Selling a House in California By Owner (2022 Update)

✍️ Editor’s Note: Houzeo is America’s most advanced For Sale By Owner platform. Almost $3.5 billion worth of properties were listed by home owners on Houzeo.com in 2021. This guide summarizes the steps for selling a house by owner (without a realtor) in California based on our expertise.

Selling a house in California by owner featured image


As per Zillow, the home values in California have spiked by 20.3% in the last 1 year. Also, the average real estate commission in California is nearly 5-6%. This means that if you sell your property for $800,000, then you are in to fish out approximately $39,200 to the realtor(s). It is no small amount and therefore you need to assess various factors before selling your house in California.

Selling a house in California with the help of a realtor brings with it other limitations like relinquishing control over the selling process as that would be taken up by the selling agent. Also, the time span for taking up and closing the deal is time-consuming owing to the fact that two realtors (selling and buyer agent) are involved in the process. It is these agents that will take up the majority of the selling and buying tasks like discussions, negotiations, closure, etc.

Thankfully, in 2022, there are advanced platforms like Houzeo that allow you to sell your home as For Sale By Owner in California, without having to worry about hefty commissions. Such platforms have a pre-defined selling process which makes it easier for the sellers to list their home as For Sale By Owner or FSBO.

» In this guide, we’ll cover:



Before moving ahead, let us see what is the difference between selling a property via an agent and via Flat-Fee MLS by owner. This comparison will help understand which is the best way to sell a home.



How To Sell a House in California By Owner

If you are eager to know about how to sell a house in California by owner, we have put together a set of pointers to make your job easier. You will need to take care of these in order to speed up the selling process and close it as soon as possible. Some of the points are generic (not state-specific) and should be followed if you are to sell a house by owner.

1. Understand The Benefits & Risks of Selling a House By Owner in California

California, being one of the largest states, is also one of the most popular ones for selling a house by owner. The paperwork requirements are a bit complicated but can be typically handled by any competent escrow company or Title company.

✍️ Note: In Northern California closing is typically handled by Title companies, while Escrow companies handle it in Southern California. Though, we recommend to cross check on closing party in your area.

Key Benefits of Selling A House For Sale By Owner in California

Savings on CommissionSelling a house by owner in California can save you 4.5%-6% commission. The commission rate changes as per the property type. On an average, the realtor commission rate in California is 4.9%.
Speed to MarketFSBO websites like Houzeo will list your property on the market within 1-2 business days, or even faster!
Control Over TransactionBy transacting directly with the buyer’s agent or the buyer, you have complete control over the process with fewer hindrances.

Key Risks of Selling A House For Sale By Owner in California

Hidden FeesCalifornia based Flat-Fee MLS and FSBO companies are not reliable when it comes to hidden fees. Also, commissions on sale can cost you thousands.
Poor Customer ServiceIt is recommended to read authentic reviews to know how an FSBO site’s customer service is. Poor customer service may lead to time and money wastage.

⭐ Houzeo is rated 4.9 stars on Google & Trustpilot.
Knowing Help is AvailableListing and selling a property via FSBO in California is not that easy. But, help can be sought easily if required using different mediums.

» More: Best FSBO & Flat Fee MLS Companies in California with No Hidden Fees!

Understanding California’s real estate laws and processes can be tiring and exhausting. Scrutinizing and understanding every step can help make an FSBO sale simpler and quick. Before checking the next steps of selling a house by owner in California, let’s take a look at some of the state laws and regulations:

California FSBO Overview



Level of Difficulty for FSBOs?High
Real Estate Attorney Required?No
Required State Disclosures (More)– California Transfer Disclosure Statement
– Megan’s Law Disclosure
– Natural Hazard Disclosure Report/Statement..and more
FSBO Yard Sign Allowed? (More)Yes
Competitive Buyer Agent Commission2-3%

Top For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Websites

A thorough comparison between the best in the business

Start Your FREE Listing NOW!

2. Get Your Home Ready

Whether it is California or any other state, you need to take care of certain things if you are thinking of selling your house by yourself. Here is what you need to do:

Declutter & Depersonalize:Make sure you eliminate anything that may bring a feeling of personalization from your perspective i.e. you need to make the buyers imagine as if it is their home. This means removing your personal belongings, etc. before the showing.
Make RepairsIf your home requires any necessary repairs, make sure it is done before you start the process of selling. This may help later when the inspection is done.
Repaint NeutralYou can attract higher number of customers when you paint your home with neutral colors.
Improve Curb AppealGo for clear landscape, fresh flowers, or exquisite paintings because the first impression is everything!
Implement stagingHire a professional who can help you with setting up your home like arranging furniture to make the home look spacious and tidy.


