How to Sell a House By Owner in California (2021 Update)

By 

Jamie Ayers

Updated 

March 3rd, 2021

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Selling a house For Sale by Owner (FSBO) in California can save you 2.3% to 5.4% in realtor commissions. But prepare for a lot of work, including filing the required paperwork and learning about your local market to make the most from your sale.

In California, the average commission rate is 4.6% to 5.4%. If you sell a house worth $599,000 — the median home value in California — that’s up to $32,300, 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.

Key Benefits of Selling FSBO
  • Direct control over how your home is sold, including the pricing strategy, showing schedule, and negotiation process.
  • No listing commission, which could save you 2.5%, based on the California average.
  • FSBO sellers who find a buyer without an agent, save an additional 2.5%, the average buyer's agent commission rate in California.

However, selling FSBO has risks. Research shows that FSBO homes typically sell for about 6% less than those listed with agents. In addition, FSBO homes often take longer to sell, and are more likely to fall out of contract after accepting an offer — unless the homeowner is experienced and knowledgeable about the process.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know to successfully sell your house without a realtor: the ins and outs of California realtor fees, paperwork, and tips to walk away with more from your sale.

What FSBO Sellers in California Need to Know

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 California, but here's an overview of the state's laws and regulations.

California FSBO Overview

Real estate attorney required?
No
Required state disclosures? (learn more)
  • California Transfer Disclosure Statement
  • Megan's Law Disclosure
  • Natural Hazard Disclosure Report/Statement
  • Statewide Buyer & Seller Advisory
FSBO yard sign allowed?
Yes
Competitive Buyer's Agent Commission (learn more)
2.3% to 2.7%

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 and in California, 12% of mortgage applications are rejected.
  • 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 California.

>> LEARN the steps of a FSBO sale

Clever gives you the savings of FSBO without the added stress!

If you're thinking about listing your home for sale by owner, you probably don't want to pay high real estate fees. We get it. That's why we started Clever.

Clever connects you with a top agent that will provide a full-service listing for a flat fee of $3,000, or 1% if your home is more than $350,000.

Listing with Clever gets you the benefits of a top agent and maximizes your sales price while saving you thousands in commission.

It's free to meet with an agent, and if you decide FSBO's a better fit, you can still use the professional price analysis the agent provides.

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 San Diego and think your house is worth about $649,000, 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 California Real Estate Market

Median Home Value*
$599,000
Median Listing Price
$730,000
Listing Price per sqft
$417
% of Homes with Price Reduction
23.7%
Pricing Advice for FSBO Sellers
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 (October 2020)
Based on data from Realtor.com (October 2020)

How to List Your California 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 California

California 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.
3. School Districts
Include appealing information about school districts in your listing description, such as its Greatschools rating, graduation rates, parental reviews, or state accolades.
Based on a 2020 Clever survey of 500+ real estate agents

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 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 California 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.

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.

List with a top agent for just $3,000 or 1%.

Sell your home for top dollar and save on commission.

How Realtor Commissions Work In California

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 California, this typically ranges from 2.3% to 2.7% 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 2.3% to 2.7%.


Average Range in California*
Average Amount⁺
Listing Commission
2.3% to 2.7%
$13,777 to $16,173
Buyer Agent's Commission
2.3% to 2.7%
$13,777 to $16,173
*Based on the average commission rates from a 2020 Clever survey of 500+ real estate agents
⁺Based on typical home value in California (Zillow Data Center, October 2020)

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.

>> LEARN how real estate commissions work

How Commission Costs Break Down in California


FSBO w/ a Represented Buyer
FSBO w/ an Unrepresented Buyer
Listing w/ an Agent
Listing w/ a Discount Agent
Sale Price*
$563,060
$563,060
$596,000
$596,000
Listing Commission⁺
$0
$0
$14,975
$3,000
Buyer Commission⁺ 
$14,077
$0
$14,975
$14,975
Total Profit
$548,984
$563,060
$569,050
$581,025
*Based on median home value in California  (Zillow Data Center, October 2020) and that FSBO homes sell for 6% less (Collateral Analytics, 2017)
Based on the average commission rates in California (2020 Clever survey of 500+ real estate agents)

Paperwork to Sell a House by Owner In California

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 California’s requirements.

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 Agreement and Any Addendums
Copy of the original, signed sales agreement as well as any agreed upon changes.
Closing Statement
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.
Signed Deed
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.
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
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.

