If you're planning to sell your house, you might consider listing it for sale by owner, or “FSBO.” Selling FSBO means not using a real estate agent. Instead, you’re doing everything yourself. While you can save some money this way, FSBO is a lot of work and comes with risks.
When you sell your home by owner, you're in charge of everything from setting the price and marketing the property to filling out the paperwork and negotiating with the buyer. You'll have to do practically all of the heavy lifting of the sale yourself, but in return, you won’t have to pay a listing agent.
🔑 Key takeaways
Bottom line: Should you sell FSBO?
Selling your house for sale by owner isn’t worth the risk for most sellers. It’s time-consuming, difficult, and, at the end of the day you may not even save money by doing it. FSBO homes tend to sell for less on average than agented homes do and you run the risk of creating legal and financial problems if you make a mistake with the paperwork.
The only times when selling FSBO may make sense is if you already have a buyer lined up (such as a friend or family member) or you live in a hot real estate market where homes “sell themselves.”
In both cases, you’ll have less of a need for a realtor to help market and show your home. However, even in these situations you still need experience selling houses.
If you’re looking to save money on your home sale, we recommend using a discount realtor instead. With a discount realtor you’ll pay a reduced listing fee, so you can keep thousands of extra dollars in your pocket. But you’ll still have a realtor on your side helping with things that often trip up FSBO sellers, like pricing, paperwork, and negotiations.
How to sell FSBO by state
The actual process for selling FSBO varies a lot by state due to differing laws and regulations. To help you figure out how to sell for sale by owner where you live, click on your state below.
FSBO Pros and Cons
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to sell your house for sale by owner. Costs, time, effort, and legal and financial risks should all factor into your decision.
To help you decide, check out some of the pros and cons of FSBO below.
You won't have to pay commission to a listing agent.
FSBO homes often sell for less than agented ones.
You'll have complete control over the entire sale process and timeline.
You'll have to do all the work of a trained, licensed realtor.
May be worthwhile if you have a buyer lined up or you live in a hot market.
You’ll probably still have to pay a buyer’s agent commission (typically around 2.65%).
Paperwork can be overwhelming and presents legal risks.
❌ Cons of selling FSBO
FSBO homes often sell for less
On average, FSBO homes sell for anywhere from 5.5-26% less than homes that are sold with an agent. That’s a lot more than the approximately 2.72% you’ll save by not paying a listing fee.
The lower sale price has a number of potential causes. In a recent Clever Data Center study, we discovered that pricing a home is one of the most challenging steps for sellers. Pricing mistakes can lead to your home selling for less than it’s worth.
A second challenge is with negotiations. Realtors are experienced negotiators and they know when to push hard for concessions and when an offer is a fair one. Most buyers have their own agents, so you’ll be negotiating not with the buyer directly, but with the agent, who’s likely to be a seasoned professional.
While the final sale price is dependent on a lot of factors — especially the strength of your local real estate market — it is something to be aware of before you decide to sell without a realtor.
If you’re looking for savings, there is an alternative. Our Clever Partner Agents charge a discounted listing fee that can save you thousands, while still offering full service. They come from trusted brokerages, like Keller Williams and RE/MAX, and having them on your side offers the sort of peace of mind that you won’t get selling FSBO.
Selling FSBO is a lot of work
Selling a house is a full-time job and will require a lot of your time. First, you’ll have to prepare the house, which includes carrying out potential repair work and renovations. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know which renovations are worth investing in and which are unlikely to attract much buyer interest. That’s the sort of knowledge that a real estate agent would bring to the table.
You’ll also need to take care of:
- Writing a listing description
All of this work can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you don’t already have experience selling homes. And if you have other commitments — such as a day job or you’re raising a family — then selling a home without a realtor is going to be especially difficult.
You’ll likely still have to pay some commission
While you won’t have to pay a listing fee if you sell FSBO, you’ll likely still have to pay the buyer’s agent commission, which is 2.65% on average. While the buyer’s agent commission is technically negotiable, failing to offer a competitive one (or none at all) will make it a lot harder to sell your home.
If you don’t offer a buyer’s agent commission, you may also see less foot traffic to your listing. According to the National Association of Realtors, 87% of buyers used an agent in 2020. That commission is an incentive for buyer’s agents to bring their clients to see your home, and you don’t want to be at the bottom of the list when they’re filling up their schedule with showings.