▶️ Case Study: Daniel Woodrum in Panama City Beach, FL saved $8,000 by selling his house FSBO

3. What are the Different Disclosures While Selling A House By Owner in California?

It is a basic rule in California that a seller needs to disclose any information in writing about the property that may affect his/her desire to purchase the property or pay a particular price for it. Failing to do so may attract penalties for the home sellers. Also, the disclosure should happen in the early stages of the purchase. In a way, the disclosure laws are pretty strict in California.

Many of the sellers in California prepare the disclosures, inspections, and other important paperwork before even listing the property to avoid any challenges later. As a rule, a buyer can terminate the purchase deal if the owner is not able to furnish the disclosure before signing the purchase agreement.

Selling a house in California by owner requires the seller to take care of following disclosures:

Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS)It is the document that is used in California to disclose all the details about the property. This could incorporate the structural information, appliances, any defects, deaths (in the last 3 years) on the property, and more.
Natural Hazard Disclosure Report/StatementThe document should be filled and submitted before the sale. The document is a questionnaire that is the property located in a flood hazardous area? or earthquake fault zone? and any other hazardous area. 
Megan’s Law DisclosureIt allows the sellers to update buyers about the registered sex offenders near the property which can be found online. 

» More: Seller Disclosure Requirements in California

4. Price Your Home Competitively

As an owner, pricing your home competitively (as per the market trends) is an important step. The market trends are different for different states and thus a seller needs to be aware of the state prices in which he/she is selling the property.

REMEMBER! The purpose of the LIST PRICE is to ATTRACT BUYERS to your listing. It’s not your SALE PRICE!!!

What happens if you under-price or over-price your listing?

If you price it too lowIt is most likely that you will get multiple offers. You’ll likely go for “Highest & Best Offer” or counter the best offers to finalize the sale price with the buyer. And you will sell at market price
If you price it too highYou will get little traffic. It’ll make you drop the price, and you will sell at the market price

Real estate agents create what’s called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to determine what’s an ideal listing price for a property. With Zillow and Redfin, you can easily create your own CMA and understand how selling a house in California or any other state works.

» More: How to Price Your Home For Sale in 6 Steps

5. Create Description of Your Property

After pricing your home competitively, you need to add the description of your house to the listing. The description should be attractive enough to lure the buyers and should also be state-centric.

You can add any details about the renovations done to your property. Things like when the renovation was done? What was included in it? and, What was the cost incurred? Any such description will help the buyers in having a holistic view of the property.

In California, you may want to list about – backyard amenities, sprinkler systems, Car-charging station, energy efficiency, neighbourhood view, floor, garage, and more. Consider what are the most important one for Texans!

6. What is the Right Time to Sell a House in California?

Time to sell is as important as other factors for selling a house. For California, May and June are considered to be the best months for buying and selling properties. The annual sale-to-list ratio is high during May and deal closure happens much more quickly when compared with other months.

7. Find Ways To Market Your Home

Almost 95% of home buyers search and review homes online. So, being online is the #1 priority for the sellers. A good online marketing strategy can make a difference in getting your house sold.

Here’s what you need to do if you are in for selling a house in California or any other state:

#Marketing TacticDescription
1.List on the MLS
Homes listed on the MLS sell faster and for 17% more. This doesn’t mean you need to hire a listing agent and pay that extra commission. Crafty listings surely entice potential buyers. Use a for sale by owner website to list your home and offer a competitive buyer agent commission. This will help in getting top dollar for your property.

✍️ Pro Tip: Research the best For Sale By Owner websites before picking one
2.Get a Yard SignDo not get a “FOR SALE BY OWNER” yard sign. FSBO yard signs have a negative association. Additionally, they will limit your options because MLS’ will not allow them. Instead get a “FOR SALE” yard sign, preferably with your phone number on it. Houzeo custom yard sign is available for $49 only and comes FREE with a selfie!

✍️ Pro Tip: If you secure a buyer from a yard sign, chances are you’ll save on the buyer agent commission as well. In a nutshell, it is worth the $49 investment.
3.Share Your Listing on Social MediaShare your property listing on social media. This will include your contact info apart from the listing details. If you share your listing on Zillow or Redfin, all the leads your listing generates will be sold to buyer agents who’ll demand a competitive buyer agent commission. Houzeo, on the other hand, doesn’t sell your information or leads. All buyer leads see your contact info, so you might save on the buyer agent commission.

