Want to sell your house without putting it on the market? I don’t blame you one bit.

How to Sell Your House Without Putting it on the Market

As you may have already guessed, Liz and I are under contract to sell our house! And yes, we did it without ever putting it on the market. We cleaned the house once, walked the interested couple through, and negotiated to a fair price a few days later.

Done annnnnd done.

Closing is just a couple of weeks after we move into our new place. The timing really couldn’t have worked out much better.

So first of all, how did we do it? And second, how might you be able to sell your house without putting it on the market?

Our Story

In mid-October, we went through the roller-coaster ride of putting a bid in on a house.

  • The house was for sale at $285,000, it had been on the market for 55 days
  • We casually put in what we thought was a solid offer at $275,000
  • The seller’s realtor polled the market for interested parties…and sure enough, another offer came flying in. A cash offer…
  • Somehow, that deal fell through and the house was ours!

It was now time to start thinking about selling our house…especially since winter is approaching, and we all know the market slows down once the snow flies.

We Got The Realtor’s Estimate

When I bought my house in 2012, I paid $75,000 for it. Since then, I’ve probably put $25,000 into it (refinished floors, new roof, new paint inside and out, and probably a bunch of other stuff I’m forgetting…), but with how crazy the housing market has been in the past few years, I knew it was worth a heck of a lot more than the $100k I had into it.

So, we called up our realtor…for two reasons actually…

  1. To walk through our house and let us know what we need to clean up or repair before showing it to interested buyers, and
  2. To give us an estimate of what it should be listed for

Her comments:

  • Get the water damaged ceiling repaired in the living room, and
  • Start the listing at $170,000

BOOM! Sounds good to me!

So, we took her advice. We shelled out $350 to get the ceiling fixed, and we planned to list our house with her at $170,000….that is, until we remembered the guy that told us, “Hey, if you ever want to sell your house, let me know!” We decided to give him a call…

The One Phone Call That Sold Our House

It took a little sleuthing to get that guy’s number (we never actually stopped and exchanged digits when he expressed interest), but once I had it I gave him a call. He was over with his wife just a few days later checking it all out.

Here’s the 30 second read of how it all went down…

  • I walked them through the house, showing them all the cool updates we’ve made throughout the years
  • They tried not to act too excited, but I could tell they were interested
  • I informed them that we planned to carpet the basement and then list the house in the upcoming week
  • I was also transparent with him on the price we intended to list it for…and that if he was interested, I would give him a reduced rate since no realtors would need to be involved.

They left..but didn’t really leave. They talked in front of our house for another 10 minutes. He came back inside, told me they’d be interested at $156,000. It was a little low – my magic number was $160,000 ($170k minus the $10k realtor fees). So, I told him we were close on numbers and could probably get to something that worked, but that I’d have to think about it and get back with him.

About three days later, they both came back and checked out the house again.

  • After they browsed the house one more time, we sat at the table and I told him I could do $158,500, but we’d need to take the washer and dryer with us.
  • He nodded his head, paused, and told me he could do $158,000
  • Annnd we shook hands.

Done deal.

Other Options to Sell Your House Without Putting it on the Market

Alright, I get it. Not everyone is going to have that back-pocket person that’s going to swoop in and buy your house after one phone call. It’s just not realistic.

So what are some other options to sell your house without putting it on the market?

1) Poll Your Friends and Family

Your parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, and close friends – tell them all! Chances are that one of your contacts knows someone else that’s been looking feverishly for a house. Once they call you up, agree to a private showing on your terms and see where it goes from there.

2) Spread the Word at Work

Talk to your co-workers about your house…and that you’re looking to sell it soon. While none of them might be looking for a house, they probably have some friends that have been and may even contact you to check it out.

If you work at a large organization, you likely have an internal classifieds page. Post your “pre-sale” house there to see if you can generate any interest.

sell your house without putting it on the market - coming soon3) Set Up a “Make Me Move” Post on Zillow

If you want to sell your house without putting it on the market – and you’re a little more hot to sell that just casually mentioning your home to your close friends and co-workers – you might want to list your house as a “Make Me Move” property on Zillow.

Here’s what that really means:

  • Your house shows up as a blue dot instead of a “For Sale” red dot (the serious buyers will open the filters up so your home will be visible)
  • The buyers will call you directly if they’re interested in seeing your home – so again, you can have them view your house on your terms
  • You’ll have to set a price – I’d recommend setting it slightly above what your realtor suggested (like, by five percent) since those that are looking at “Make Me Move” homes are highly motivated buyers

4) Put Up a “Coming Soon” Sign

You probably don’t realize it, but there are people that likely drive past your home every week just wishing it went on the market so they could buy it. Put up a “Coming Soon” sign in your front yard (you can do this virtually on Zillow as well) and those people might start coming out of the woodwork. If they’ve been eyeballing your property for years, they’re likely to offer you an amazing price for your home – and just think, you didn’t have to do all the crazy open houses and instant house viewings!

5) Partner With a Loan Officer

This option is brilliant – I read about it recently on Realtor.com. Who better to know of people that are looking to buy a house than a mortgage loan officer? And you know what? No one would be more motivated for buyers to find a house (other than a realtor) than a mortgage loan officer whose entire business is about people moving and taking out loans to do so.

