Mortgage Dove

What Does FSBO Mean in Real Estate?

In today's market, finding the perfect house turns out to be harder than expected. Fortunately, your offer was accepted, and you are ready to move forward, but you discover the house is for sale by the owner.

In this scenario, it is often difficult to sell a house by owner or to buy one. What does FSBO mean, and how does it affect the buyer? Let’s learn all about for sale by owner homes.

What Is For Sale by Owner (FSBO)?

"For sale by owner" (FSBO) refers to the sale of property directly by the owner rather than through a real estate agent.

Some sellers choose this option to avoid paying a commission to a real estate agent. Typically, there is a 5% to 6% commission split between the seller's agent and the buyer's agent.

As with any purchase, an FSBO sale has costs, including the buyer's agent commission, which is typically 2% to 3% of the purchase price.

How Does For Sale by Owner (FSBO) Work?

When a seller goes the FSBO route, he or she is responsible for all the responsibilities a real estate agent would handle. A few of these tasks are:

  1. Researching neighborhood property values for homes with similar features (called comps), such as the number of bedrooms and square footage, to determine the asking price
  2. Making any necessary repairs and staging the home for sale
  3. Marketing of the home, including advertising, online listings, brochures, and flyers, and listing the home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
  4. Making appointments and scheduling showings
  5. Negotiating the price and terms of the sale upon receiving an offer
  6. Obtaining and preparing legal documents, such as the sales contract, residential property disclosure form, mineral rights form, occupancy agreement, and lead-based paint disclosure (if the house was built before 1978). The seller may also need to locate the property survey, permits, certificates of occupancy (COs), loan documents, utility bills, property tax bills, homeowner association covenants and agreements, and the property title.
  7. Preparing the deed (such as quitclaims, warranties, or other types of deeds), signing it, witnessing it, and notarizing it

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Buying A House For Sale By Owner

Directly dealing with a homeowner may seem intimidating at first, but potential buyers will enjoy these benefits:


  1. Direct communication : Buying an FSBO home eliminates the intermediary (the listing agent) and allows you to communicate directly with the homeowner. Having this kind of flexibility might give you a better bargaining position.
  2. Detailed information about the home : The owner knows the home better than anyone else. FSBO homes allow you to learn more about the neighborhood, local attractions, and home features directly from the owner.


In most cases, an FSBO sale is more challenging and complex than any other real estate transaction because of the following reasons:

  1. Inflated sense of home value : The majority of homeowners who sell their homes have no real estate experience. It is common for homeowners to have unrealistic ideas about what their homes are worth because they do not understand the housing market. There's a good chance you'll pay more than you should for the house when it's time for an appraisal.
  2. Shaky disclosures : Under California law, sellers are required to disclose known home problems to buyers. Before closing, any known defects must be acknowledged, such as mold, roof damage, and plumbing problems. Independent sellers often don't disclose defects, or they aren't honest. Because of this, they may not disclose any problems to prospective buyers.
  3. Difficulty getting repairs made or costs covered : FSBO sellers typically forego using agents to save money, so you may have trouble convincing them to make repairs or add a contingency. Most sellers trying to sell their properties aren't interested in spending more money on repairs.

5 Steps To Buying Homes For Sale By Owner

In general, the home buying process can feel overwhelming. For your convenience, we've outlined the five most common steps to buying houses for sale by owner. Make sure you consult with a real estate professional if you're thinking about buying an FSBO home.

Step 1: Get your mortgage approved.

Before you purchase a house, you'll need to get approved for a home loan so you know how much you can spend. You can apply online with Mortgage Dove. After you've been approved for a mortgage, you'll receive an approval letter from your lender, which you can use to start shopping for a home. There is a possibility that some sellers will not allow people in without preapproval from a lender.

Step 2: Consider hiring a buyer's agent.

A real estate agent or realtor can assist you once you've been approved for your mortgage.