✍️ Pro Tip: If you secure a buyer from social sharing, chances are you’ll save on the buyer agent commission as well.
4Hire a professional photographerAs a seller, you can hire a professional photographer to create a portfolio of your house. Professional pictures can greatly impact the selling process by attracting more buyers.

✍️ Pro Tip: Professional photographer can collate a portfolio that otherwise may not be possible if you are taking up the job.
5Run adsIf you want to sell your home as FSBO, you may also want to run ads on print and social media.

✍️ Pro Tip: Try to cover as many social media channels as possible to initiate ads for your listing.

▶️ Case Study: Paige Zukowski saved $11,000 selling through FSBO

8. Manage Showings

Once your property is ready for showings, it is critical to manage the showings effectively. Online showing tools provide home buyers and buyer agents with a frictionless way to request and schedule showings.

Houzeo Showings, a cutting-edge solution by Houzeo, helps buyers and buyer agents to choose a particular showing slot as stated by the seller. The tool also provides features like rescheduling, updating, cancelling, requesting, and more.

#FeatureDescription
1.Home Sellers Can Set Their Showing CalendarBuyers and buyer agents should only be shown times when the property is available for showing. This saves time for all the concerned parties.
2.Buyers & Buyer Agents Can Request & Reschedule ShowingsIt’s critical that buyers and buyer agents can request showings at available times. In addition, they should be able to reschedule and cancel on an ad-hoc basis.
3.Buyers & Buyer Agents Can Provide Feedback on the ListingFeedback from buyers and buyer agents is critical for home sellers because it allows them to assess their property (priced too high, the backyard needs fencing, rooms need whitewashing, and more). Where the feedback is actionable, small remedies can go a long way in improving showings and attracting top dollar for your property.

🗓️ Houzeo Showings has all the required features and is available on the Houzeo mobile app!

Introducing the Houzeo Mobile App!

  • View yourlisting
  • Review and compare offers
  • Counter an offer
  • NEW! Buyers can now search your property and save it in “Favorites”

Start Your FREE Listing NOW!

9. Negotiate Offers for Sale of House in California

As FSBO, you sell a house without a realtor. The basics of what to do when you get offers remain the same though – Accept, Decline, or Ignore the offers (not recommended). We suggest you review the offers on all their merits, and never ignore an offer. Even if it’s a low-ball offer, you should counter with what you would accept. Where you are sure you don’t want to counter or accept, just politely decline.

There are two advanced tactics in every real estate agent’s arsenal i.e. countering an offer, or calling for the highest & best offers. While selling a house by owner in California or any other state, you need to learn these 2 tactics.

Most companies will give you complex forms to counter an offer, or to request the highest & best one. Houzeo has digitized these, so, you can counter or ask for the highest & best with just a few clicks! That’s selling a house by owner made easy.

#Advanced TacticWhen to UseHow to Use
1.Counter an OfferSingle or Multiple Offer SituationYour best offer is not just the highest one but is also competitive across several parameters: deposit, financing, inspection contingency, closing timeline, etc. When you want to counter an offer, you can request any of the mentioned parameters updated as per your preferences.

▶️ Learn more: How to counter an offer on Houzeo.com
2.Request Highest & Best OffersMultiple Offer SituationIf you have multiple offers and a timeline by which you’d like to pick an offer, you can call for Highest & Best offer from all the interested parties.

▶️ Learn more: How to request Highest & Best offer on Houzeo.com

Apart, negotiating offers means focusing on other factors like contingencies, concessions, responsibility, and more.

It should be noted that negotiating offers during a home sale is inevitable. With the slightest change comes the massive paperwork update, signatures, due diligence, and much more. This is where Houzeo can be useful. Being a 100% online platform, Houzeo updates the changes across the paperwork seamlessly and digitally, cutting back on efforts and saving time in every update.



💰Incredible Technology, Incredible Savings

Houzeo’s technology makes FSBO easy by giving you access to tools only agents have
Learn more

10. Take Care of Appraisals and Inspections

A money/mortgage lender typically goes for a home appraisal to identify what is the appropriate value of a particular property. Based on the outcome by licensed appraisal agents, the lender decides the amount that should be part of the mortgage. This is crucial while selling a house in California (or any other state) as it keeps the buyer protected from unwanted sale price.

Inspection is also part of the process where licensed individuals scan the property for any issues. If there are defects, re-negotiations might take place between the seller and the buyer. Consulting a real estate agent may be a good option for the seller to take care of these processes.