Buyer’s agent commission isn’t set in stone — it’s completely negotiable. But when planning your sale by owner, it’s a good idea to research the typical commission ratesin your area and consider advertising a competitive buyer’s agent commission in your listing to get as much interest from buyers as possible.
You’ll be dealing with a lot of paperwork
There’s a lot of paperwork involved with selling a house. In some states, you’ll be looking at more than 100 pages of paperwork at closing.
Not only is paperwork tedious and time consuming, but it also exposes you to risks if any errors are made. Especially if you live in a state where sellers are required to disclose any defects with the home, mistakenly failing to do so could expose you to legal action and financial penalties later on.
Our own Clever Data Center research even found that fear of paperwork errors is one of the top reasons some buyers are hesitant about buying a FSBO home. In effect, that means all that extra paperwork could also result in your house attracting fewer potential buyers.
✅ Pros of selling FSBO
You won’t pay a listing fee
The main reason for selling FSBO for most people is saving money. When you sell without a realtor, you’ll be able to avoid paying the listing fee. That’s usually equivalent to around 2.72% of the final sale price on average, which in a home sale represents thousands of dollars worth of savings.
While those savings are significant, they shouldn’t be the only factor in determining whether or not FSBO is right for you. You’ll also need to consider whether you have the time to manage all the extra work FSBO involves and your local market conditions.
Also, don’t forget that the listing fee is only one half of the total commission that home sellers typically pay. Even if you don’t have an agent, you’ll still likely be responsible for the other half — the buyer’s agent commission — which is 2.65% of the final sale price on average.
You’ll have complete control
Selling FSBO is appealing for many DIYers. You’ll have control over just about every step of the home sale process, from setting a list price to negotiating with potential buyers.
That control may be especially appealing if you’re in no hurry to sell. When you work with a real estate agent and sign a listing agreement, that listing agreement may stipulate a timeline for when the house should be sold by. For most sellers, that’s a good thing since it incentivizes the realtor to work harder to sell your home quickly.
But if you’d rather take your time — or even if you’re not sure you actually want to sell and you’re just “testing the waters” — then having more control over your sale could be a good option.
May work best for your specific situation
In certain situations you may have limited need for a realtor. For example, if you already know who your buyer is — such as if you’re selling to a relative or close friend — then there’s no need to have a realtor list and market your property.
Also, if you already have lots of experience selling homes and you live in a hot real estate market, then your property may attract plenty of buyers regardless of whether or not you have a realtor.
Keep in mind, however, that even in the above situations you may still want to bring in a realtor at some point, especially to help with closing and paperwork.
How to sell your home by owner
Selling your home by owner is more complicated than just sticking a "For Sale" sign in your front yard. Since you'll basically be competing with professional listing agents for prospective buyers' attention and money, you need to start thinking like a pro.
Here's what you'll have to do to sell your house the right way. Remember, although FSBO means you'll save thousands of dollars on commission costs, errors can cost you time and money — and your savings can be completely erased if your home sells for less than its full fair market value.
1. Get your home ready for sale
A key to getting the best price for your home is making it look as perfect as possible. Here are some tips.
Start with a thorough decluttering.
There are two goals for decluttering:
- Help buyers imagine themselves at home. That means removing personal items like your own knickknacks, family photographs, and anything else that would remind them they're in someone else's house.
- Show off the home's storage potential. Get the attic, basement, closets, and cabinets as empty as possible. And don't forget the garage — according to Kiplinger, 85% of homebuyers have a garage storage space on their wishlist.
Once you've decluttered, you must give the house a thorough cleaning. A little elbow grease can go a long way, and a spotless house can make up for the lack of brand-new appliances and fixtures. Shampoo the carpets, scrub the kitchen, and replace the grody bathtub caulk. It's also essential to make sure the windows are sparkling clean, so they let in lots of natural light.
Get started on that honey-do list as soon as possible. Cracked tile, peeling paint, a broken garbage disposal — these are all things that can diminish the appeal and value of your house. You want buyers to feel like your home is move-in ready.
Also, keep in mind that a home inspection will reveal any flaws in the house. Take care of them now, before they hinder the sale.
