Selling your house without a real estate agent in California can save you from paying an average of $19,998 in realtor commission to a listing agent. It can also give you more control over your home sale than you might have selling with an agent.
However, selling without a real estate agent, also known as listing for sale by owner (FSBO), has risks.
This guide to how to sell FSBO in California provides detailed steps for managing your own sale. It will also help you price your house to maximize your savings and minimize the risks of selling FSBO.
Should you sell FSBO? Know the risks.
Selling FSBO isn’t worth the risks for most sellers.
- Financial risk. Research by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows FSBO homes typically sell for about 24% less than those listed with agents, which may outweigh the money you save doing it all on your own. You'll also usually have to offer a competitive buyer's agent commission. In California the average buyer's agent commission is 2.41%, or $17,917 of the sale price. If you don't offer a buyer's agent commission, you may not attract qualified buyers.
- Legal risk. 36% of FSBO sellers said they made legal mistakes because they didn't use a real estate agent, according to Clever Real Estate's survey of those who sold FSBO in 2022 or 2023.
FSBO is a viable option for experienced California home sellers who are willing to put in the required time and effort to navigate the complexities of selling without a realtor.
It's a particularly viable option for California sellers who live in a hot real estate market or have a buyer lined up. While only 7% of homes sell without a realtor, 50% of those home sellers already know their buyer.
» MORE: Should you sell FSBO?
Why you should trust us
We surveyed and interviewed California real estate agents, surveyed FSBO sellers, studied California real estate law, and researched more than 20 FSBO companies and alternatives. Learn more about why you can trust our advice.
Why do all the work of selling FSBO only to end up with less money than you would have with an agent? Clever offers you bigger savings without sacrificing the service you expect from a traditional realtor.
✅ You'll only pay 1.5% to list your home
✅ You'll work with a full-service realtor from a top broker
✅ It's free, with zero obligation — you can walk away at any time
Saving on realtor fees doesn't have to mean sacrificing service. Find a top local agent today!
How to sell a house by owner in California
California FSBO sellers must follow state and local rules and regulations, including filling out and filing the paperwork required to sell without a realtor in California.
California sellers should also follow the advice and actions laid out in these seven steps:
Step 1: Make your home presentable to buyers
Put these five tasks on your to-do list, in this order:
» DETAILS: How to get your home ready for sale
🔑 Key to-do: Find the line between necessary home repairs and over-the-top home repairs for your house.
"If your kitchen is a disaster, spending more money on a remodel to get it in solid condition will pay off in the end," says Clever Real Estate co-founder and real estate investor Ben Mizes, who has experience listing homes without a real estate agent. "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 part of California. Focus on upgrades that have a higher cost of recuperation.
Home repairs with the highest resale value in the Pacific region (2023)
|Average resale value
|Percent of costs recouped
|HVAC conversion to electrification
|Vinyl siding replacement
|Garage door replacement
Step 2: Set a price for your home
Do your own comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA report estimates a home's value by comparing the recent sale prices of similar properties located nearby.
You can ask a real estate agent to perform a CMA. Many California agents will do this for free in the hopes of gaining your business.
We don't recommend asking for a CMA if you're planning to mislead an agent into thinking you need their services. If you're open to using an agent, though, asking for a CMA will allow you to weigh the costs and benefits of hiring an agent, and to give you the peace of mind to know you’ve evaluated all the options.
Get a free professional pricing consultation!
Interview top local agents, get free advice, no obligation to sign.
Other FSBO pricing help options
Get a broker price opinion (BPO). A BPO is a home valuation report provided by a licensed real estate professional who will determine your home's estimated value based mainly on its condition and the recent sales prices of similar homes in the area. BPOs cost $150–250.
Get a pre-listing appraisal, which can provide an accurate starting point for pricing your home, too. In California, appraisals range from $126–436.
Search Zillow or a similar real estate website for active local listings priced within a range of what you think your house is worth. Then compare your home’s features to the competition.
For example, if you live in San Diego and think your house is worth about $897,000, search Zillow for active listings about $50,000 more and less than that. Analyze details about the houses and how they compare to yours. Ask yourself:
- Does the house 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?
- Is the school district better or worse?
