Selling a House in California: Everything You Need to Know

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By Jamie Ayers Updated September 27, 2023
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Edited by Michael Yessis

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Our in-depth guide to selling a house in California breaks the process into eight steps, from how to find a great real estate agent to managing the closing process.

If you're selling a house in California now, you're transitioning from a down market to one predicted to rise. As of March 31, 2024, property values in the Golden State moved 6.37% over the previous year. But California home prices rose 0.20% over the past month, and they're projected to rise 0.3% over the next year. 

Even the best California properties will struggle to sell, though, if you don't price your home accurately, don't market it well, or don’t negotiate properly.

Reduce the stress of selling a house in California with the help of a Clever agent

Clever's partner agents can hold your hand through the home-selling process. Clever will match you with a top-rated real estate agent who can expertly guide you through all the steps of your home sale. 

Clever has also pre-negotiated savings on your behalf. Sellers can list their homes with a top local agent for just 1.5% commission — a fraction of the 2.5–3% listing fee most agents charge.

👋 Find a great local agent, get a 1.5% listing fee with Clever

1. Find a top-rated California real estate agent

If you're looking to sell your California home for the best price — and minimize stress along the way — find a top-rated real estate agent in your area.

The best California listing agents know what local buyers want and how to reach them. They’ll offer expert real estate advice, tips for selling your home on the California real estate market, and support from the initial listing through closing.

Home sellers who work with real estate agents net an average of 33% more than those who list independently. For a $783,666 home — the median home value in California, according to Zillow — that’s a premium of more than $200,000.

👋 Need a great agent on your side?

Connect with top local agents who can help you sell on time and for top dollar. You'll pay just a 1.5% listing fee (half the typical rate), helping you save thousands!

2. Decide when to sell

Best month for selling a house in California fastBest month for selling a house in California for the highest price
MayJune
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When it comes to selling a home in California, timing is everything. Waiting just one month to list could mean getting tens of thousands more for your home. Seasonality also influences how long your house will stay on the local housing market. 

If you can't wait for the best time to sell a house in California, connect with a Clever Partner Agent. Clever agents work for listing fees of just 1.5% vs. the typical 2.5–3% rate. So even if you can't time the California real estate market, you can still save money.

Best time for selling a house in California fast

You'll sell a house fastest in May, according to Realtor.com data from August 2022. Homes listed in May spent 25 days on the market, which is 11 days fewer than the national average.

In comparison, homes listed in December stayed on the market for 45 days.

When it comes to the timing to sell, the more information you have about your local market the better. Your listing agent will have up-to-date information about the best time to sell in your town based on your sales goal.

Best time for selling a house in California for price

Sell a house in June to get the highest final sale price. Homes listed in June sold for a median price of $759,500, which is 5.45% more than the average sales price for the whole year. 

Sellers in June made $39,243 more on their sale. 

» READ: The best time to sell a home in California

3. Price your home

Use a comparative market analysis (CMA) to help determine the listing price of your home. A CMA will provide the data to back up your pricing decisions. 

Your realtor can do the CMA on your home. They’ll have comprehensive data about recent and pending sales in the local market, and other similar homes listed in your area.

Using comps and their years of experience in the local market, your agent can help you decide on a listing price that will help you sell fast, get more money, or both.

4. Prepare, market, and show your home

Stage your home

Staged homes sell 86% faster than non-staged homes. Start with these two tactics to get the maximum benefits of a staged home. 

  • Stage your home so that it speaks to your local California market. You don’t want to stage an extra bedroom as a nursery if most buyers in your area are retirees. 
  • Depersonalize your home. Buyers can’t imagine themselves in your house if it’s full of your family photos or souvenirs from your vacations. Pack those items away.

» MORE: How to stage a house to sell

Craft an appealing (and accurate) listing description

A high-quality home listing will help your home stand out from the competition. Most home buyers start their home search online, so you want to make sure your listing will catch their attention. 

Your agent will often take the lead in writing and adding the listing description to the multiple listing service (MLS). But when you're selling a house, ensure the listing follows a few key principles. 

  • Write for your local audience. Tell people what's great about your house and its neighborhood. Mention if you can walk to restaurants and stores. 
  • Use professional photos. Along with your realtor, choose which photos will highlight your house and make it memorable for potential buyers.
  • Use bulleted lists. Bullets make it easy to scan the listing. You want to convey all the necessary information without overwhelming buyers. 

Market your home

Your agent should handle most of the marketing, but you can still help. 

  • Share information about showings and open houses on social media. It helps build buzz and visibility.
  • Tell your friends and family you're selling. See if they know anyone looking for a house in California. You can even offer a small prize — like a gift card to a local restaurant — to anyone who helps you find a buyer.

Show your home

Let your listing agent show your home. An experienced real estate agent knows how to spot serious buyers and will be able to answer their questions.

Even though you've lived in the home for years, that doesn't make you the best person to convince potential buyers to put in an offer. Instead of finding time in your schedule for showings and open houses, keep the house clean and decluttered. Whenever a potential buyer wants to stop by, you'll have done your part to make the home look fantastic.

5. Field offers and negotiate

Once you receive an offer on your home, don't assume it's a done deal. Even if you receive multiple offers at your listing price, you don't have to accept any of them. Price is just one factor to consider. Negotiating the terms of the purchase agreement and going back and forth with counteroffers are all part of the process.

