1. Define your needs
Write down all the reasons for selling your home. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to sell and what do I expect to accomplish with the sale?” For example, a growing family may prompt your need for a larger home, or a job opportunity in another city may necessitate a move. For your goals, write down if you’d like to sell your house within a certain time frame or make a particular profit margin. Work with your real estate agent to map out the best path to achieve your objectives and set a realistic time frame for the sale.
2. Name your price
Your next objective should be to determine the best possible selling price for your house. Setting a fair asking price from the outset will generate the most activity from other real estate agents and buyers. You will need to take into account the condition of your home, what comparable homes in your neighborhood are selling for, and state of the overall market in your area. It’s often difficult to remain unbiased when putting a price on your home, so your real estate agent’s expertise is invaluable at this step. Your agent will know what comparable homes are selling for in your neighborhood and the average time those homes are sitting on the market. If you want a truly objective opinion about the price of your home, you could have an appraisal done. This typically costs a few hundred dollars. Remember: You’re always better off setting a fair market value price than setting your price too high. Studies show that homes priced higher than 3 percent of their market value take longer to sell. If your home sits on the market for too long, potential buyers may think there is something wrong with the property. Often, when this happens, the seller has to drop the price below market value to compete with newer, reasonably priced listings.
3. Prepare your home
Most of us don’t keep our homes in “showroom” condition. We tend to overlook piles of boxes in the garage, broken porch lights, and doors or windows that stick. It’s time to break out of that owner’s mindset and get your house in tip-top shape. The condition of your home will affect how quickly it sells and the price the buyer is willing to offer. First impressions are the most important. Your real estate agent can help you take a fresh look at your home and suggest ways to stage it and make it more appealing to buyers.
- A home with too much “personality” is harder to sell. Removing family photos, mementos and personalized décor will help buyers visualize the home as theirs.
- Make minor repairs and replacements. Small defects, such as a leaky faucet, a torn screen or a worn doormat, can ruin the buyer’s first impression.
- Clutter is a big no-no when showing your home to potential buyers. Make sure you have removed all knick-knacks from your shelves and cleared all your bathroom and kitchen counters to make every area seem as spacious as possible.
4. Get the word out
Now that you’re ready to sell, your real estate agent will set up a marketing strategy specifically for your home. There are many ways to get the word out, including:
- The Internet
- Yard signs
- Open houses
- Media advertising
- Agent-to-agent referrals
- Direct mail marketing campaigns
In addition to listing your home on the MLS, your agent will use a combination of these tactics to bring the most qualified buyers to your home. Your agent should structure the marketing plan so that the first three to six weeks are the busiest.
5. Receive an offer
When you receive a written offer from a potential buyer, your real estate agent will first find out whether or not the individual is prequalified or preapproved to buy your home. If so, then you and your agent will review the proposed contract, taking care to understand what is required of both parties to execute the transaction. The contract, though not limited to this list, should include the following:
- Legal description of the property
- Offer price
- Down payment
- Financing arrangements
- List of fees and who will pay them
- Deposit amount
- Inspection rights and possible repair allowances
- Method of conveying the title and who will handle the closing
- Appliances and furnishings that will stay with the home
- Settlement date
At this point, you have three options: accept the contract as is, accept it with changes (a counteroffer), or reject it. Remember: Once both parties have signed a written offer, the document becomes legally binding. If you have any questions or concerns, be certain to address them with your real estate agent right away.
6. Negotiate to sell
Most offers to purchase your home will require some negotiating to come to a win-win agreement. Your real estate agent is well versed on the intricacies of the contracts used in your area and will protect your best interest throughout the bargaining. Your agent also knows what each contract clause means, what you will net from the sale and what areas are easiest to negotiate. Some negotiable items:
- Closing costs
- Appliances and fixtures
- Move-in date
Once both parties have agreed on the terms of the sale, your agent will prepare a contract.
7. Prepare to close
Once you accept an offer to sell your house, you will need to make a list of all the things you and your buyer must do before closing. The property may need to be formally appraised, surveyed, inspected or repaired. Your real estate agent can spearhead the effort and serve as your advocate when dealing with the buyer’s agent and service providers. Depending on the written contract, you may pay for all, some or none of these items. If each procedure returns acceptable results as defined by the contract, then the sale may continue. If there are problems with the home, the terms set forth in the contract will dictate your next step. You or the buyer may decide to walk away, open a new round of negotiations or proceed to closing. Important reminder: A few days before the closing, you will want to contact the entity that is closing the transaction and make sure the necessary documents will be ready to sign on the appropriate date. Also, begin to make arrangements for your upcoming move if you have not done so.
8. Close the deal
“Closing” refers to the meeting where ownership of the property is legally transferred to the buyer. Your agent will be present during the closing to guide you through the process and make sure everything goes as planned. By being present during the closing, he or she can mediate any last-minute issues that may arise. In some states, an attorney is required and you may wish to have one present. After the closing, you should make a “to do” list for turning the property over to the new owners. Here is a checklist to get you started.
- Cancel electricity, gas, lawn care, cable and other routine services.
- If the new owner is retaining any of the services, change the name on the account.
- Gather owner’s manuals and warranties for all conveying appliances.