But before you roll up your sleeves, it’s a good idea to find a few licensed contractors and get bids on the repairs. Then you can decide which repairs are most cost-effective to handle yourself.
You want buyers to see the potential of every room. Make your home feel spacious and comfortable, but try to subdue your specific decorating taste. The best way to do this is by hiring a professional home stager.
A stager will design a look for your interiors and lend you the furniture and decorations to achieve it. However, they don't come cheap. According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost of staging in 2022 — including the design consultation and furniture rental — is $1,600.
Instead of hiring a professional stager, you can try staging your house yourself. Go online to find interior decorating ideas that are neutral and suit your home. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way here, too.
Boost your home's curb appeal. Clean up the yard and consider planting some flowers. You want to impress buyers from the moment they pull up to your home.
The trees in your yard need some love, too. Research by the Vibrant Cities Lab found that well-maintained front-yard landscaping involving trees boosted a home's sale price by 3-5%, on average.
2. Choose a listing price
Everyone wants to sell their home for the most money possible. However, when you sell a house for sale by owner, you run the risk of either over- or underpricing.
A house that is priced too high will sit on the market for a long time. You'll lose money in carrying costs such as utility bills and property taxes while waiting for it to sell. Even worse, when buyers see a home sitting on the market too long, they assume something’s wrong with it. You may have a hard time regaining foot traffic even if you cut the price.
On the flip side, FSBOs can also be prone to underpricing. Recent studies show that homes sold by owner can sell for up to 26% lessthan those listed with licensed real estate agents — meaning that these sellers came out at a loss even after saving on agent fees. This price difference isn’t because FSBO homes are inherently worth less. It’s because many sellers just don’t price their homes high enough.
Licensed real estate agents have the training and experience to market your home at the right price to the right buyers.
If you want to sell your home by owner, you need to know how to price it correctly and fairly. That means finding a listing price that is neither too high nor too low for your market.
When sellers hire a real estate agent to sell your home, they’ll complete what’s known as a comparative market analysis, or CMA. This analysis examines comparable sales — sales of houses similar to yours and in the same neighborhood.
If you’re selling your home FSBO, you will probably be able to find an agent who will run a CMA for you without listing your house. In fact, it’s a good idea to request CMAs from a couple of different agents and see where they differ. Agents will be happy to offer a CMA in the hopes of winning your business if you ultimately don’t sell FSBO.
Another simple way you can get an idea of a fair price yourself is by looking at comparable listings in your neighborhood. A good rule of thumb is to look on websites like Zillow for active listings priced within $50,000 of what you think your house is worth. Then compare how your home’s features stack up.
- Does your house have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms?
- Do you have less or more square footage?
- Has your house had any major updates or renovations in recent years?
- Is your home in a better or worse school district?
Honestly answering these questions will give you an idea of what you should charge.
Still, trouble with pricing is one of the biggest reasons why people switch from FSBO to an agent, according to Clever CEO Ben Mizes. "FSBO sellers often overprice their home and need an agent to help price it correctly."
CMAs and appraisals are both professional estimates of a home’s value, but they fulfill very different functions in the home selling process.
A licensed real estate agent performs a CMA to recommend the best price at which a homeowner should list their property. To prepare a CMA, the agent takes into account both active and closed sales (and sometimes even pending and expired listings, too) for a holistic picture of the local market.
Usually, realtors perform CMAs free of charge.
On the other hand, an appraisal is typically conducted by a licensed appraiser to help a bank determine how much to lend for a mortgage. It's concerned mostly with the condition of the property and the final prices for sold homes in the area.
Banks won’t lend a mortgage for more than the appraised amount. This can cause your sale to fall through unless you adjust your price accordingly or the buyer agrees to cover the difference out of pocket.
Licensed and/or certified appraisers carry out appraisals, and they’re not free. Expect to pay $200-$500for this service.
If you're selling FSBO, you can hire an appraiser, but keep in mind that it won't give you as complete a pricing picture as a CMA. It might also lead you to underprice your home.
3. Market your home
Once you have your house ready to sell, you need to attract buyers.
Remember, you’re competing with professional real estate agents who have lots of experience and marketing resources. Don’t expect a yard sign and a Craigslist ad to cut it!
