You’ve just found what might be your dream house. The only problem is that it’s being sold directly by the owner who is working without a real estate agent. The question, then, is this: Is being a “For Sale By Owner” home a safe move?
There is no one answer. When you buy a house directly from a seller, you might save money. The seller doesn’t have to pay the standard commission of 5 percent of the home’s sales price. This means that the seller might be more willing to sell the home for a lower asking price.
However, there are risks involved in for-sale-by-owner purchases. Sellers who don’t work with real estate professionals often overvalue the worth of their homes. This means that they’ll set their initial asking prices too high. If you buy one of these homes, you might end up overpaying.
Even more dangerous, though, is the risk of buying a home that has serious problems that aren’t disclosed. Real estate agents know when they take a listing that they have to disclose certain facts. If the home’s basement floods, for instance, sellers are required by law to disclose this fact. If the house has lead paint, sellers must disclose this. And if the house suffered termite damage in the past, sellers need to disclose this, too.
When a home is being offered for sale by owner, the sellers often fail to disclose these important flaws. It’s not that sellers are trying to lie. They often have no idea that they are required to disclose this information. When you buy the house, then, you might inherit some pricey problems. It isn’t cheap, for instance, to waterproof a leaky basement.
Buying a house directly from a seller might be a way to get a good price for a home. But it might also lead you to some expensive repairs.