California Disclosure Forms

California Transfer Disclosure Statement 
The seller disclosure statement details any known issues with your home and its major appliances and systems.
Megan's Law Disclosure
Both you and the buyer will need to sign a form that exaplains it's the buyer's responsibility to research local sex offender databases to find out if any live in the area. This document also explains how buyers can access the database.
Natural Hazard Disclosure Report/Statement
Discloses if the property is near any mapped area where natural hazards are possible (fault lines, seasonal flooding, wildfires, etc.).
Statewide Buyer & Seller Advisory
This document explains the rights and responsibilities of everyone involved with the sale, including you, the buyer, and their agent.

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 hiring a real estate attorney. While this can cost $500-$5,000, an experienced lawyer can answer any questions you have along the way.

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.

Pros

  • 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. Based on California's average commission rates, that could leave 2.3% to 5.4% of your sale price in your pocket. Even if your buyer has an agent, you'll still avoid paying 2.3% to 2.7% in listing commissions.

Cons

  • No MLS access: 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. Consider the following lower-cost options (listed from least expensive to most):

Flat-Fee MLS Services in California

As mentioned before, a flat-fee MLS service will post your listing on the local MLS, usually for a low, upfront fee. In California, this will typically cost you a couple hundred dollars.

Here are some California flat-fee MLS companies to compare:

HomeListers.house

HomeListers.house

Price Range

$1,295

Number of Photos

Unlimited

Listing Term

6 months

Description
Pricing
Pros & Cons
Reviews
  • HomeListers.house is operated by a licensed California real estate broker and specializes in flat-fee MLS listings
  • Available in 10 Southern California markets with access to 20 local MLSes
  • Reviews all offers, prepares counteroffers and disclosures
  • Provides “full broker support” throughout the listing process
  • Email inquiries are forwarded directly to you
  • Set your own buyer’s agent commission (HomeListers.house recommends 2.5%-3%)

$1,295

  • 6-month listing on the MLS
  • Unlimited photos (max allowed by MLS)
  • Listing syndicated to Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, and more
  • Reviews all offers
  • Prepares counteroffers and required disclosures
  • Provides full broker support through to closing

Pros

  • No upfront costs — fee due at closing
  • Hands-on support and guidance
  • Email inquiries are forwarded to you 7 days/week

Cons

  • No budget options — only one pricing tier and it’s relatively high (though it includes a lot of built-in support)
  • Cancellation policy is unclear

As of August 7, 2020, HomeListers.house has an average rating of 5/5 based on 10 reviews on Zillow.

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Discount Realty Team

Discount Realty Team

Price Range

$195-795

Number of Photos

Max allowed on MLS

Listing Term

6 months

Description
Pricing
Pros & Cons
Reviews
  • Discount Realty Team is a licensed real estate brokerage that offers flat-fee MLS listing services, as well as limited- and full-service options
  • Listings typically go live on MLS within 24-48 hours
  • Listing fee is paid after closing — if escrow doesn’t close, you owe nothing
  • Set your own buyer’s agent commission (Discount Realty Team recommends 2-3%)
  • Includes free home valuation
  • Covers most (but not all) California counties — call to check availability in your area
$195 - MLS Entry
  • 6-month listing on the MLS
  • Unlimited photos (up to max allowed by MLS)
  • Listing syndicated on Realtor.com, Zillow, Yahoo, Trulia, and more
  • Buyer phone calls forwarded to you
$295 - Broker Support
  • Same as MLS Entry package, plus:
  • Receive broker support through close of escrow to answer questions regarding the home-selling process
$795 - Broker Assist “For Sale by Owner” Listing
  • Same as Broker Support package, plus:
  • Receive California Association of Realtor forms and disclosures as required by California law, as well as forms for leasing, counters, and addendums

Additional representation options for a 3-month listing on the MLS:

  • Limited Service Listing - 0.75% Listing Commission
  • Limited Service Plus - 1% Listing Commission
  • Full Service Broker Representation - 1.5% Listing Commission
  • Visit website for specifics on above service packages

Pros

  • Work directly with the broker, not a referral service
  • No upfront fees — you pay only if and when your home actually sells
  • Home valuation included
  • Packages can be customized to fit your specific needs
  • MLS inquiries forwarded to you

Cons

  • Not clear if Realtor.com inquiries are forwarded to you directly
  • Not available throughout the entire state
  • Pricing can vary by location

As of August 4, 2020, no third-party review information was available for Discount Realty Team. We will update when this information becomes available.

