Should I sell without a realtor? | Cost of selling FSBO | How to sell without a realtor | Seller disclosures | Laws and regulations | FSBO paperwork | Best alternative: discount realtors | FAQs
Selling your home without a realtor means you won’t have to pay a listing commission, which in California averages 2.5% of the sale price. Considering a typical California house is worth about $717,000, that’s a savings of $17,925.
However, trying to sell a home For Sale by Owner (FSBO) can be tough. You’ll be responsible for every step of the selling process, which can take up a lot of your time and energy.
In the end, selling a house without a real estate agent isn’t worth it for most homeowners in California. Many sellers don’t even realize that there are low commission real estate companies that offer professional assistance at reduced prices.
If you’re considering selling a house without a realtor in California, read on to find out everything you need to know to do it successfully.
✍️ Key Takeaways of FSBO Sales
- Selling without a real estate agent means avoiding a listing commission (2.5% on average in California). But in exchange for those savings, you’ll have to do everything from advertising your home to completing legal paperwork to negotiating the final deal.
- In most cases, you’ll still need to offer a buyer’s agent commission. 2.4% is typical in California.
- Selling without an agent is best for experienced sellers or people selling to family or friends.
- For most sellers, there are better cost-saving options that will net you more money and provide professional support.
Should I sell my house without a realtor?
Selling a house for sale by owner in California comes with many pros and cons. While it’s not recommended for everyone, FSBO can help experienced home sellers save on commission—but only if they know what they’re doing.
✅Selling your home without a realtor might be right for you if…
- You want to save on commission
- You have plenty of time to take on the responsibilities of a real estate agent
- You already have a buyer lined up
- You’re in a hot seller’s market and you have a desirable home
🚫 Selling without a realtor might not be right for you if…
- You don’t have a lot of free time
- You’ve never sold a home in California
- You want to sell for market value – or higher
If you’re still not sure, check out our thorough guide to selling FSBO to help you decide. If you’re open to other options, some low-commission real estate companies, like Clever Real Estate, allow you to work with a top local real estate agent at half the typical cost.
Cost of selling a house without a realtor in California
Below, you’ll find a list of prices for common services you might want to consider if you decide to sell without a realtor. However, know that if your home is in need of repairs or is in a buyer’s market, you might need to spend a lot more to prep and market your property.
💸 Common costs for FSBO sellers
|Appraisal||$300 to $400||To price your home more accurately|
|Photography||$195||To compete with homes listed by agents|
|Staging||$3,664||To stand out to local buyers|
|Real estate attorney||$247 per hour||To assist with paperwork, contracts, and legal requirements|
|Flat fee MLS listing||$95 to $2,495||To get listed on the MLS|
|Buyer’s agent commission||2.4% of sale price||To compensate the agent that represents the buyer (it’s customary for the seller to pay)|
Overall, on average, it costs 7.5% of the home price to sell by owner and about 10% of the home price to sell with a real estate agent. However, the amount you’ll actually save will depend on repairs you need to make, concessions, and other expenses.
Use our calculator to get an idea of how much you can expect to spend if you sell without a realtor.
If you’re considering selling without a realtor in California, check out our friends at Clever Real Estate. Clever eliminates all the hassles and headaches of FSBO while helping you pay less than you would for a traditional realtor.
In California, sellers pay an average of 2.5% to a listing agent. Considering the median home value in California is $717,000, that amounts to $17,925. But with Clever, you can sell with a top local agent for just 1.5%, letting you keep more of your home’s equity in your pocket.
7 steps to sell a home in California without a realtor
Selling a home without a realtor involves many of the same steps as selling with one, except you’re on your own. To learn more about the basic steps to sell, read our simple, 9-step guide to selling a house in California.
Here’s what you need to know about how to sell a house in California by owner.
1. Get your home ready to sell
Create a space that allows prospective buyers to imagine themselves living in the home. After a thorough decluttering, remove as much furniture as you can to make the space appear larger. Take down personal items like family photos.
Paint can be a quick and inexpensive improvement for the main rooms. If you have any bold colors or accent walls, consider painting over them with a fresh coat of neutral off-white or light gray paint.
Outside, you can increase curb appeal and make a good first impression with light landscaping projects. California has a wide range of climates, so check the USDA planting map for when you should plant and research which types of flowers grow best in your area and season.
If you don’t like your current furniture, you can hire a professional stager in California for about $3,664.
📸 Once your house looks amazing, take photos for the listing.
Be sure to capture each room in its best light by waiting for the sun to shine, then take photos standing in the corner so that the rooms appear large. Take about 25–50 photos on the interior and exterior of the home, making sure you’re including any unique features.
