What FSBO sellers in Iowa need to know | Iowa FSBO paperwork | Iowa real estate commissions | How to list FSBO | FSBO pros and cons | Tips for selling without a realtor | FSBO alternatives
In Iowa, the average realtor commission rate is 4.54% to 6.80%. If you sell a house worth $199,400 — the median home value in Iowa — that’s over $7,000, which is a huge chunk of your potential profits.
Selling without a real estate agent, known as listing For Sale By Owner (FSBO), is a viable option for experienced home sellers who are willing to put in the time and effort.
However, selling FSBO has risks. Research shows that FSBO homes typically sell for about 6% less than those listed with agents AND you'll still usually be on the hook for offering a competitive buyer's agent commission. FSBO homes also often take longer to sell and are more likely to fall out of contract after accepting an offer.
You may save time and pocket more profit by working with a low-commission realtor who can sell your home for top dollar. Clever Real Estate pre-negotiates 1.5% listing fees with top-rated local agents. You'll get the support of a full-service agent for a fraction of the typical price, so you can walk away from your sale with the most cash possible.
» SAVE: Find top local agents and get a 1.5% listing fee!
Or, keep reading to learn how to successfully sell your house without an agent. We'll explain the ins and outs of any costs, Iowa FSBO paperwork, pricing strategies, and more.
What FSBO sellers in Iowa need to know
🔑 Key benefits of selling FSBO
Real estate laws, processes, and trends vary greatly across the country. Understanding the details of your market and getting accurate information can make a FSBO sale complicated.
We'll go into more details about what you need to do in Iowa, but here's an overview of the state's laws and regulations.
Iowa FSBO overview
Real estate attorney required?
Required state disclosures?
FSBO yard sign allowed?
Not if your home is on the MLS.
Competitive Buyer's Agent Commission
2.14% to 3.27%
Additionally, you'll need to know and understand all of your responsibilities as a FSBO seller, which include:
- Preparing your home by making necessary repairs, cleaning, and staging your home.
- Accurately and competitively pricing your home.
- Marketing your home by writing a listing description, taking high-quality photos, posting the listing on different sites (free and/or paid), and promoting your home on social media, in print ads, and via word of mouth.
- Vetting buyers to ensure they're qualified, from a financial perspective. Accepting an offer from an unqualified buyer will cause your sale to fall through.
- Negotiating the final price, contingencies, repair concessions, and other aspects of the purchase agreement.
- Properly filling out all necessary paperwork for a real estate transaction in Iowa.
How to price your home
Pricing strategy is often make-or-break for FSBO sellers. List your home for too little and you leave money on the table. Price it too high and the listing goes stale, forcing a price drop that could make buyers wary of the home.
To get an accurate idea of what your house is worth, look at comparable listings in your area.
For example, if you live in Des Moines and think your house is worth about $269,000, search Zillow for active listings that are about $50,000 more and less than that. Analyze details about the houses and how they compare to yours. Ask yourself:
- Is the school district better or worse?
- Does it have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms?
- Has the house been renovated more recently than yours?
- How do the neighborhoods and nearby amenities compare?
Answering these questions honestly will help you see if your price is in the right ballpark.
From there, be realistic about what pricing strategy will lead to higher offers. Here are some key pricing metrics that will help you decide the best listing price for your home and market:
State of the Iowa real estate market
Median Home Value*
Median Listing Price⁺
Listing Price per sqft⁺
% of Homes with Price Reduction⁺
Pricing Advice: Homeowners are over estimating how much their houses will sell for. Even if buyer demand is high in your area, by setting your initial price a little lower, you'll attract more buyers and hopefully receive multiple offers.
*Based on data from Zillow (August 2022)
⁺Based on data from Realtor.com (August 2022)
How to list your Iowa home for sale by owner
Once you've decided on a price, it's time to write a listing description that speaks to local buyers. Understanding their priorities will help you identify what features of your property to highlight in your listing and attract more interest.
