Roughly 42 percent of home buyers in 2012 found the house they bought online, compared with just 34 percent that found their house through a real estate agent. The Internet has become a commercially viable place to sell a home. However, selling your property isn't as simple as taking a few pictures and posting one classified ad. If you're going to save thousands of dollars in commissions, you're going to have to do some work.
Take Great Pictures
The first step in selling your property on the Internet is to have great photos of it. Online, you'll be directly competing with agents who either have a lot of experience photographing properties or who use professional photographers to make their listings look good. Furthermore, the picture is one of the first things that a prospect sees, and he will use it to make a quick decision -- whether to read deeper into the posting or move on to the next property. Make your house as neat, clean and attractive as possible, and pay close attention to the angle and color of the sunlight. One trick that many professionals use is to shoot photos in the hour before sunset or after sunrise when the light is particularly golden.
Real Estate Websites
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, 61 million of the 67 million people who go to real estate websites in the U.S. go to four sites -- Redfin, Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow. Zillow will let you directly list your for-sale-by-owner property, while Trulia will let you list it as a rental (or a rent-to-own). To get your house on the other websites, or to get a full listing on Trulia, you can work with an agent that will put your home on the multiple listing service for a reduced fee. To use some of these resources, you will need a relationship of some sort with a licensed agent.
Even the National Association of Realtors admits that Internet listings work for for-sale-boy-owner homes. To that end, you may also want to consider advertising your home on a website that specializes in selling for-sale-by-owner properties. Buyers go there, too.
Online Classified Ads
You can also publicize your house by putting it on popular online classified advertising sites. Many of these sites are free, letting you add as much information and as many pictures of your home as you wish. More and more, buyers are turning to these sites to find listings for low prices, especially if they're willing to work without an agent.
Social networking sites are extremely powerful tools for selling houses. It's possible that you know someone who knows someone who works with someone who would be a perfect fit in your house. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other such sites help you let your extended network know that your house is available. They're free, easy to use and becoming an important tool in Internet advertising.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 48 percent of for-sale-by-owner homes still get sold through a yard sign. Even if you're able to find your buyer online, you still need them to cross from the virtual world to the physical one to find your house and be in a position to buy it. Yard signs and fliers help people who see your house online identify it as the one that they saw. They also help you benefit from the advertising that other nearby for-sale homes receive because a buyer driving by them will also see your home.
Making the Deal
Once you find a buyer for your property online, you have to get the deal to closing. Typically, you'll enlist the help of a real estate agent or attorney to manage the transaction and ensure that it meets your state's legal requirements. Most of the time, they will do the work for you at a much lower fee than you would pay a real estate agent in a traditional role. A closing agent with an escrow company will usually handle the specifics of the money and documents to transfer ownership.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.