A guide on how to sell a house by owner in Florida with information on state disclosures, common inspection issues, and pricing considerations. —-
Disclaimer: HomeLight does not provide legal advice. While this is a general guide to selling a house by owner in Florida, we always recommend that you look into the local regulations for your area and consult with a qualified legal professional before taking action.
The seller’s market continues to boom in Florida. Early 2022 data from Florida Realtors® indicates a 23% increase in median sales price and a 33.3% drop in median time on the market. Houses in the Sunshine State are selling fast, and for a substantial sum.
With such impressive sales figures, some Florida sellers may be curious about how to sell a house by owner in Florida — a decision that could help them save on agent commissions.
While the method can work, it does come with some risks, including selling your house for less than it’s worth.
In this guide on how to sell a house by owner in Florida, we’ll cover what can be the most difficult aspects of selling by owner, including the steps that might be harder than you think.
We’ll also provide a comprehensive overview on the full process to prep, market, and close on your home without the assistance of a real estate agent.
Once you’ve seen what’s required, you can roll up your sleeves and get started with your FSBO sale in Florida. 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 who can help you command top dollar and provide a low-stress selling experience.
Fast Facts About Selling a House in Florida
Average home sale price in Florida:
$530,419 (Jan 2022)
Average time on market:
14 days (Jan 2022)
Can FSBO sellers post a yard sign?
Is a real estate attorney required?
Real estate attorneys are not considered essential for closing in the state of Florida. But hiring an attorney when selling by owner is almost always advisable in order to avoid an abundance of legal risk.
What are required disclosures in the state?
Known issues, radon, coastal erosion, HOA, property tax history, among others. See the Florida Realtors Seller Property Disclosure Form for more details.
Real estate transfer taxes?
$0.70/$100 with some variances
Quick FSBO overview
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, 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 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 commission (so around 3%), though they may still need to offer a buyer’s agent commission.
Finally, a FSBO sale does not mean that a seller won’t need any professional assistance. 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 and purchase contract.
How to sell a house by owner in Florida
By opting for a FSBO sale, you’re putting yourself in competition with homes that have the advantage of a real estate agent’s extensive marketing resources. These steps aim to give your home a better chance of resembling a professional listing and attracting the attention of potential buyers.
Step 1: Address needed repairs and maintenance.
FSBO sellers in Florida may want to consider getting a home inspection prior to listing their home for sale. A survey of top inspectors indicates some common issues to potentially get ahead of include:
Grading/slope: Florida is known for its stormy summer afternoons. All that rain could lead to foundation problems if your lot is not properly graded away from the house.
Stucco: Many Florida homes are finished in stucco, which has a reputation for great durability if properly installed and maintained. However, inspectors often find buried weep screed (stucco’s drainage system) that could lead to water intrusion.
Roofing materials: The Florida heat and humidity cause asphalt shingles to wear out well before their 20 year warranties expire. Some may only last 6-8 years.
Plumbing and electrical: Older homes in Florida may not be up to code with plumbing and electrical systems anymore.
Environmental problems: Moist Florida air, especially around coastal areas, can cause mold growth that might scare buyers away.
HVAC: Floridians need air conditioning! HVAC units last around 10-15 years, although the lifespan is affected both by proximity to the ocean and by owner upkeep.
Addressing any issues upfront helps buyers have peace of mind when making an offer and helps to prevent inspection-related closing delays. However, be aware that if you get a pre-listing inspection, you will be required to share relevant findings with buyers and how you did or did not address them. A pre-sale inspection also won’t necessarily stop a buyer from procuring their own independent inspection before closing.
Step 2: Fill out your disclosure forms.
A good time to fill out Florida’s Seller Property Disclosure is prior to listing your home so that you know it’s taken care of. According to the document, “In Florida a seller of residential property is obligated to disclose to a buyer all facts known to a seller that materially and adversely affect the value of the Property being sold which are not readily observable by a buyer.”
The form will walk you through documenting what you know about which features your home has, such as trash compactor, number of ceiling fans, and the brand of your oven and dishwasher. You’ll also be prompted to fill out information about the environment in which your Florida property is located, access roads, zoning, roof-related items, and more. You may consider engaging the expertise of a real estate attorney to assist in this step in the process to reduce potential legal risk.
Step 3: Declutter, clean, stage, and add curb appeal.
Research shows that deep cleaning and decluttering your home prior to listing will pay off in huge rewards. In fact, a HomeLight survey of top agents shows an estimated price increase of $1,728 for deep cleaning and $2,584 for decluttering. Well worth a weekend’s work! (Or the cost of a professional, if you so choose.)