Top buyer priorities in Iowa
Iowa Buyer Priorities
Advice for FSBO Sellers
1. Listing Price
Be honest about your list price. Look at recent sales data in your area on Zillow or other real estate sites to find an accurate price point for homes of comparable size and condition to yours. Many real estate companies will also conduct an analysis for little to no charge.
2. Architectural Style of Home
In your listing description, talk about any unique architectural features that could set your home apart. If your home was built by a known architect, has original flooring or doors, or has any historical value, be sure to mention it. Also, point out what takes your house to the next level. For example, older homes can be beautiful, but energy inefficient. Highlight upgrades you made like new windows that will save buyers hundreds in heating costs.
It’s important to be exact about the acreage of your home in your listing description. Note the acreage in the listing description if adds significant value to the property or is more than comparable homes. You can also add appeal by noting any special features of the landscape such as lakes, ponds, woods, etc.
Based on a 2023 Clever survey
When it comes to advertising and posting your listing, you have several options as a FSBO seller. Each choice has its own pros and cons as well as costs:
- For Sale By Owner yard sign: You can buy a FSBO sign from most hardware stores or online for $20-$50. Be sure to choose one that allows you to add your phone numbers so interested buyers can contact you for property information and showings.
- Craigslist: Posting your home on Craigslist is free and simple. Just go to the Iowa page, find your city, and create a "real estate — by owner" listing.
- FSBO websites: There are multiple FSBO listing websites that allow you to post your home for free or a few hundred dollars. But each differs in how many photos you can include, how long the listing is live, and the changes you can make — do your research before choosing a for sale by owner site.
- Flat-Fee MLS companies: Flat-fee MLS services will list your house on your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for significantly less than a realtor. However, they provide few additional services unless you opt for their most expensive packages, which often cost more than using a discount brokerage.
A quick note on using a flat-fee MLS listing in Iowa: Once your home is listed on the MLS, you can no longer advertise your property with a sign that says "For Sale By Owner". You'll need to use a generic sign or get one from the brokerage that listed your house.
If you choose to use a flat-fee MLS company, you'll have to offer a buyer's agent commission. The MLS is how real estate agents find homes for their clients, and typically a buyer's agent commission is included to incentivize these realtors to show the house to their clients.
Sell your home for top dollar and save on commission.
How realtor commissions work in Iowa
Traditionally, both the buyer's agent and the listing agent are paid a commission by the homeowner. When sellers work with a realtor, they negotiate a commission as part of the listing agreement.
Based on the average commission rates in Iowa, this typically ranges from 2.40% to 3.53% of the sale price.
In a typical sale, the seller also agrees to a commission rate for the realtor who brings the buyer to the table, which runs between 2.14% to 3.27%.
Average Range in Iowa*
2.40% to 3.53%
$4,785 to $7,038
Buyer Agent's Commission
2.14% to 3.27%
$4,267 to $6,520
*Based on the average commission rates from a 2022 Clever survey of 630 real estate agents
⁺Based on the median home value in Iowa (Zillow.com, August 2022)
As a FSBO seller, you automatically avoid paying a listing commission. However, there is a solid argument for offering a buyer's agent commission.
A buyer’s agent's commission is an incentive for realtors to show your house to their clients. If you don't offer a commission that is competitive compared to similar homes in your area, then your home could be shown less. Agents may prioritize taking buyers to homes with a commission.
The best way to avoid paying any commission fees is to sell to an unrepresented buyer. However, know that nearly 87% of buyers work with a realtor. If you decide not to offer a buyer's agent commission, you may severely restrict your pool of buyers.
Further, if you list FSBO, you'll likely receive multiple calls from agents offering to connect you with their buyers...if you pay them a competitive buyer's agent commission (typically 2.70% in Iowa).
How commission costs break down in Iowa
When you sell your home, there are four common scenarios when it comes to commissions:
- List FSBO and sell to a buyer without an agent: Pay no commission
- List FSBO and sell to a represented buyer: Cover the buyer's agent commission
- List with a traditional agent and sell to a represented buyer: Cover both agents' commissions
- List with a discount agent and sell to a represented buyer: Cover the buyer's agent commission, but save on the listing commission.
