What to Do When Someone Wants to Buy Your House Privately?


|10 min read

In a real estate market with limited supply, we’ve heard from many homeowners about increasing unsolicited offers on their properties. When you are approached with a private offer to buy your home, you may encounter several challenging scenarios.

Determining if the offer truly reflects your home’s value is difficult without market comparison. You might also think about avoiding real estate commission fees by selling privately, but it can lead to undervaluation of your property.

Additionally, navigating the transaction without professional assistance from a real estate agent can expose you to legal and financial vulnerabilities. You might also be missing out on potentially better deals, as your property does not get exposed to the wider market.

In this article, we’ll share details on what to do when someone wants to buy your house privately, the pros an cons of selling privately and how you can get the best value for your home.

Who are Private Buyers?

Private buyers can be homebuyers or investors interested in purchasing property without using a real estate agent. Typically, private buyers have been investors or house flippers looking to score a deal on a property they believe they can make profitable.

However, with an ongoing limited housing inventory, homebuyers increasingly act as private buyers trying to find their next house. They aren’t happy with the listed options, so they are approaching potential sellers off-market.

Private buyers can approach property owners, but they can also target off-market or pocket listings known to real estate agents but not marketed. Ultimately, these are parties looking to form a real estate transaction without a realtor as a deal facilitator.

Homeowners often encounter private buyers when they receive unsolicited offers or phone calls about their properties. The private buyer makes an assumption about the property’s value and then attempts to negotiate a deal without the use of an agent.

First, they will submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) before locking in a contract with an interested seller. Once a contract is signed, the process of selling your home to a private buyer is similar to the traditional home-selling process.

The difference between selling to a private buyer as opposed to selling on the open market is that you don’t have the representation or assistance of a real estate agent. This type of transaction is known as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO). Having no representation might mean saving on commissions, but it can potentially result in a sale price below market value or bad sale term conditions.

Do You Need a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Home Privately?

Selling your home is likely one of the most significant financial transactions you’ll make in your life. So, when you get an unsolicited offer from a private buyer, it can be tempting to skip the real estate agent and keep that commission in your pocket. But before you sign on the dotted line, let’s discuss whether going ‘agent-less’ is in your best interest.

When evaluating an offer from a private buyer, the first thing to look at is the proposed purchase price. Does it align with the current market value for comparable homes in your area?

An experienced real estate agent has the expertise to determine your home’s true market value through a comparative market analysis. They can advise you if the offer seems fair or if there is room to negotiate a higher sale price.

Aside from price, also scrutinize the offer terms and contingencies. For example, is the buyer requesting assistance with closing costs or a home warranty? Does the offer include contingencies for inspections or financing that could delay closing?

An agent can help you understand what you are agreeing to and what protections are in place for you as the seller. Using their negotiation skills, they can get you better terms.

Working with a real estate professional, even in a private sale, can give you greater confidence that your interests are protected. If you have already signed a listing agreement with a real estate agent but receive a private offer, you might be restricted in how you can sell to that buyer.

Whether you can sell to a private buyer without paying your agent’s commission depends on the type of listing agreement.

Open Listing Agreement Vs. Exclusive Listing Agreement

When listing your home for sale, you’ll sign an open or exclusive listing agreement with your real estate agent.

An open listing agreement allows you to hire multiple agents to list and market your home simultaneously. It means that no single agent has the right to market your home. You essentially “open” your home up to any interested agents.

With this non-exclusive agreement, you are not obligated to pay a commission if you find the buyer yourself, such as through a private sale. Open listings are common in off-market or pocket-listing scenarios.

In an exclusive listing agreement, you contract with one real estate agent for a defined period, typically a few months. This agent has the sole right to market your home and represent you in negotiations with potential buyers.

The exclusive agreement prohibits hiring other agents and means you must pay the listing agent’s commission, even if you find the buyer on your own. If you sell to a private buyer during the exclusive listing period or during the protection period (usually 90 days after the contract expires), you are still required to pay the agent’s commission.

Make sure you understand the type of listing agreement you have in place and if there is a protection clause before proceeding with a private buyer. If you’ve already signed a listing agreement and have to pay a commission, then leverage your agent’s expertise to make sure you get the best price.

Should You Hire a Real Estate Agent if You Are Selling to a Private Buyer?

Engaging a real estate agent to negotiate a sale to a private buyer is often a seller’s best bet to ensure they get top dollar. Yes, agents have access to multiple listing services (MLS) and other marketing tools, which can be crucial for reaching potential buyers.

