If I list my home and hang a sign out 'for sale by owner', and a realtor brings a buyer in, who wants to buy it, who's going to pay the realtor?

I did not hire him, so I don't want to pay for him. The buyer will assume that it is covered with his sale price (because I, the seller, normally get less than that).

I can imagine, the realtor gives me a reduced offer price, so I never see the share that goes to him. is this how it usually works?

In other words, if I get an offer for X, and I accept it, can I assume I get the full amount of X?

State: FL

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    If you don't offer to pay, why do you think any realtor would bring you a buyer?
    – The Photon
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 1:00
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    @ThePhoton: Their client (the potential buyer) might be specifically interested in the property but clueless about what to do to buy it without the help of a realtor, and thereby have asked the realtor to arrange things for them. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 1:17
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    That's why I added country and state to it. Of course it is very different, even between states.
    – Aganju
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 4:27
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    @Trilarion In the U.S. (OP indicates they're from FL) the commission is almost always paid out of the seller's pot. That's for seller- and buyer-agents. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 14:04
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    "I can imagine, the realtor gives me a reduced offer price" - actually as an agent, I would have negotiated a higher offer price, in order for you to have enough to pay my commission. (for those who want to freak out about this comment .. obviously it would be disclosed to my buyer as part of the buyer agent agreement)
    – Michael M
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 23:39

9 Answers 9


You negotiate with the buyer's realtor, just like a seller's realtor would do. He already has a contract with the buyers that says he won't charge them a commission. He will have to get it from you. You will tell the realtor his clients will have to offer more to cover his commission, and he will resist. And eventually you will either agree a price and a percentage, or his buyers will walk.

Some jurisdictions have laws that restrict the criteria on which you can decide between competing offers (generally to prevent racial discrimination). I don't know if you're supposed to consider your net after the realtor's commission in such places, or if you have to compare the two offers on the top line price.

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    This is basically right except that the buyer's realtor is unlikely to take their clients to the FSBO house in the first place unless the client really pushes the issue. The buyer's agent is highly incentivized to steer clear of FSBO properties as it means more work to negotiate with the seller for a commission before their buyer sees the house. It likely means more contracting work if the FSBO seller doesn't have a lawyer to draw up papers. It means they have to talk to the actual seller instead of a colleague (ie. seller's agent). Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 21:58
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    I recall my parent's realtor basically said on FSBO assume the price can't really be negotiated. We saw it anyway. No offer was made.
    – Joshua
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 22:00
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    One piece of advice: I went through something like this once, and if this kind of negotiation isn't your thing, consider getting yourself a (real-estate) lawyer. I had one save me about $3,000 on a home sale this way with a 3 minute phone conversation with the realtor. I listened in, and there is just no way I could have done that myself. Wouldn't have even known how.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 22:06
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    @DeanMacGregor If you advertise a fair rate, say 2% or 2.5%, then they'll come all the same. I know because I just did it and so did a friend. I suggest all people skip the sellers agent altogether these days. You don't need them. Incidentally, there are some protectionist laws. In my state, I was required by law to hire a realtor as a customer, not a client, and he could charge whatever he wants. In my case, I found a discount realtor who was willing to take me as his customer and create an MLS listing. He wanted 0.5% for this. I did all other work involved in selling.
    – user26460
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 9:29
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    @11684 If either is working with a realtor, they've likely signed an agreement that states they will perform no real estate transactions without their representation and accompanied fees for a certain time, usually 6 months. If you go around them and close a deal while still under contract, they can sue you for damages.
    – user26460
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 10:20

We’re in Utah rather than Florida, but we bought our house like this (almost 6 years ago). The seller wanted nothing to do with an agent and did not list the home anywhere, but just had a sign in their yard. However, we wanted an agent to make sure everything was done properly. The agent asked them to pay the standard commission, and they refused. We decided to just pay the agent ourselves. So, the seller got the full amount of our offer price, and we paid our agent out of pocket what he would have gotten as the buyer’s agent in a normal deal.