Answering these questions honestly will help you see if your price is in the right ballpark.
|🔑 Key insight: People who sell their home without a realtor are prone to underpricing. A 2023 NAR study found that FSBO homes can sell for about 24% less than those listed with licensed real estate agents — meaning these sellers lost out on money even after saving on agent fees.
Pricing data for California and its major markets
These statewide and local pricing metrics can help you hone the listing price for your California home.
|Median home value
|🙋🏻♀️ Ask a realtor: "Homes definitely need to be priced right depending on the season," said Shane Cabrera, a real estate agent of 13 years in Santa Clarita. "For example, the spike of buyers submitting offers will be a lot greater at the end of January than it will be a month earlier around Christmas. You can’t list a property and then just hope and pray it will sell. You’ve got to know what you’re doing."
Step 3: Create a listing for your home
The listing for your home should feature:
- Photos of your California home's best visual qualities
- Text that speaks to local buyers
- The amount of buyer's agent commission you'll pay
If your listing focuses on these things you're more likely to attract motivated buyers who are qualified to buy your home.
📷 How to showcase your California home's best visual qualities
Take professional-level photographs of your staged home to showcase its best features. Consider hiring a professional photographer, which costs $100–500.
Often, a listing agent will organize staging and professional photography as part of their services.
✍️ How to write a listing that connects with California buyers
Focus on information buyers can only get from the homeowner or a neighborhood local. Consider addressing these questions in your listing:
- What notable views do you have from your house?
- Is the neighborhood friendly?
- Is the street safe for kids?
- Do you live in an area with great schools? How about restaurants?
According to California real estate professionals, the following are local buyers' priorities. If possible, include them in your listing when you list your FSBO sale.
|California buyer priorities
|Advice for FSBO sellers
|Get a CMA or BPO to determine the current value of your home. It might be a good idea to price your home a little below market value to try to start a bidding war. If you overprice your home, it may sit on the market for a while.
|Architectural style of home
|Highlight unique architectural features or if your house retains original features like flooring. If a known architect designed your home, mention it. Also, point out upgrades you made, like new windows that could save buyers money on heating costs.
|Include appealing information about the school district and schools in your listing description, such as their GreatSchools ratings, graduation rates, parental reviews, or state accolades.
|Californians value shaded patios and pools to cool off in the summer, as well as outdoor kitchens and dining sets.
|California has more registered electric cars than any other state. If your house has an at-home charging station, include that in your listing.
|If you've added insulation or installed energy-efficient windows or appliances, mention that in your listing. Consider including a recent utility bill.
|Buyers will pay more for a view of California's natural beauty, whether it's a beach, a lake, or a mountain. Highlight the view in your listing and highlight nearby recreational activities.
|Buyers want a place to park their car, particularly in cities where parking is expensive or hard to find. Many buyers also like extra storage space. Highlight your garage, if you have one.
💰 How much you should offer in buyer's agent commission
You should pay at least the average buyer's agent commission in California, which is 2.41%, or $17,917 of the sale price.
» DETAILS: Average real estate commission in California
|🗣️ Why you should offer a buyer's agent commission
|A buyer’s agent commission incentivizes the buyer's agent to show your house to their clients.
If you don't offer a competitive commission in your FSBO listing compared to similar homes in your area, agents may prioritize taking buyers to homes where they'll earn a commission. Traditionally, the buyer's agent and the listing agent are paid a commission by the seller.
Also, 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 California real estate agents offering to connect you with their buyers if you pay them a competitive buyer's agent commission.
Step 4: List your home for sale
The best place to list your California home is on your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a private database created and maintained by real estate brokers to facilitate home buying and selling.
» MORE: What is the MLS?
MLS listings populate onto real estate websites like Realtor.com and Zillow, increasing your home's online presence. That's important because 51% of buyers found the homes they purchased via the internet.
|🔑 Key knowledge: Only real estate agents can list homes for sale on the MLS. You'll need to work with a local agent or use a California flat fee MLS company that charges a one-time payment to list your home on the MLS.
Options for listing in California beyond the MLS
As a FSBO seller in California, you have several other free or low-cost options.
- For sale by owner websites in California: Several well-established and recognized for sale by owner sites cater to people selling and buying FSBO homes.
- Trulia and Zillow. Both real estate sites allow FSBO sellers to post listings free of charge in the FSBO section of their sites.