But even in a private sale, an agent can offer valuable advice. For example, an agent can act as a neutral party and provide negotiation skills and objectivity. They will perform a comparative market analysis (CMA) so that you are confident in the value of your house and can negotiate a fair price.

Additionally, an agent’s expertise can be particularly helpful if the sale involves complex issues like liens, divorce settlements, or other legal complications. An agent helps maintain an emotional distance from the sale, which can be beneficial in making objective decisions and handling negotiations.

If you’ve already sourced a private buyer, talk to your agent about a significantly reduced sale commission. When an agent is only helping to finalize negotiations and doesn’t need to invest in marketing, they are often willing to work for a lower commission rate.

Managing the Closing Process if You Decide to Sell Privately

When you decide to sell your house independently to a private buyer, the closing process is a critical step and is often where sellers take a wrong turn. Legally transferring ownership is a complex process without real estate representation, but with research and preparation, you can navigate a smooth closing on your own terms.

First, understand your state’s specific requirements around closing paperwork, attorneys, title transfers, disclosures, and more. These vary widely nationwide – some states mandate using a real estate lawyer, while others permit self-guided closings with just a title company.

Once you know the rules, carefully choose your closing agent, which will likely be a title company or real estate attorney. Seek an affordable provider experienced with private sales in your local market. Their service can streamline the process and adequately handle documentation like title search, deed transfer, and recording.

Without representation, sellers must do independent research to understand what must happen before the keys change hands. Talk to your closing agent to ensure all legal requirements are checked off. Review the closing statement and documents closely to avoid surprises.

Tasks like securing insurance and exchanging funds protect you financially as the seller. Though complex, an informed Realtor can navigate closing smoothly.

State-Specific For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Requirements

Thoroughly research and understand your state’s specific legal and procedural regulations for FSBO transactions. These requirements vary nationwide and govern the sale process, such as disclosures, attorneys, paperwork, title transfers, etc.

It’s highly advisable to consult with a local real estate attorney specializing in FSBO sales in your specific state to ensure you meet all state-mandated requirements and avoid costly mistakes. Most FSBO sellers are only a part of a few transactions per year, so getting professional advice can save them from costly mistakes.

A real estate attorney well-versed in your local laws can explain what’s needed to legally and smoothly facilitate the sale. Don’t assume you can use generic forms and procedures – take time to educate yourself on your state’s precise FSBO regulations.

This guide published by Republic Title is a great place to start understanding what is required to sell a property without an agent in your state.

Selecting a Title Company or Attorney

When selling privately, you must work with a title company and/or real estate attorney experienced in the FSBO closing process. Their role includes facilitating legal title transfers, documenting the transaction, and ensuring compliance with state laws.

If the sales facilitator is experienced in FSBO sales, they will understand when to offer more support and guidance to transacting parties.

Title Company

A title company is a service provider that facilitates property sales in states that do not require a real estate attorney. Critical services the title company performs include:

  • Title Search – Research any property issues that could impede a clean transfer of ownership, such as liens or encumbrances.
  • Title Insurance – Insuring you against any unknown title defects.
  • Escrow Services – Managing the exchange of funds between both parties.
  • Deed Preparation – Drafting the deed to officially transfer legal ownership.
  • Recording the Deed – Registering the deed with the local government.

Choose a title company experienced with FSBO closings in your specific area.

Real Estate Attorney

If you live in a state that requires an attorney in real estate closing, then engaging a real estate lawyer is not an option. But even if you don’t live in one of these states, a knowledgeable real estate attorney is invaluable for FSBO sellers by providing services such as:

  • Reviewing the Purchase Contract – Ensuring terms are favorable and legally compliant.
  • Advising on Disclosures – Helping properly complete required documents and making sure that the seller isn’t leaving themselves exposed to future legal battles.
  • Attending Closing – Overseeing signing and resolving any potential last-minute issues.
  • Coordinating Documents – Gathering necessary paperwork and helping clear any title issues.
  • Representing Your Interests – Serving as your legal advocate and negotiator.

When selecting an attorney, choose one with specific FSBO closing experience and a strong understanding of real estate regulations in your state. In a simple transaction, you can usually find an attorney with a good reputation that offers affordable flat fees.

The attorney’s real estate expertise provides protection and peace of mind as you navigate the closing process. Having them review documents and represent your interests is invaluable without an agent’s guidance.

