How to Sell a House
(From Our Friends Over At Market Leader)
Learn more about how to sell your home by reading this summary of the home-selling process.
Decide Whether You Want to Sell
Take some time to reflect upon whether you really want and need to sell your home. The selling process takes a lot of time, patience and energy—it would be a big mistake to start selling your home if you are not absolutely sure you want to do so!
Also, learn the costs associated with selling your home. The home-selling process is stressful enough. Knowing that these expenses exist, and how much they’ll set you back, will make life a little more enjoyable throughout it!
• State deed tax
• Recording fees
• Abstract or title search
• Moving expenses
Choose a Real Estate Agent
Working with a skilled, communicative, scrupulous real estate agent will make the entire home-selling process much, much easier. Take your time in finding the right agent—one that you are confident will do a stellar job marketing your home and that will work hard to represent your best interests. Beware of agents that describe how they’ll market your home in generalities or that brush aside your questions—these are not the types of people you want to work with!
Pro tip: Don’t automatically choose to work with the first agent you find, or the agent that promises the highest listing price!
Sign a Listing Contract
Listing contracts are agreements between sellers and listing brokers that establish the terms and conditions of a listing. There is no standard listing contract that is used throughout the real estate industry; there are multiple types of listing contracts and their terms and conditions are negotiable.
Here are the three kinds of listing contracts:
• Exclusive right to sell – The most common type of listing contract.
• Open listing – For homeowners who want to sell their home by themselves but are also willing to work with a real estate agent.
• One-time show – A contract that allows a specific agent to show a FSBO (for sale by owner) home to one of their clients. Per the terms of this contract, the seller pays a commission to the agent if their client agrees to buy the home.
Your listing contract should address these important questions:
• What will the agent’s commission rate be?
• Are there any situations where the agent’s commission rate will be adjusted? (For example, if a friend decides to buy your house without the agent being involved in their decision to do so.)
• What will the length of the listing period be?
• How will disagreements between you and the agent be resolved?
• Will you and the agent use a lockbox to facilitate showings, or will you need to be present for them?
• Will your home appear in MLS (multiple listing service) listings?
Prepare Your Home for Showings
Even well kept homes that don’t require repairs need at least some cleaning and staging before they are put on the market. Keep your house vacuumed and dusted, and put knick-knacks in storage. Rearrange the furniture so that room layouts are conducive to foot traffic. Make your home as well-lit as possible by keeping curtains and blinds open, washing windows, and replacing light bulbs that are out.
It’s also important to improve curb appeal by polishing up your home’s exterior. This entails pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, and maintaining the landscaping throughout the period of time your home is on the market. If the house itself looks a little worn down, it may be wise to put on a fresh coat of paint, and powerwash the decks, patios and walkways.
Remember: your yard gives buyers their first impression of your home, so keep it in good shape!
Make the following repairs, if they are necessary. These minor cosmetic fixes don’t cost much and will do a lot to reassure potential buyers that your home is in good condition.
• Fix leaky faucets
• Replace cracked windows
• Replace jiggly doorknobs
• Repair loose handrails
While it isn’t necessary to do so, making the following improvements will increase your home’s value and lead to a higher sale price.
• Replace kitchen appliances
• Install an alarm system
• Paint walls
Price Your Home
A home seller’s best friend is their real estate agent—especially when it comes to pricing their home. Your agent’s knowledge of the local real estate market and the stats they’ll compile for comparative analysis will prove invaluable when determining the best listing price for your home.
Home pricing is largely based on what comparable homes in the area have recently sold for. “Comparables” typically have the following qualities:
• Similar age, square footage, and bedroom count
• Listed within the last six months
• Located within the same local market
Looking for more information on how to price your home? Consider the following:
• It’s not always imperative to have the lowest-priced home on your block!
• Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. They won’t attach the same sentimental value to your home that you do, so they’ll likely balk at the price if you factor sentimental value into it.
• Keep your focus on where your local housing market is going.
• If a home is well-marketed and is located in an area with a competitive market, intentionally under-pricing the home can lead to bidding wars that bring its price up to a more desirable level.
Keep Your Home in Good Condition
You never know when a potential buyer may want to see your house, so it’s important to keep it in good condition for the entire time it’s on the market. Keep it ready for showings by doing the following:
• Dust and vacuum often
• Keep bathrooms spotless
• Keep your sink free of dishes
• Keep your dishwasher clean
Consider Deal Sweeteners
In a buyer’s market, sellers sometimes add deal sweeteners to make their home seem more attractive than the competition. Deal sweeteners provide financial or psychological assistance to buyers and can serve as powerful incentives for them to make an offer!
Common deal sweeteners include:
• Buying down the homebuyer’s mortgage rate
• Paying the closing costs
• Offering a transferable home warranty
Decide What Offer to Take
From the many offers you receive, carefully choose which one you want to accept!
Pro tip: Meet every offer you don’t want to accept—even insultingly-small lowball offers—with a counteroffer. You never know when a buyer may cave and agree to pay much more than it originally seemed like they would.
Sign the Purchase Agreement and Choose a Closing Date
After you accept an offer, you will sign the purchase agreement and agree on a closing date with the buyer. Depending upon the terms of the purchase agreement (e.g. if the seller agrees to make repairs before closing), the closing date can take place six or more weeks after the agreement is signed.
Have Your Home Appraised
Have your home appraised to determine its value. Admittedly, this is something the buyer and their mortgage lender will be more concerned about. The mortgage lender hires the appraiser, and the buyer pays for their services. However, if the buyer included an appraisal contingency in their offer, your relationship with the buyer could come to a swift end if their offer price far exceeds the appraised value of the house!
Prepare for Closing
Get ready to close on the sale of your home by doing the following:
• Prepare disclosures. You must disclose every flaw and shortcoming of your home that could adversely affect the new owner’s enjoyment of it. Legal action can result if the buyer is not made aware of any problems, whether by design or by unintentional omission on the part of the seller.
• Gather and prepare necessary paperwork. This includes documents like the certificate of title.
• Keep your home in good condition. The deal can be jeopardized if you do not clean and maintain your home before closing.
Attend the Final Walkthrough
Sellers must attend the final walkthrough to answer any last-minute questions the buyer may have. Final walkthroughs take place between a few hours and a few days before closing and are meant to ensure that your home is in the agreed-upon condition. The buyer will confirm that repairs outlined in the purchase agreement have been made and that the home’s condition has remained the same since the purchase agreement was signed.
Attend the Closing
Sign a seemingly-endless stream of paperwork at the closing, and ownership of your former home will officially pass to the buyer. Every party with a claim on the money earned from the sale of the home will get paid simultaneously—your mortgage lender (if you still have an outstanding mortgage), your real estate agent, the appraiser, other third parties and, finally, you.
Congratulations, you’ve sold your home!