How To Sell A House By Owner In California

How to

Realtors and real estate agents normally receive 5% to 6% of the balance of transactions they facilitate. The buyer’s and seller’s agents each take 2.5% to 3% of the transaction in commissions. The one buying the home is often the one who must pay them both. This raises the question of whether it’s really worth it to hire a realtor.

The National Association of Realtors found in a survey that 88% of homebuyers rely on an agent. There are benefits to this, as realtors can navigate the real estate market and ensure you’re well-represented. For sellers, there is a similar benefit. Then there’s also the fact that the buyer will pay your realtor’s commission anyway.

Despite the benefits they can offer, there are times when hiring a realtor may not be necessary. Of course, if you forgo hiring a realtor when selling a property, you must do all the work that they usuallynormally would.

This can be a hard decision for home sellers to make. So, let’s go over:

  • The reasons to consider selling your home without a realtor
  • The paperwork you would need to handle if you do it alone
  • A final breakdown as to whether selling without a realtor is worth it
Photographer: Brian Babb | Source: Unsplash

Benefits of selling your home without a realtor

There are several potential benefits to a house sale by the owner.

Complete Control Over the Sale

This one is a double-edged sword, but one that could work in your favor.

Without an agent, you are in complete control of the entire sales process. You don’t need to listen to anyone’s opinions regarding pricing, marketing, or negotiating. This has a clear good side if you’re someone who likes to take responsibility for all your financial affairs.

Of course, there’s also a downside, which we will delve into later.

Possibly More Money

While it’s not always possible, you could perhaps make more money from the lack of commissions paid to an agent. Because they are percentage-based fees, you can end up saving thousands of dollars. Of course, for this logic to stand up to scrutiny, you must be able to fetch a price that a professional would be able to demand.

Thorough Knowledge of Your Home

This doesn’t mean you can skip any steps regarding legal documentation, sellers’ disclosures, and the like. However, your intimate knowledge of your home can make you a great representative of it.

An emotional connection to a home can hurt the selling process in some ways. However, if you recognize the nature of the business transaction, you can perhaps be the best salesperson for your home.

You can use your deep knowledge of your home to show buyers exactly what benefits they get from becoming its new owner. You can share your memories, tell little stories and excerpts, and be the representative your house needs to build a better connection with serious buyers.

What Paperwork is Needed?

Several documents are needed for a house sale by the owner. Not all of them are strictly necessary. However, realtors typicallynormally use all the applicable documentation to avoid legal headaches and present the home in the best and most transparent light.

Having them all on hand can help you more professionally represent yourself and sell your home faster. It may also ease any concerns the buyer’s agent may have about not having a professional colleague to deal with.

These are the issues you will have to cover on your own if you choose to sell your home on your own.

Photographer: Dimitri Karastelev | Source: Unsplash


A property survey serves as a legal document communicating the boundaries of the property. It includes details such as structures like fences and driveways near said boundaries. The buyer will often order a survey of the property they are looking at.

Title & Report

A title is a legal document showing the legal or equitable interest in the home.

A preliminary title report lists any outstanding legal issues with the home. These include back taxes owed or liens.

Loan Documents

Any applicable loan documents must be produced. This includes the first mortgage. But it must also include any other home loans such as second mortgages, refinancing, or home equity lines of credit.

Receipts and Warranties

You should produce the receipts and warranties that currently apply to any appliances being sold alongside the property. It’s important to back up the inspection and appraisal documentation with warranties and receipts for any recent refurbishments, upgrades, and repairs on the home.

Plans and Permits

For the same reason as with receipts and warranties, make sure you have the plans and permits for any of the same kinds of upgrades or additions.

Sellers’ Net Sheet

This lays out the proceeds you will make from the sale after deducting all applicable expenses.

Original Sales Contract

The original contract from when you bought the home. This document includes the price you bought the home for and any disclosures from the previous owner.


A Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is a professional estimate of your home’s value. TypicallyNormally, your agent would perform the necessary duties for free (rather, included as part of their commission). Without them, you must get the CMA yourself through a qualified professional.

Certificate of Occupancy/Compliance

This is the certificate proving your home meets building codes. It’s required to prove the home is safe to inhabit. UsuallyNormally, you can get the documents from your municipal government. If you don’t have them ready, you will have to get an inspection. This may necessitate repairs, followed by a follow-up inspection.

Utility Bills (Optional)

This may not be necessary, but buyers (or their agents) often want to see bills showing how much inhabiting the property costs in terms of utilities.

Homeowners Association Agreements (Where Applicable)

If you have a local homeowners’ association, you need to show the buyer. These agreements (which you presumably signed when you bought the home) lay out the rules provided by your local association. Rules can vary greatly between different homeowners associations.

Photographer: Kara Eads | Source: Unsplash

Is It Worth The Additional Effort?

On the flip side, there are several important arguments against going it alone. Without a realtor at your side, you have quite a few extra issues to worry about.

No Assistance

This obvious drawback is the inverse of the positive argument of maintaining control of the selling process. By not hiring a realtor, you are losing all the opportunities that come with it.

Realtors handle these kinds of transactions for a living. Unless you’re in the industry yourself, they almost certainly understand the real estate market better than you do. This gives them the insights that can help you get the highest price possible for your home. They know the ins and outs, ups and downs, and the negotiation process very well.