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Robinhood Flat Fee Realty

RobinHood Flat Fee Realty

Price Range

$99-499

Number of Photos

10 to unlimited

Listing Term

3-12 months

Description
Pricing
Pros & Cons
Reviews
  • RobinHood Flat Fee Realty is a licensed real estate brokerage that specializes in flat-fee listing services for FSBO home sellers
  • Set your own buyer’s agent commission (RobinHood recommends 2.5%)
  • Listings typically go live on MLS within 1-2 business days after agreements are signed
  • Cancel your listing any time with no additional fee
  • Free, unlimited listing changes 24/7 access via Robinhood’s online dashboard (takes up to 1 business days for changes to appear on MLS)
  • Buyer inquiries are forwarded directly to you
  • Offers a money-back guarantee if a traditional real estate broker is deemed necessary to sell your property
$99 - Basic
  • 3-month listing on the MLS
  • Syndicated to Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, and more
  • 10 photos
  • Secure document storage
  • Property-specific URL homepage
  • Calls and emails forwarded to you
$599 - Standard
  • Same as Basic package, plus:
  • 6-month listing on MLS
  • 25 photos
  • Free MLS listing edits
  • Market analysis
  • California forms and disclosures included
  • Link tour on MLS
  • Open house advertisements



$599 - Plus
  • Same as Standard package, plus:
  • 12-month listing on MLS
  • Unlimited photos (up to max allowed by MLS)
  • Professional sign and post
  • Put your direct contact information on marketing materials
  • Three directional open house signs

















Additional, a-la-carte services:

  • Open House Maximum Exposure - $29 for 2 open houses
  • Brokers Tour - $29
  • Transaction Coordination - $150 at sign-up, $445 at close of Escrow
  • Contract Negotiation Package - $495

Pros

  • Make unlimited changes to your listing or cancel any time with no additional charge
  • Inquiries are forwarded directly to you — no buyer’s agent commission if you find your own buyer
  • If your property doesn’t sell, RobinHood will refer a traditional realtor and refund you double your listing fee (up to $999) when your property closes

Cons

  • Basic package does not offer home valuation or comparative market analysis (CMA)

N/A — as of August 11th, 2020, no third-party review information was available for RobinHood Flat Fee. We will update when this information becomes available.

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>> LEARN about flat-fee MLS services in California

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 $3,000 (or 1% on homes over $350,000) if and when your home sells.

Listing Fee

1% (minimum $3,000)

Clever Cash Back

0.5% on homes over $150,000

Avg. Customer Rating

4.8/5 (386 reviews)

Description
Locations
Pros & Cons
Reviews
  • Clever Real Estate is a nationwide, online concierge and agent matching service for sellers and buyers — learn more
  • Buyers and sellers are matched with multiple highly rated agents from major brands, such as Keller Williams, Century 21, Compass, RE/MAX, and more
  • Sellers choose a full-service agent and pay a flat, $3,000 fee — or just 1% for homes more than $350,000
  • Buyers may be eligible for 0.5% back after closing (in qualifying locations)

Clever has pre-negotiated lower commission rates with top agents in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico

Pros
  • Listing fee of $3,000 (or 1% on homes >$350K) for a full-service agent
  • Sellers only pay once their home is sold
  • Partner Agents are top, local realtors with at least 5 years experience
  • Agent matches are customized and based on your specific situation
  • Eligible buyers receive 0.5% in Clever Cash Back
Cons
  • Sellers may not be matched with an agent from their preferred brokerage
  • While homes are listed on the MLS, there's no independent Clever listing site.







As of May 20, 2020, Clever's average customer rating is 4.8/5 based on 386 reviews on Trustpilot.

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>> LEARN more about Clever Real Estate

Discount Real Estate Services in California

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.