The table below shows how this could break down in Iowa:
*Based on the median home vallue in Iowa (Zillow.com, August 2022) and that FSBO homes sell for 6% less (Collateral Analytics, 2017)
+Based on the average commission rates from a 2023 Clever survey of 630 real estate agents
Paperwork to sell a house by owner in Iowa
Once you find a buyer for your house, it's time to start the closing process. In a typical real estate transaction, your agent will make sure you fill out all the necessary documents and forms. As a FSBO seller, you'll have to navigate the paperwork by yourself.
This process varies by state — here’s a quick breakdown of Iowa’s requirements.
Required for all Iowa real estate sales
2 Forms of ID
In most cases, a valid passport, driver's license, or other form of Iowa-issued ID.
Copy of Purchase Agreement and Any Addendums
Copy of the original, signed sales agreement as well as any agreed upon changes.
A detailed list of all the costs associated with the sale and who pays them. This is often prepared by your escrow agent or title company.
To legally transfer your property, you'll need the deed that proves you're the rightful owner. At closing, you'll sign the deed over to the buyer.
Bill of Sale
This is basically a receipt that includes both your information and the buyer's. It will also list the final price of the home and what was included in the sale.
Affidavit of Title
A notarized document that states you own the home, that there are no liens on the property, that you are not simultaneously selling the home to someone else, etc.
Possible additional documents
Loan Payoff Information
If you have a mortgage on your home, you'll need documentation of exactly how much you still owe and any payoff fees. If you've already paid your mortgage in full, you'll need documentation proving that.
HOA Forms and Guidelines
If your home is part of an HOA, you'll need to give the buyer documentation on the HOA's Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions, financial history, required fees, approval process, etc.
Survey Results or Survey Affidavits
A survey (or an affidavit verifying a previous survey) proves exactly where the property lines are.
Home Inspection Results
If you had a pre-sale inspection, you'll want the results to compare to the buyer's inspection. If having a buyer inspection was part of the sales agreement, you should receive a copy of the results before closing.
Proof of Repairs or Renovations
Documentation proving any major repairs or changes to the house help verify its value. These receipts also provide the buyer with information about who to contact if they discover issues with the repairs in the future.
Home Warranty Information
The home warranty service agreement will explain what is covered, for how long, and any costs associated with the policy.
Copies of Relevant Wills, Trusts, or Power of Attorney Letters
If you are selling an inherited property, you'll need copies of all legal documents that passed ownership to you.
Relevant Affidavits (Name Affidavits, Non-Foreign Affidavit Under IRC 1445, etc.)
You may need additional affidavits like a name affidavit (which lists all of your or the buyer's previous names) or an affidavit proving you are not a foreign citizen and therefore exempt from certain property sales taxes.
If your buyer is taking out a mortgage and you agreed to certain seller's concessions, you may need a copy of their closing disclosure to verify the lender approved your concessions.
Correction Statement and Agreement
In the event forms are lost or errors are discovered in the future, a correction statement and agreement requires you, the buyer, or their lender, to replace or fix those documents if need be.
Iowa disclosure forms
The seller disclosure statement details any known issues with your home and its major appliances and systems.
Flood Zone Statement
With some mortgages (like federally backed ones), your buyer's lender might require information of the property's flood risk.
Lead-Based Paint Disclosure
Federal law requires that if your home was built before 1978, you disclose information about the dangers of lead-based paint to your buyer.
Radon Disclosure Fact Sheet
While the state disclosure form covers radon, this fact sheet provides buyers information about the importance of testing for radon and possible health risks.
Groundwater Hazard Statements
For homes with spectic tanks or that are in rural areas of Iowa, a groudwater hazard statement discloses if there are any issues or toxins affecting the property.
Many closing documents are legally binding agreements. Any errors can derail your sale and cost you thousands in fees or in costs to re-list your house.
To avoid an expensive mistake, consider working with a low commission realtor instead.
