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Should ‘For Sale By Owner’ Scare You? The Pros and Cons of FSBO Homes

For sale by owner (FSBO) homes are easily identified by their signs and listings due to the vacancy of real estate agent information. Many homebuyers shy away from purchasing a home that's an FSBO property for a number of reasons: advice of their real estate agent, advice of a friend or lack of familiarity with the transaction process.

FSBO homes may offer a deal you can't resist. When it comes to deciding whether to make an offer on an FSBO home, you'll need to weigh the pros and cons based on your specific situation and preferences. Below we'll discuss the pros and cons of an FSBO home to help you determine whether it's a purchase transaction you'd like to pursue.

Advantages and Disadvantages of FSBO Homes

Pros Cons
Lower contract price Paying real estate agent fees
Creative contracts Complicated documents
More information Price
Daily involvement Repairs
- Closing costs
- Daily involvement

Pros of FSBO

So what are the pros of purchasing a home that is for sale by owner? We'll outline a few below:

Lower Contract Price

When the seller isn't paying a real estate agent, they may have the ability to list the price more competitively than that of similar homes, which can result in lower monthly payments for you.

Creative Contracting

Are you the type of person that likes to get creative with your deals? Assuming VA lender guidelines are met, you can get creative with the purchase contract. For example, say the seller wants to remain living in the home for 2 weeks after the closing date. You can include this provision in your contract. By putting the seller directly across the table, you can put your heads together and find win-win solutions to any issues that may arise.

More Information

When real estate agents are involved, you're communicating with the seller through third parties. By breaking down the barriers of communication between buyer and seller, you may find out more about the history of the property than you would otherwise. You can brainstorm numerous questions to ask the seller and assuming they’re honest, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of the home.

Daily involvement

Without a real estate agent as your go-between with the seller, inspectors, title company and other third parties, you'll be involved in the transaction almost daily to ensure your desired time-frames are met and you remain on schedule. But, as you can imagine, this could also be considered a con if you're extremely busy.

Cons of FSBO

Despite the pros, FSBO homes have these consideration for VA loan homebuyers:

Paying Real Estate Agent Fees

Generally, the reason a home is listed as For Sale By Owner is an attempt to cut costs.

On regular purchase contracts, the seller pays for all real estate agent fees, adding up to a significant chunk of money. By listing the home on their own, sellers look to avoid paying these fees.

This doesn't mean you can't use a real estate agent. But, the seller would likely ask you to be responsible for your own agent's fees. With a VA loan, however, Veterans cannot pay for any brokerage or agent fees, meaning the agent the Veteran uses is unlikely to be paid at the end of the day.

Daily Involvement

The typical length of time a buyer is under contract is approximately 30 days from the date a contract is received. If you don't have the time to take daily phone calls or meetings, then it may be worth it to pay a real estate agent to handle the day-to-day.

Complicated Documents

Most of us haven't drafted an extensive contract for a purchase as important and expensive as a home. This is one of the major benefits of using a real estate agent.

Like we discussed above, you aren't prohibited from using a real estate agent when purchasing an FSBO home, it's just likely going to come out of your pocket instead of the seller's. With that being said, if you work with a knowledgeable VA mortgage specialist, they can notify you of specific items that will need to be included in a contract to be able to move forward. Having this guidance may be all you need or want. It'll just depend on what you are comfortable with drafting.

Price

Some sellers may assess sentimental value to the property and as a result, list the home above market value. A sentimental seller may also be less willing to negotiate on certain concessions that are common to see when working with a real estate agent. In reality, you would like to pay below market price since most market comparisons include compensation for the agent in the sales price. If you aren't receiving the services of an agent, you shouldn't have to pay for it anyway.

Repairs

If you enter into a contract on an FSBO home, an appraisal will be conducted. If the appraisal notes any required repairs, the seller must make the repairs at no cost to you before a closing can occur.

Many FSBO sellers wish to sell a home "as-is" so they have little out-of-pocket cost. If the home is in good shape and doesn't appear to need any major repairs, this may not be an issue. But, if you're looking at older homes or a home that may need repairs, you'll want to discuss with the seller in advance their willingness to fix repairs noted as necessary on an appraisal, as this would be a deal breaker.

Closing Costs

On many VA mortgage purchase contracts, a seller and buyer negotiate the contract to reflect the seller paying all or a portion of the buyer's closing costs. An FSBO seller doesn't have the guidance of a real estate agent on contract terms and you may be greeted with some resistance when asking for the seller to pay your closing costs. If you are unable to negotiate seller paid closing costs, you'll have to pay them out of pocket at closing.

After reviewing these pros and cons and considering your specific situation you should be able to determine if pursuing a for sale by owner home is in your best interests. If still in doubt, consult with your VA mortgage specialist, your real estate agent, and possibly the seller.