Law Offices of
Dorfman and

Buying For Sale By Owner Property Without a Realtor®


Just as sellers of real estate may want to avoid the cost of professional representation by a Realtor®, you as a buyer could have the same motivation when you encounter a “for sale by owner” property.

You know that a “FSBO” is being sold without the expense of a commission paid by the seller, so it makes sense that the seller can sell at a lower price.  Since your working with a real estate broker representing you would add to the sales expense, it is tempting to think that a one-on-one purchase without involving professionals would appeal to the seller as well as to you.

There are, however, many potential problems.


When they set a price, sellers naturally price the property based on their desire to get the maximum bottom line from a sale.  You may assume that they are “starting high” and willing to negotiate, but do you know what the real market value is, and do you know if the starting price is a little high or a lot high?  Without a professional estimate of the market value, you may negotiate a lower price than the seller’s asking price and end up still paying too much.

Before finalizing any such transaction, we strongly suggest that you have the paperwork reviewed by us for your protection.


California has many laws and regulations to protect you as a buyer.  A professional representing you is knowledgeable about them and will see that they are met.

The most common post-sale issue in FSBO transactions is that you find problems with your new home that the seller knew about but did not disclose.  Roof leaks, wiring problems, plumbing problems, noise from adjacent trains or airport, appliance problems, and, well, the list goes on.  Even if you made a home inspection part of your negotiation, and some of these items are revealed, many may not be.

To achieve a remedy for any of these problems after the sale means you may have to take legal action.  A consultation with us before you finalize the sale is a good way to minimize the possibility of potentially very expensive litigation later.


It seems that a home inspection would solve disclosure of the problems above.  The FSBO seller may even have obtained one and supplied it to you.  There are many types of inspection and you may not receive one that addresses all important considerations.  Conversely, you may order a pre-sale inspection at your own expense that has a dizzyingly complete list of problems and potential problems.  Interpreting which of the many entries to include in your negotiation can be very confusing and lead to negotiation-sabotaging disagreements over relatively unimportant items.

A consultation with us can simplify your analysis of the inspection and the impact it should have on your negotiation.

Appraisal Issues

You may feel when considering the price you are willing to pay that the issue of market value will be settled when your lender calls for an appraisal.

The appraisal is customarily done after you have agreed upon the terms of the sale.  If the appraisal is less than the price you agreed upon, you will want the price that you agreed to pay reduced.  The seller, however, may not agree to the reduction.  After all, he or she found a willing buyer at the agreed price (you), so why should they accept less?  So, you may be faced with coming up with more down payment on the agreed price or with walking away from the purchase, sacrificing your time and expense to date.

A consultation with us can provide you with information on how to determine a reasonable value before you even start price negotiations.


A real estate transaction is fraught with technical elements to consider; requires extensive local knowledge of the market; is heavily influenced by personal and emotional considerations, and has the potential to be a financial disaster if done without professional assistance.

The best way to avoid expensive legal costs is to consult with a knowledgeable real estate attorney BEFORE entering into negotiations.  Find out more about what to expect HERE.

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11750 Ridge Road

Nevada City, CA 95959

Debra Sitzberger (530) 274-1321

(Note: we do not handle evictions)

Neil Dorfman (530) 559-6881

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