Selling a house by owner in California typically costs up to 6.67% of the final sale price, or about $49,484 for the average property worth $741,789. At first glance, properties listed as for sale by owner (FSBO) appear to save sellers an average of 2.50% on listing agent commission fees — or about $18,500 — based on the median home value in California.
However, even by eliminating listing agent fees, selling FSBO probably isn't as cheap as you might think.
Use the calculator below to estimate your actual FSBO selling costs. The calculator defaults to the required costs only, but you can adjust the additional recommended fees as needed based on your unique situation.
This guide will further explain all these costs so you can fully understand what costs are required as a FSBO seller and which expenses are customizable. By the end, you'll be able to make informed decisions about maximizing your FSBO savings without jeopardizing your sale!
Summary: Typical FSBO costs and fees in California
Surprised by the hidden costs of selling without an agent? Here are some of the major expenses that most FSBO sellers don't consider:
- Closing costs. Sellers in California typically pay for the buyer's title insurance ($1,338), the recording fee ($244), transfer taxes (0.11% for state tax plus county tax rate), and the title service fee ($2,471), for a total of about $2,398 in closing costs.
- Buyer's agent commission. Most sellers cover the buyer's agent commission fee (2.41%, or about $17,877 for the average home).
- Professional valuation. FSBO sellers should consider getting a broker price opinion (BPO) or a professional appraisal to accurately price their homes. A valuation usually costs $100–400.
- Flat fee MLS listing. Using a flat fee MLS service ($95 to $2,495) helps sellers market their property to agents and buyers in the area.
- Pre-listing expenses. Sellers are recommended to budget anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for basic pre-listing prep work such as painting, deep cleaning, and repairs, depending on how much work you want to put in.
- Real estate attorney fees. Although it's not required in California, we strongly recommend FSBO sellers hire a real estate attorney to help them through the closing process and minimize liability. The average flat rate for an attorney is about $1,000, or you can pay an average of $247 per hour.
FSBO vs realtor: Are the potential savings worth it?
When you sell FSBO, you can save $18,500 by avoiding paying a listing agent's commission. However, that means assuming a lot of the risks and many of the costs of services a real estate agent provides. In the end, your savings might not be as great as you'd hoped. Luckily, discount brokers over a full service option and still save you thousands when you sell.
» SAVE: Explore FSBO alternatives in California
Typical pre-listing expenses for FSBO sellers in California
Pre-listing expenses are things you do before you put your house on the market. Generally, FSBO sellers in California can expect to pay between $100–3,225 on pre-listing costs based on inspections and optional repairs. However, these expenses may vary depending on the condition and location of your home.
Recommended: Professional home valuation ($100–400)
Since many FSBO sellers have trouble accurately pricing their home, it's a good idea to get a professional home valuation. Home values in California have skyrocketed in the past few decades, so a professional appraiser can tell you what your home is really worth.
For example, the popularity of San Francisco has led to a 290% increase in home values since 2000. This means that a property purchased for $350,000 in 2000 would be worth $1.3 million today!
Generally speaking, if your home is priced too high, it'll be difficult to sell. On the flip side, undervaluing your home won't let you earn the money your house is actually worth.
There are two options for getting your home professionally valuated:
- Broker price opinion (BPO): This is when a broker or real estate agent does a basic inspection of your home and compares it to similar properties in the area. A BPO costs about $100 on average and often works best for sellers in suburban or urban regions.
- Appraisal: An appraisal is a bit pricier ($300 to $400), but it's completed by a certified appraiser who will conduct a more detailed analysis and consider more market trends in your area. This option is best for sellers in less populated areas or with more unique homes. The more unique your house is, the more difficult it will be to find similar comps.
Optional: Pre-listing inspection ($340)
The average home inspection costs about $340 on average, but this can vary depending on the square footage of your property. In Los Angeles, for example, the average cost of a home inspection is $320.
Pre-listing inspections aren't necessary in California, but getting one can give buyers additional peace of mind. If your home has a serious issue that could impact the sale, getting an inspection can be a good idea.
Don't worry about getting one if your home is less than 5 years old or is being sold to an investor. If you have the time and flexibility to negotiate with buyers, you don't need a home inspection, either.
Optional: Repairs and improvements $168–2,485
Making some minor repairs and adding a few cosmetic improvements to your home can make a major difference to potential buyers.
In California, the average cost of repairs all depends on how much work you want to put in. Here's how the standard fees for some of the most common improvements break down:
Additional costs to consider include landscaping ($3,372 on average) and staging ($1,461). Staging services can help you declutter, organize, and refresh your home to appeal to more buyers, but it can get pricey.