FSBO pros and cons
Before deciding to sell your home by owner, weigh all the pros and cons to make the right choice for your situation.
- More control: As a FSBO seller, you can decide the price, listing timeframe, showing schedule, marketing strategy, negotiation tactics, and more.
- No competition with other clients: Some agents take on more clients than they can handle, which could mean not getting the attention you need to meet your home-selling goals.
- Lower commission: As a FSBO seller, you could sell your home without paying any commissions.
- Less visibility with buyers: Unless you pay for a flat-fee MLS service, your home won't be on the local MLS. Most agents use MLSes (not Zillow and Trulia) to find properties for their clients and most buyers work with a realtor. So if you're not on the MLS, fewer buyers will see your listing.
- Risks of inaccurate pricing: Many FSBO sellers find it difficult to be objective when pricing their house and list for too much. If you make this mistake, you won't attract buyers and the listing will become stale. Eventually, you could be forced to accept a low offer or take your home off the market and relist with an agent.
- Safety issues: As a FSBO seller, it will be your responsibility to show your home to prospective buyers. Not everyone is comfortable being alone with strangers in their homes since incidents such as theft or harassment can occur. Make sure to gauge your own comfort levels before deciding to sell FSBO.
- More work and stress: Selling a home is a full-time job. Trying to cram all the steps and responsibilities into your schedule is a hassle many FSBO sellers aren't prepared for.
FSBO alternatives to consider
If saving money is your main reason for selling your home by owner, there are alternatives.
Clever Real Estate
Clever is a nationwide real estate service that connects sellers with top, local agents. You pay Clever nothing and only pay your full-service agent 1.5% if and when your home sells.
💲 Listing Fee
1.5% (min. $3,000 fee)
💰 Buyer Savings
Up to $500 cash back
⭐ Avg. Customer Rating
4.9/5 (1,995 reviews)
Clever is a quick, easy, and free way to find a top-rated local agent. And, unlike many similar companies, Clever pre-negotiates big discounts on your behalf, so you can save thousands without sacrificing on service.
- Free, nationwide agent-matching service that partners with full-service local agents from conventional brokerages like Keller Williams, Century 21, and RE/MAX
- Provides multiple agent matches so you can interview, compare marketing plans, and choose the best fit
- Pre-negotiates low rates on your behalf — you get full service for a 1.5% listing fee vs. the typical 2.5-3% rate
- If you buy with Clever, you can get cash back rewards after closing
- You may not get matched with an agent from your preferred real estate brokerage.
- Agents may not provide premium services like drone photography and professional home staging.
As of 10/21/2022, Clever has a 4.9 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot, based on 1,844 reviews.
Clever has pre-negotiated low commission rates with top agents in all 50 states and Washington, DC.
Discount real estate services in Iowa
While pricing and services vary, discount real estate companies will help you sell your house for less than a traditional realtor. In most cases, you'll still need to offer a competitive buyer's agent commission, but you'll save on listing fees.
💲 Listing Fee
1.5% (min. fees vary)
💰 Avg. Savings
⭐ Avg. Customer Rating
3.7/5 (301 reviews)
Redfin offers real savings and is a proven brand. But sellers could compromise on service — especially agent experience and availability.
- If you buy and sell with Redfin, you'll get a 0.5% listing fee discount.
- Redfin gives its listings premium placement in its popular home search app.
- If finding the right agent is a top priority, you'll have limited options — Redfin only has a few agents in each of its markets.
- Redfin agents handle more customers at once than the average realtor, so they may not be able to provide as much personalized service.
Redfin has a 3.7 out of 5 rating (301 reviews) across popular review sites like Google and Yelp.
Redfin is available in 80+ U.S. markets (see all locations).
» LEARN: About discount real estate services
Flat-fee MLS services in Iowa
As mentioned before, a flat-fee MLS service will post your listing on the local MLS, usually for a low, upfront fee. In Iowa, this will typically cost you a couple hundred dollars.
Here are some Iowa flat-fee MLS companies to compare:
Budget-conscious sellers who need a simple, affordable listing
- Your listing comes with all the state seller's disclosures that you'll need.