Realtors May Not Go to You in the First Place

Speaking of negotiating power, there is a certain professional respect in the realtor community. If you enter a home “sale by owner” process, the buyer’s agent will be immediately aware of the lack of a colleague on the other end of the deal. They will often completely dissuade homebuyers from negotiating with you.

In many cases, homebuyers may insist on seeing your home even when dissuaded by their agent. However, even in these cases, buyers’ agents may dissuade them from making an offer. The buyer’s agent can make an oftentimes sound argument that the unnecessary hassles and risks of properly completing the deal without the seller having professional assistance simply aren’t worth it.

The buyer’s agent, for their part, has personal, professional reasons to be skeptical. There are stories in the realtor community of sellers who go it alone boycotting the agreed-upon commissions. Many buyers’ agents view sellers without an agent as unrealistic, difficult, and unreasonable.

Even though it’s still possible to make up for these issues on your own, you will likely have to face some of these difficulties.

Professionalism vs Emotional Selling

Selling a home is normally at least a slightly emotional process. But in many cases, homeowners fail to fully understand the cold, business-oriented nature of the selling process.

With an agent, you can stay one step removed from the emotional aspects of selling your home. Back to our previous point, some of the complaints agents have about dealing with homeowners directly include:

  • Greatly overpricing the home from the outset
  • Getting offended by a lower offer
  • Failing to counter a “lowball” as a result of being offended or otherwise emotionally compromised
  • Failing to understand the professional intricacies of the home-selling process
  • Allowing eagerness to dirty the entire process

Other mistakes that buyers’ agents often see, but which work in their favor, include:

  • Giving in to very low offers too easily under pressure
  • Failure to follow up appropriately during negotiations
  • Ultimately, selling a home for far less than they would have gotten with an agent

Realtors, as professionals, don’t suffer any of these issues. For example, a realtor understands that low offers are a part of the process. They won’t get very emotional or concerned by low offers and are willing to take their time to provide measured responses. They are less eager, worried, or offended by the typical process of selling or buying a home.

A Realtor’s Job is Full-Time

Can you understand all the intricacies of the local market and use that expertise to get the best deal possible?

Can you rush home from work for every viewing to ensure you explore all possibilities of selling?

Can you pick up the phone all day for every single potential future buyer?

You may be able to do part of a realtor’s job yourself. But it’s extremely unlikely you can do their entire job or even do part of their job better than they can.

The only real exception to this is if you have had personal experience in this industry yourself. If not, you cannot trick yourself into thinking you’ll do it better without losing out in some way.

Professional Connections

To be a realtor is to have an active role in the real estate industry. It’s a profession that relies on networking with other professionals across the industry.

You can of course try listing your property on one of the many online platforms listings are posted on. You can even use the MLSs that realtors use. However, you lack the connections that realtors have and the leverage that those professional connections provide.

A Process of Elimination

In most cases, many people will show an interest in your listing. Few of them will be serious candidates for it. Then, in the end, only one buyer will end up paying you for it.

Realtors understand this reality. They know how nosy neighbors, dreamers, and all sorts of other unqualified buyers will come around.

Each of those unqualified buyers requires time to address, and time is money. Realtors, however, spend their time dealing with these people, and with experience, they learn how to weed out the unqualified buyers. In fact, “qualifying” buyers is a professional skill realtors are expected to master. They are trained to:

  • Ask the properright screening and closing questions
  • Respond professionally and with minimal emotion

Negotiation Skills

Simply put, negotiation skills take time to develop. They also require intimate knowledge of the items being negotiated for.

Regardless of how strongly you feel about your overall negotiation skills, it’s unlikely you will negotiate a better deal than a realtor could on your behalf.

Photographer: Amy Hirschi | Source: Unsplash

Legal Risks & Home Flaws

Last but not least, realtors handle a lot of legal paperwork. The paperwork that is necessary for a home sale must be filled out correctly. This is especially true of sellers’ disclosures.

Sellers who fail to adequately fill out sellers’ disclosures, even when they are not intentionally deceitful, may face charges including negligence, breach of contract, or even fraud.

Again, unless you also work in the industry, your agent and their colleagues certainly know more about conducting business legally and avoiding legal battles than you do.

Conclusion: When Realtors Are Most Likely Unnecessary

There are many obvious benefits to hiring a realtor. As we’ve covered, they simply have the experience and connections to make a better deal than you likely ever could. There’s never any shame in realizing it; after all, it’s their full-time job.

However, in some cases,In some cases, however, it’s just not necessary to hire someone for what you can do alone.

You Know the Seller

If you have a genuinetrue connection with the seller, negotiation skills and the stone-cold business of selling your home aren’t such significant issues anymore. As long as you’re all crystal clear on the details of the transaction, including all its responsibilities, you likely don’t need a realtor.

In such a case, you don’t need to fork out $15,000 plus to a realtor. Instead, you can just pay a lawyer less than that for the key details like the title search and other documents.

You Know Your Home and Neighborhood Well

If you’re truly knowledgeable and have deep roots in the area, you may be able to get a good deal without a realtor. A realtor can still likely negotiate and use their connections in a way that is very helpful. But the more you are able to represent yourself, the less they can offer you.

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