Home for Sale by Owner: Tips and Advice

Home for Sale by Owner (FSBO) Tips and Advice
When buying a home that’s for sale by the owner, there are some things you should know beforehand. 

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Homes for sale by the owner seem to have an unfair reputation. Many people believe that a home for sale by the owner means that it’s ridden with problems or that the seller is cheap or penny-pinching. However, if you’re choosing to avoid these listings, you could miss out on a large chunk of homes currently listed for sale – one of them could be your dream home. We’ve compiled some tips for buyers to make informed decisions when looking for and considering a home for sale by the owner.

Some benefits and downfalls of buying a home for sale by the owner 

It may be intimidating to buy a home directly from the homeowner instead of dealing with a listing agent. There are drawbacks to purchasing a home this way, but there are benefits as well.

Pros:

  • Homeowners know their home better than anyone and may be able to give you more details and information than a listing agent could. Homeowners will know about the surrounding area, the neighbourhood, historical significance and tiny, small details that could add to the character and overall value of the home.
  • Being able to speak and communicate with the owner directly is a great benefit. When you eliminate the intermediary (the listing agent), you may hear back from the seller faster. You may even have an easier time negotiating with them when you’re able to speak to them directly because you can both explain your reasoning.

Cons:

  • These sales tend to be a bit more challenging and complex than other real estate transactions.
  • Many homeowners have an unrealistic idea of what their home is worth. They may not understand the real estate market and the process that goes into pricing a home appropriately. If you haven’t done your research, you may pay more for the home than you should.
  • By law, sellers must disclose any known problems with the home. A homeowner may not be as honest about known defects or may be unaware of disclosure requirements altogether.

It’s essential to know your market

Research is everything. When looking for homes for sale by owner, you should expect that many of these homes may be listed well above their worth. Always do research on the current real estate market and what other homes in the area have sold for. Start watching sales activities in the neighbourhoods you’re interested in well in advance to get a good idea of what a new or old home in the area would be worth. If a home for sale by the owner is listed significantly higher than what it’s worth, you’ll be able to approach the buyer with the information and data you’ve collected.

Ask questions 

Since you’re communicating with the homeowner directly, they’ll be the one answering the questions you have. It’s crucial to ask the right questions so you can make informed decisions based on the answers you receive.

Examples of questions you should ask when buying a home for sale by owner:

  • What is the neighbourhood like? How are the neighbours?
  • What made you decide to sell your home?
  • Have there been any past issues with the home or property?
  • How long has your home been on the market?
  • What’s included in the sale of the home?
  • What were the previous selling prices?
  • Have you done any significant repairs or renovations?
  • What do you like most about this home?

Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to. Buying a home is one of the most significant investments you’ll ever make. You should ask the same questions as you would if there was an agent involved.

Include contingencies 

With the housing market’s current state, many buyers have begun putting in offers without any contingencies to increase the likelihood of their offer getting accepted. Writing in contingencies in your offers on homes for sale by owner is the best way to ensure that you’re getting exactly what you paid for. If the seller doesn’t meet one of the contingency factors (i.e., pest inspection, insurability, clear title), then your contract will be null and void.

Never buy a home for sale by owner without a proper inspection

It’s not required to get an inspection when buying a home for sale by the owner, but it’s one hundred percent recommended. Choosing to forgo a proper inspection can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run. A home could look great from the outside, but the small things you don’t see right away can cause you the most significant problems. Even if the homeowner claims there aren’t any defects or issues, you should never make any decisions without consulting a professional beforehand. An inspector will look for and find things that you nor the seller knew existed. You can include a home inspection as a contingency of your offer on the home.

Consult with professionals 

Nowadays, modern real estate contracts can seem pretty straightforward. Regardless, there are still t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted. You want to make sure that your purchase is legitimate and follows real estate laws. Hiring a real estate lawyer is not always necessary, but it can be worth the expense. Knowledge and understanding of the paperwork involved in buying a home for sale by the owner are one of the most challenging parts of the transactions. One small mistake or missed detail could cost you more or make your home buying experience significantly more stressful.

In addition to hiring a real estate lawyer, you should also invest in an experienced real estate agent and a home inspector. It’s always a good idea to have a solid team of professionals on your side to look over your transaction and give you guidance and advice. Just because the seller chooses to go through this process independently doesn’t mean that you have to.

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