If you’d rather trust a pro with the photos, you can hire a photographer for about $195 per session in California.
If your home needs too much work to sell to a typical buyer, you might consider selling to a cash buyer. You can quickly compare cash buyer offers against your home’s value on the open market with Clever Offers. Try it for free with no obligation.
2. Price your home accurately
Choosing a price for your home can be tricky: if you price it too high it could linger on the market forever, but if you price it too low you might regret missing out on additional cash. In fact, 20% of Americans surveyed said that pricing their home was the most difficult aspect of selling.
If you’re selling a house in California without a realtor, you won’t have the benefit of their knowledge and experience when pricing your home. Fortunately, you can still use some of the methods realtors use when settling on a list price.
Get a comparative market analysis (CMA)
The standard method for arriving at a listing price is a comparative market analysis, or CMA, which looks at recently sold homes. A CMA compares your home to other nearby homes similar in size, age, features, and condition. Once you know what buyers have paid for those homes, you have an idea of what they’ll pay for yours.
Many realtors will provide a CMA when you first express interest in working with them. Or, you can create your own CMA. If you work with a flat fee MLS company, ask if they provide CMAs as an add-on service.
Hire an appraiser
An appraiser is a professional who will visit your property in person to determine the value. An appraisal is the most accurate way of determining a home’s value. If your buyers use financing to purchase the home, the lender will likely order an appraisal to make sure the property is worth the amount of the loan. In California, an appraisal costs between $300 to $400.
» LEARN: Should I get an appraisal before selling?
3. List and market your home
Before you list your home, make sure you’re familiar with California’s real estate marketing rules.
California Real Estate Sign Rules
Californians can put temporary “For Sale” signs on their own private property as long as they follow state regulations.
California standards for all temporary signs:
- No flashing or artificial lights
- Can’t be used or maintained within the public’s right-of-way
- Can’t be placed upon property without the owner’s permission
- Must not damage any structure, endanger the public, or obscure views of the road or road signs
Standards for real estate signs:
- Single and two-family homes can have one sign that doesn’t exceed 6 square feet in area.
- Multi-family or commercial lots can have one sign (not exceeding 32 square feet in area) for each road the property faces.
- Signs can’t exceed 6 feet in height.
- No more than four signs are permitted per development.
- Signs have to be removed within 10 days of the property’s sale or lease.
Take advantage of free FSBO listing websites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, ForSaleByOwner.com, and Zillow/Trulia (in the FSBO section). These sites are a good place to start, but in order to compete with homes represented by agents, you’ll need to be on the MLS. If you want maximum exposure, think about working with a California flat fee MLS company.
California flat fee MLS companies
The MLS is a database where listing agents advertise all of their listings and buyers’ agents choose homes for their clients to tour. You need to be a realtor to list homes on the MLS, but you can work with a flat fee MLS company to make it happen instead.
In California, this will cost you anywhere from $80 to $1,000, depending on the specific services you choose. Our top picks for flat fee MLS companies in California are:
- HomeListers: Best for inexperienced sellers
- Congress Realty: Best for sellers who want a lot of a-la-carte options
- MLS Town by Berg Properties: Most affordable prices
Read our in-depth guide to California’s flat fee MLS companies to decide which one works best for you.
Don’t forget to include a buyer’s agent commission (BAC) in your listing
By offering a buyer’s agent commission (also called a buyer’s agency fee), you’ll have more buyers knocking at your door with more (and better) offers.
While you won’t have to pay a listing fee as a FSBO seller in California, we still recommend you offer a competitive buyer’s agent commission in your home listing. In California, the average BAC is about 2.7% of your home’s sale price.
While it may be tempting to forgo this commission to save, that decision could cost you. A competitive BAC incentivizes buyer’s agents to bring their buyers to your home and do their part throughout the transaction. Without a BAC, the buyer’s agent would be working for free (not too enticing, huh?).
Required California Seller Disclosures
Unlike “buyer beware” states, California has several additional disclosure regulations that sellers must follow. These disclosures need to be signed and presented by the seller before the buyer makes an offer on the home.
To play it safe, make all of these disclosures readily available by attaching them to the listing and providing paper copies in the home for buyers at showings.
All of the required disclosure forms and documents can be found from the California Department of Real Estate, but here are some key details you’ll need to know:
Transfer Disclosure Statement
All material facts about the property must be disclosed in a Transfer Disclosure Statement. For most sellers, you’ll just have to focus on the standard details of your home, including the condition of:
- Walls, ceiling, and floors
- Driveways and sidewalks
- Electrical systems
- Plumbing systems
- Any other structural components
The form will also ask the seller to disclose if the property has any methamphetamine contamination, window security bars, or has been used for industrial purposes.
