The home selling process is the same whether it’s for sale by owner or you’re hiring a listing agent. Certain details can vary a little from state to state, but this checklist can serve as a general guide. Just be sure to confer with a local professional for details on specific requirements in your state.
Choose a Listing Agent
A listing agent represents you and has a fiduciary responsibility to look out for your best interests. Interview agents and meet with at least three of them as you make a decision. Try to hire based on experience. Ask questions about your listing agreement, including the length of time the home will be listed and the commission you will pay for the agent’s services. Will you also be paying the buyer’s agent commissions? (Most traditional agreements require it)
Find Out How Much Your Home Is Worth
A seller’s greatest mistake is often overpricing her home. Keep your price in line with sold homes that have been identified in a comparative market analysis report. Consider whether your market is hot, cold, or neutral and price the home accordingly.
Get Your Home Ready for Sale
Prepare your home for sale by cleaning and decluttering it and improving curb appeal. You might want to consider hiring a professional stager to stage your home for showings or ask your real estate agent for help or ideas. You can often use your furniture. Make any necessary repairs and consider a pre-listing, seller’s inspection3 to identify any potential problem areas. If you’re selling a home with pets, you might want to make temporary living arrangements while you show the house. Remember, you only get one chance and sometimes only three seconds or so to make a great first impression. Make it count.
Market Your Home
You or your agent should identify the selling points of your home and choose the best advertising words to convey them. Approve your agent’s marketing campaign or figure out how to advertise your house for sale yourself. Hire a virtual tour company to take quality photographs and put a virtual tour online if possible. You should also confirm that your listing is posted online. You or your agent should saturate the internet and social media with photographs and descriptions of your property.
Show Your Home
You’ll get more showings if you let agents use a lockbox or keypad to show your home rather than force them to make appointments. If you are opting for appointments, try to be flexible. Some buyers will want to see the home on weeknights (after work) and all across the weekend. Be as accommodating as possible. Prepare for an open house, but use this approach sparingly. If you do one, be sure to ask for buyer feedback so you can adjust your price, condition, or marketing campaign accordingly.
Receive Purchase Offers and Negotiate
Be prepared to receive multiple offers if your home is priced right. Don’t ignore any offers, even if it seems too low. Negotiate by making a counteroffer. Consider making a counteroffer that’s contingent on you buying a home if market conditions warrant it. And don’t be afraid to make a full-price counter offer if your price is competitive and it’s backed up by comparable sales. You can also ask for a kick-out clause or right of first refusal if the buyer’s offer is contingent on selling a home. This contingency ensures that you won’t wait around too long if the buyer can’t offload their property.
Open Escrow and Order Title
Your agent or transaction coordinator will open escrow and order a title policy for you. Write down the contact information for the closing agent, and select a date to close based on when the buyer’s loan will fund.
Schedule an Appraisal
Clean the house the day before the appraiser arrives. If you receive a low appraisal, ask your agent about alternatives. You’re typically not entitled to receive a copy of the appraisal because you didn’t pay for it. If the buyer decides to cancel the contract based on an appraisal, ask your agent or lawyer about your rights. They’ll need an appraisal contingency in the contract to pull out.
Cooperate With the Home Inspection
Now get ready for the home inspector. Ask your agent to provide you with a home inspection checklist, so you’ll know in advance what the inspector will want to see. Prepare the attic and basement for inspection, too. Move stuff away from the walls in the garage, and make sure there’s a clear path for the inspector to get through. If your contract calls for a roof certification, hire a reputable company to conduct the inspection. Keep in mind that states that allow for termite or pest inspections will often make these reports a matter of public record. The buyer may also request a sewer inspection if your home is older.
Deliver Seller Disclosures
If you’re aware of any other material facts or problems with the property, you must disclose them using a seller’s disclosure form. Your title company should provide the buyer with the covenants, conditions and restrictions for your community or the homeowner’s association, if necessary.
Negotiate Requests for Repair
You don’t have to accept a buyer’s request to make repairs, but they may back out of the deal if you don’t (as long as they have an inspection contingency in place). In some cases, a buyer might accept a closing cost credit instead of an actual repair. This credit essentially lowers the sales price, giving them cash to make the repairs on their own once they assume ownership.
Ask the Buyer to Release Contingencies
If the buyer had any contingencies in their contract, ask them to “release” them, meaning affirm that they have been resolved. The buyer isn’t obligated to provide a contingency release if you don’t demand it. In some states, you might have a right to cancel the contract if the buyer will not provide a release.
Sign the Title and Escrow Documents
Depending on where you’re located, you might sign escrow documents shortly after opening escrow, or you’ll sign them nearer to closing. It’s common in some states for everyone to sit around the table buyers and sellers so ask your agent about the norm in your location.
