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For Sale by Owner (FSBO): Definition, Costs, Benefits, and Risks

File Photo: For Sale by Owner (FSBO): Definition, Costs, Benefits, and Risks
File Photo: For Sale by Owner (FSBO): Definition, Costs, Benefits, and Risks File Photo: For Sale by Owner (FSBO): Definition, Costs, Benefits, and Risks

What does For Sale by Owner (FSBO) entail?

“For sale by owner” (FSBO) means a property can be bought straight from the owner. Some sellers chose this to avoid agency fees. Commissions, often 5% to 6% of the transaction price, are shared between the seller’s agent (listing agent or broker) and the buyer’s agent, if applicable. Although cheaper for the owner, FSBO sales have drawbacks, as described here.

How FSBO Works

Before, real estate agents earned up to 6% commission. These commissions are adjustable and depend on the real estate market and other considerations. Since 1991, RealTrends has tracked average commissions, which were 5.32% in 2022. The lowest average was 4.94% in 2020, according to RealTrends.

Real estate brokers provide several services for commission. Those include:

  • To determine the asking price, investigate comparable properties in the region, considering things like bedrooms and square size.
  • Preparing the home for sale and providing repair suggestions.
  • Responsible for marketing, including advertising, internet listings, brochures, flyers, and MLS listings.
  • Arranging viewings and appointments.
  • Negotiating the sale price and terms after an offer
  • Creating the sales contract, residential property disclosure form, mineral and oil rights form, occupancy agreement, and lead-based paint disclosure Sellers may need to locate a property survey, permits, COs, financing paperwork, utility bills, property tax bills, HOA covenants, and title.
  • Prepare and sign the deed (e.g., quit claim, warranty, etc.) and have it witnessed and notarized.
  • Sale closure. Depending on the state, the closing may occur at a title firm or real estate attorney’s office.

The homeowner, generally with an attorney, sets the price, advertises and shows the house, negotiates the selling conditions, and prepares the legal documents in an FSBO (pronounced “fizzbo”).

What do FSBOs cost?

Some FSBOs are cheaper than traditional real estate transactions but not free. The buyer’s agent commission and legal expenses might be costly.

Attorney Fees

FSBO purchase contracts may be written in numerous ways. Individuals may utilize online blank contracts. offers paperwork bundles for this.

Additionally, the seller might use a local real estate attorney to draft and evaluate contracts. reports that attorneys charge $800 to $1,200 per transaction or $150 to $350 per hour, depending on the market and effort required. Several states require sellers to employ an attorney even if they sell the house themselves.

The buyer’s agent may supply a contract.

Purchaser Agent Commissions

Buyers often use their real estate agents, which the seller must pay. That commission is usually 2%–3% of the sales price.

FSBO sellers may refuse to pay buyer’s agency commissions, according to Buyers usually request a credit to the purchase price to reimburse their agent. The vendor will have to pay it nonetheless.

Since buyer agents utilize multiple listing systems (MLS) to search houses for their customers, sellers without real estate agents will not usually have their homes listed in one. However, some brokerages provide flat-fee listing services.

Alternative FSBOs

Sellers who don’t want to pay a full-service real estate agent 6% but don’t want to do it themselves have alternative options.

Some real estate brokers charge a fixed price for fewer services. MLS listings are an example.

Discount real estate brokers advertise 1% commissions and a variety of services.

Downsides of FSBOs

Commission savings of thousands might seem enticing. It’s vital to note that sellers without real estate agents accept all transaction liabilities.

Mistakes can be expensive if the seller is new to house purchasing and selling. If they list the house too high, fewer buyers will consider it, and it may take longer to sell. Setting the price too low might cost more than employing an agent.

Selling a property via FSBO might be risky if the documentation isn’t correctly written or the home has hidden flaws.

Some real estate agents may shy away from showing FSBO properties or refuse to do so. They may have been burned by FSBO sellers who didn’t pay commissions or were tough.

Finally, vendors must consider time commitments.

How Are Realtors Paid?

Sellers’ real estate agents receive a portion of the sale price. Another agent representing the buyer gets a percentage commission on the price. The seller pays both commissions from selling revenues.

Commissions average 5% to 6% of the sale price and are paid at closing.

A real estate agent vs. a broker?

Home sellers and purchasers can use real estate agents and brokers for several duties. Brokers have completed further training and passed the broker’s license exam, while agents have passed their state’s licensing examinations. Broker offices often have many agents.

How much is an MLS listing?

Listing your house on an MLS without a listing agent may cost $100 to $500. Some realtors charge a set fee for an MLS listing and extra for other services. Online MLS listing services are also available.

Bottom Line

FSBOs can save thousands in commissions. However, expenses remain. Sellers should compare their savings against the services of a knowledgeable real estate agent before selecting. They might also outsource some work to a flat-fee or bargain broker.


  • Traditional real estate sellers pay their agents and buyers up to 6% commissions.
  • Sellers choose FSBO to avoid paying an agency; however, they must pay the buyer’s agent 2% to 3%.
  • The seller performs listing agent obligations in FSBO transactions.
  • FSBO prices sometimes include lawyer fees.



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