Here’s how some house sales actually go down:

  • A young couple walks into the bank and asks to get pre-approved for a house
  • The loan officer gets their paperwork started…
    • What price point are you looking for in your next house?
    • How much will you put down?
    • Are you looking locally?
  • The loan officer then lets them know that he has a friend that’s looking to sell his house – and it’s in the price point they mentioned
  • He gives them the phone number, they call and look at the place, and they buy it!

Sounds too good to be true, right? But honestly, it probably happens more often than you realize.

So how do you buddy up with a mortgage loan officer?

  • Visit your local branch and chat with the loan officer there. See if he/she is receptive to the idea.
  • Call a few banks in the area, ask them if you can give them your house specs and information
  • Take a look online – some loan officers actually have websites with house listings!

A Word of Caution…When You Sell Your House Without Putting it on the Market

We were told to list our house at $170,000, which I think made sense…but who knows? Maybe there would have been a bidding war and a final sale price of $180,000!

This is the risk when you sell your house without putting it on the market. You’ll never know what price it could have yielded if the full market were aware of its sale.

However, for us, the positives outweighed the potential bidding war:

  1. We didn’t have to fix all the little stuff with the house (adding carpet downstairs, replacing that wobbly knoll post, scraping and patching all that falling ceiling paint…etc. etc. etc….) – this saved us dozens of hours and over a thousand dollars!
  2. We didn’t need to keep the house spotless for weeks (with a 2.5 year old and a 3-month old…this is pretty much impossible)
  3. This offer was in cash and the closing was flexible – this allowed us to ensure that we could stay in our house while painting and carpeting the next one
  4.  We didn’t have to waste time (and money) with a realtor – Sometimes talking to your realtor…who talks to the buyers realtor…who talks with the buyer can really be a long, annoyingly drawn-out process. By selling the house off-market, I was able to speak directly with the buyer, agree on the price face to face, and seal the deal with a physical handshake. Just like that.

How to Get Through Closing Without a Realtor

Even though Liz and I found a buyer without a realtor, I really had a hard time deciding whether or not we should enlist their help through the close process. After all, I had only sold one house before in my life…and I really didn’t pay all that much attention during the close process. (It’s kind of like when you’re a kid and your parents are driving you somewhere special…you don’t really pay attention how they got there, just that you arrive and you’re there on time. That’s pretty much how I handled our first house close… In other words, I didn’t learn anything and continually asked, “Are we ready for close yet?”)

Related: We Sold the Flip House! How to Make $25,000 With Your Next Flip

Once you agree on a price with the buyer, you really have two options:

  1. Work with the title office yourself
  2. Enlist the help of a realtor for a reduced rate (our realtor would have walked us through the process for 1% of the sale price)

Ultimately, we decided to save the $1,580 and work with the title office directly.

The Close Process

As we stated already, when you sell your house without putting it on the market, you’ll be the one to negotiate directly with the buyer. This is really where the close process starts.

  1. You (the seller) and the buyer come together on the price and sign a purchase agreement
    • It’s probably best if you pick up a purchase agreement from your local lawyer, just to make sure it’s legally binding (thankfully, our buyer is a seasoned real estate investor, so he had them at the ready)
  2. Collect a couple thousand bucks from the seller for earnest money – you don’t want to wait a month for closing and then have your buyer walk out on you. This way if they do, at least you have $2,000 in your pocket.
  3. You, the seller, deliver the paperwork to the title agency and essentially start the process
  4. The title office will let you know what you need in order to close
    • For our sale (a cash deal on a property with no mortgage), the process was incredibly simple – we needed to get a certificate for the smoke detectors…that’s it.
    • For typical home sales with a mortgage on both sides, the process can get a bit more complicated with pre-approvals, interest rates, home inspections, etc. – If this sums up your house-selling scenario, Investopedia has a nice outline that will help you understand what you’ll need.
  5. Beyond this, all you have to do is set up a close date, show up, and collect your money! 🙂

So what do you think? Will you try to sell your house without putting it on the market? Or would you rather use a real estate agent and list it more traditionally – even with those high fees?

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4 comments to How to Sell Your House Without Putting it on the Market

  • Kathy

    Our son just closed on his old house last Friday. They had enough money to make the down payment on their new place, so had closed and moved before the old one went on the market. That made it much easier to deal with keeping it clean for viewers etc. but it meant they had to go back t mow the lawn and do light cleaning. We’ve always used a realtor for all but one transaction and really have no regrets. He was able to negotiate better than we could and he gave us tips about how to list it to avoid last minute glitches. For us, the time he saved us and the duties he performed was well worth his commission.

    • We definitely considered selling our house after the move, but that would have meant listing it at Thanksgiving time…or Christmas time…or if we waiting longer, the spring. First of all, I didn’t want to have to shovel out two houses during our snowy winters. Second, who knows what could have gone wrong with this thing had we waited to list it! I figured it was best for our time and our pocket books to sell it before the holidays hit.

  • Great info…Saves a lot and can easily be done with your instructional protocol.

    Thanks!

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