- Social media: Post your listing to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Nextdoor. Sharing is free, and you can reach a lot of people where they’re already spending time.
- For sale by owner yard sign: Use a FSBO yard sign to market your home. You can buy a FSBO sign from most hardware stores or online for $20–50. Choose one that allows you to add your phone number so interested buyers can contact you for property information and showings.
Step 5: Show your home to potential buyers
Focus on four key strategies when you show your California house to potential buyers.
- Be organized. Develop a system for scheduling open houses and showings, and saving buyers' and agents’ contact information. Calendly, Mixmax, and Trafft are among the best-rated scheduling apps.
- Be flexible. Show your house at buyers’ convenience, not at your convenience.
- Be clean. Keep your home spotless. You don't want to scramble around with a vacuum after a buyer calls for a last-minute showing.
- Be homey. Add little touches that speak to most people, which can help make a great first impression. "Bake cookies or light scented candles before a showing," says 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."
Step 6: Negotiate with potential buyers
|🔑 Key to-do: First vet potential buyers to ensure they're qualified from a financial perspective. Ask to see a mortgage pre-approval letter. Accepting an offer from an unqualified buyer may cause your sale to fall through.
You and the buyer's agent (or the buyer, if they don't have a real estate agent) will negotiate the final sale price. You'll also negotiate other issues, including:
If a potential buyer won't negotiate, and their offer doesn't meet your expectations, decline the offer.
Offering seller concessions
You can also offer seller concessions, contributions home sellers give to their buyers to help offset the costs of buying a California home.
Seller concessions might cost you a little more at closing, but they also sweeten the deal for buyers and could lead to a higher final sale price and a quicker sale.
Consider offering these common seller concessions in California:
- Closing costs credits: California sellers often cover 0.90%–1.50% of buyers' closing costs, according to a Clever Real Estate survey of local real estate professionals. On a California home with a median value of $743,435, that equates to $6,691–$11,152.
- Repair credits: Credit the buyer a set amount of money to cover the cost of home repairs. Once the deal closes, the buyer can oversee the project and you don't have to worry about repairs going over budget.
- Home warranty: Give buyers peace of mind if your home has major appliances or systems on their last leg. 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).
- Attorney fees: California doesn't require a real estate attorney to participate in a home sale. However, some buyers want an attorney to review the contracts — especially if they don't have a realtor. By offering to pay the attorney’s fee, you can sweeten the deal for your buyer because a professional will be looking out for their interests. The average hourly rate in California is $247, but rates vary depending on your location. In San Jose, for instance, an attorney costs about $395 an hour. Call local companies for estimates.
Step 7: Close your sale
You must use a title company or an escrow agent to facilitate closing in California, even if you're selling without a realtor.
In Northern California, you'll likely just need a title company. In Southern California, it's customary to use separate escrow and title companies. Each charges different fees. Sellers usually pay for title insurance and the county transfer tax and split the escrow fee with the buyer.
A real estate attorney may also conduct your closing.
|🔑 Key knowledge: You may want to hire a California real estate attorney to draw up your sales contract and make sure you comply with local laws. Real estate attorneys usually work for an upfront flat fee or an hourly rate. In California, a real estate attorney will cost $240–305 per hour.
Find California lawyers near you by searching the State Bar of California or FindLaw.
Closing costs in California
Expect to pay about 2.73% of your home's final sale price in closing costs. For a $743,435 home — the median sales price in California — that comes to around $20,513.
» DETAILS: Seller closing costs in California
Paperwork for selling a house by owner in California
California requires those selling without a realtor to fill out and file many documents and forms. Several of these documents are legally binding agreements.
|🚨 36% of FSBO sellers say they made legal mistakes because they didn't have a real estate agent, according to a Clever survey of 1,000 people who sold a home in 2022 and 2023.
In a typical real estate transaction, your agent would guide you through all the paperwork. To avoid an expensive mistake, consider working with a top-ranked low-commission realtor instead.
Paperwork required for all California real estate sales
- 2 forms of ID. In most cases, a valid passport, driver's license, or other form of California-issued ID.
- Copy of purchase and sale agreement. Plus any addendums.
- Closing statement. A detailed list of all the costs associated with the sale and who pays them. Your escrow agent or title company usually prepares this statement.