Door Real Estate

Door Real Estate

Listing Fee

$5,000

Buyer Rebate

Up to $1,500

Avg. Customer Rating

4.8/5 stars (420 reviews)

Description
Locations
Pros & Cons
Reviews
  • Door.com is a discount real estate service and licensed brokerage in 10 U.S. states 
  • Sellers pay a flat $5,000 listing fee at closing for full-service listing assistance from a team of agents and specialists
  • Door's online portal allows sellers to manage their listing and get virtual support from Door's in-house team
  • Eligible buyers get up to $1,500 back at closing
CaliforniaOklahoma
ColoradoOregon
FloridaPennsylvania
GeorgiaTennessee
MassachusettsTexas
Pros
  • Sellers get full service for a flat $5,000 listing fee
  • Eligible buyers can get up to $1,500 back at closing
  • Online seller dashboard for managing your listing and centralized communication
  • Buyers get daily MLS email alerts




Cons
  • Other companies offer the same services at lower prices
  • Other companies may offer better value for buyers
  • Team-based approach vs dedicated agent may not be for everyone — learn more
  • Door agent will not attend showings on seller's behalf
  • Salaried agents could be less motivated to sell your home for top dollar

As of May 20, 2020, Door's average customer rating is 4.8/5 based on 420 reviews across Zillow, Google, Facebook, and Yelp.

  • Zillow: 4.9/5 (338 reviews)
  • Google: 4.2/5 (40 reviews*) 
  • Facebook: 4.4/5 (38 reviews)
  • Yelp: 4/5 (4 reviews*)
  • BBB: An A rating, not BBB accredited*

*Reviews are for Door’s Dallas, TX office. Reviews may vary by location. We recommend conducting your own research for customer reviews specific to your area.

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Reali Real Estate

Reali Real Estate

Listing Fee

$2,500-$10,000

Buyer Rebate

Up to 1.5%

Avg. Customer Rating

4.5/5 (287 reviews)

Description
Locations
Pros & Cons
Reviews
  • Reali is a brokerage that offers California sellers a discounted listing fee of $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000 — see the full breakdown here
  • Eligible California buyers can get a commission rebate of 0.5-1.5% depending on their home's purchase price — learn more
  • Reali's mobile online portal and mobile app allows buyers and sellers to virtually manage their transactions and communicate with your Reali agent
  • Reali also offers in-house loan services for new purchase and refinance loans with fixed or variable rates — find out more
  • Reali offers an ibuyer-like trade-in program that lets qualifying sellers buy a new home first, then sell their old house

Reali's real estate services are only available in California. However, Reali Loans offers purchase and refinance loans for home buyers and homeowners in:

ArizonaGeorgiaPennsylvania
CaliforniaIllinoisTexas
ColoradoMichiganVirginia
FloridaOregonWashington
Pros
  • Flat listing fee structure could mean significant savings, depending on final sale price
  • Mobile app streamlines the selling and buying process
  • Reali Rebate can yield significant savings for buyers
  • Offers additional in-house services like Reali Loans, Reali CashOffer, Reali Trade-In, etc.

Cons
  • Savings for sellers can vary significantly depending on final sale price 
  • At some price points, rates are comparable to selling with a traditional, full-commission agent
  • Buyer rebates vary considerably based on purchase price
  • In-house, salaried agents could be less motivated to sell your home for the best price possible

As of May 20, 2020, Reali's average customer rating is 4.5/5 based on 287 reviews across Trustpilot, Zillow, Google, and the BBB.

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Redfin

Redfin

Listing Fee

1-1.5% (min. fees apply)

Buyer Rebate

Avg. $1,500 (where availabe)

Avg. Customer Rating

3.2/5 (243 reviews)

Description
Locations
Pros & Cons
Reviews
  • Redfin is an online listing portal and multi-state real estate brokerage operating in 80+ markets across the United States
  • Sellers get full service and support from a Redfin agent for a reduced listing fee (rates and minimums vary by location)
  • Redfin agents are salaried. Since they do not work on commission, there is no incentive to get sellers the highest sale price — learn more
  • RedfinNow — Redfin's iBuyer program — makes all-cash offers on qualifying homes in 10 markets for a 7% service fee (but no additional commission)
  • Buyers in select markets might be eligible for a home buyer rebate — learn more
AshevilleHouston*
Orlando
AlbanyIndianapolis
Palm Beach
AtlantaInland Empire*
Palm Springs
Austin*Jacksonville
Philadelphia
Birmingham^Kansas City^
Phoenix
BoiseKnoxville^
Pittsburgh
Boston
Lake Tahoe
Portland, OR^
BuffaloLas Vegas*Raleigh
CharlotteLittle Rock^Rhode Island
ChicagoLos Angeles*Richmond
CincinnatiLouisiana^Sacramento
Cleveland^Louisville^Salt Lake City
ColumbusMarylandSan Antonio*^
ConnecticutMemphis^San Diego*
Dallas*MiamiSan Francisco
DelawareMinneapolisSavannah
Denver*Nashville^Seattle
Des Moines^Nebraska^South Carolina
DetroitNew JerseySouth Texas^
El Paso^New MexicoSpokane
FlagstaffNew York CitySt. Louis^
Fort MyersNortheast VirginiaTampa
Grand RapidsNorthern New EnglandTucson^
Hampton RoadsOklahoma^Washington, D.C.
HawaiiOrange County, CA*Wisconsin^

