How to Sell a House Without a Realtor (2024)

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By Steve Nicastro Updated February 9, 2024


Deciding to sell a house without a realtor? You might find yourself navigating through a maze of decisions and paperwork. It's possible to sell FSBO successfully, but it demands meticulous planning and a strategic approach. 

However, it's crucial to know that alternatives exist: Ones that could save you money, time, and stress. A low commission realtor, for instance, might offer the support you need without the traditional costs.

Our guide covers the ins and outs of FSBO sales, with actionable advice to navigate this complex process. We also explore other savvy options that could be more aligned with your selling goals.

Is selling FSBO really worth it? Quick facts

Choosing the FSBO path is often driven by the desire to save on the listing fee, which averages 2.83% of your home's final sale price. However, recent statistics found that homes sold through agents fetch nearly $50,000 more on average.[1]

Also, navigating the legal landscape of home selling without professional guidance has led over a third (36%) of FSBO sellers to admit to making legal errors—a risk that could have significant implications.[2]

Clever Real Estate offers a compelling alternative, allowing you to benefit from the expertise of a licensed realtor while still enjoying savings on commission fees.

» Gain access to full-service agent support for less!

How to sell a house without a realtor in 5 steps

1. Get it ready to sell

Preparing your home to hit the market is a crucial first step. Here's how to make a great impression:

Start with repairs and improvements. Focus on pre-listing cosmetic items that boost your home's appeal without breaking the bank. Even minor updates can make a big difference. Ideas include: 

  • Paint walls for a fresh look.
  • Tidy up the yard and add some landscaping.
  • Deep clean, especially kitchens and bathrooms—key areas that buyers focus on.
  • Fix any visible damage, like scuffs or holes in the walls.
  • Brighten up dark corners with additional lighting.

Snap high-quality photos. Whether you opt to DIY or hire a pro, prioritize quality photos. Your online listing needs to shine and stand out from competitors. 

Good photos highlight your home’s best features and help buyers envision themselves living there. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also notes that nine out of 10 home buyers feel photos are the most important features of a property listing.[3] 

Don't forget about adding a video, either. Videos or virtual home tours can help sell your home faster and are especially important for buyers who can’t visit in person immediately. Listings with a 3D tour get an average of 37% more views than those without one.[4] 

2. Determine a listing price

One of the keys to a successful FSBO sale is setting the right listing price. Here’s what you need to know:

Pricing really matters. Finding the perfect price is crucial. Set it too high, and buyers might skip your listing, leading to a longer time on the market. Price it too low, and you could lose out financially. The goal is to strike a balance that attracts buyers, without shortchanging yourself.

But, FSBO pricing is hard. Without the latest market data or valuation experience, FSBO sellers often struggle to set an accurate price. They may instead rely on inaccurate data found online, such as through home value estimators. 

While online home value estimators like Zillow's Zestimate offer a convenient starting point, they should not be the sole basis for your listing price. Zillow acknowledges a median error rate of 7.49% for off-market homes, which could lead to a significant discrepancy in the actual value of your property.[5] 

Studies show that over half of FSBO listings initially set their price too high, resulting in a price drop before selling—a scenario less common in agent-assisted sales, which often sell at the asking price.[6]

Why agents have the upper hand

Real estate agents have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a complete, accurate database of current listings and past sales. They also tend to excel at pricing homes accurately. 

Agents perform a comparative market analysis (CMA) report, which considers multiple factors including, but not limited to, the property's location, square footage, condition, and recent upgrades. 

Simply put, an agent's expertise can prevent costly pricing errors and help navigate negotiations with buyer’s agents way more smoothly. Consider all factors carefully to land on a price that meets your goals and market expectations.

Next step: Set the right listing price 

A more accurate and reliable method to set your home's price is through a CMA conducted by a real estate professional. It's a detailed comparison of your home against similar properties in your area, factoring in any upgrades or renovations you've made. 

By leveraging the expertise of a realtor and the comprehensive data from the local MLS, you can pinpoint a competitive, realistic listing price. 

Securing a CMA from a realtor not only provides you with a precise valuation but also equips you with the market insights needed to navigate the selling process. 

» LEARN: How to get a free CMA

3. Market your home 

Marketing your home effectively is crucial, especially if you're part of the majority of FSBO sellers who don't already have a buyer lined up. Your marketing plan must be robust and well-executed to reach the widest audience and attract potential buyers. 

Write a compelling listing description. 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.

Broaden your reach on the MLS. While individual postings on real estate websites, social media platforms like Facebook, Craigslist, and local advertising can be beneficial, they pale in comparison to the reach of the MLS.

The MLS is a comprehensive database of homes for sale, providing exposure to a vast network of potential buyers. When you list on the MLS, your property doesn't just appear there; it's also shared across top real estate websites, including Zillow, maximizing your home's visibility.