Though, we did ask the seller to throw in one of their big TVs and their standalone freezer, which wouldn’t have fit in their downsized new place anyway, and they agreed.


is this how it usually works?

Usually, the seller hires a realtor and agrees to a commission the realtor will get in case of a sale. This commission is included in the price, so the seller receives the amount the buyer offers minus commission. Part of it is shared with buyer's realtor if they have one.

In your case, this commission is not agreed upon when you set the price. You will have to either set the price higher to account for a typical realtor's commission, or tell the buyer's realtor to come back with an offer that includes commission.

Not including the commission makes your selling price look better than it actually is, so I would advise to set the price a bit higher. Otherwise, you risk to get a lot of buyer's realtors knocking, but many of them will walk away if you firmly stick to your price.


Typically, in the U.S., buyer- and seller- agents (or Realtors) acquire their commission from the purchase price. If you don't have a seller-agent, then that commission is not paid. Example:

You list the house at $200,000. Standard commission values are 3/2%, which means 3% for the first $100,000, 2% thereafter. Sometimes they're 3/1.5% or 3/1%, but usually 3/something.

If I offer you $200,000 and you accept, we close, and I used a buying agent, my agent will be paid 3% of the first $100,000, then 2% thereafter (in our example):

$  100 000 00
x        3 00 %
$    3 000 00

$  100 000 00
x        2 00 %
     2 000 00

$    3 000 00
+    2 000 00
$    5 000 00

Now, commission is almost always paid out of the seller-end, that is, you will receive the value of your house less the commission:

$  200 000 00
-    5 000 00
$  195 000 00

This means, in our example, you would receive $195,000.

To make matters more complicated, a buyer is authorized (read: legally permitted) to ask you for up to 3% of the total sale price for "seller concessions" -- closing costs1 (most states cap this at 3%). That means, in this scenario, if you accept my offer, I do not use an agent, but I asked for 3% to closing costs, you would receive $194,000:

$  200 000 00
x        3 00 %
$    6 000 00

$  200 000 00
-    6 000 00
$  194 000 00

Now here's where the math gets tricky: if I use an agent and you give me 3% to closing costs, there are two ways the math works out:

  1. You receive $189,000: value less commission less closing costs:

    $  200 000 00
    -    5 000 00 (Commission)
    -    6 000 00 (Closing Costs)
    $  189 000 00
  2. You receive $189,120: value less closing costs, then calculate and less commission:

    $  200 000 00
    -    6 000 00 (Closing Costs)
    $  194 000 00 (New Commission Price)
    $  100 000 00   (New 3% Commission Value)
    x        3 00 %
    $    6 000 00
    $   94 000 00   (New 2% Commission Value)
    x        2 00 %
    $    1 880 00
    $  194 000 00 (Keep the new value)
    -    3 000 00 (New 3% Commission)
    -    1 880 00 (New 2% Commission)
    $  189 120 00

So, when you list the house, take these into account. Assume you'll lose about 6% or so of the value (in the $200,000 case, we lost about $11,000, or about 5.5%, but for smaller prices the ratio will be higher). As a result, if you want a value out of the house, list it at least 6% higher. If you're using a realtor / agent, they'll handle this for you and typically use 9-12%.

If we wanted $200,000 from our house, assuming the worst-case scenarios, we'd want to list it around $211,579, which would give us $6,347.37 in closing costs, and $5,231.58 in commission, so about $200,000.05 in the end.

Basic formulas:

  • Commission at 2%, sale > $100,000: salePrice * 0.02 + 1000;
  • Closing Costs of 3%: salePrice * 0.03;
  • Find out what you'd "get" (2%, sale > $100,000): salePrice * 0.95 - 1000;
  • If you know you want "X", 3/2% commission, and 3% closings, find out what the offer must be: (whatYouNeed + 1000) / 0.95;

Basically: make sure you read and understand the contract the buyer (or buying-agent) is providing. If this is a non-typical commission agreement, that contract will state as such (and tell you that the buyer does not want you to pay the commission). There's no law that says "who" has to pay it, just that it may be an included component. It's possible that in your scenario the agent will offer you less, it's also possible the agent will offer what you ask, and inflate the price to potential buyers. There are a lot of scenarios here.