*Also a RedfinNow location

^No home buyer rebate available

Pros
  • Sellers get full service and support for a discounted rate of 1.5%
  • Rate drops to 1% when you sell and buy with Redfin
  • Access to a variety of online tools and services, including virtual showings, paperwork, closing, and more
  • Commission rebate offered to eligible buyers in select markets
Cons
  • Only available in ~80 U.S. markets
  • Minimum listing fees can result in paying more than advertised 1-1.5% rate
  • Choice of agents is limited to Redfin's in-house team or local partners
  • Local partners don't necessarily adhere to Redfin's discount pricing model

As of May 20, 2020, Redfin's average customer rating is 3.2/5 based on 235 reviews across Yelp, Google, and Consumer Affairs.

*These reviews are for Redfin's Seattle, WA office. Reviews may vary by location.

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>> LEARN about discount real estate services

iBuyers

iBuyers will buy qualifying homes for cash, meaning you avoid realtor fees — and the stress of listing on the open market entirely. While these companies make fair-market offers, they will deduct any required repairs after an on-site visit. They also charge a service fee typically ranging between 6-14%.

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5 Tips for Selling Your Home Without a Realtor in California

Pulling off a FSBO sale successfully is a difficult feat to accomplish. Here are some helpful tips from Clever CEO and real estate investor Ben Mizes, who has experience listing homes without an agent.

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 California

Top Upgrades
Avg. Repair Cost
Avg. Resale Value
Cost Recouped
Manufactured Stone Veneer
$10,175
$12,157
120%
Garage Door Replacement
$3,874
$4,537
117%
Entry Door Replacement
$2,048
$1,801
88%
Based on regional data from Remodeling (2020)

2. Price Your California Home Competitively

It may seem obvious that pricing your home correctly is paramount to the home selling process, but setting a price is easier said than done. To find a competitive price, it’s important to do your homework.

When selling your home on your own, you won’t be able to rely on a realtor to conduct a market analysis, so you’ll have to do it yourself. Start with various home listing sites, such as Zillow, and obverse homes for sale in and around your area. Compare other listings to yours based on square footage, bedrooms, appliances, and recent major renovations to see where your home may fall on the price range.

To set a competitive price, pick a price point that isn’t too high — too high of a price will chase buyers away — but you don’t want the price to be too low either. You don’t want to be taken advantage of. Finding that happy medium is hard, so don’t take it lightly. Do the research and take your time to find the best price.

Bonus Tip: A pre-sale appraisal house gives you a more accurate starting point for pricing your home.

Based on our research, in California, appraisals average $410, but help you walk away with thousands more once your home is sold.

3. Stage and Market Your Home

Marketing your home once it’s been listed can be an unexpected bump in the road for inexperienced homesellers. Often, a price point just isn’t enough to stand out in a sea of other listings. Staging your home, taking professional photos, and writing an attractive listing description can set your listing apart from the others.

Decluttering and staging your home before buyers visit is important to giving your buyers the best experience possible. Use neutral furniture and colors, and remove personal items and photos from view. The goal of staging is to allow buyers to imagine themselves living in your home.

You can improve your listing by simply using higher quality photos and having a detailed description. Professional photos can be costly, but if it gets your home sold faster, it’s worth it. Include personal notes in your listing description. You know your home best. Note the school districts around, the local parks and restaurants, and any special aspects of your home that aren’t shown in photos such as noise quality of the neighborhood and natural lighting throughout the day.

>> 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.

Shop around to find out which local stagers offer reasonable rates and have a proven record of getting homes ready for sale.

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 2020 Clever survey of over 500 real estate professionals found that in California, sellers often cover 0.9% to 1.4% of buyers' closing costs. On a home of median value, that equates to $5,391 to $8,386, 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 California

Concession
Benefits of Offering Concession
Home Warranty
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
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.
Property Taxes
Often, you have to share past tax information about the property before closing a sale and many first-time home buyers are shocked by how much property taxes actually are. By covering some of those costs, you can offer these buyers some financial relief and make them more inclined to close on the sale.

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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Additional Resources for California Home Sellers