Is Selling a For Sale by Owner Home on Zillow Worth It?

By Craig Donofrio

Posted on September 9th, 2022

Image of Zillow website on a computer screen

Zillow for sale by owner fees | Key challenges | Tips for marketing on Zillow | Alternatives to selling FSBO on Zillow | FAQs

When you're selling your home for sale by owner (FSBO), it's a no-brainer to list on Zillow. With 36 million visitors in 2021 alone, Zillow is the most popular real estate website in the United States β€” and it's free to post a FSBO listing.

It's not all roses, though. Your home's listing will be more difficult to find compared to agent-assisted listings because Zillow hides FSBO homes a bit. Plus, selling FSBO comes with its own difficulties.

For example, our friends at the Clever Real Estate Data Center surveyed 1,000 homeowners who planned to sell in 2022 β€” and 42% of homeowners incorrectly assume home buyers pay their agents' commission fees. (In reality, sellers pay all realtor fees.)

Plus, FSBO sellers typically take home less profit. In 2021, a typical FSBO home sold for $260,000, an astounding 20% less than the average sale price of $318,000 for sellers who worked with an agent.

If savings are your top priority, listing your home with a low commission realtor can help you save thousands in commission fees without sacrificing on price. You'll still get a Zillow listing β€” but it won't be tucked away behind extra filters, and you'll have an agent who can swat away those underbidders and bargain hunters.

The easiest way to shop around for a low commission agent is by connecting with our friends at Clever Real Estate. Clever is a free, no-obligation service that will personally match you with the best agents in your area. It's completely risk-free, so you can always go back to selling FSBO if you choose.

Clever negotiates realtor commission on your behalf, helping the average home seller save $9,000 through affordable 1% listing fees. Best of all, you'll still get great service from leading brokerages such as Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and Coldwell Banker.

πŸ‘‹ Learn how much you can save with Clever!

How Much Are Zillow For Sale by Owner Fees?

It's free to list a FSBO home on Zillow β€” there are no for sale by owner fees, even if your home sells.

But even though Zillow doesn't charge a for sale by owner fee, you can end up selling for less than your home is worth. According to Collateral Analytics, a real estate analytic product company, FSBO homes sell for an average of 5.5% less than comparable homes with agents.

It's important to note that most buyers will be represented by an agent. In 2021, 87% of buyers bought with a broker or agent β€” so you'll still need to offer the standard 2-3% commission or else agents won't be motivated to show your property.

That 5.5% more than wipes out the 2-3% seller's agent commission, so you'll need to be extra careful with pricing your home and negotiating concessions.

The Best Zillow Alternatives

Zillow vs. Realtors

Selling a FSBO home on Zillow is challenging β€” and even if you manage to find a buyer, you'll still have to handle complex legal paperwork and negotiations on your own.

A small mistake, such as pricing your home too low or failing to disclose required information, could cause you to walk away with major regrets. You could miss out on maximizing your home sale's potential, or even end up in legal trouble.

For these reasons, most home sellers benefit from working with an experienced realtor. A great agent will represent your best interests throughout the transaction. They'll also make sure you avoid any legal trouble by navigating disclosures, contracts, and other technicalities on your behalf.

If you're hesitant to spend on realtor commission, our friends at Clever Real Estate can help. Clever is a free service that negotiates lower commission rates on your behalf. Instead of the standard 3% listing fee, you'll pay just 1% β€” saving the average Clever home seller $9,000!

πŸ’° How Much Is Your Home Worth?

Before listing your home, find out how it compares to others in your local market.

Additional FSBO Resources

Zillow isn't the only place you should advertise a for sale by owner home. You should also consider marketing on other websites that let you list a FSBO home for free, such as:

  • Facebook Marketplace: Best for finding local buyers
  • Craigslist: Best for finding investors
  • Fizber: Best for creating a shareable home listing with photos and captions

Keep in mind that a significant number of buyers may not even be aware that FSBO listings are on these sites. Our Data Center recently surveyed 1,000 homeowners β€” and found that 19% didn't know where to look for FSBO homes.

Β» Learn More: The 13 Best FSBO Websites in 2022

Can I Sell My House to Zillow?

You can no longer sell your home to Zillow. From December 2019 until November 2021, Zillow bought houses through Zillow Offers, its home-buying program.

Zillow shut down Zillow Offers after the company spent more on houses than they were worth thanks to its own faulty home value algorithms.

You can still list your home for sale by owner on Zillow, but you can't sell your home to Zillow.

Why It's Difficult to Sell For Sale By Owner on Zillow

Zillow encourages buyers to contact agents β€” not homeowners β€” because Zillow makes money by selling advertising space to realtors.

That's a problem for FSBO home sellers. Zillow is banking on potential buyers calling up an advertised realtor about your home, and not you. Many FSBO sellers also receive unwanted calls from agents wanting to represent your home sale.

You can see this on any Zillow for sale by owner listing. Instead of your number, there's a big blue "Contact Agent" button on the listing. Zillow doesn't even show buyers exactly who they're contacting.

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Your telephone number will be tucked away at the bottom of the "Overview" section and displayed in regular font β€” it doesn't stand out.

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Zillow also obscures FSBO listings behind an extra filter in the upper right hand corner. When searching an area for homes, buyers will only see agent listings. They need to select "other listings" from the button.

It's easy to miss β€” and that's the point.

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Advice for Selling a For Sale by Owner on Zillow

Since Zillow is a platform primarily designed to serve real estate agents, it's difficult to effectively market a FSBO on Zillow. There are two workarounds for Zillow's limitations, but you can't do both.