Additionally, some notes on Florida law, which seem reasonable and the source seems credible: https://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents/article.cfm?id=367168

Question: I have a listing that was only on the market a couple days when three offers came in. The seller accepted one of the offers. Now the broker who represents the buyer whose offer arrived first claims my seller had an obligation to negotiate with his buyer because his offer was presented to the seller first. Is this true?

Answer: No. There is no Florida law that would require the seller to respond to any offer. In addition, no Florida law requires the seller to negotiate with each buyer in the order in which offers were received.

In your state (and mine) there are laws that state if you have an agent, they must present any written offer to you, regardless of how ridiculous it is. Because you are For Sale By Owner, this is not the case. You are free to decide what you want to accept. There is no obligation.

All this said, I would recommend speaking with a real-estate attorney about the details, as they will know the specific laws of your state/region.

Source: I work in this industry.

1: Closing-costs are typically things like the appraisal, any "earnest money", etc. If the seller agrees to cover closing costs, then any money the buyer has to put into buying the home up to that value will be reimbursed to the buyer. This does not affect the loan term: it's still a $200,000 loan, the buyer just gets some of the expenses back. Thus, a $194,000 loan is not the same as a $200,000 loan with $6,000 returned for closing costs, these both result in the same seller-payout, but the buyer still has to finance the $200,000 in the latter case. It's complicated, but there are resources out there to explain it in more detail ("seller concessions" and "closing costs" are good terms to search for): https://www.mortgagecalculator.org/helpful-advice/seller-concessions.php

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    What does a buyer is authorized to ask you for up to 3% of the total sale price for "seller concessions" mean? The buyer can ask for anything they want, no? And the seller can refuse any request? I don't know what this "authorization" is.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 15:36
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    @JPhi1618 Most laws say the buyer can ask for up-to 3%, not more than 3%. This is a worst-case assumption. As a result, the buyer is "authorized" (should read "legally permitted", I suppose) to ask for that. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 15:38
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    @JPhi1618 So the "closing costs" are things like the appraisal cost, pre-paids (if you put money into escrow for "good faith"), insurance, etc. The buyer gets a check (sorta) to cover all that if the seller concedes. So asking for 3% for closing costs means the buyer gets that back from the seller, but the loan is still the original amount agreed upon. (Still a $200,000 loan, but I get a check for $6,000 to pay for the money I put into it.) If I ask for $6,000 less, but not closing costs, then it's a $194,000 loan, but I don't get a return. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 15:43
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    @202_accepted can you cite any of these "most laws"? Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 21:52
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    "Standard commission values are 3/2% ..." I wouldn't call that standard, but maybe it's common where you live. Where I live, they're all getting 2-3%, unless the house is very expensive, then it might go even lower, but not usually less than 2%. A good answer otherwise.
    – user26460
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 9:42

There's basically two ways you can do a FSBO: with or without an MLS.

You seem to have in mind a FSBO listing without an MLS. In this case, you don't have to pay a buyer's agent anything. But they will ask, assuming they'll even call/knock at all. Once they ask, I suggest you actually offer them a commission rate. I'd start at 1% and see if they'll bite. Realtors are sometimes abrasive in a hokey-car-salesman kind of way. Some of them might be pretty rude and aggressive because they will likely think that is too low. They want 3%, but many will take 2% if you just offer that on your sign, non-negotiable.

If you get an MLS listing (which I strongly recommend because of the massive exposure you'll get, plus auto-caching on Realtor.com at al), your state may require you to be a realtor's customer, which means they must provide a basic level of service for whatever their fee is, but they do not represent you and any information you tell them is not confidential. Even if your state doesn't require this, you need a broker to create an MLS listing for you. You can't just go on the website and do it yourself. In the listing, you must state a commission for buyer's agents in an MLS listing, and it is non-negotiable.