Key Steps in the Closing Process

The closing process isn’t just a single day but often requires weeks, if not months, to represent the finish line of the home buying or selling journey. While exciting, it can also feel overwhelming. Let’s walk through what typically happens in closing step-by-step:

  • Step 1: The buyer and seller finalize and execute a contract
  • Step 2: Title company or real estate attorney is appointed
  • Step 3: Seller deposits earnest money into escrow account
  • Step 4: A title company does a title search to uncover possible title issues such as liens or encumbrances
  • Step 5: The buyer orders a property inspection (this is optional)
  • Step 6: Buyer provides necessary documentation to lenders to secure financing (if appropriate)
  • Step 7: On closing day, transacting parties sign the deed, title policy, disclosures, etc., then funds are transferred, closing fees are paid, and the deed is recorded to make the transfer of ownership rights official.
  • Step 8: After the sale is finalized, closing funds are disbursed to the seller.

All parties should keep copies of documents for taxation and records purposes. With preparation and legal oversight, the closing process can proceed smoothly despite its complexities.

Cons of a Private Home Sales

Going the FSBO route may seem appealing to save on real estate commissions, but there are drawbacks sellers should consider.

  1. Lower Sale Price
    FSBO homes often sell for less than comparable agent-listed homes. According to a 2021 NAR report, FSBO homes sold for a median of $260,000 compared to $318,000 for agent sales. That means you’re likely leaving money on the table when selling to a private buyer.
  2. No Pricing Strategy
    If you don’t work with an agent, you lack access to accurate market data to price your property optimally. Public sales data is limited, leading to pricing guesswork. Additionally, if you aren’t experienced in real estate, it can be difficult to determine your property’s value.
  3. Legal Risk
    Selling your home is a legal transaction, and bypassing the traditional route, where agents handle the nuances, means you shoulder the responsibility for ensuring all legal bases are covered. Sellers must accurately disclose any property issues, ensure the contract is accurate and legally binding, ensure the title is clear, and comply with housing law.

Common FSBO Closing Challenges

Selling a home as FSBO can pose unique challenges during the closing process. Common issues that arise during closing include:

  • Financing delays if necessary documentation isn’t supplied by the buyer and seller on time.
  • Disputes over repairs or property conditions that were not disclosed.
  • Problems with closing documents like the deed, disclosures, or title insurance.
  • Delays due to inspection negotiations or appraisal issues.

Tips For a Smooth Private Sale Closing

Selling your home as FSBO has its challenges, but you can have a smooth sale with preparation and proactiveness.

Here are some tips to help your transaction go more smoothly:

  • Vet buyers thoroughly by confirming funds, financing capacity, and that they are pre-approved by a reputable mortgage company.
  • Disclose everything to avoid legal issues down the line.
  • Seek legal counsel on disclosures.
  • Maintain open and patient communications with the buyer.
  • Educate yourself on the process and regulations to avoid surprises.
  • Build reasonable time cushions and flexibility on the closing date.
  • Work proactively to get inspections done and any repairs negotiated upfront.
  • Hire a real estate attorney to review documents and represent your interests.

Alternative Options if the Private Deal Falls Through

If your private buyer’s deal unexpectedly falls through, don’t lose hope. If you’re motivated to sell, you still have plenty of options. Start by asking for buyer feedback to understand why they backed out. This allows you to improve your sale strategy going forward.

Next, you have the option to either list your property as FSBO or engage a listing agent. If you want to maximize your sale price, then hiring an experienced agent should be your primary focus. They have the tools to get your property exposure and negotiate the best deal.

With preparation and support, FSBO sellers can regroup when a deal falls through. If that happens, consider getting a real estate agent’s support. Connect with top agents using FastExpert to get your property sold right away.

Succeeding With Private Home Sales with FastExpert

Selling your home to a private offers rewards but also requires effort and risk management. You must be prepared to do thorough research, due diligence, and consult with real estate professionals.

Even with a private offer, engaging a real estate agent is prudent to ensure your interests are protected, and you get a fair price. Start your search with FastExpert. Talk to local agents about your situation and see if you can find an expert to help you complete your deal.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a discounted commission. Most agents are happy to negotiate a lower commission when a buyer is already sourced.

Kelsey Heath

Kelsey Heath is a real estate content specialist with an extensive background in residential, industrial, and commercial property. She has been involved in the industry for a decade as a professional and personal investor, gaining a deep understanding of the market and trends. With a passion for written communication, Kelsey loves helping people understand the sometimes-complicated concepts behind real estate and is now a sought-out guest and ghostwriter.

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