The services of a buyer's agent can be beneficial even if you have already identified the kind of home you want. In an FSBO transaction, your agent will negotiate and handle the complicated paperwork on your behalf. It is especially important if the seller is handling their paperwork because your agent will ensure everything checks out and will prevent any hiccups.

In most cases, the seller pays the buyer's agent's commission, so working with a buyer's agent can offer some great opportunities for both parties. Make sure the homeowner agrees to pay your real estate agent's commission as included in the purchase agreement .

Step 3: Examine the house in detail.

A real estate agent can usually arrange showings for you through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but most FSBO properties won't be listed there. You may have to find open houses and listings by word of mouth or on a different platform instead.

If you aren't using an agent, you can arrange a showing with the seller directly. A showing with the seller present is a great opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the property.

Step 4: Put in an offer.

The moment you find a house that you like, it's time to make an offer. When you're working with a real estate agent, they can offer opinions on the price of the home. This will help you know whether to bid below, at, or above the asking price.

Step 5: Close the deal.

After you have received final approval on your mortgage and completed all inspections, you are ready to close the deal. At this point, you officially become the owner of the home.

Closing costs and the down payment must be paid at closing. Your keys will be handed over if you're moving in immediately (in other words, if the seller hasn't negotiated to stay in the house after closing).

Factors To Consider

It can be tempting to save thousands of dollars in commissions. Despite this, it's important to remember that a seller who doesn't hire a real estate agent is responsible for all aspects of the sale.

Home sellers who don't understand the purchase and sale process can make costly mistakes. There will be fewer buyers interested in a home if the listing price is too high. The price you set too low will cut your profits and could end up costing you more than hiring a realtor.

When a home is sold as an FSBO, you may be exposed to legal risks if the legal documents  for the sale aren't prepared properly or if there are issues with the home that aren't adequately disclosed. It could be a wise financial decision for the seller to avoid commissions depending on his or her experience. However, sellers with limited experience in real estate transactions may find the process stressful and may be better off working with a qualified agent.

How Risky Is An FSBO Sale?

The majority of real estate agents representing buyers avoid showing FSBO listings or outright refuse to do so. In their view, FSBO sellers have previously burned them by refusing to pay commissions or acting unreasonably.

Unless you have the experience that an agent brings to an FSBO sale, you shouldn't attempt it yourself. It includes determining an affordable asking price, marketing the house effectively, showing it in the best light, and completing the necessary paperwork.

What Can I Do If The Fsbo Home Needs Repairs?

You have the following options if your inspector finds a problem with your new home:

  1. Request the seller to fix the problem. Before buying the home, you can ask the seller to fix the problem at their expense. For buyers, this is the easiest option, but you can't guarantee that a subpar contractor won't be chosen by the seller.
  2. You can request a credit.  After closing, you can ask the seller to credit you for repairs. By doing this, you can choose the contractor, but you may have difficulty convincing a seller to accept a repair bill if they don't know the amount beforehand.
  3. Ask for a price reduction. If you convince the seller to reduce the price, you'll have money to do the repairs yourself.
  4. You can cancel the sale. It is always possible to cancel a sale if the problem is severe and you cannot reach an agreement with the seller.

Consult your real estate professional if you encounter any inspection problems.

The Bottom Line

It’s a good thing that y ou can save thousands on commissions with FBSO. However, giving up professional services runs the risk of not getting the best results. With agents' skills and expertise, a house will be priced correctly, marketed efficiently, and shown at its finest. Aside from that, they handle the paperwork that comes with a home sale.

In an FSBO sale, commissions and costs are still involved. It includes the commission charged by the buyer's agent and the cost of listing the house on the MLS.

To decide whether to purchase an FSBO, weigh the potential savings against the actual labor of marketing and selling the property and an honest assessment of the owner's capability to handle these tasks.

"Mortgage Dove makes home financing convenient for every American. You can count on us to provide a home buying experience tailored to your personal needs and financial situation. We strive to give you the peace of mind that your home financing goals can be achieved.”


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