11. How to Handle Closing in California

Selling a house by owner means you’ll need to be prepared when it comes to paperwork and legalities. Even though your closing attorney or title agent will handle most of the legal work involved in a property transfer, you do have several obligations. Here’s how to prepare for your closing day.

» More: Paperwork for Selling a House Without a Realtor

Review Your Closing Documents in Advance

Closing documents should generally be available to you in advance of the scheduled closing date. Review these documents at length and understand their provisions. Here are some key documents you’ll likely sign at closing:

The HUD-1 or Closing DisclosureWhen homes are purchased with a mortgage, you’ll summarize the detailed costs in the Closing Disclosure.
If your sale is all cash, you may get the HUD-1, which is less common. These documents detail amounts you’re charged for, your loan payoffs if any, and the net proceeds you will take to the bank. Depending upon how much equity you have in the property, you may need to bring a check (or send a wire) on the closing date. Also, ensure there are no typos in your name, address, property address, bank info, and other details. Then review every amount and the totals to ensure there are no mathematical errors or inadvertent costs.
The DeedThis document enables the legal transfer of title from the seller to the buyer. Read this document carefully, verifying all details including the legal description of the property, the deed book, the deed book page, and the Property Identification Number (PIN), if any. Once a Seller sold a $94,000 property, but the deed also legally transferred over the Seller’s 5 other homes worth $680,000 over to the Buyer. There was a huge scramble post-closing to correct this mistake. It could have been a nightmare for the Seller if the Buyer didn’t honestly transfer the rest of the properties back to the Seller.
Statement of Closing CostsThis statement summarizes all the expenses involved in the transaction. This document is easier to understand vs. the HUD-1/Closing Disclosure, but they should tie.
Certificate of TitleIt allows you to state that you have the right to sell the property.

The below table showcases some more documents that are required in selling a house in California.

Purchase agreement and addendumsSigned Sales agreement and any other document that s required for an update.
Bill of saleA sale receipt that includes seller and buyer’s information plus any other information relating to the sale.
Title affidavitA notarized document that verifies that a seller is the owner of the house, there are no liens, and that there is no simultaneous purchase deal.
HOA formsIf the house is part of HOA, the seller needs to give the buyer all the documentation on restrictions, fees, financials, and more.
Survey papersThe documentation defines the location and the dimensions of the property. This is important while selling a house in California.
Home inspectionContains all the details about the inspection of the property.
Repairing proofWhile selling a house in California, if the seller has made repairs to the property before the sale, he/she needs to furnish the relevant documentation.
Home warrantyContains all the coverage of the property, time span, and cost
Power of attorneyIf the property is inherited, then the seller needs to furnish the details of the history and how the property was passed onto him/her.
Closing disclosureProof that the seller agreed to buyer concessions. The disclosure is provided to the lender.

Ask Questions


If you have decided about selling a house by owner in California or any other state, you can schedule an appointment with the closing agent before the date of the closing. Also, prior to that, do your research and clarify your doubts in the meeting. If you are already prepared for how to sell your house by owner, it will make a huge difference.

Bring TWO Forms of Official ID


There will likely be a licensed notary involved in the closing process who’ll require you to swear on your identity. You would be required to furnish identity proof (like passport, driving license, or any other authorized document) during the process. However, the closing process might also require you to produce secondary identity proof.

Closing documents are legally binding agreements, so ensure you keep the paperwork error-free. Also, any errors can derail your sale and you may be forced to re-list your house. Not only this, if you are stuck with wrong paperwork, it can also severely impact the closing cost.

» More: Closing cost calculator for California

12. Awareness of The Hidden Costs While Selling a House in California

It should be noted that realtor commission and sale price are not the only two things that are involved from a real estate transaction perspective. In California, there are multiple other fees involved while selling a house that should be known to a seller and are crucial for a sale.

Moreover, it is estimated that a seller gives 6-10% of the sale price as hidden costs while selling a house in California.

Here’s a list of additional costs that a seller might have to bear while selling a house by owner in the state of California:

Escrow feeAn Escrow agent/company handles the closing process in California. Therefore, an Escrow agent is important for the transfer of title, and other important tasks. Escrow agents generally hold the concerned property in trust till all the negotiations, inspections, legal work, and closing processes are not completed. The escrow fee is thus to compensate the Escrow agent for the services provided.
 