To keep more of your money in your pocket, you could do some DIY projects. Just keep your own timeline in mind — it might be worth it to hire a pro if you don't have the time or materials necessary to complete each task on time.
Typical listing-related expenses for FSBO sellers in California
Listing expenses refer to the costs associated with putting your home on the market, attracting buyers, and selecting an offer. These fees vary a lot depending on how you want to market your home and conduct showings.
We've also included a few marketing suggestions that might help you sell your home faster.
Recommended: Lockbox purchase ($25–100)
A lockbox is a small box with a combination lock that holds a key to the property. This device lets buyers' agents check out your home, even if you're not there.
We strongly recommended getting a lockbox to give potential buyers the freedom to tour the property without feeling pressured or rushed. Visitors typically feel more comfortable speaking honestly with their agent or partner if the seller isn't around. It's also a major time commitment to be available whenever someone wants to check out your home!
A standard lockbox can cost under $30, whereas more expensive Bluetooth-enabled locks can exceed $100.
Recommended: FSBO yard sign ($2–35)
Putting a For Sale By Owner sign in your yard will help generate word-of-mouth referrals and attract attention from local agents and buyers. You can buy a basic corrugated plastic sign or an aluminum sign with a thin H-frame ($1–3) or a sign frame ($18–35). If you're located in a more expensive neighborhood, you may opt for a sign post, but these can cost over $50.
If you work with a flat fee MLS company, they might include a yard sign as part of their FSBO package.
Regardless of what type of sign you choose, make sure you include your name and contact information so buyers and agents can connect with you!
Recommended: Real estate photography ($195)
It's highly recommended to get a professional photographer to take pictures of your home since most people review houses online before visiting them in person.
The cost of standard real estate photography in California is about $195, but this can vary based on your location and the size of your home. If you'd like, you can further show off your property with 3D images or aerial photography, but these extra services can get pretty pricey.
Recommended: Flat fee MLS listing ($95–2,495)
If you're selling FSBO, the only way to get your home listed on the multiple listing service (MLS) database is to work with a flat fee MLS company. Only realtors are permitted to market properties on the MLS, and according to our 2022 survey of 1,000 home sellers, 71% of home buyers browse sites fueled by the MLS.
Not listing your house on the MLS can cause your property to be overlooked by countless agents and prospective buyers. For instance, the largest MLS source in California (CRMLS) aggregates 40 local MLS databases to reach the largest possible audience.
The cost of a flat fee MLS package varies based on the number of extra services you need. If all you want is to get listed on the database, you can expect to pay around $100. If you want help marketing your property or need additional supplies to advertise your home, it can range from a few hundred dollars to over $3,000.
✋ What about free listing sites?
There are several free websites that allow FSBO listings, such as Zillow, Facebook, and Craigslist. However, these sites aren't used by actual real estate agents as often as the MLS database. Furthermore, using a flat fee MLS company will automatically sync your listing to hundreds of other websites and local brokerage sites anyways.
Optional: Additional recommended advertising (~$350)
If you want to go above and beyond with your marketing strategy, there are a few additional options to consider:
- Brochures and hand-outs: You can design your own open house brochures using a variety of online templates. Sites like Vistaprintoffer different brochure sizes, folds, and designs that you can customize and then order in bulk. One of the most popular options is 250 brochures for $107.50 ($0.43 per brochure)
- Social media posts: If you want your listing to stand out on social media, you can boost one of your posts for as little as $1 per day. Facebookand Instagram both allow you to customize your own budget and choose how often to boost your listing.
- Materials for open houses and showings: You might want to offer refreshments for visitors, brochures for them to take home, a sign-in list, candles to make your home smell inviting, or other small attention-grabbing items. Costs here can vary a lot based on personal preferences, and sellers can feel free to get creative to help their home stand out.
Closing costs for FSBO sellers in California
% of sale price
Buyer's agent commission (recommended)
Real estate attorney fees (recommended)
$247 per hour
Title service fees (required)
Prorated property taxes (required)
Up to 0.74%
Up to $5,502
State transfer tax (required)
County transfer tax (varies by county) (required)
Based on the median home value in California ($741,789)
When you sell FSBO, expect to pay up to 5.81% in closing costs, or about $$43,084 based on the median home value of $741,789.
Closing fees can be paid using the funds you earned from the sale. In other words, you won't have to pay these fees out of pocket unless you're underwater on your mortgage.
Furthermore, although most of these fees are required in California, buyers and sellers can negotiate which costs each person is responsible for.
Recommended: Buyer’s agent fee ($17,877)
Unless you're selling directly to someone you know or an unrepresented buyer, you'll probably have to offer the buyer's agent commission. In California, the average buyer's agent commission is 2.41% of the sales price, $17,877 based on the median home value of $741,789.