In fact, our own Data Center survey found that the number one way buyers found homes was online through sites like Zillow and Realtor.com.
To successfully reach prospective buyers, you'll need to work hard and spend some money to market your home on the internet. Here are some ideas to consider.
Attractive photos are key to selling your house. Most buyers begin their home search online. Our own Data Center research shows that photos are one of the top five most important factors when searching for a home.
Your safest bet is to hire a professional photographer (typically $150-$500) to take photos of your house and yard. Look specifically for someone with experience taking photos for real estate — they’ll know how to do proper lighting and avoid beginner mistakes like leaving a cabinet open in the background.
After photographs, homebuyers rely on listing descriptions when shopping around. To write a compelling listing description, focus on information that the buyer could get only from the owner or a neighborhood local. Does your home have beautiful views? Are the neighbors friendly, and is the street safe for kids? Do you live in an area with great schools or great restaurants?
Write with a buyer in mind — try to picture the buyers who would be interested in your home, and highlight features you think they will find exciting.
Last, you need to decide whether or not to offer a buyer’s agent commission. If you include a commission offering in your listing description, you’ll likely see more foot traffic from interested buyers — but of course, that foot traffic may come at a price!
One of the most effective marketing strategies for selling a home is by listing it online. You can use a site such as Zillow or Trulia, both of which allow FSBO sellers to post listings free of charge. You can also advertise for free on some FSBO listing websites, although you will need to pay for MLS access, which will help your listing reach a lot more buyers.
Before listing your home on any of these sites, make sure that you carefully read their rules. Each site has different regulations as to how many photos you can upload and how long a listing will remain live, for example.
Should you use a flat-fee MLS?
If you want agents to bring buyers in, you should strongly consider listing on the local MLS (multiple listing service). Real estate websites like Zillow and Realtor.com pull listings from the MLS, so it's the best way to get your listing in front of buyers.
Technically, only licensed real estate agents can post on the MLS. You can get around this by paying a flat fee MLS company to post your house on the MLS on your behalf. They typically cost between $99 and $500. Plans are typically barebones and you’ll usually need to write the listing description, price your property, and arrange for photography on your own.
>> MORE: Find the Best Flat-Fee MLS Companies
4. Field offers from buyers and screen calls from agents
Many FSBO sellers will tell you that the worst part of the sale process is handling the massive amount of phone calls they inevitably receive. As soon as you list your home, your phone will start ringing — and not just from prospective buyers.
Along with calls from realtors representing folks looking to buy property, you’ll also get calls (potentially hundreds, in a larger market) from real estate agents trying to persuade you to hire them to list and sell your house.
Filtering out these agents — and the tire-kickers who aren’t serious about buying your home — can become a job in itself.
Politely turn down prospecting agents (unless you decide going with a licensed realtor is a better idea for you), and make sure you qualify the buyers who call.
Ask prospective buyers questions to determine:
- Are they serious about buying your property?
- Have they been pre-approved for financing if they’re planning to use a mortgage?
- Will the buyers be able to close the deal themselves? Or are they wholesalers who will transfer the sale contract to someone else for more money?
5. Negotiate with buyers for the best price
Once you've found a serious buyer, now comes the fun part: negotiation. Because the vast majority of buyers use agents, you'll likely be negotiating with the agent.
Remember that price isn’t everything. When negotiating an offer, you’ll also need to consider contingencies — conditions under which the buyer can renegotiate the sale or back out altogether. These conditions might include the buyer failing to qualify for a mortgage, the results of an appraisal or home inspection, or whether the buyer is able to sell their current home in time.
As a seller, you can also request earnest money, also known as “good faith money” — a deposit the buyer pays upfront (usually to a third party, such as their title company) to show they’re serious about the deal. If the buyer backs out of the sale under a condition not covered by a contingency, you’re entitled to keep their earnest money.
The closing date is also another matter up for negotiation. This is the date at which you’ll legally transfer your property to the buyer. All parties must agree to the intended closing date, although it can change due to holdups with the buyer’s mortgage lender, etc.
When deciding on the terms of the sale, a good rule of thumb is to avoid more than three rounds of negotiations — you don’t want your buyer to get burnt out.
Another useful strategy: any time you concede to something the buyer wants, ask for something in exchange, even if it’s something small. Your buyer will quickly learn not to make small asks!