You must also disclose any deaths on the property within the past 3 years. If someone died more than 3 years ago, you don’t need to inform the buyer. However, if a prospective buyer asks about any deaths in your home, you have to be honest.
California Statewide Buyer and Seller Advisory
This advisory form lays out all items to be disclosed by the seller. It also reminds buyers of the items they should look into and inspect prior to purchasing any property.
Natural Hazards Disclosure
The Natural Hazards Disclosure lets buyers know if the lot is in a flood zone, a designated wildlife area, at high risk of fire damage, over an earthquake fault zone, or is within a seismic hazard zone.
Flood Risk Disclosure Guide
If your home is near a flood zone, some lenders require you to provide a Flood Risk Disclosure Guide from FEMA.
Smoke detector compliance
The state of California requires all homes to have a smoke detector installed outside each sleeping area. Sellers have to provide buyers with a written statement verifying their home adheres to this law.
Some cities can have stricter smoke detector requirements than the state law, so check with your local county fire department for more information.
Hot water heater certification
If your property has a water heater, you’ll need to certify that it has been braced or anchored to avoid falling during an earthquake. The certification is usually part of the Purchase and Sale Agreement or the Homeowner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety.
Megan’s Law disclosure
Fill out and provide the Megan’s Law Disclosure form to allow buyers to search the property address on California’s Megan’s Law website for any nearby registered sex offenders.
Lead-based paint disclosure
Federal regulations require sellers in every state to disclose the presence of lead paint in properties built before 1978.
4. Manage showings on your own
Once you’ve listed the home, interested buyers will begin contacting you for showings. Respond to questions and showing requests as soon as possible. Buyers may have several homes to tour, so they’ll just move on to the next one if you’re not responsive.
Enter all contact information into a spreadsheet and keep track of appointments using an app like Google Calendar.
When scheduling appointments, plan on being away from the home. Any realtor will tell you that buyers become distracted when the owners are present during a tour. If they have questions, they’ll reach out to you afterward. You can purchase a lock box from a local hardware store for about $50 to provide realtors access when you’re not there.
💡Tip: Schedule showing appointments close to one another to create a sense of competition. If buyers see others coming to tour the home directly before or after their appointment, it suggests that people are eager to see the home and they should quickly make an offer before they miss their chance.
Leave information like the listing description, fact sheets, and all required disclosures in a conspicuous place like a table or kitchen counter. Ensure that your contact information is easy to find.
5. Review and negotiate offers
When you start to receive offers, they’ll come from a buyer’s agent in the form of a purchase and sale agreement, or buy-sell agreement. This is what a purchase and sale agreement typically looks like in California.
Since you don’t have a realtor to review the offers and assist with negotiations, it’s important to carefully review all of the details before responding. If there is something you don’t understand, it could be worth it to speak with a lawyer. Some flat fee MLS companies will provide contract reviews by an agent for an additional fee.
Beyond the offer price, here are a few things to pay close attention to in the offer:
Are the buyers asking for any contingencies? It’s common for buyers to include contingencies when making an offer. For example, a buyer who also needs to sell a home might ask for a home sale contingency, which means waiting for closing on their home before closing on yours. Consider these requests carefully, asking yourself if they align with your goals.
Is the offer cash or financed? The majority of home purchases are financed, meaning the buyer is taking out a mortgage to pay for the home. Financed offers could mean extra steps like an appraisal and waiting for lender approval. Cash offers are faster and are generally easier, but that’s not always the case.
Do the buyers explain why they’re offering less than the asking price? Offers sometimes include repair credit requests, which note specific problems with the home and how much it would cost to fix them. For example, a buyer could note that the driveway needs to be repaved and reduce the price in order to afford it later. If you see this and you know that the driveway will be a sticking point for many buyers, it might be in your best interest to consider it.
Once you’ve reviewed an offer, you have three options: accept it, reject it, or make a counteroffer. You can make a counteroffer by amending the form, changing details like the price and any contingencies.
If an offer is way too low, don’t hesitate to reject it outright. If you’re considering a counteroffer, be careful about being too aggressive. If the counter offer is too far away from the original offer, the buyer may walk away. Learn more by reading our guide to negotiation strategies for ideas about how to respond.
A real estate attorney isn’t required by law to sell a home in California, but hiring one to review your purchase contract could be worth the one-time cost.
6. Allow the buyer to conduct due diligence
After accepting an offer, you’ll move into the “due diligence” period where the buyer will have a chance to verify the home is in good shape. If the buyer is using a mortgage to finance the purchase, the lender will also be involved.
