Navigating For Sale by Owner (FSBO) Purchases: A Buyer’s Guide 

When you’re eyeing a home that’s For Sale by Owner (FSBO), you’re stepping into a scenario where the homeowner is bypassing real estate professionals to sell their property directly. While this might seem like a straightforward path to homeownership, there are several nuances and legal obligations you need to be aware of as a buyer in Pennsylvania (PA).  

Understanding Seller Obligations and Disclosures for FSBO Transactions

In PA, homeowners selling their property must comply with specific statutory duties, including providing:  

That doesn’t even include the various municipal requirements such as septic dye-tests or securing a Certificate of Occupancy.  

These disclosures are not warranties of the title of the property – instead, they are meant to inform you, the buyer, about any known material defects and inform your due diligence process. Even if you’re purchasing a property FSBO, the seller is required to have these disclosures.  

Making an Offer  

When making an offer on an FSBO, you should include inspection contingencies for not only a general home inspection but also the right to examine any use restrictions imposed by zoning ordinance or planned community documents. You should also consider any encumbrances on title for both land and subsurface rights.  

As the buyer, you also need to be aware of whether public water and sewer are available or expected to become available in the near future as this may affect your offer. When you make an offer, consider your financing options, including traditional loans or seller financing terms.  

Title Insurance and Settlement Companies  

As the buyer, it is your right to select the settlement company who will work with you to take the purchase to fruition. It is essential for any buyer to thoroughly review the title commitment. Any exceptions stated in your title insurance can significantly impact your ownership rights.  

Negotiating the Deal  

When negotiating the purchase price, consider the type of warranty deed offered, closing costs (including transfer taxes), and any existing tax abatements. A final walk-through right is essential to ensure the property is in the expected condition at closing. These are all things that would typically be handled with a real estate expert but must be explicitly stated in a FSBO purchase.  

Legal Agreements and Mediation  

Be wary of the terms in any form agreement used for the sale, especially regarding post-closing dispute mediation. If you’re working with a real estate agent as a buyer, ensure you understand any financial obligations you might have regarding the agent’s commission, particularly if the seller refuses to cover these costs which has become a hot button topic.  

The Value of Legal Guidance  

In a FSBO transaction, where neither party may have the backing of a real estate agent, the counsel of a seasoned real estate attorney is even more important. An attorney can provide invaluable advice throughout the process, ensuring your interests are protected as you navigate the complexities of a FSBO purchase.  

If you are looking to proceed with a FSBO purchase, consider consulting a legal professional to help protect your interests. If you’re in need of assistance, please contact Krista M. Kochoksy, Partner and Chair of the Real Estate Practice Group at The Lynch Law Group by emailing her at  

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