- Signed deed. You'll need the deed that proves you're the rightful owner to legally transfer your property. On your closing date, you'll sign the deed over to the buyer.
- Bill of sale. Essentially a receipt that includes your information and the buyer's. It will also list the final sales 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 aren't simultaneously selling the home to someone else, and other information.
California disclosure forms
- California transfer disclosure statement. You need to disclose known problems with your home and its major appliances and systems.
- Megan's Law disclosure. You and the buyer must sign this form to acknowledge it's the buyer's responsibility to research the California sex offender database to see if any sex offenders live in the area.
- Natural hazard disclosure statement. You must disclose if you're aware your property is near a mapped area where earthquakes, flooding, wildfires, or other natural hazards occur. Sellers typically ask a real estate agent or natural hazard disclosure company to help with or complete this statement.
- Statewide buyer and seller advisory. Explains the rights and responsibilities of everyone involved with the sale, including you, the buyer, and any agents.
- Lead-based paint disclosure. Federal law requires that you disclose information about the dangers of lead-based paint to your buyer if your home was built before 1978.
Possible additional documents
- Loan payoff information. If you have a mortgage on your home, you'll need documentation of how much you still owe and any payoff fees. If you've already paid your mortgage in full, you'll need documented proof.
- 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; and more.
- Survey results or survey affidavits. A survey (or an affidavit verifying a previous survey) confirms the property lines.
- 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 sale 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 tell the buyer who to contact if they discover issues with the repairs in the future.
- Copies of relevant wills, trusts, or power of attorney letters. If you're selling an inherited property, you'll need copies of all the legal documents that passed ownership to you.
- Relevant affidavits. 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 aren't a foreign citizen and therefore exempt from certain property sales taxes.
- Closing disclosure. 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. If someone loses forms or discovers errors in the future, a correction statement and agreement requires you, the buyer, or their lender to replace or fix those documents, if need be.
Where to find paperwork for selling FSBO in California
Some services, such as US Legal, combine the most popular state-specific real estate forms into a package that FSBO sellers can purchase by subscription for a monthly fee of $39–59.
The California Association of Realtors provides most of the forms only for member realtors.
For tax records, property surveys, and deeds, check state or local government offices, such as the California State Board of Equalization.
Pros and cons of selling a house by owner in California
- You'll save money on listing agent's real estate commission
- You'll have control over the selling process, including the pricing, showing schedule, and negotiations
- You’ll probably still have to pay a buyer’s agent commission, which averages 2.41% in California
- Your house will likely sell for less than if you'd had an agent handle your sale
- You'll have to do all the work of a trained, licensed realtor, including handling the paperwork. Paperwork can be overwhelming and presents legal risks.
How much can I save selling without a realtor?
California FSBO sellers typically save an average of $19,998 by not paying a listing agent realtor commission.
FSBO sellers in the state can save up to $37,990 on total realtor commission if they also don't pay the buyer's agent commission.
How we determined the potential savings
These realtor commission savings figures are based on a $743,435 home — the median home value in California — and an average listing agent commission of 2.69% and an average buyer’s agent commission of 2.41%. The average commission rates come from a 2023 Clever survey of real estate agents.
Determine the potential savings on your home
Insert your estimated home sale price and the average listing agent and buyer's agent commission into the calculator below to determine your potential savings.
Consider these alternatives to selling your home by owner in California.
Discount real estate services in California
Discount real estate companies will help you sell your California 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 money on listing fees.
Flat fee MLS companies in California
A flat fee MLS service will post your listing on the local MLS, usually for a low, upfront fee. In California, this will cost you $95–$1,295.
iBuyers in California
iBuyers purchase homes for cash at a slight discount, then resell them on the open market. By selling to an iBuyer, you'll avoid realtor fees.
Most iBuyers charge sellers a service fee of 5–13%, however. They'll also deduct the cost of any required repairs after an on-site visit.
Read our reviews of two popular iBuyers:
- Offerpad reviews: Everything you need to know
- Opendoor reviews: Fees, repair costs, and common complaints
Cash home buyers in California
Cash home buyers typically buy houses in poor condition or from sellers who need to sell their house fast. Often, you won't get the fair market value from cash home buyers that many sellers get using an experienced real estate agent.
Get a free professional pricing consultation!
Interview top local agents, get free advice, no obligation to sign.