Buying a House for Sale by Owner

Read Time: 6 minutes

When it comes to purchasing a new home, the traditional route involves real estate agents and their commissions. However, another method that has been gaining popularity is buying a house directly from the owner—often referred to as “For Sale By Owner” or FSBO.

In this article, we’ll explore what FSBO entails, how it works for buyers and the pros and cons of taking this route. Additionally, we’ll provide valuable tips for a successful FSBO transaction.

What is a For Sale By Owner?

For Sale by Owner, commonly known as FSBO (pronounced fizz-bo), refers to a situation where a homeowner opts to sell their property independently without the assistance of a real estate listing agent.

Many sellers opt for this approach to bypass realtor fees and agent commissions, aiming to save more on the overall transaction.

How does For Sale By Owner work for the buyer?

The process of purchasing a house for sale by owner can differ significantly from a traditional home purchase:

How to Buy a House for Sale by Owner
1. Get pre-approvedGetting pre-approved for a mortgage allows you to estimate your budget and makes you a more reputable buyer from a seller’s perspective.
2. Consider buyer’s agentsHiring a buyer’s agent involves an additional expense, but the potential benefits often outweigh this cost.
3. Find and evaluate homesResearch the local real estate market to gauge the fair market value of potential homes. You may find FSBO properties through online listings, local classifieds, yard signs or word of mouth.
4. Negotiate with sellerDiscuss the price with the seller. Be prepared to negotiate, and consider factors such as comparable sales, the property’s condition and any needed repairs.
5. Make an offerSubmit your offer on the home and work with the seller and/or a real estate attorney to draft a purchase agreement, including information such as the purchase price, contingencies and closing date.
6. Close on the homeBegin the closing process, where you’ll sign the final documents and officially take ownership of the property. Ensure that all financial aspects are settled, including the payment of closing costs.

Pros and Cons of Buying a House for Sale by Owner

Buying a For Sale by Owner home may offer substantial savings, as it can eliminate up to the standard 6% commission paid to real estate agents if both the buyer and seller opt out of working with an agent.

For example, 6% of a $300,000 home is $18,000. Savings like this on agent commissions could be thousands of dollars put toward your dream home.

However, buyers should ensure the savings are worthwhile by, carefully weighing the pros and cons associated with FSBO transactions:

Opportunities for savingsNegotiation conflicts
Work directly with the sellerLegal issues
Less competitionFinancing Challenges

Pro: Opportunities for Savings

According to a 2022 survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), FSBO homes typically sold for around $225,000. This is significantly lower than the $330,000 price point for homes sold using real estate agents.

Additionally, buyers can avoid the 3% commission expense typically reserved for the seller’s agent when dealing with FSBO.

Pro: Work Directly With the Seller

Direct interaction with the homeowner can foster clearer communication and a more personal connection between the buyer and seller. This connection can lead to a better understanding of the property’s history and condition, giving the buyer a stronger background going into their home purchase.

In a FSBO transaction, the removal of additional parties eliminates the need for multiple layers of communication. This often allows for decisions to be made more quickly, potentially expediting the overall homebuying process.

Pro: Less Competition

Homes for sale by owner typically have less marketing for their listings since this is done individually by the seller rather than through a real estate agent. As a result, there may be less competition in terms of opposing home offers.

Con: Negotiation Conflicts

One pitfall of buying a house for sale by owner is the potential for conflicts throughout the negotiation process. Negotiating directly with the homeowner can be challenging, especially when emotions are involved and one or both parties lack negotiation experience.

In traditional home purchases, real estate agents often act as expert intermediaries to ensure a smoother negotiation process.

Navigating the paperwork and other legal aspects of a real estate transaction is a complex process, especially for those without the necessary background and experience.

For Sale By Owner transactions forego an agent’s professional guidance. This may pose a higher risk of one or both parties overlooking important legal details, increasing the likelihood of future issues relating to contracts, disclosures and compliance.

Con: Financing Challenges

In a For Sale By Owner transaction, the seller may lack the experience or resources to assist with financing options. This may make it more difficult for the buyer to secure financing or favorable loan terms without professional guidance.

Real estate agents, on the other hand, often have established networks that can help guide buyers toward suitable mortgage lenders.

Tips for Buying a FSBO Home

If you do decide to pursue a house for sale by owner, there are several things you can do to efficiently navigate the FSBO process:

1. Hire a buyer’s agent

While not mandatory, hiring a buyer’s agent offers valuable benefits in a For Sale By Owner home purchase. Their negotiation skills, market knowledge, legal expertise, professional guidance and access to resources can significantly aid buyers in navigating the FSBO process.

2. Order a Comparative Market Analysis

To determine a fair market value for the FSBO property, consider ordering a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA involves a thorough examination of recently sold homes in the area that are similar to the one being considered for purchase. The goal is to identify comparable properties with similar features, size, location and condition and analyze their sale prices.

This analysis provides essential insights into the fair market value of the FSBO property, helping buyers negotiate a reasonable price and make informed decisions about their purchase.

3. Check into insurance claims

Purchase a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Evaluation (C.L.U.E.) report to identify any insurance claims filed on the property over the past five years. This information is crucial for understanding potential risks and ensuring transparency throughout the For Sale By Owner transaction.

4. Get a home inspection

Working with an experienced home inspector is important to help identify any potential problems with the property. A thorough home inspection is a good idea for any home purchase, so be sure to do your research and ask for recommendations when choosing a home inspector.

5. Set up an escrow account

When making an offer, set up an escrow account to hold any earnest money deposit until the sale is closed. Generally, it’s best to avoid handing money directly to the seller in case the transaction falls through.

6. Get an attorney

In FSBO transactions, legal advice is crucial. An attorney can guide you through the necessary legal steps, review purchase documents and ensure the sales contract is in order.

Is Buying a House For Sale By Owner a Good Idea?

Overall, buying a house listed as “For Sale by Owner” can offer significant advantages, including potential cost savings and direct communication with the seller. However, it’s essential to carefully navigate potential pitfalls and consider hiring professionals, such as a buyer’s agent and attorney, to ensure a smooth and legally sound transaction.

Kirk Haverkamp

Kirk Haverkamp is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than 25 years of experience in journalism and public relations. He has contributed to, Investopedia, and MetroMode online magazines, among other work. He has a B.A. in English from Hope College and a Master’s Degree in journalism from Michigan State University.

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