How to Sell Your California Land Without a Realtor

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How to Sell Your California Land Without a Realtor

Bart Waldon

As California farmland values extend recent appreciation across major crop categories over the past 3+ years per California Chapter of ASFMRA research, land owners seek optimal ways to sell into desirable market conditions without losing equity via significant intermediary commissions. With California median farm real estate agent commissions averaging 5-6% nationally per Wheatley Institute analysis, farmers and rural landholders selling higher value properties stand to gain tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in added sales proceeds by listing independently. 

However, not having qualified broker representation poses greater demands on sellers to market properties effectively across suitable platforms to engage serious buyers reliably. This piece examines prudent steps for California agricultural landowners and rural property holders to undertake private land sales without realtor involvement - from securing appraisals to effectively showcasing lands through targeted digital channels where developer, farmer and other commercial buyer interests concentrate when sourcing investment or expansion opportunities.

Below, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to sell your California land without an agent.

Should You Sell Your California Land Without a Realtor?

Selling land yourself comes with pros and cons. Consider the following to determine if FSBO is right for you:

Pros of Selling Land Without a Realtor

  • Save on commission fees - This is the biggest benefit to for sale by owner. Real estate agents typically charge 5-6% commission on land sales in California. With a $100,000 vacant land sale, that’s $5,000 - $6,000 in your pocket instead of the agent's.
  • You control negotiations - Without an agent, you decide on listing prices, offers to accept, and terms of the sale. Agents work for themselves, not sellers.
  • You can market how you want - Get creative with your marketing without needing agent approval. Some effective low-cost tactics include classified ads and yard signs.

Cons of Selling Land Without a Realtor

  • No exposure on MLS - The MLS is where interested buyers go to find homes and land for sale. Without a real estate agent, your land will not be listed here.
  • You handle all legal paperwork - Real estate agents have experience with the required disclosures and contracts for California land sales. Doing this yourself takes time and great attention to detail.
  • Limited market value expertise - Agents use sales data to help sellers price competitively. They understand micro-level market conditions. As an individual seller, you may struggle to accurately price your vacant land.
  • Limited buyer network - Real estate agents have a large sphere of influence and connections with other agents. Without this network, you may have fewer potential buyers.

As you can see, selling land on your own has some clear benefits, but also requires more time, knowledge, and effort on your part as a seller.

If the cons outweigh the pros for you, consider alternative options besides the 6% real estate agent route:

  • Flat fee MLS listing - Pay a small flat fee to an agent to get your property on the MLS, but handle everything else yourself. Fees are usually under $500.
  • Real estate attorney - Hire a real estate lawyer hourly to help with contracts and paperwork, but skip the full service agent. Average hourly rates are $200-$300.
  • Land buying companies - Sell your land fast for cash to a company like Land Boss that purchases property directly from sellers. You won't get full market value, but will save on time and fees.

Understanding the Full Costs of Selling Land FSBO

Selling without an agent means you won’t pay a real estate commission. But that doesn’t mean you’ll avoid all costs.

Below are typical fees to expect if you sell land yourself in California:

  • Appraisal - $300 to $400 to determine market value of land
  • Photography - $195 for professional photos of your land to use in listings
  • Staging - Around $3,664 if clearing land or adding landscaping to improve buyer appeal
  • Legal counsel - $247 per hour for real estate attorney to help with contracts
  • Flat fee MLS - $95 to $2,495 to list land on MLS without agent
  • Buyer’s agent commission - 2.4% of sale price paid to buyer’s agent

Some sellers also opt to invest money into clearing trees, grading land, installing a driveway, getting permits, marketing, or other improvements to boost their sale price.

These costs add up fast. So while FSBO saves money on the listing agent commission, you could still end up spending a decent chunk of change.

Factor in the time you’ll invest as well. Marketing land, corresponding with buyers, negotiating offers, and handling legal paperwork takes hours each week over several months.

That said, selling land yourself gives you full control over the transaction. If you price intelligently and invest in the right improvements, the extra time and money invested could absolutely pay off.

7 Steps to Sell Your Land Without a Realtor

Selling land FSBO takes effort. Follow these steps to maximize your chances of success:

1. Verify Ownership and Land Rights

Before listing your land, pull together your deed, title insurance policy, property survey, and other ownership documents. Make sure you have 100% rights to sell the land.

Also confirm:

  • Property lines and total acreage
  • Easements or right of ways
  • Mineral rights
  • Water rights
  • Liens against the land

If your records aren’t clear, you may need to order a title search or new survey at your own expense. This prevents issues from arising later in the transaction.

2. Research Local Land Values

Pricing land correctly is crucial when selling FSBO. Overprice, and your property could sit. Underprice, and you lose out on money.

Look at recent land sales in your county to identify average sale prices per acre. Drive the area to view vacant lots for sale to assess the competition.

Online sites like Zillow also share estimates of your land’s value, but treat these only as rough guides. Unique property attributes can significantly impact true value.

If you plan to subdivide, develop land, or rezone, understand how those possibilities impact land values too.

Getting an appraisal is smart if you need a very accurate price opinion. Expect to pay around $300-$400 for a basic appraisal.