Whether you obtain an MLS listing or not, I recommend you publish a 2% or 2.5% buyer's commission and simply refuse to negotiate anything different. The best rate to select will depend on your house value and going rates in your area. If your house if valued at over $500k, you can offer 2% and you'll get no complaints. If you're trying to unload a 100K DIY gone bad, 2.5% might look too small to some agents.

My source for all this information is very recent personal experience. I sold my house FSBO with an MLS using a discount broker who took me on as a customer for 0.5%. I offered 2.5% buyer's commission. I saved approximately 3% by not also paying a seller agent commission, less $500 to forsalebyowner.com for a listing there. Incidentally, I would just search for a discount broker/realtor from the outset, as I don't think forsalebyowner.com helped in any way, but they did send me a nice sign and connected me with a discount broker. A friend of mine did virtually the exact same thing after seeing my success with the process.

A bit unrelated to your title question, but you ask:

In other words, if I get an offer for X, and I accept it, can I assume I get the full amount of X?

No, certainly not. There's fees everywhere and commissions are only one part of a real estate transaction. If your purchase agreement explicitly says commissions are X, then X is what is paid. $0 is a valid entry, so with regards to commissions, if the purchase agreement says $0 commissions, then yes, you will get your full asking price, less other non-commission fees.


I can imagine, the realtor gives me a reduced offer price, so I never see the share that goes to him. is this how it usually works?

Well I'm not a realtor, and I'm not a lawyer, and don't live in Florida.
To answer your question, no I don't think that is how it would ever work.

Because when you sell, you will be selling to the buyer not to the realtor.
You will see what you're being paid.
You don't care how much their agent is paid (unless you are paying them).

... a realtor brings a buyer in, who wants to buy it, who's going to pay the realtor?

That won't happen because they will work that out with you before they tell the potential buyer about your property, unless they've already been paid by the buyer (buyer's agent).

My recommendation, not that you asked, is that you mark the house up about 10-12% above what you had planned to list it at and use an agent. (About 6% for your+their agent, the rest so you have room to negotiate down and/or cover repairs).

I'm reading in your post that you just don't want any agents to 'make money off of you'.
I understand + respect that position, but honestly an agent generally does a lot to earn their commission.
I have both bought and sold houses. There isn't a single one of those transactions that I wish (in hindsight) I had done FSBO. Hope that helps.

Best wishes, because things can go bad enough at closing when the buyer and seller both have an agent to calm them down in the heat of negotiations.

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    "honestly an agent generally does a lot to earn their commission" That can be debated. Offer a buyer's commission for only one reason: realtors have the industry locked down and have even managed to get protectionist laws passed. You'll get virtually no interest parties without offering a published buyer's commission.
    – user26460
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 10:14
  • @fredsbend That can be debated. Yes, I threw in the word "generally" because of that. You'll get virtually no interest parties without... Maybe, maybe not. A house within a block of mine sold private sale with no realtor, "as-is", no sign in the yard, and no advertising. The owner posted on a neighborhood message board "I live on <street name> does anyone know a good realtor?" One of the responses was, "I'll buy your house." If the area is hot enough, weird stuff can happen - several houses in this neighborhood sold in 1 day this Spring (multiple offers, sometimes with bidding wars). Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 21:34

I had a similar experience when selling my house. I had a realtor but I'd negotiated a lower the usual commission. The buyers' realtor didn't like what her share of the commission was going to be and actually had the moxie to put a clause in the purchase offer saying that I'd pay her the customary full commission.

Needless to say, I declined their offer and a new offer (minus the commission to the buyers' realtor) was duly presented.


If you list a house on any website (FSBO.com) you agree to pay the buyer's realtor 3%. If it is just a sign in the yard then you might have a realtor approach you and ask if you would be willing to pay her the 3%. In this case they would likely have you sign legal documents stating that before showing your house.
I had a house FSBO in a very limited market and a realtor approached me. She had a legal agreement stating if she showed my house and the prospective buyer wanted it she would get 3%. The buyer couldn't go behind her back and try to get 3% off the price of the house.

