Skip to content

Pros and Cons of Buying an FSBO Property in California

As you might already know, many real estate markets across the state of California are currently experiencing inventory shortages. Because of this, home buyers often have to expand their horizons when it comes to the types of properties they’re willing to consider.

By including FSBO properties as part of your home search, you might have an easier time finding a suitable home within your budget.

But like all things real estate related, there are both pros and cons to buying an FSBO home in California, versus a traditional listing. So let’s explore both sides of the subject.

The FSBO Selling Strategy Explained

The term “For Sale By Owner” or FSBO refers to a real estate transaction where the homeowner sells the property themselves, without the representation of a listing agent or broker.

With an FSBO, the seller takes on all the marketing, negotiation, and paperwork that would typically be handled by a Realtor. This approach appeals to sellers who want to save on agent commissions.

But it also means that the seller assumes all of the responsibilities and potential challenges associated with selling the property.

Here are the key differences between buying an FSBO versus purchasing a home that’s listed by a real estate sales agent:

  • Representation: In an FSBO sale, you negotiate directly with the seller. With an agent-listed property, you interact primarily with the seller’s agent rather than the homeowner.
  • Marketing: FSBO properties sometimes have limited exposure through the seller’s efforts, while agent-listed properties are marketed on the MLS and other platforms.
  • Negotiations: FSBO negotiations can be more flexible but potentially emotional. Agent-mediated negotiations, meanwhile, tend to be more objective due to the involvement of third parties.
  • Cost: FSBO sales offer potential commission savings, whereas agent-listed properties involve commissions for both buyer and seller agents.
  • Disclosures: FSBO sellers are legally responsible for disclosing all material facts, but the onus is on the buyer to request and verify them. Agent-listed properties tend to have a more standardized disclosure process.

Why Do Some Sellers Choose to Fly Solo?

Homeowners in California choose the FSBO route for a variety of reasons. But it usually involves some combination of the following factors.

  • They want to avoid paying agent commissions, which can be a significant chunk of the sale price.
  • They want more control over pricing, marketing and negotiations.
  • They prefer to interact directly with potential buyers and answer questions personally.
  • Some FSBO sellers believe they can attract motivated buyers and sell quickly without an agent.
  • Some sellers might have had a negative experience working with a real estate agent in the past.

Pros of Buying an FSBO Property in California

Now that we know exactly what we’re dealing with, let’s explore some of the pros and cons.

1. Possibly getting a better deal on a home

FSBO sellers save money by avoiding agent fees. So they’re often more flexible when it comes to the listing price, negotiations, etc. As a result, you could potentially negotiate a lower purchase price, putting more money back in your pocket.

Buying an FSBO home can sometimes be cheaper since the seller isn’t paying a real estate agent’s commission, which is usually around 5-6% of the sale price. This saving can translate into a lower overall price or better negotiation terms for the buyer.

2. Communicating directly with the seller

Buying an FSBO in California also allows you to communicate directly with the seller. Unlike a traditional home sale, where you mostly interact with the seller’s agent, you’ll have a direct line to the homeowner.

This can lead to more transparent and quicker negotiations, as there is no middleman to relay messages. Direct communication might also help in building a better understanding and rapport between the buyer and the seller.

Cons and Potential Downsides

While the potential cost savings and direct communication with the seller might be appealing, you also have to consider the possible downsides of buying an FSBO property in California.

Depending on the situation, the cons might include the following:

1. Overvalued Homes: Many homeowners selling their homes without a real estate agent lack experience in accurately pricing their property. This can lead to an inflated sense of their home’s value. As a result, the home appraisal might not match the asking price, potentially causing you to pay more than the home is worth.

2. Disclosure Concerns: While FSBO sellers are legally obligated to disclose property defects, they may not be familiar with all disclosure requirements or be completely objective about the property’s condition. This can increase the risk of encountering hidden issues later.

3. Problems Negotiating Repairs: Since FSBO sellers are often motivated to save money, they might be less willing to negotiate on repairs or concessions compared to a seller represented by an agent. This could leave you responsible for unexpected repair costs after the purchase.

Additional Considerations for California Home Buyers

While FSBO sellers in California aren’t required to use a specific disclosure form, they are still legally obligated to disclose all “material facts” that could affect the value or desirability of the property.

This can include information about the property’s condition, any known defects, past issues like flooding or termite damage, and potential environmental hazards.

Even when considering an FSBO property, you can still leverage the expertise of a buyer’s agent. A buyer’s agent represents your interests throughout the buying process.

An agent can help you with the following tasks and procedures:

  • Advocating for you during negotiations
  • Helping you navigate the paperwork and legal aspects
  • Helping you validate the seller’s asking price
  • Ensuring all necessary inspections are completed
  • Keeping the process on track from start to finish

While there might be a cost associated with hiring a buyer’s agent, their guidance can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of an FSBO purchase, potentially saving you money and headaches in the long run.

Mike Trejo is a Bay Area mortgage broker with 20+ years of knowledge and experience.

Back To Top