Above all, it's essential to keep your emotions out of it. This is where FSBO becomes particularly tricky; after all, it's your home, and you have strong feelings about its value! Realtors know the best strategies for making counteroffers and how to handle concession requests. Also, keep in mind that, if you hire a realtor, they want to get the highest possible price, too, since they're working on commission.
What paperwork do you need to sell a house by owner?
A house sale requires a ton of paperwork. When you're selling your home FSBO, you're in charge of it all!
The specific paperwork you need to fill out varies by state. You can find the paperwork requirements for your state in our state guides to selling FSBO.
At the very least, you'll need a written purchase and sale agreement. This document contains every detail of the deal. You'll need to list not only the purchase price and the buyer's financing details but also exactly what fixtures and appliances you’re including in the sale.
You'll also have to fill out and sign a disclosure statement that contains all of the known flaws of the property.
If you're not using a realtor, we strongly recommend consulting a real estate attorney to help you make sure your paperwork is error-free. Inaccuracies can result in potential legal and financial repercussions.
However, keep in mind that attorney fees can add up to $500-$1,500. For potentially just $3,000, you can use a discount real estate agent who will handle not only all of the complicated paperwork but also all the marketing and negotiations on your behalf as well.
Consider alternatives to FSBO
As you can probably tell, selling your home FSBO is no easy task. In fact, it's probably more expensive than you think when you consider all of the marketing costs, attorney fees, and agent commissions you'll have to pay anyway. That's not to mention all of the hours you'll have to put in preparing your house for the market and negotiating a sale.
If you’re having second thoughts, check out these alternatives to FSBO.
Discount real estate broker
If the main reason you're considering FSBO is to save money, but you’re worried about the risks and work involved, then a discount broker is a better option. Discount realtors offer a reduced listing fee while still providing you with a full-service real estate agent. You can compare some of the top discount real estate agents in the table below.
When comparing different discount realtors, it’s important to research their service quality. Some companies offer a team-based approach, which means that you’ll be dealing with multiple people from the company instead of just your agent.
Others, such as Clever, offer a more traditional realtor experience. You’ll get a dedicated full-service realtor, except you’ll pay a lot less.
If you’re looking to sell fast, an iBuyer may be a good option. iBuyers are large companies that buy houses for cash. They offer speed and convenience, but they do come with some significant drawbacks.
If you’re looking to save money, iBuyers are a bad choice. They tend offer less than what you can get on the open market. On top of that, they charge high fees — often well above what a traditional real estate agent would charge.
They are also not yet available nationwide. Even in states where iBuyers do operate, they tend to focus on major metropolitan areas. Plus, they have stringent criteria for what kind of homes qualify.
While those are significant drawbacks, if speed and convenience are your top priorities then an iBuyer may be worth considering.
» MORE: The best iBuyer companies ranked
Should I sell my house FSBO
Selling a home by owner requires a lot of time, skill, and patience. It also requires a great deal of attention to detail because a small mistake could end up costing you big time. And don’t be surprised if, at the end of the day, your house still sells for significantly less than what you were expecting.
Unless you have a buyer lined up already or you live in an area where demand for homes is very high — and you have experience selling homes already! — we suggest staying clear of the FSBO route. The risks are just too high compared to the benefits.
Instead, try an alternative option like a discount realtor instead. Clever, for example, can match you with a top local real estate agent who charges a listing fee of just 1% (or $3,000 on homes under $350,000). You’ll still save thousands of dollars on your sale, but you’ll get the reassurance that comes with having your own realtor looking out for you.
Frequently Asked FSBO Questions
FSBO can be time-consuming and challenging. While you will save on the listing fee, FSBO homes tend to sell for less than agented homes — a fact that could negate your initial savings. A good alternative is to use a discount broker, so you’ll still save money, but you’ll have the reassurance that comes with having your own agent. Learn more about the top discount brokers.
Every state has different paperwork requirements for home sellers. At the very least, you'll need to complete a written purchase and sale agreement. Learn more about your state’s FSBO paperwork requirements.
Although you'll save on a listing agent's commission when you sell FSBO, you still need to pay other costs, such as the buyer's agent's commission, attorney and escrow fees, and taxes. Typically, these costs will come out of the sale price.