“For Sale By Owner” – Selling Your Own Home

Some sellers believe that selling a home themselves is a viable alternative to listing with a Realtor, and they choose to market the home as a “FSBO”.  If you elect this option, be prepared for a lot of work. It can and has been done, of course, but if you don’t have the time and energy to commit to it (or need to sell in a hurry) this option might not be for you.

Here is a “To-Do” to get you started as a FSBO:

Gather Information. Gather all information possible about your property including maps, final and size information from the local building department, homeowner’s association restrictions and rules, and data about your mortgage including whether it has a pre-payment penalty.

Learn the current market. How much are properties similar to yours selling for?   How much competition do you have?  What is the average number of market days for closed sales? What property disclosure laws do you need to take into consideration?

Determine your price. Once you know the specifics about your home and have checked out what similar properties in your area are selling for, set a realistic price.  You’ll want to carefully research sold prices to help set your price.  Your county recorder’s office may be able to assist you with recent closings.  You may want to bump the price up by 10 or 15% as most buyer offers initially come in well below the asking price.

Carefully examine your property. Look at it from the perspective of both the prospective buyer and the inspector. Take notes on all items that need to be repaired or replaced. Things to consider include:


  • From the street, is the house appealing? This is called “curb appeal”.
  • Does it need to be spruced up with interior or exterior paint?
  • Is the lawn & landscaping attractive and well-kept?  Are there any dead trees that need to be removed?
  • Are the windows and doors attractive and in good repair?
  • Is the roof (and the gutters) in good repair?
  • Has the required lot clearing been adequately completed to reduce fire danger?


  • Are the interior paints & finishes in good condition (recently updated), or do they need to be freshened up? This is one area with the best return on investment. Paint is cheap!
  • Are the appliances in good working order and not too out dated?
  • Are the plumbing and electrical systems in good repair?
  • Does the furnace/heating system function properly?
  • Is the wood stove installed correctly; has the chimney been cleaned recently?
  • Are the carpets or other floor coverings clean & in good repair?
  • Are the seals around windows, toilets and bath tubs or showers intact?  Caulk is an easy and inexpensive way to spruce things up.
  • Are all light fixtures working properly, and is there good lighting in each room?

**Once you’re completed the above inspections, perform any repairs needed.  This will greatly improve the marketability of your home.

Provide HOA information. You are required to disclose all information about your homeowners association, including CC & R’s, pending litigation, insurance coverage, meeting minutes and dues amounts to a buyer.  You should obtain all of the HOA disclosures in preparation for a buyer.  There may be a charge for the packet.

Decide how much you’re willing to spend on marketing. Are you planning on making color flyers, posting your information on the internet, running open houses, etc.?  The cost of signs and directional arrows should also be included here.

Decide on advertising. Research the area newspapers and free media, such as the Buy and Sell Press.  The Calaveras Enterprise is distributed locally but since many buyers come from out of the area, investing in advertising in this paper may not yield inquiries.  Your best bet for exposure is going to be the internet.   It may be worthwhile to set up a single web page for your home, and try and get it placed on the various search engines such as Google and Yahoo (there will probably be a cost associated with this).  Craig’s List is another good place to advertise your home.

Put together a marketing plan. Once you’ve completed your advertising research, decide how to best (within your budget) reach buyers.  Bear in mind that in the Arnold and surrounding areas, about 95% of sales are made to out of area buyers who are looking for a vacation home.  In order to reach this market, you’ll need to do significant internet advertising, and may also want to purchase mailing lists or a direct marketing calling program to get your information out to the appropriate audience.

Create your written advertising pieces. You will definitely want a well-designed, attractive color flyer which contains the key information about the house (square footage, bedrooms/bathrooms, lot size, amenities, etc).  You’ll want to be sure to include numerous color photos.   You may want to provide this information and photos to the local newspapers for use in a display ad.  Don’t cut corners on this. A well-crafted ad and color flyers can attract buyers, especially if you’ve installed a flyer box on your “For Sale” sign in front of the house.  Make sure you always keep the box filled with flyers!