During this period, the following may occur:
- Mortgage underwriting
- Property title search
- Final walkthrough
If the home inspector finds something wrong, or if the appraiser says the house is worth less than the agreed upon price, you might have to renegotiate the terms of sale. The worst-case scenario is that the deal might fall through entirely.
Either the buyer or seller can walk away from the deal during this period. We recommend speaking to a lawyer first before taking this step on your own, however.
However, if everything goes smoothly, you can move on to closing.
In California, real estate closings are typically held at the office of a real estate agent, a title company, or an attorney. Ask the buyer’s agent if you need a place to meet for closing.
Expect to sign a lot of documents at closing, including the deed transfer, which officially gives ownership of the property to the buyer.
Also at this time, you’ll receive a statement that details the proceeds from the sale, minus the various closing costs. Since California is a “dry funding” state that allows the lender to review mortgage documents after closing, you might not receive payment for up to four days if the home purchase is being financed.
For sale by owner laws in California
Whether you’re selling a modern condo in Anaheim or a cozy cottage in Napa, understanding California’s real estate regulations is essential. Learning about these laws now can help you prepare for common roadblocks and potential legal issues.
Below, we’ve listed some statewide regulations and laws that all sellers need to follow. However, you should also check with your local county to see if there are any additional requirements for your region.
Minimum service regulations
Brokers in California are required to perform certain services for all of their clients — even if they don’t want or need them. Flat fee MLS brokers must also meet minimum service regulations, and those additional services might make their packages may be more expensive compared to states without minimum service regulations.
A transfer tax is collected by the county and/or the city wherever a property is sold. In most California counties, the total transfer tax is $1.10 per $1,000 of the property’s value. For every $1,000 of a home’s sale price, $0.55 is collected by the city, and $0.55 is collected by the county.
However, some cities have total transfer tax rates much higher than this, so be sure to research the rate for your specific location.
Example of how California transfer tax works
Orange County’s transfer tax is $0.55, and Anaheim’s city transfer tax is $0.55. So, a property that sells for $450,000 would require $495 in transfer taxes.
(450,000 / $1,000) x ($0.55 + $0.55) = $495
(Sales price / $1,000) x (county tax + city tax) =
total transfer tax
Buyers and sellers can negotiate who pays for the transfer tax, but the standard expectation is for sellers to pay in Southern California and the buyer to pay in Northern California.
For sale by owner paperwork in California
Here’s a list of the California paperwork you’ll need to sell your home without a realtor.
- Transfer Disclosure Statement
- Megan’s Law Disclosure
- Natural Hazard Disclosure and Statement
- Statewide Buyer and Seller Advisory
- Lead-Based Paint Disclosure
- Flood Risk Disclosure
Not finding what you’re looking for? Check out our comprehensive list of paperwork for selling your house without a realtor.
Best alternative: work with a discount broker
For many people, trying to sell without an agent isn’t worth the hassle. If you think you’ll need some help along the way, a discount broker is a good alternative.
Discount brokers are full-service real estate agents who are willing to work for a reduced commission rate. Sellers can save thousands while still receiving assistance from an expert local agent.
» READ: The Best Discount Real Estate Brokers in California
For discount broker services, we highly recommend our friends at Clever! Clever pre-negotiates with top agents to offer you low commission rates without compromising on service quality.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need a real estate attorney to sell my house in California?
No, California law doesn't require sellers to hire an attorney to sell their home. It can still be a good idea to hire an attorney to read through your offers or review your paperwork before closing day, though. An attorney can identify potential legal issues and resolve them before they make your sale more complicated.
What do I have to disclose when selling a home in California?
California sellers must disclose all known material issues with the property to interested buyers. This includes everything from the home's foundation to the age and condition of the roof. Additional disclosures may also include details about flood or fire hazards, recent deaths, or the use of lead paint.
If you’d like some more advice about selling your California home, here are a few great resources to check out:
Average Real Estate Commission in California: What’s Fair in 2022?: Even if you decide to sell your house without an agent, it’s still a good idea to offer commission to the buyer’s agent. Learn how much realtors expect to earn and what you can do to make your listing more appealing to agents and their clients.
Top We Buy Houses Companies in California REVEALED: If you need to sell your home in a hurry, a We Buy Houses company may purchase your house as-is for a reduced rate. Find out if this option could be the best option for you here!
Cost to Sell a House in California: Seller Closing Costs and More: Wondering how much you’ll have to pay to sell your house? Check out this article to calculate your repair budget, closing fees, marketing expenses, and more.
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