The power of the MLS. It's a significant tool, utilized by nearly 90% of all home sellers. However, the MLS is underused by FSBO sellers, with only 3% taking advantage of its potential.[7] This discrepancy highlights an opportunity for FSBO sellers to leverage the MLS for better exposure.

How to get MLS access as a FSBO

Direct access to the MLS is exclusive to licensed real estate agents and brokers, presenting a challenge for FSBO sellers. The solution? A flat fee MLS listing service. 

This service lists your property on the MLS for a one-time fee, offering a cost-effective workaround to achieve the broad exposure typically reserved for agent-listed properties.

Dive into our guide on flat-fee MLS listing services to learn how you can maximize your home’s market presence.

4. Host showings and field offers from buyers

Once your listing hits the market, prepare for a flurry of interest from potential buyers and their agents. This excitement may translate into calls, texts, and emails, setting the stage for the next crucial phase: home showings and offer negotiations.

Organize home showings. Organizing showings efficiently allows potential buyers to see your property in its best light, enhancing your chances of receiving offers.

As requests to view your home roll in, a practical approach is to schedule multiple showings in a single day, closely timed. This tactic maximizes viewing opportunities and minimizes disruption to your daily life, making it more convenient for you, your family, and pets to step away from the home. 

Handling offers with ease. When offers start to arrive, usually communicated by the buyer's agent, they will outline the purchase terms. These terms include the offered price, desired closing date, which items remain with the property, and conditions related to inspections and appraisals. 

Offers come in via email in a formal offer to purchase document. This stage requires careful consideration and prompt, organized responses to negotiate effectively and move forward with potential buyers.

5. Negotiate and close

The negotiation and closing phase marks the culmination of your FSBO journey. Here's how to navigate these final steps with confidence.

Don't be afraid to negotiate. Remember, virtually every aspect of the sale is open for discussion. If an offer doesn't meet your expectations, feel free to counter—whether it's the price, closing timeline, or other terms. This is your opportunity to align the deal more closely with your goals.

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.

Request earnest money. Also known as "good faith money" — it's 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 may be entitled to keep some (or all) their earnest money.

Sign the contract after agreeing to terms. At this point, it transitions your home status to "under contract," initiating the countdown to closing. 

However, you must understand the contract's details and not rush through this stage. Consider consulting with a real estate professional or attorney to ensure your interests are fully protected before affixing your signature.

Get ready for inspections. Typically, the closing process spans 30 to 60 days post-contract, though timelines can vary by location. Early in this window, expect the buyer to arrange home inspections and an appraisal—a standard part of the buying process.

What do I need to close my FSBO sale? 

As closing day approaches, you'll review and sign the final closing disclosure, which outlines the sale's definitive costs. Accuracy here is key, so double-check every detail. 

You'll also need to coordinate the handover of keys, usually through an attorney or the title company managing the closing. Maintain open lines of communication with these professionals for a smooth transition and timely receipt of your sale proceeds.

What paperwork is needed to close?

Closing on a real estate transaction requires several critical documents to ensure everything is legal and above board. 

At a minimum, expect to provide the attorney or title company with the original sales contract, HOA covenants, title reports, mandatory disclosures, and other closing documents. 

» MORE: FSBO paperwork to sell without an agent

Selling without a realtor: Pros and cons


  • Cost savings potential
  • Full control of the sale


  • Low odds of success
  • Time and emotional investment required
  • High risk of errors

Here’s a balanced look at what to expect from a FSBO sale, based on the typical experiences of FSBO sellers. 


Cost savings. One of the most significant advantages is the potential savings on real estate agent commissions

The national average listing agent commission is around 2.83%. On a $500,000 home sale, this could translate to nearly $15,000 in savings. However, it's important to note that if a buyer's agent is involved, their commission (typically 2-3%) would still apply unless you find a buyer independently.

Full control. Handling the sale yourself means you have complete authority over every aspect of the process, from setting the asking price to marketing your home. 

This level of involvement is perfect for those who have the time and desire to manage the intricacies of a home sale.


Low odds of success. Data suggests FSBO sellers often face an uphill battle. 

A 2024 Clever Real Estate survey indicated that sellers with agents netted an average of $46,603 more than FSBO sellers. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) suggests the gap could be even larger, with FSBO homes selling for around $100,000 less.[8]

The lack of access to professional tools, experience, and negotiating skills can make it hard to achieve a higher sale price.

Time and emotional investment. Selling a home is a substantial commitment, equating to a full-time job in terms of the effort required. The process involves numerous tasks, from staging and photographing your home to negotiating with buyers.

It can also be emotionally taxing, too, with a Clever study finding that half of the FSBO sellers experienced significant stress or emotional strain during the sale process.

Risk of errors. Navigating the legal and regulatory aspects of a home sale is complex. FSBO sellers risk contract mistakes or falling afoul of state regulations, potentially leading to legal issues. 

The requirements for selling a home vary greatly by state, and even by local jurisdictions, so it's best to have a thorough understanding of these obligations before proceeding.