However, the commission rate is always negotiable. If you're selling FSBO, you can negotiate directly with the agent to come to an agreement that's fair for both parties.
Recommended: Real estate attorney fees ($247 per hour)
FSBO sellers in California aren't required to hire a real estate attorney, but we recommend getting legal advice when reviewing offers or completing the closing process. The average cost of a flat rate package is about $1,000, or between $150 and $350 per hour. Most attorneys will offer a free consultation to assess your needs and give you a more accurate price estimate.
Required: Title service fees ($4,054)
Title service fees cover the costs of working with a title company, the recording fee ($244), and the owner's title insurance ($1,338). On average, these services add up to about $4,054 in California.
Recording fees pay for the services needed to transfer and update real estate documents whenever property is bought or sold. Recording fees can cover the costs of affidavits, leases, mortgages, deeds, or other documents.
Owner's title insurance protects the buyer in case of any issues with the title. In Southern California, it's customary for the seller to cover this cost for the buyer. In Northern California, the buyer usually pays for their own title insurance.
Optional: Concessions ($14,840)
Seller concessions are more common in a buyer's market, where there are more homes for sale than potential buyers. Concessions are any closing costs the seller agrees to pay to make the closing process more affordable for the buyer. For example, a seller might offer to pay for certain repairs or cover the home inspection fee.
In today's market, you may not have to pay concessions at all. On average, however, concessions in California cost about 2% for sellers, which is about $14,840 based on the median home price.
Required: Prorated property taxes (up to $5,502)
Statewide, the average property tax rate is 0.74% of the property value, or about $5,502 annually. Prorated property taxes are fees split between the buyer and seller based on how long each party actually lived in the home.
For example, if the seller lived in the home for 10 months before selling the home, they should cover the property taxes for that period of time.
Required: State transfer tax ($816)
The transfer tax rate is 0.11%, or about $816 for the average California home. This fee covers the costs of transferring ownership of the property to your buyer.
Buyers and sellers can negotiate who pays for the transfer tax, but generally speaking, sellers usually cover the cost in southern California and the buyer typically pays in Southern California.
Required: County transfer taxes ($870)
In addition to state transfer taxes, individual cities or counties in California may charge fees as well. On average, most local transfer taxes cost $1.10 per $1,000 of the property's value — or 0.11%.
If you're selling an expensive home or live in a pricier neighborhood, you may have to pay higher local transfer fees. For instance, a home that sells for more than $5 million in Santa Monica will accrue $7.10 per $1,000 — or 0.71% — of the property's value.
Summary: Cost to sell a house without a realtor in California
FSBO sellers in California will spend 3.86% to 6.67% of their home's property value to sell their home. However, the savings that come from working without a realtor might not be worth the extra work and hassle.
FSBO sellers will have to manage all the tasks an agent usually takes care of, such as marketing the property, negotiating with buyers, and hosting house showings. Sellers will also have to pay for things out of pocket that an agent would normally cover, such as a lockbox, yard sign, MLS listing, and professional photography.
It might be helpful to investigate the costs of these services in your area to see how much you'll actually save if you sell without a realtor.
FSBO alternatives in California: Better ways to save on realtor commission
If selling without a realtor sounds too stressful, you can sell directly to a cash buyer or work with a discount broker to save money without missing out on valuable services.
A cash buyer typically refers to a company, such as Premier Property Buyers or SoCal Home Buyers, that can purchase your home without taking out a mortgage. These companies buy homes as-is, which lets you avoid the costs of preparing your home for sale and marketing your property. The downside is that cash buyer companies will typically pay much less than your home is actually worth.
Another option to consider is a discount brokerage. A discount brokerage will connect you with full-service real estate agents who are willing to work for a lower commission rate. Instead of paying the standard 2.50% commission rate for a listing agent, you could spend just 1.5% by working with a service like Clever Real Estate.
Clever pre-negotiates with top agents across the country to help sellers keep more of the money they earn on their home sale. Check out Clever to get matched with an agent today and see how much you can save!
FAQs on costs to sell a home by owner in California
FSBO sellers don't have to pay commission to a listing agent, which can help them save 2.50%, or about $18,545 based on the median home price in California. However, not using an agent can cause different expenses to add up, such as marketing fees, home staging, photography, and more.
Unless you sell directly to a friend or an unrepresented buyer, you'll likely have to cover the cost of the buyer's agent. If you don't offer commission, realtors won't be inclined to show their clients your home. In California, the standard commission rate for buyer's agents is 2.41%, which comes to about $17,877 based on the median home value.