You may also want to consider strategically staging your home so that buyers can envision how each space could be used. One survey of Realtors® found that staging can increase the sales price of a home by 1% to 5%, and 31% agree that a staged home sells significantly faster.
Without the independent advice of a real estate agent, FSBO sellers can invite over friends and family for an honest opinion of how the house looks: Will it pass muster with buyers or do some spaces in the house need a bit more attention?
Finally, don’t forget about the outdoors. 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.”
Step 4: Price your home competitively.
When selling a house by owner, you need to take care to set the right asking price for your home. Price too high and your property is likely to be on the market longer than necessary; price too low and you could significantly undersell your home.
“We had a condo where everyone was telling [the homeowners] that they could sell for $375,000,” shares McCallister. After more research, McCallister advised the seller to list for more: “We ended up closing for $410,000. That’s money they would’ve left on the table had they listened to their friends and neighbors.”
Valuing real estate is an especially tricky task in Florida, as the state has many unique variables that influence property value. For example, waterfront homes may garner a price increase of up to 250% when compared to similar inland homes. And a booming rental market means that tourist locations and vacation-like amenities need to be priced right to attract investors.
Follow these steps to price your Florida house for the market:
Start with a free 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 of your Florida home.
Gather your comps
Comps are recently sold homes comparable to yours in characteristics such as size, age, condition, and major features. The most reliable comps are going to be those within as close of a radius as possible to the location where you’re selling a property. Since you won’t be able to access MLS data without a real estate license, you’ll need to look at major home search sites to collect your data.
Conduct your own comps analysis
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 (a backyard pool, boat slip, a screened-in porch) versus detract from it (a busy street, deferred maintenanced, less square footage).
Get a pre-listing appraisal
A DIY comps analysis is risky if you don’t have a ton of experience making sense of property data. Alternatively, you could pay for a pre-listing appraisal. An appraiser will combine desk research with an onsite visit of your home to provide a professional and independent opinion of value. Appraisals usually cost between $500-$600 and getting one doesn’t mean that a buyer’s lender won’t require a separate and independent appraisal before closing. But it can reduce some of the stress of pricing your home for sale since appraisers are licensed and trained for this work.
Step 5: Arrange for professional photography.
For $100-$300 per shoot, FSBO sellers should consider the copious benefits of getting professional photos to include in their listing. A professional photographer will take steps to shoot each room from the best angle; ensure optimal interior and natural lighting; and edit for the ideal brightness and exposure.
A high quality camera with a wide angle lens is also essential to showcasing entire rooms rather than half or three-quarters of what’s there. For these reasons and more, professionally photographed homes can sell up to three weeks faster and bring in up to $11,000 more than their houses marketed without professional photos.
In addition to professional photography, consider these add-ons to enhance your FSBO listing:
Drone photography. Getting an aerial view of the property can help buyers see the location and layout. 79% of real estate agents use drone photography in their listings, so using this method will help your FSBO listing compete.
Video walk-through. A professionally edited video walk-through will help attract out-of-town buyers who might not be able to come for an in-person showing.
Floor plan imaging. Having a 2D or 3D floor plan image allows buyers to see spatial relationships regarding how the home is connected.
Research shows that 51% of buyers find their homes via the internet. That means your home’s visual online presence is important! Even the best cell phone pictures can’t compete with professional images.
Note: When selling a house by owner in Florida, the seller will need to arrange for these marketing services on their own and budget for them as part of their listing expenses. When working with a full service real estate agent, professional listing photography is almost always going to be included — and many agents offer aerial photography and 3-D tours as well as part of their listing package.
Step 6: Market your home to buyers.
When it comes to marketing your home, you’ll do yourself a favor by posting across multiple platforms for visibility. Data indicates that 42% of FSBO sellers use online outlets, 26% set up yard signs, and 23% work to generate word of mouth through friends and neighbors.
Listing on the multiple listing service (MLS) will get your property more visibility. As a FSBO seller, you can opt to have your property listed on the MLS for a flat fee (usually around $100-$200), or you can employ a listing service that will charge a percentage of the sales price for services that include MLS access.
However, keep in mind that when posting on the MLS, a buyer’s broker commission will be required and the commission rate will need to be provided upfront upon entering into the MLS (an average of 2%-3%).
Step 7: Field and negotiate offers.
Hopefully your marketing efforts lead to one or more offers on your Florida property. But not every offer is a good offer. As a FSBO seller, you’ll be responsible for negotiating a contract you’re satisfied with. Price is a major factor, as are other details of the agreement such as whether you’ll cover any of the buyer’s closing costs, when you’ll agree to move out, and which contingencies will be included in the contract.