Make yourself available. You’ll want to keep the house clean and neat during any potential showing times.  All beds should be made, dishes done, carpets vacuumed and clutter picked up so that potential buyers will see the house in its best possible light.  Once the sign is installed in front of the house, you can expect a knock on the door at almost any time, so be prepared!

Order and place a custom for sale sign. Your sign should be colorful, attractive and waterproof.   Place your sign where it can easily be seen from the road, but out of the way of winter snow removal equipment.

Make an informational flyer. Design a single sheet description of your property listing the features and benefits that will draw in prospective buyers. The description should include: bedroom/bathroom count, square footage, age, a list of improvements made, and any other unique characteristics of the house.  The flyer will ideally be full color, and should be attractive and professional looking. Have enough copies on hand to give out at open house showings and keep your flyer box stocked.

Obtain “open house” signs and directional arrows. Signage should be bright and colorful to draw the eye. You should plan on placing one on your driveway and another 4-6 signs in obvious locations around the neighborhood, especially if your place is located quite a distance from Highway 4. For these, directional arrows can point prospective buyers to your house if they don’t know the area. Make sure that you take these signs down as soon as the open house is over. You don’t want people knocking on your door after hours.

Schedule your open house dates. Most prospective buyers come to the Arnold area from out of town.  Their visits usually land on weekends or holidays.  You might want to target major holidays such as Fourth of July or Labor Day weekend on which to run open houses, as these are high visitor count days.  There may be internet sites where you can advertise your open house dates in advance, though directional signs will be your best bet in getting folks to your home.

Keep a log of visitors.  As people come through during open houses or other showings, or as they call from reading your ads or seeing the sign out front, keep a list with their names, phone numbers and email addresses. Concentrate your attention on those who seem serious about your property, as opposed to those who are just checking out the neighborhood or are just curious neighbors. Make sure that you make follow up telephone calls or emails to all those who seem seriously interested in your property.

How to negotiate with a buyer in the picture. Try to avoid emotional reactions once you enter negotiations with a potential buyer.  If it’s a buyer’s market, be prepared for a “low-ball” offer, maybe as much as 10 to 15% below your asking price.  Most buyers want to feel that they’ve haggled and obtained their very best price during this process.

Have the appropriate forms on hand. There are quite a few forms are needed for the legal sale of your property. In addition to the California Residential Purchase Agreement and any counteroffers and local addendums, there are approximately 15 other forms that the seller is required to provide to the buyer. Once you have obtained all the required forms, you should carefully review them so you’re clear on which ones need to be provided to the buyer and at what point during the escrow process.  Many of these documents are prescribed by California or federal law and must be adhered to exactly. The proper forms may be obtained from your local Board of Realtors or possibly a local stationary store or online.

Items to be negotiated in the purchase agreement. You and the buyer should come to agreement on all of the following:

  • Purchase price
  • Inspection contingencies and who pays for inspections
  • Who pays for title and escrow fees
  • Which title company will run the escrow
  • What happens in the case of buyer or seller default
  • Whether there is financing, especially seller financing, involved
  • Proposed close of escrow date
  • Date of possession
  • Personal property to be included/excluded
  • Title and escrow fee splits
  • Home warranty options
  • Natural hazard zone disclosure report
  • We highly recommend you work with an attorney on all contract documents to ensure you have included all required forms and disclosures.

Pre-closing walk-through. When both the buyers and an objective 3rd party can be present, schedule a final walk-through before close of escrow in order to determine that the property being conveyed meets the expectations of all parties involved. You should resolve any disputes before the transfer of title.

Locate and make arrangements for a replacement home. If you plan on purchasing or building a replacement home, you will need to carefully orchestrate the close of escrow for both your current home and the new home.  Usually, your existing home will need to fully close escrow before you can complete the funds transfer and close on the replacement home.  If might be wise to work closely with both your attorney, as well as the title companies on both ends of the transaction in order to successfully negotiate the closings.

As you can see, selling a home yourself involves lots of time and effort, and is not for all sellers. Decide before starting the process whether you feel comfortable handling all aspects of a For Sale By Owner transaction.