You'll have to choose one of the following options:

Solution #1: Pay for a Flat Fee MLS Service

You can't get on the multiple listing service (MLS) without a realtor, but a flat fee MLS service will get your home on Zillow and other sites (like Realtor.com, Trulia, and your local MLS).

A flat fee MLS listing typically costs $299-$399, although it may be significantly more depending on your area. For that price, a flat fee MLS company will connect you to a broker at the local level, and that broker will post your listing on the MLS.

Your home will then show up under "agent listings," but it won't say the home is being sold FSBO. Instead, the brokerage's contact information will be listed. The brokerage acts as a middleman, forwarding leads to you.

Be aware that you're at the broker's mercy. If you get a bad broker who doesn't forward leads and is difficult to reach β€” common problems among FSBO sellers who use flat fee services β€” you'll miss out on potential buyers.

Β» Learn more: Are Flat Fee MLS Companies Legit? Learn the Costs, Risks, and Best Alternatives

Solution #2: List Your Phone Number in the Description

When creating a FSBO Zillow listing, you can put your number in the listing description. Something simple like, "Please contact owner directly at (###) ###-###."

You can't do this with a flat fee MLS service, because there are rules about what can and can't be placed in an MLS listing. Instead, the listing broker's number must be listed as the point of contact.

4 Tips for Advertising Your FSBO Zillow Listing

Optimize Your Zillow Listing

Zillow sorts listings by newest first, which means your listing is likely to get the most views right after it goes live. Making even just a small change to your listing often moves it higher in the search results.

Lowering the price by even $100 will refresh your listing and send out a notification to anyone who has favorited your home. Scheduling an open house will also send out a notification.

Beware: lowering your price too often can send the wrong message to buyers, and scheduling too many open houses can signal desperation. FSBO open houses come with their own challenges, as you'll want to stay out of the buyers' way and remain objective about questions or criticism.

If this process seems too confusing and you're worried about accidentally creating red flags β€” and potentially losing a bunch of money β€” you should consider a qualified, low-commission agent.

Our friends at Clever can match you with experienced local agents who can get you on the MLS, make your listing stand out, and help sell your home for its maximum value. There's no obligation or hidden fees, and you'll only pay 1% if your home sells.

Clever also offers a free online home evaluation estimator. Just plug in your ZIP code below to find out how much your home is worth and get connected to a Clever agent!

πŸ’° How Much Is Your Home Worth?

Before listing your home, find out how it compares to others in your local market.

Write a Winning Home Description

You'll want to entice buyers by writing a compelling description of your home and the area. Paint a picture of a home that buyers are excited to find, and try and spice up the language.

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Invest in Professional Photos

Buyers are going to look at pictures first and descriptions second. Professional real estate photography costs an average of $100-125 an hour, according to Thumbtack.

Good photos with great lighting and perfect perspective can make even smaller homes look bright and inviting. Bad photos can make great homes look dull and ugly.

Unless you really know how to use a camera, we recommend spending the few hundred bucks and going with a pro. Professional photos will make your listing stand out and attract more buyers.

Provide Plenty of Details to Aid Searches

When you list a house for sale on Zillow, you have access to different data fields. Pay attention to the section marked β€œHome Details.” Information in this section is shown directly in search results, so it’s a great place to specify things like:

  • Type of property (condo, townhouse, single-family)

  • Architectural style

  • Year built

  • Manufacturing materials

These details will help your home show up for buyers who filter their searches by specific features.

If you feel that selling FSBO is going to be too much of a hassle, but you still don't want to pay that hefty seller's agent commission, try our partners at Clever Real Estate. Clever is a nationwide low commission brokerage that can pair you with pre-vetted, local agents who can help sell your house for a 1% listing fee (or $3,000 for home sales below $350,000).

Clever is 100% free to try, so if they can't match you with an agent you love, you can go right back to selling FSBO with no strings attached. If you do decide to list with Clever, you'll save THOUSANDS in commission fees.

πŸ‘‹ Need a great agent?

If you're weighing your options for buying or selling a house, Clever can help! With our friends at Clever: 

βœ… You'll only pay $3,000 or 1% to list your home 

βœ… In eligible states, you'll get 0.5% cash back when you buy a home 

βœ… You'll work with a full-service realtor from a top broker, like RE/MAX or Keller Williams 

Saving on realtor fees doesn't have to mean sacrificing service. Find a top local agent today!

Recommended Reading

FAQs

How much are Zillow for sale by owner fees?

It's totally free to list and sell a for sale by owner home on Zillow. But while Zillow doesn't charge a fee, you could end up losing a significant amount of money on your home sale in the long run.

Should I sell my house on Zillow?

While there's no cost to selling a for sale by owner home on Zillow, it's not easy. Since Zillow doesn't make money on FSBO sales, it significantly obscures its FSBO listings. Learn how to maximize your home's visibility, plus the best alternatives to a purely DIY sale.

Where can I list my house for sale by owner for free?

Zillow is the most popular website to post a for sale by owner home for free. But savvy home sellers shouldn't limit themselves to just Zillow and should post their FSBO home on other free websites like Craigslist, Facebook, and Fizber.

Can I sell my home to Zillow?

You can no longer sell your house to Zillow. Zillow shut down its Zillow Offers program in November 2021 because it overpaid for homes due to its own algorithmic missteps. You can still use Zillow to sell your home by listing it as for sale by owner. Learn more about listing your for sale by owner home on Zillow.

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Posted in For Sale By Owner, How to Sell a House by Owner, Listing Your Home, Marketing Your Home, Selling a House