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    You didn't sign the contract between buyer and Realtor, so they can't force you to pay the 3%. Their only recourse is to not buy your house. That sort of buyer-rep "no circumvention" clause is standard for anyone who reps anything. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 17:08
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    @Harper They can either not buy the house, the seller can offer more to still pay the price you are asking, or the seller can agree to pay the realtor outside of escrow and the realtor can waive the contract (since they get their money anyway). Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 18:33
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    @DavidSchwartz absolutely. Those are consensual outcomes, the best kind. I just don't think of them as recourses since they can't compel you to do it, e.g. in court. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 18:46
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    Plausible counter-statement: I have retained a lawyer for a fixed $500 fee to draw the documents. I fully expect to walk away from sale with my price minus the $500 already paid to the lawyer. How buyer's agent gets paid is up to buyer and I don't even want to know about it.
    – Joshua
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 1:32
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    "If you list a house on any website (FSBO.com) you agree to pay the buyer's realtor 3%." False. You are confusing simple listing sites like FSBO.com with MLS. If you state a commission in the MLS listing it must be honored. On a site like FSBO, you often don't state any commission you would offer at all.
    – user26460
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 9:35

Long story short, simply send them away.

If you put up a sign "For Sale by Owner", this means no real estate agent is involved, and no fees/commissions are to be paid. That is (with neglegible exceptions such as a small fee for listing services) the very definition of it.

So, if an agent shows up and brings a customer, and you sell your house to them, you may be in trouble. In any case, the agent is doing something seriously dubious, and if you agree on the deal you arguably do something dubious, too.

If the buyer pays a commision to the agent, they're very obviously not buying FSBO, and they'll likely say you cheated them by falsely advertising, blah blah. Go to court, whatever. Lots of trouble, bad feelings, and in one word, not good.
If the buyer doesn't pay a commision (the usual case in the US when selling via an agent -- you, the seller, get less money), they'll probably still say you cheated them (because obviously they could have gotten the object for less money than they paid). So that's bad feelings and trouble, too.

Do you want less money and trouble? I guess not. If you have "FSBO" on your lawn, and an agent shows up, send them away. Or well, employ an agent, and make the price 3% higher...

  • This has been my experience too. The last house I bought FSBO was explicitly "No Agents" which I think would be better than just assuming that any FSBO excluded agents. I believe you could at least get your house listed on Zillow without dealing with agents (Hmm, maybe that's why agents I encounter show such hatred against Zillow, I just thought it was because the "Zestimate" often set expectations that weren't met on one side or the other)
    – Bill K
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 0:23
  • So the OP would be cheating the buyer because the said buyer came with a realtor? I wonder how that could possibly stand in court. In my non-layer understanding, "cheating" requires to do something the cheated party is unaware of, and it's pretty hard to be unaware that you hired someone. Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 9:36
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    "If you put up a sign "For Sale by Owner", this means no real estate agent is involved, and no fees/commissions are to be paid. That is (with neglegible exceptions such as a small fee for listing services) the very definition of it." This is misleading. It only means that the seller has opted to not be represented as a client by a licensed realtor. You can sell to someone with a buyer's agent if you want. FSBO does not mean you must turn away all buyers that are represented by an agent. There's nothing dubious about it. This answer shows a distinct lack of knowledge on the subject.
    – user26460
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 9:38
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    Well, what will happen if you allow the agent in, is somewhere in the mountain of paperwork will be a clause that says the agent gets 3% or whatever. And so the escrow company will pay the agent 3% because the paperwork says to do that. You would need to watch like a hawk to keep him from slipping it in, and haggle it out... which will certainly result in a walkaway after a lot of invested time. Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 18:31
  • Thing is, there's nothing to gain from your point of view (only 3% to lose), and a lot of trouble. Because no matter how you look at it, the agent will want to get paid (what else), and also the moment you agree to sell via an agent, you have factually falsely advertised FSBO. Even if you pay the 3%, the buyers could arguably have gotten it 3% cheaper anyway, so they'll still feel cheated. Opportunity to lose, no opportunity to win --> don't do it.
    – Damon
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 11:13

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