Your real estate agent can tell you if making fewer repair concessions or agreeing to an inspection contingency would benefit your situation.

Once you and the buyer iron out the details, you'll both sign a purchase agreement, moving you one step closer to paying your closing costs and finalizing the sale.

» MORE: Real estate counteroffer etiquette

🤔 What's in a purchase agreement?

A purchase agreement is a legally binding real estate contract that governs the entire real estate transaction. The buyer's agent usually creates the initial sale agreement, which will include the price and other terms, including: 

Basic details of the sale. Buyer's and seller's names, property's address, purchase price, etc. 
Contingencies. Conditions that must be met to close the sale and relate to situations like buyer financing, home appraisal, and inspections. 
Earnest money. The amount of cash the buyer will pay up front for the seller to put the home under contract.
Fixtures and appliances. The features of the house that are also included in the sale. 
Disclosures. The seller must legally reveal any issues or facts about the house.  
Closing costs. A breakdown of which expenses the buyer and seller will each be responsible for at closing. 
Settlement and possession dates. The closing date and seller's timeline for moving out.

6. Get an inspection and appraisal

The buyer will usually hire a licensed inspector after signing a purchase agreement. If the inspector uncovers major issues with the house, expect more negotiations. The buyer will likely use the potential cost of repairs to ask for a lower price (as long as the purchase agreement has relevant contingencies).

» MORE: What does contingent mean in real estate?

The appraisal 

Lenders typically require a home appraisal before they agree to give out a loan. They want to make sure the home is worth as much as the mortgage so it can act as sufficient collateral.

» LEARN: Can a seller back out of a contract before closing?

7. Submit paperwork and required California disclosures

Forms and documents for selling a house in California

Required for all real estate sales in CaliforniaPossible additional documentsCalifornia disclosure forms
• 2 forms of ID

• Affidavit of title

• Bill of sale

• Closing statement

• Copy of purchase agreement and any addendums

• Signed deed
• Closing disclosure (for certain seller concessions)

• Correction statement and agreement

• Copies of relevant wills, trusts, or power of attorney letters

• HOA forms and guidelines

• Home inspection Results

• Home warranty information

• Loan payoff Information

• Proof of repairs or renovations

• Relevant affidavits (name affidavit, non-foreign affidavit under IRC 1445, etc.)

• Survey results or survey affidavits
• California transfer disclosure statement

• Megan's Law disclosure

• Natural hazard disclosure report/statement

• Residential earthquake hazards report

• Statewide buyer and seller advisory
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California law requires sellers to complete the documents and disclosures listed above. 

For instance, unless you're transferring the home by court order, as in a divorce, you must complete a transfer disclosure statement when selling a house in California. This form informs potential buyers about structural issues, damage, neighborhood noise, or damage. You also  have to tell buyers if the home is “stigmatized” by a death at the property in the last three years.

California sellers must also inform buyers where to find a listing of local registered sex offenders on a state registry.

While it's good to be familiar with the documents you might need to close on your home, always consult your agent or a real estate attorney before signing or filing paperwork. Your real estate agent can help you determine how much you must disclose to comply with California law.

» MORE: California disclosure requirements

8. Close your California home sale

Closing takes place once both parties have fulfilled their responsibilities in the purchase agreement.

During closing, the buyer is entitled to a final walkthrough to check that the home is still in good condition and the seller has made all requested repairs. Both parties then sign the final forms to set the verification of property in motion. These forms are filed with the county office. 

Buyers and sellers next pay final closing costs. Then, if everything goes as planned, the buyer takes ownership of the home and you'll receive your money from the sale.

Closing costs in California

If you receive the average California home value of $783,666 for your sale, expect to pay around $6,477 in closing costs. This amount doesn't include real estate commission, which in California is typically an additional 5.11% of the sales price.

» MORE: How much are closing costs for sellers in California?

Next steps: Sell your California home and save thousands

Whether you're looking to list your home immediately or 6–12 months from now, it's never too early to start looking for a listing agent, getting advice, and making a plan.

💰 Get a lower rate with a top local agent!

Want to find a top local agent without overpaying on realtor commission fees? Clever Real Estate negotiates 1.5% listing fees with top-rated realtors from trusted brokerages like Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and Berkshire Hathaway.

You'll get guaranteed full service, and you'll save up to $13,322 on a typical California home sale. Clever's partner agents work for a fraction of the 3% rate real estate agents typically charge. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a top local agent today!

Top ways to sell your home in California

Additional resources for California home sellers

Related links

The best low commission realtors and brokers (2023 Update): Find the best low commission real estate agents and brokers, so you can sell with a full-service realtor and save thousands on commission fees!

How to rind a real estate agent that’s right for you: This guide on how to find the best real estate agent is packed with useful tips and information, based on hundreds of hours of research and expert interviews.

The best 2% commission realtors (2023 rankings): Listing with a 2% commission realtor can save you thousands, but what’s the catch? Read on to learn where to find a 2% listing fee and what you’ll get in return.

Negotiating realtor fees: 10 tips for reducing commission: Like most things in real estate, your listing agent's commission is negotiable. This is our expert guide to negotiating realtor fees.

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