Let’s face it
When your house goes on the market, you’re not only opening the door to prospective buyers, but also sometimes to unknown vendors and naïve or unqualified buyers. As with any business transaction, there is an expected protocol to how sellers, buyers and their respective agents interact. Should you find yourself in a sticky situation, alert your agent so he or she can address and remedy the problem.
The aggressive agent
When your agent puts your house on the market, typically all promotional materials state clearly that your agent is the primary contact for buyers and buyers’ agents. However, sometimes a buyer’s agent will contact a seller directly to try to either win over their business or cut the seller’s agent out of the deal. This is not reputable behavior and you should report it to your agent immediately if it happens to you.
The unscrupulous vendor
Have you ever started a business or moved into a new house and suddenly found your mailbox full of junk mail? Unfortunately, this also can happen when you put your house on the market. When you sell your home, it necessitates all kinds of new purchasing decisions and less-than-ethical vendors are keenly aware of this. Though MLS organizations enforce rules on how posted information is used, some companies have found ways to pull information from various sources to produce mass mailing lists. If you find yourself regularly emptying your mailbox of junk, let your agent know. He or she can tap the appropriate sources to prompt an investigation into the matter.
The naïve buyer
Yard signs, Internet listings and other advertisements can generate a lot of buzz for your home. Some prospective buyers – particularly first-timers – will be so buzzed to see your home that they’ll simply drop by. If this happens, no matter how nice these unexpected visitors are, it’s best not to humor their enthusiasm by discussing your home or giving an impromptu tour. Instead, politely let them know that your real estate agent is in charge of scheduling tours and provide them with the agent’s contact information. If you attempt to handle these surprise visits on your own, you might inadvertently disclose information that could hurt you during negotiations down the road.
- Keep the grass cut and remove all yard clutter.
- Weed and apply fresh mulch to flower beds.
- Apply fresh paint to wooden fences.
- Tighten and clean all door handles.
- Clean windows inside and out.
- Powerwash home’s exterior.
- Ensure all gutters and downspouts are firmly attached and functioning.
- Paint the front door.
- Buy a new welcome mat.
- Place potted flowers near the front door.
- Check each room and remove items that interrupts “the flow” or makes the room appear smaller.
- Consider renting a storage unit to move items off-site.
- Clean and organize cabinets, closets and bookshelves.
- Shampoo carpets.
- Remove excessive wall hangings and knick-knacks.
- Repair all plumbing leaks, including faucets and drain traps.
- Make minor repairs (torn screens, sticking doors, cracked caulking).
- Clean or paint walls and ceilings.
- Replace worn cabinet and door knobs.
- Fix or replace discolored grout.
- Replace broken tiles.
- Replace worn countertops.
Special details for showings
- Turn on all the lights.
- Open all drapes and shutters in the daytime.
- Keep pets secured outdoors.
- Buy new towels for bathrooms.
- Buy new bedding for bedrooms.
- Replace old lamps or lampshades.
- Play quiet background music.
- Light the fireplace or clean out the ashes and light a candelabrum.
- Infuse home with a comforting scent, such as apple spice or vanilla.
- Set the dining room table for a fancy dinner party.
- Vacate the property while it is being shown.
The best Real Estate Agents don’t care about the transaction. They care about YOU!
A professional and dedicated Real Estate Agent has seven main roles:
- Educates you about your market
- Negotiates on your behalf
- Analyzes your wants and needs
- Checks and double-checks paperwork and deadlines
- Guides you to homes that fit your criteria
- Solves any problems that may arise
- Coordinates the work of other needed professionals
Here are some points to consider:
Time is not on your side when it comes to real estate. Although many factors influence the outcome, perhaps time is the biggest determinant in whether or not you see a profit and how much you profit. Studies show that the longer a house stays on the market, the less likely it is to sell for the original asking price. Therefore, if your goal is to make money, think about a price that will encourage buyer activity (read: fair market value).
Value vs. Cost
Pricing your home to sell in a timely fashion requires some objectivity. It’s important that you not confuse value with cost – in other words, how much you value your home versus what buyers are willing to pay for it. Don’t place too much emphasis on home improvements when calculating your price, because buyers may not share your taste. For instance, not everyone wants hardwood floors or granite countertops.
Keep it Simple
Because time is of the essence, make it easy for the buyers. Remain flexible on when your agent can schedule showings. Also, avoid putting contingencies on the sale. Though a desirable move-in date makes for a smoother transition between homes, it could cause you to lose the sale altogether.
Deciding to Move
Thinking about moving and selling your home? Here are some facts* to consider as you review your decision to move:
- Sellers who listed their home at the price originally recommended by their agent sold the home 38 days faster, saving over a month of mortgage and tax payments.
- On average, agent-assisted homes sold for $43,000 or 24% more than FSBOs.
- 85% of home sellers were assisted by a real estate agent when selling their home.
- A staged home boasts an average of 2 or more showings than an unstaged home, and sells for a higher list-to-sales percentage.
- Homes considered to be in good or excellent condition sell 16 days faster, and with fewer price reductions, than homes in fair or poor condition.
- Almost 50% of home sellers traded up to a larger sized and higher price home.
*Data from Keller Williams Research Division and/or NAR