Let’s review some of the top points of negotiation you may encounter:
Buyers may ask for the offer to be contingent on other factors, such as the sale of their existing home or their ability to obtain financing. They are also likely to include a home inspection contingency, which is a stipulation in the purchase agreement that says the buyer can inspect the home, top to bottom, and then decide whether to move forward with the purchase.
Finally, FSBO sellers should be aware of the home appraisal contingency, which buyers often add as a protection if the appraised value comes in lower than the purchase price. A contingency-free contract is rare, but in a seller’s market, buyers are more likely to waive one or more to strengthen their offer.
Both buyer and seller will have costs to cover at settlement. However some of these costs — such as title fees, escrow fees, and transfer taxes — can be negotiated in many instances. A buyer may request that you pay a portion of their closing costs, but in today’s seller’s market, it’s been more likely for sellers to either pay nothing or even ask that the buyer cover a portion of their costs as a condition of the sale.
Following the inspection, a buyer may ask you to make necessary repairs or for monetary compensation based on an estimation of what the repair is likely to cost.
You can either accommodate the request or do nothing, but the buyer can choose not to continue on with the purchase if the results of the inspection weren’t satisfactory (unless they waived the home inspection contingency — in which case, they would forfeit their earnest money by walking away).
Closing dates can be subject to negotiation as well. Buyers may need longer to secure financing or sellers may ask for additional time to move out after closing. On the flip side, one party may ask for a quicker closing date for the ability to move faster if needed.
The earnest money deposit is typically a small amount of money that goes into an escrow account to show that the buyer is serious.
The amount is negotiable, and it always goes toward the purchase price. When buyers add contingencies to the contract, they are able to back out of the deal and get their earnest money back in certain circumstances, such as if anything unsatisfactory turns up on the inspection report. You’ll need to have a third party account set aside to hold this earnest money until closing (such as a title company).
Remember that even if you come to terms with your buyer verbally at first, you’ll want to put the offer in writing using a residential real estate purchase contract, like this one that is specific to Florida. A purchase contract is a legally binding document that protects the interests of both the seller and the buyer by specifically outlining expectations prior to closing.
Scott McAllister, top Florida agent with over 26 years experience, advises unrepresented sellers to examine purchase contracts with a fine-toothed comb. He once saw a FSBO seller who inadvertently agreed to pay for nine years of road assessments because they failed to un-check one tiny box on their purchase contract.
To reduce the risk of errors for your sale, hire a real estate attorney to review the contract for you; the attorney can also advise you on necessary steps in preparation for closing. A real estate attorney usually charges between $150 to $450 per hour.
Step 8: Complete steps to closing.
After you go under contract with the buyer and finalize the details of the purchase agreement, escrow opens. Florida is what’s known as a “Title Company State” which means closing will be facilitated and funds distributed through a title company.
In Florida, the seller usually chooses the title company that will handle the closing (though some buyers, particularly out of state investors, may request a specific company). Before the deal is final, you can likely expect the following next steps to occur:
Complete the home inspection, usually within five days to a week of signing the purchase agreement.
Negotiate inspection items (if applicable).
Complete home appraisal by a third-party independent appraiser (necessary if your buyer is using a mortgage).
Negotiate appraisal results (if applicable).
Buyer completes final walkthrough to ensure the home is in “broom clean” condition, which means swept, vacuumed and free of debris and excess stuff.
The buyer will also ensure that no damage has been done to the property since their last visit.
Step 9: Close the sale.
Florida is a “wet close” state, meaning that “ all of the paperwork needed to officially close the loan must be completed and approved on the exact day of loan closing,” according to mortgage company CMG Financial. –– or while the ink is still wet, so to speak.
That means all financial transfers will be made and property ownership will officially change hands at the time of closing or within a few days after. In Florida, buyer and seller do not necessarily need to meet to sign closing documents at the same time, but they can if they want to.
Be aware that closing as a FSBO seller does not mean that you avoid all closing fees. Common seller closing fees include transfer taxes, prorated property taxes (Florida residents pay in arrears), and settlement fees. This can amount to around 1%-3% of the sale price.
If a buyer uses an agent, a seller may also be asked to pay all or part of the buyer’s agent commission.
Your selling expenses will be deducted from the sale proceeds at closing, and what remains will be your payout. Consult our guide on who pays for closing costs when selling a house by owner for more details.
Next steps include:
Attorneys review documents for errors.
Clear title; resolve any title issues necessary to close.
Transfer ownership of your home to the buyer at settlement.
Funds are disbursed to the seller and other parties involved.
Review your settlement statement for a complete list of fees and credits of the sale.
Reminders for closing:
Gather your title, loan documents, survey, insurance information, and any permits for renovations and have them ready for closing.
You’ll also need your financial information for a final wire transfer.