- You can pay a little more to post up to 25 photos on the MLS instead of the standard six.
- Flat Fee Realty doesn't offer any pricing or contract assistance.
- The company won't be your listing broker. Instead, they'll refer you to a Idaho-based broker who will list your property. If you have problems or questions, you'll end up talking to two companies instead of just one.
Experienced investors who need only a basic MLS listing
- You can set up a free FSBO web page along with your MLS listing.
- It's easy to switch to a full-service agent if you decide FSBO isn't for you.
- This broker offers only one flat-fee MLS package. However, the company offers a higher-priced full-service option if you want help with facilitating your sale.
- The company's flat-fee MLS option allows fewer photos and changes to your listing.
- The flat-fee MLS service is good for a shorter listing duration than usual (three months) and boasts a higher price than many other options.
Sellers who want to attract people looking for a FSBO property
Fizber is a nationwide flat-fee MLS company with fairly affordable plans. It also stands out for having good customer service.
However, its website is outdated and doesn’t always list services that are state-specific. So, you won’t always know what you’re getting until you speak with a customer service representative.
- Fizber will promote your listing for you on social media.
- If you change your mind before your listing goes live, you can get a full refund within 30 days of purchase.
- The basic MLS package only includes six photos. Other companies include up to 25.
- You'll have to pay extra if you want to make changes to your listing.
1 (888) 381-2201
» LEARN: About flat-fee MLS services in Iowa
1. Make minor repairs
Small upgrades and repairs can do a lot to sway potential buyers. The key is knowing how and where to spend your money to get higher offers. Simple DIY projects like a fresh coat of paint or new cabinet pulls have a high return on investment, whereas pricier improvements like adding a new bedroom may not.
Overall, the most important factor is knowing where the line is between necessary and over-the-top. You want your house to meet buyers' expectations.
"If your kitchen is a disaster, spending more money on a remodel to get it in solid condition will pay off in the end," said Mizes. "But spending money on high-end features to take it from good to extravagant will be a waste."
Also, consider how valuable specific repairs are to buyers in your area. Focus on upgrades that have a higher cost recuperation in your region.
Home repairs with highest resale value in Iowa
Avg. Repair Cost
Avg. Resale Value
Manufactured Stone Veneer
Garage Door Replacement
Minor Kitchen Remodel | Midrange
Based on regional data from Remodeling
Note: A resale value of more than 100% indicates a profitable repair.
2. Price your Iowa home competitively
How much can you get for your home? The answer is not always straightforward. The median listing price is $215,050, and the median sale price is $222,000, which would seem like a good sign. However, low buyer demand means homes are not always selling quickly.
This is because a listing price is a starting point, not your end goal price. Your specific location and how quickly you want to sell your home will impact the right listing price for you.
For instance, if you want to get a higher price through a bidding war, listing slightly below fair market value will attract multiple buyers.
Bonus tip: A pre-sale appraisal house gives you a more accurate starting point for pricing your home.
Based on our research, in Iowa, appraisals average $315 to $420, but help you walk away with thousands more once your home is sold.
3. Stage and market your home
Once you have a price, it's time to get your home ready to sell. You'll need to declutter and depersonalize the space, which can often be challenging if you’re used to seeing it as your home. However, it's now time for someone else to see it as home, so keeping furniture and pictures neutral will ensure buyers are in the right frame of mind. .
You'll want to get the house professionally staged so that it will sell more quickly for top dollar. You'll need professional photos taken and loaded onto listing websites. Once your home is listed, you'll need to tirelessly promote the listing anywhere you can to get attention.
You don't want to cut corners on any of these steps because it will make your home look shoddy and unattractive to buyers. That means less interest, lower offers, and a longer time on the market. Remember, you need to stand out from a lot of other homes that will be on the market at the same time.
If you think you can handle any of these responsibilities alone - perhaps you’re a professional photographer or media marketing expert - don’t feel pressured to pay for an expensive service. At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask the pros for help, as they almost always make up for their costs in additional value added.