True cost to sell without a real estate agent

$400,000 house example

CostWith an agentFSBO
Commission5.49% 2.66%*
Closing costs2-3%2-3%
Total (%)7.49-8.49%4.66-5.66%
Total ($)$29,960 – 33,960$18,640 – 22,400
FSBO savings$11,320 - $11,560
*This is the national average cost of paying a buyer's agent only. 

Selling FSBO can initially appear more cost-effective due to potential savings on seller's agent commission. However, a deeper dive into the costs and outcomes associated with both approaches reveals a more complex picture. 

In the $400,000 home sale example, you could save over $10,000 by avoiding the listing fee. You’d only need to cover the buyer’s agent commission, which averages 2.66% nationwide[9] and ranges between 2-3%, along with standard closing costs of 2–3%, for a full cost of 4.66-5.66%.

But selling FSBO can impact the sale price, with FSBO homes selling for $50,000 to $100,000 less on average, according to industry studies. The expertise of real estate agents often leads to higher selling prices, offsetting their fees.

Changes to the buyer's agent commission may be coming!

Recent legal developments are poised to transform the traditional practices of real estate commissions. Traditionally, sellers have been responsible for paying the commissions of both the listing and buyer's agents. A lawsuit against NAR in November 2023 challenged this, suggesting changes that could shift some financial responsibilities.

In response, NAR has agreed to a settlement of $418 million to be paid out over four years, while not admitting any wrongdoing. The settlement is designed to maintain flexibility in how buyers and sellers handle agent compensation.

The full implications of this settlement are still uncertain. However, experts believe that the change will eventually lead to lower buyer’s agent commissions and allow buyers to negotiate realtor fees based on the services they need.

The terms of the settlement are scheduled to take effect in mid-July 2024. But, the settlement hasn’t been officially approved yet, and it could be delayed or changed by objections. Stay tuned for updates on how this could impact your next home purchase or sale.

» NAR Reaches Agreement to Resolve Nationwide Claims Brought by Home Sellers

Selling without a realtor in your 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.

Consider FSBO alternatives

Selling your home FSBO can be more daunting and potentially more costly than anticipated. When you factor in marketing expenses, real estate attorney fees, and even agent commissions, the costs can add up. Not to mention, the extensive time commitment needed for preparing your home for sale and navigating negotiations.

If you're reconsidering the FSBO route, here are some viable alternatives:

Discount broker

If saving money is your primary goal in considering FSBO, yet you're concerned about the potential risks and workload, opting for a discount broker could be the ideal solution. 

Discount brokers offer the full spectrum of services you'd expect from a real estate agent but at a lower fee, blending savings with professional support.

Here's a comparison of some of the top discount real estate agents.

Clever Rating
Listing Fee
Our rating
Find Agents
Great savings, but some risks
Our rating
26 states (select markets)
Learn More
Good agents, but limited choice
Our rating
Learn More
Best for listing fee savings
Shop Alternatives

When evaluating various discount realtors, access the quality of their services. Some operate on a team-based approach, meaning you'll collaborate with various individuals from the company rather than a single agent. 

On the other hand, options like Clever Real Estate provide a more traditional experience with a dedicated full-service realtor at a reduced cost.

Cash buyers

For homeowners in unique circumstances such as owning a property that requires significant repairs, facing urgent financial needs, or needing to sell swiftly, "We Buy Houses" companies can be a suitable choice. 

These companies provide near-instant cash offers and can close in as little as a week or two though usually below market value. This route is particularly beneficial for those needing to sell "as-is," avoid foreclosure, or expedite the sale process without the typical listing wait times.

» Best companies that buy houses for cash

Hire a real estate attorney

While not mandatory in every state, hiring real estate attorney when selling your home FSBO is a wise choice. They're not a complete replacement for a realtor, but an attorney can guide you through the intricacies of the transaction, ensuring legal and technical aspects are correctly addressed. 

Real estate attorneys play a crucial role in making sure all requirements are fulfilled and can assist in reviewing any complex legal documents. 

Although hiring an attorney represents an additional expense—potentially amounting to several thousand dollars—the investment safeguards your interests, and may offer peace of mind and protection throughout the sale process.

» How much a real estate lawyer costs

Frequently Asked FSBO Questions

Is for sale by owner worth it?

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.

What paperwork do you need to sell a house?

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.

How much does it cost to sell your house for sale by owner?

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.

Related links

Article Sources

[3] National Association of Realtors – "Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report".
[5] Zillow – "What is a Zestimate?".
[6] National Association of Realtors – "Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report". Pages 131. Updated 2023.
[7] National Association of Realtors – "Quick Real Estate Statistics".
[8] National Association of Realtors – "2023 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers".
[9] Clever Real Estate Commission – "Average Real Estate Agent Commission Rates (2024 Update)".

Authors & Editorial History

Our experts continually research, evaluate, and monitor real estate companies and industry trends. We update our articles when new information becomes available.

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