If you’ve agreed to make repairs based on the inspection, you’ll probably need to provide receipts to prove that the repairs have been completed.
Who is buying homes in Florida?
Northern buyers from states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Virginia are moving to Florida. Florida demographics experts expect a net population growth of 849 people per day in the coming years.
Investors have their eye on Florida cities. Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami were all ranked in the top ten cities for investors nationwide in the last year.
Vacation home sales are on the rise, with Florida destinations like Cape Coral and Fort Myers leading the surge.
Challenges Florida FSBO sellers face
Some tenacious sellers may not bat an eyelash at the steps outlined above. But many FSBO sellers find the actual execution a lot more challenging.
McAllister says, “I don’t think people realize how much work is involved behind the scenes. [Agents] make it look easy, because we have the experience, we have the systems in place, and we have the relationships with different vendors.”
Underselling the home is a real possibility.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR), which has been tracking FSBO vs. Realtor industry data since 1981, found in its latest dataset that “FSBO homes sold at a median of $260,000 last year, signiﬁcantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $318,000.” An independent study from 2016 to 2017 bears this out: FSBO homes sold for an average of 5.5% less than agent-marketed sales.
FSBO sellers also predominantly sell to a friend, family member, or neighbor. The same dataset from NAR shows that 51% of FSBO sellers knew their buyer, compared to 8% of all sellers. In addition, 22% of FSBOs occur in a rural area where residents may be more likely to know one another, compared to 15% of general home sales.
A recent survey from NAR highlights which steps in the process FSBO sellers found to be the hardest:
Preparing the home for sale (17%)
Setting an accurate price (14%)
Understanding and performing paperwork (11%)
Selling within the planned length of time (5%)
Alternatives to selling a house by owner in Florida
There’s more than one way to sell a house. In addition to FSBO, below we list out a few of the methods available to [Florida] sellers.
Option 1: Request a cash offer for your home at any time.
Another option for selling a house without a real estate agent is to work with an investor or house buying company purchasing homes for cash in your area.
Saving on commissions is often top of mind for FSBO sellers, and selling your house for cash is another option where you can do that. A cash transaction can usually be turned over in as little as a week to two weeks, as it allows you to skip the mortgage process and the appraisal, which are typically the two most time-consuming steps.
If this option interests you, consider requesting a cash offer through HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform, which is available to sellers nationwide — including in Florida.
With Simple Sale, sellers receive an all-cash offer in as few as 48 hours after a seller requests one. You can reduce the time and money spent on marketing the home FSBO. No repairs, no staging, no open houses. It’s also a fast solution; sellers using the Simple Sale platform can close in as little as 10 days and have flexibility in selecting a move-out date.
Due to the relatively high number of investors looking to purchase in Florida, sellers may find that online cash offers come in at a competitive number. In fact, cash purchases are on the rise in Florida, with a 28.7% increase year over year in January 2022.
That said, it’s important to know that investors typically pay under market value for the homes they purchase, and sometimes significantly so. Simple Sale shows you a side-by-side comparison of your cash offer amount against an estimation of what you could list for on the open market to help you make an informed decision.
Option 2: Consider HomeLight Trade-in.
If you’re trying to sell your current home in order to buy a new one, you may realize that timing both deals right is going to be tricky. Many people need the funds from their sale to come in first, in order to complete the purchase of their new home. FSBO can complicate that timeline because of the extra time and hassle required.
HomeLight Trade-In allows you to buy a new home before selling your old one. We work with your real estate agent to make an offer on your current home, freeing you up to bid on the home of your dreams with no lending or home sale contingency. This means you’re more likely to close and can do so on your timeline.
When you have an offer accepted on a new home, we then buy your current home at the purchase price so you receive the cash to close. Then we complete the process by working with your agent to list your previous home. If the home sells for more than we paid for it, we give you the additional proceeds minus selling costs and program fees.
For more information on how HomeLight Trade-In can work for you, begin with this contact form.
Option 3: Hire a top Florida real estate agent.
As explored earlier, research shows that agents statistically help homes sell for quite a bit more, helping to offset or even exceed the amount paid in commission fees. And they do it while wrapping your entire listing and selling process in professionalism.
Work with a top-rated agent, and the results are likely to be even better. Internal transaction data at HomeLight finds that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for as much as 10% more.
A real estate agent helps you fetch the highest sale price by putting together a beautiful listing, advising you on targeted upgrades, and negotiating the best price — and that’s just scratching the surface of their expertise.
If you’d like to explore the option of working with a top agent further, HomeLight would be happy to make an introduction. Whatever direction you choose, we hope that selling your Florida home goes smoothly! You’ve certainly picked a great time to sell.
Header Image Source: (Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock)
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