>> LEARN how much it costs to stage a home
Bonus tip: Hiring a professional stager can help alleviate some of the stress FSBO sellers go through. They know your local market and ensure your home is ready to impress, giving you one less thing to worry about.
Based on our research, in Iowa, staging costs range from $1500-$2000 for 60 days of furniture rental and design. If you still live in the home and are willing to use your own furniture, prices may be as low as $350 a month.
4. Prepare for showings
Organization is key when showing your home to potential buyers. You'll need a good system for scheduling showings and saving buyers' and agents’ contact information. You'll want to be flexible and try to show your house at buyers’ convenience.
Keep the home clean and decluttered at all times. The last thing you want is to scramble around with a vacuum after a buyer calls for a last-minute showing.
Also, focus on creating a homey atmosphere for buyers. You want to make a great first impression on as many buyers as possible, so add little touches that speak to most people.
"Bake cookies or light scented candles before a showing," advises Mizes. "Smell plays a huge part in how buyers will perceive and remember your house. Use comforting scents to your advantage so they feel at home the moment they walk through the door."
5. Negotiate for the best possible price
Negotiations are about deciding more than the final sale price. You and the buyer (or their agent) will also have to agree upon contract contingencies, how closing costs are divided, the timeline, and more.
To gain the upper hand, get creative with the seller concessions you offer a buyer. While they might cost you a little more at closing, concessions sweeten the deal for buyers and could lead to a higher final sale price.
The most popular concessions vary from market to market. Knowing what works with buyers in your area will help you strengthen your offer.
For example, a Clever survey of local real estate professionals found that in Iowa, sellers often cover 1.20% to 2.00% of buyers' closing costs. On a home of median value, that equates to $2,393 to $3,988, but can help you close the deal sooner and for more money.
You should also consider offering these popular seller concessions:
Most common seller concessions in Iowa
Benefits of Offering Concession
If your home has major appliances or systems that are on their last leg, a home warranty can give buyers peace of mind. A warranty will cover possible issues and is typically less expensive than paying for the repairs (or accepting a lower offer from a wary buyer).
Repair credits are win-wins for buyers and sellers. You'll credit the buyer a set amount to cover the cost of repairs. Once the deal closes, the buyer can personally oversee the project to their liking and you don't have to worry about repairs going over budget.
Mortgage Discount Points
While the cost varies between lenders, mortgage points lower a buyer's interest rate and can save them thousands over the years. If you offer to buy mortgage discount points, it can seal the deal for some buyers — especially with buyers who don't plan to move again for several years.
Conclusion: Is FSBO right for you?
FSBO isn't a perfect fit for everyone. But now that you know what awaits, if you're feeling confident about all the steps and possible challenges, you might be ready to sell without a realtor.
Remember, to succeed at selling a house by owner you'll need to:
- Make a plan: From getting photos of your property to lining up the correct paperwork, there’ll be a lot on your FSBO to-do list. Work out a schedule for when you need to accomplish everything so you can find a buyer and close in a timeframe that works for you.
- Get ready to hustle: Attracting qualified buyers is hard work. You'll need a great listing description and a killer marketing strategy to generate interest. Also, prepare to spend a considerable amount of your time fielding calls from prospective buyers, handling showings, hosting open houses, and more.
- Make smart investments: Even though your main goal as a FSBO seller is saving money, spending some money on small upgrades or repairs can lead to higher offers and a faster sale. Also, consider paying for a flat-fee MLS service to list your home on the local MLS to reach more buyers.
- Seek some professional advice: You don't have to sign a listing contract to talk to a realtor. Professional agents understand that smart sellers weigh their options; they'll be willing to meet for a free consultation. After seeing your home and looking at comps, they might notice issues or advantages you overlooked. Once you've heard their advice, if you still want to sell by owner, you can do so confidently because you thoroughly explored all your choices.
If you'd like some professional guidance with no strings attached, Clever can help. Fill out your basic info below to connect with a top, local realtor for a no-obligation consultation.
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