Find A Great Real Estate Agent
Think you can sell your home yourself, and pocket the cash you would otherwise pay a real estate agent? It can be tempting, especially in a hot market, but resist the urge. A “for sale by owner” transaction is almost always a disaster, leading you to sacrifice both money and time. That’s why one of the most important things to do before selling your house is find a great real estate agent. That said, don’t just blindly hire the real estate agent who most recently sent you a flyer or the one your uncle’s friend’s co-worker’s cousin used. Do some research to find a real estate agent who is knowledgeable about your specific market, and then interview her to make sure she’s a good fit. Your real estate agent should be someone you feel comfortable working with, whom you trust to sell your house for top dollar. Don’t be afraid to talk to a few real estate agents before picking one.
Consider Your Curb Appeal
Yes, for better or worse, buyers do tend to judge a book by its cover. You want to make sure potential buyers’ first impression of your home is a good one and inspires them to stop by the open house or schedule a tour so they can see more. By investing some effort in relatively easy fixes, like planting colorful flowers and repainting your front door, the outside of your house can beckon prospective buyers to come on in. If you’re not sure how to improve your home’s curb appeal, ask your real estate agent for advice on how others in your area have improved the exterior before selling their houses.
Declutter Living Areas
Less is definitely more when it comes to getting your house ready to show. Do a clean sweep of counters, windowsills, tables, and all other visible areas, and then tackle behind closed doors: closets, drawers, and cupboards since virtually nothing is off-limits for curious buyers. If the house is overflowing with stuff, buyers might worry that the house won’t have ample space for their own belongings. They won’t sign up to pay a mortgage if they think they’ll also have to rent a storage space. Take your excess stuff and donate it, or pack it up to be stored off-site. Not only will clearing clutter help your house look more appealing to buyers, it will also help you once you’ve accepted an offer and it’s time to move into a new home. Moving out will be easier if some of your stuff is already be packed.
Depersonalize Your Space
Sellers should remove any distractions so the buyers can visualize themselves and their family living in the property. Sellers should remove personal items and family photos, as well as bold artwork and furniture that might make the home less appealing to the general public. The goal is to create a blank canvas on which buyers can project their own visions of living there, and loving it.
Repaint Walls To Neutral Tones
You might love that orange accent wall, but if it’s your potential buyer’s least favorite color, that could be a turnoff. “You’re pretty safe with a neutral color because it’s rare that someone hates it, but the other benefit is that a light color allows [buyers] to envision what the walls would look like with the color of their choice.”It’s the seller’s job to help buyers picture themselves in the house. If they don’t feel at home, they’ll probably look at other real estate options.
Touch Up Any Scuff Marks
Even if you’re not doing a full-on repainting project, pay special attention to scrubbing and then touching up baseboards, walls, and doors to make the house sparkle and look cared-for. Selling almost any home can be tricky, but selling a home with lots of little problems and small repair needs can be downright difficult. When buyers walk into an open house, or go on a home tour, they want to fall in love with the house, not add a bunch of small repairs to their to-do list. In order to impress buyers (and sell your house quickly), fix up your house before putting it on the market. With homes that is fixed up and move-in ready, you will probably see more interest, and may even see multiple offers.
Fix Any Loose Handles
It’s a small thing, sure, but you’d be surprised by the negative effect a loose handle or missing light bulb can have on a buyer. For a buyer, submitting an offer, and later committing to a mortgage, is a big deal. When you’re selling your home, you don’t want to give any buyers doubt that your house will make a great home.
Add Some Plants
When staging your house, remember that green is good: Plants create a bright and more welcoming environment. You might also want to consider a bouquet of flowers or bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or dining table. Some plants and natural elements will impress buyers by bringing some extra color and life to your decor.
Conduct A Smell Test
Foul odors, even slight ones, can be a deal breaker, and the problem is that you might not even notice them. If the smells are pervasive, prepare to do some deep cleaning as many buyers are on to seller’s “masking techniques” such as candles or plug-in room deodorizers. Plus, covering up odors with a stronger scent might backfire if the buyer doesn’t like the smell of lavender or artificial citrus.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Once you’re done cleaning your house, clean some more. Even if you’re not worried about what buyers will think of your home’s scent, you want your property to look spotless. Think of it this way: You’ll probably have professional photos taken of your house when it looks its best. Naturally, you’ll want your house to always look like it does in those pictures. When selling your home, it’s important to keep everything tidy for buyers, and you never know when a buyer is going to want to schedule a last-minute tour. Remember to take special care with the bathroom, making sure the tile, counters, shower, and floors shine.
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