3. Make Any Necessary Land Improvements

Land in rough, raw condition can limit buyer interest and sales price. Before listing, consider making improvements to get your land sale ready.

Clearing brush and grading land smooths out the property. A driveway and basic utilities make it accessible. Simple landscaping can also boost curb appeal.

But don’t over-improve land intended for development or agriculture. Keep costs reasonable based on the land’s intended use.

Also confirm your land is zoned properly for the uses buyers want before making any investments. Rezoning land yourself typically takes 6-12 months.

4. Create a Marketing Plan

To generate buyer interest without the MLS, get creative with your marketing:

  • Yard signs - Large signs on the property with listing details. Include your phone number and website with photos.
  • Classified ads - List in local newspapers and websites like Craigslist. Facebook Marketplace also reaches buyers.
  • Targeted outreach - Contact developers, farmers, or businesses who may have specific interest in your property.
  • Networking - Talk to friends, family, and colleagues about your land for sale. Word-of-mouth is powerful.
  • Direct mail - Send postcards or letters to owners of nearby vacant land. They may be interested in expanding.
  • Your own website - Create a simple site with listing details, photos, and a lead capture form. Make sure this site comes up on Google searches for related keywords.

Without the MLS, it takes creativity and persistence to get the word out locally about your land for sale. Plan to invest serious time into your marketing efforts.

5. Handle Legal Land Sale Paperwork

When you sell land yourself, you take on the legal responsibilities of the real estate agent. This includes:

  • Property disclosures - Required forms that disclose known defects with the land. Have a real estate lawyer review to ensure you provide legally compliant disclosures.
  • Purchase contract - Draft a thorough purchase agreement defining all terms and contingencies. Again, legal help is a smart idea here.
  • Title paperwork - You’ll need to provide clear title and pay for title insurance to protect the buyer from claims against your land after closing.
  • Closings docs - You’re responsible for all required closing documents, like the deed conveying land ownership to the buyer.

Expect this paperwork to take 10+ hours if you DIY legal templates. Hiring a real estate attorney to help with contracts could cost $2,000 or more but ensures everything is ironclad. Don’t risk the legal liability of incomplete disclosures or contracts when selling land on your own.

6. Show Land to Potential Buyers

As buyers inquire about your land, you’ll need to coordinate showings and tours yourself (with reasonable safety precautions).

When meeting potential buyers, come prepared with listing details, maps, disclosures, and other materials. Show enthusiasm for the property but let the land speak for itself too.

Set a procedure to pre-qualify buyers before showing land, such as speaking over the phone first and requiring proof of funds. This prevents wasting time with “lookie loos”.

During showings, point out property boundaries, development possibilities, and unique attributes buyers will care about. Be ready to answer any questions about the land and transaction terms.

7. Negotiate and Finalize the Sale

Once you have an interested buyer, put your negotiating hat on to finalize the vacant land sale.

When reviewing offers, aim for selling at or above list price. But also consider contingencies that impact final sale terms. For example, a cash offer 10% below list price could be better than a full-price offer requiring you to carry financing.

Counteroffers are normal, so expect some back-and-forth. Hold firm when you can, but stay reasonable to keep the deal from falling through.

Also plan for the buyer to request closing cost assistance, home warranties, title insurance, or other common perks real estate agents include to smooth out deals.

Be prepared to document the sale process thoroughly in case anything is disputed down the road. Keep copies of all signed documents for liability protection.

Most importantly, don’t get emotionally attached to your vacant land as the seller. Approach negotiations objectively and keep the big picture sale price in mind.

Is Selling Land Without an Agent Right for You?

Selling land on your own keeps more cash in your pocket but requires serious effort, marketing savvy, legal diligence, and negotiation skills.

So before deciding on FSBO, consider:

  • Do you have at least 10 hours per week to invest in selling your land?
  • Are you willing to spend money to market and improve your property?
  • Can you create compelling listings and sales materials yourself?
  • Do you understand the required legal disclosures and contracts?
  • Are you comfortable negotiating with prospective buyers?

If you answered no to any of these questions, working with a real estate professional could be the smarter move. Interview agents and ask these key questions when deciding if one is worth their commission:

  • Do you have experience selling vacant land in my county? How much vacant land have you sold here in the past 12 months?
  • What specific marketing strategies will you use to find buyers for my property?
  • How will you advise me on pricing my land competitively?
  • What are the average days on market for land parcels like mine here?
  • What commission rate do you charge to sell vacant land?

Even if you decide to skip the traditional full-service agent, a flat-fee MLS listing or real estate attorney can provide helpful support offloading the legal lifting for a few hundred dollars.

Or if you want to avoid the work and uncertainty of selling land completely, Land Boss buys properties directly from sellers for instant cash. Though you won’t get top-of-market value, Land Boss can close within days and pay all fees for a fast, convenient land sale.

Selling land FSBO offers clear rewards but isn’t for the faint of heart. Following the steps above helps ensure you successfully sell your land on your own terms without leaving money on the table to an agent. But working with a professional also has benefits if you prioritize convenience over maximizing your payout.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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