How to Sell Your House Without a Real Estate Agent


For more information on buying and selling without a real estate agent, I suggest For Sale by Owner by Nolo Press.

You do not need to have a realtor or a real estate agent to sell your home in California.

Although rare, thousands of buyers and sellers purchase or sell a home without a real estate agent every year.

In California, home buyers and sellers typically are represented by a California Department of Real Estate-licensed agent or broker.

However, in other states real property sales are commonly handled by a lawyer.  This is less common in California.

You can also market the home on your own (i.e. handle all the advertising, open houses, and private showings yourself), but use an attorney to process the paperwork, while paying a flat fee to have the house put on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which nearly every real estate agency website uses for its listings. There is also another option. Check out and get a fair cash offer for your house.
There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to selling a home without an agent, which must be weighed by anyone considering selling a home on their own.

Pro’s and Con’s to Going It Alone

There are advantages and disadvantages to buying or selling a home without a realtor or real estate agent.
The biggest advantage to selling without an agent is you don’t have to pay a commission, which could lead to substantial savings. But doing so will require you to read more information on the internet as much as possible.
For example, real estate agents typically charge 3%. The seller also pays 3 percent to the buyer’s agent, which comes out of the sale proceeds.
You can’t avoid this cost with your buyer, or else you won’t have any buyers who are represented by agents interested in buying your house, which is a big segment of the buying market.
For a $500,000 house, not having to pay 3% to your own agent can mean a savings of $15,000.
In addition, buying or selling your own home can be rewarding and educate you about the real estate process, which puts you at an advantage in the future.
However, there are also significant disadvantages if you aren’t careful. There is a great risk of something going wrong if you are not careful.
In a slow real estate market, a real estate agent is crucial for marketing the property, including placing the property on MLS, using advertising, holding open houses, and coordinating private showings with other agents.
Another risk in not using an agent is the buyer and seller may agree to a sale price which does not reflect true market price (either too high or too low). Finally, selling on your own can be very time consuming and you could be at risk of being sued after the sale or as a result of it if you failed to follow procedures.

Step-by-Step Process

Here are the basic steps to buy or sell a home on your own, without a real estate agent. (Keep in mind this list does not cover everything that would need to be done.).
  1. Find a Buyer
  2. Negotiate a Purchase Price
  3. Draft a Purchase and sale agreement
  4. Open an escrow with an escrow company
  5. Provide disclosures to the buyer, including mold disclosures, lead paint, etc.
  6. Buyer needs to perform inspections
  7. Buyer needs to line up financing
  8. Buyer needs to obtain a title insurance policy
  9. Obtain a home warranty from a home warranty company
  10. After receiving and reviewing the inspections, the Buyer may submit Requests for Repairs to the Seller.  The Buyer and Seller then negotiate any credits or repairs.  I usually recommend Sellers only issue credits rather than conducting repairs in order to minimize the chance of repairs going over budget or creating new problems.
  11. Draft a grant deed, promissory notes.  The title company can handle this.
  12. If you’re doing seller carryback financing, you need to draft a promissory note and a deed.
  13. Record deeds and financing documents
For more information on buying and selling without a real estate agent, I suggest For Sale by Owner by Nolo Press.

Photo credit: Flickr.