Read Escrow Timeline in California for more information.
Title feeIn California, you would require to shell out the title search fees which proves that you are the rightful owner of the property. This can be anywhere between $200-$1000 based on the county and some other factors.
Closing cost concessionSome buyers may ask the sellers to cover their closing costs. If it is accepted by the seller, the cost can vary between 1-3% of the sale price.
City or County transfer feeBased on a specific county or city, there can be a transfer fee involved if the seller is relocating.
Notary feeThis fee is paid to the notary for important paperwork and establishing your identity.
HOA transfer feeApplicable only if your property has an HOA. It is paid by the seller for documentation and registration of the buyer. The fee is around $1000.
Home warranty feeClosing concession fee that is taken up by the seller for the buyer. The fee is based on location and the company providing the warranty. It can cost around $200-1000.
Termite Inspection feeThough this fee seems to be optional, is very common in California. It depends on the location of the property and loan a buyer is using. The fee is nominal i.e. around $100, but bad inspection results mean you will have to shell out extra bucks.
Natural Hazard Disclosure ReportAs discussed earlier too, this report highlights if the property is in a hazardous area. It includes a detailed report of the hazards that the location is prone to and other nuisances. The disclosure costs around $100-150
Lien release feeIf it is verified that there are debts relating to your property then you will have to pay the dues before sale closure. A lien release document is generally required which proves that all the debts are repaid.

Bottom-line: Selling a House in California By Owner Requires a Good Understanding

Here is what the picture looks like for a seller selling a house in California:

Minimum Service StateYes (Listing agents need to properly inspect the listed property and disclose all the facts)
Seller DisclosuresComplex
Hidden CostsYes
Closing ProcessComplex

So, summarizing the answer to the question – how to sell a house in California by owner?

Selling a house in California by owner is a bit tough and complicated than in other states. A seller will need to be aware of a lot of processes and documents that form a part of the process. In fact, for most of the new sellers, the extra bucks incurred come at a cost. Ultimately, you will have to be on top of many things in order to close the deal and may require professional help.

This is where Houzeo can help. With Houzeo, you have the option to list your property as an owner and enable a smooth closing process. You do not have to worry about complex processes as the platform is 100% online. It will help in listing your property on the MLS at a flat rate and take care of other tasks that otherwise would require manual intervention. Another big point is that due to platforms like Houzeo, the real estate agent’s commissions are declining. This is because of the Flat Fee MLS structure that Houzeo provides.

Check out some of the Houzeo reviews and how it has helped customers around the US.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What's FSBO?

FSBO, or For Sale By Owner, as the name suggests, is a term used for selling of house by the owner himself and without any help from agent.

Is MLS needed to sell For Sale By Owner?

Absolutely! MLS is by far the most important tool a real estate agent can provide you. The US Department of Justice says that home sellers can save $6,200 on the sale of median-priced homes by choosing innovative services like MLS-only packages offered by brokers on Houzeo. If your home is more expensive – it’s much much more than that!

Is California minimum service state?

Yes, California is a minimum service state.

What is the average realtor commission rate in California?

It varies between 4-5%

What are some of the Required State Disclosures in California?

California Transfer Disclosure Statement, Megan's Law Disclosure, Natural Hazard Disclosure Report/Statement, Statewide Buyer & Seller Advisory..and more

What are the steps to get my home ready for sale in California?

(1) Declutter & Depersonalize:
(2) Make repairs.
(3) Repaint Neutral
(4) Improve Curb Appeal.

How do I list my home for sale in local MLS in California?

First, log in to Houzeo using your e-mail, Facebook or google plus account. Click “Sell a Property” on the dashboard and fill out the address. Select a listing pan and Houzeo’s IntelliList Management System will make listing home easy and quick for you. Upload photos set a price, and sign your MLS contracts—it’s that easy, and your home will be listed on the local MLS in no time.

How long does it take to get my listing on the MLS in California?

It takes 1-2 business days. In case of Houzeo, after you’ve submitted your property info and all other details, your home will go live on the same day or the next business day. The MLS system will manually enter the listing that takes extra two business days to process and activate.

What are the necessary documents in closing your home?

Review these important documents in advance before the scheduled closing date. First, the HUD-1 or Closing disclosure that details the amounts you’re charged for, your loan payoffs if any, and the net proceeds you will take to the bank. Depending on how much equity you have in the property, you may need to bring a check (or send a wire) on the closing date.

What do I need to bring during closing?

Before the closing, make sure to prepare two forms of official ID. Use a valid driver’s license or passport—and a secondary as well, just in case. There will likely be a licensed notary who will need you to confirm your identification.

California For Sale By Owner Real Estate