The decision to sell your home is a daunting one. Whether this will be your first time on the seller’s end of the settlement table or you haven’t been there in years, you probably have questions about how the selling process works — and how to find a buyer as soon as possible.
We’re here to help. Following is a comprehensive guide to selling your home. Use it as a resource and you’ll know what to expect as you head into the real estate market and toward what we hope will be a quick and easy settlement.
Before You Put Your Home On the Market
Hire Professional Help
Selling your home is a legally binding transaction, and if you’re unsure of what you’re doing it could lead to liability issues. Though it is optional, hiring a real estate agent who can help guide you through the sale will undoubtedly make this often-stressful process easier.
As you would whenever hiring professional help, consider interviewing multiple realtors before making your decision. Ask about their industry experience, their marketing process and their opinions about your home, including any potential obstacles. Trust your instincts and hire the one who gives you the most realistic answers, as opposed to just telling you what they think you want to hear.
Determine the Sale Price
Sale price is often the biggest hurdle for sellers to overcome when preparing to put their home on the market. Unfortunately, variables such as what you paid for it, how much you spent on upgrades and how much income you need from the sale of your home in order to make your next purchase cannot factor into the sale price.
Rather, to sell your home quickly, you’ll need to focus on pricing it fairly according to its current market value. Most qualified real estate agents will help you determine your property’s market value by following a two-step process.
First, they should visit your home to get a feel for its condition, size and any upgrades or extra amenities. Then, they should perform a comparative market analysis (or CMA) — wherein they look at similar homes in your area that are either on the market or have recently sold — to see how your home stacks up.
Fill Out the Seller’s Property Disclosure
Before putting your home on the market, your agent will ask you to fill out a Seller’s Property Disclosure (SPD). This form asks a series of questions regarding the current condition of the property; for example, the age of the roof or whether the home has a history of flooding.
A copy of the SPD is given to prospective buyers. As the seller, it’s in your best interest to fill out this form as completely and honestly as possible. While it’s perfectly acceptable to admit that you’re unsure of a time frame or simply do not know an answer, don’t lie or leave out a known issue to make your home appear to be in better condition. Doing so could cause you to lose an offer and even put you at risk of facing legal action.
Marketing Your Property
Boost Curb Appeal
Think of curb appeal the same way you would a date or a job interview: It’s the first impression that potential buyers will have of your home. Whether they’re doing a drive-by to determine whether they’d like to see the inside or they’ve already scheduled a showing, you’ll want your home to look its best.
While your home is on the market, keep the lawn well maintained. Add flowers, whether in a bed or planter. Provide a clearly marked pathway to your front door, and make sure there’s plenty of lighting to accommodate evening showings. Consider warming up your entrance by adding a fresh coat of paint to your front door or getting a new welcome mat.
Stage Your Home
Staging your home simply means arranging the rooms in the clearest and most aesthetically pleasing way. While there are companies that you can hire for this, you can do the work yourself by following a few easy steps:
- Create a focal point. Each room should have one piece as its focus that also clearly defines the function of the space.
- Depersonalize. Pack away personal items like family photographs so that your home will appeal to the widest range of buyers possible.
- Stay neutral. When it comes to details like paint colors and furniture styles, use neutral tones. Again, your goal is to appeal to the most buyers rather than showcase the latest trends.
- De-clutter. Don’t make buyers struggle to see your home’s worth. Pare down wherever possible, and invest in stylish storage solutions that will allow you to stash your belongings.
- Add homey touches. Scented candles or fresh flowers can add a warm and welcoming feel to the space.
Get Great Photographs
The average buyer spends less than a minute looking at listings online before deciding whether to see a home in person. With such a tight time frame, it’s imperative that your home be represented at its best through great photos. While your agent will probably have a process for this, there are a few things you can do to make the task a little easier.
First, clean your home. Dust particles and other microscopic materials can show up on photographs and distract viewers. You can minimize that risk by giving the rooms in your home a good scrub-down beforehand. Then, right before the photographs are taken, walk through the rooms to put away any clutter.
Show Your Home
The showing is the most crucial step on the road to selling your home. After all, it’s how prospective buyers get a feel for the property and have a chance to envision themselves living there.
As a seller, the best thing you can do to ensure a positive showing is be flexible. Buyers may want to see your home on your day off or a hectic weeknight, and it’s important to accommodate their requests whenever possible. Remember that every showing has the potential to lead to an offer.
Negotiating an Offer
Look Over the Agreement of Sale
If a buyer is interested in purchasing your home, he or she will submit an offer through a legally binding document known as an Agreement of Sale. In it, the buyer and seller will negotiate various facets of the transaction, including sale price, settlement date, the type of financing the buyer will use, time frames for performing inspections and clearing title, and the allotment of closing costs.
Successfully negotiating an offer requires compromise on both sides. As you read through an offer, make sure it meets the criteria that are most important to you. Be willing to compromise on lesser details to foster goodwill between you and your buyers. If an offer doesn’t feel like a good match, you’re well within your rights to refuse it and wait for a better one to come along.
It’s important to note that once the Agreement of Sale has been signed by both parties, they must adhere to the terms outlined within the document. If the buyer misses a deadline, the seller can walk away from the sale and withhold the buyer’s deposit money. Conversely, if the seller is found falsifying information or fails to complete an agreed-upon improvement, the buyer can terminate the sale and take legal action.
Hire Professionals to Make Repairs
An inspection of your home is elected and paid by the buyer to get an unbiased opinion of the repairs that need to be made to the property. When the report is completed, both parties will negotiate who will pay for what, as well as whether it should be done before the settlement or factored into the closing costs.
When the work falls on the seller’s shoulders, it can be tempting to get a handy friend to do the job under the table for you — but do not fall into this trap. You’ll need to present written proof at the settlement table that the repairs were made. Hire professionals and always keep multiple copies of any work invoices and receipts.
Get the Appraiser’s Valuation
If your buyer is receiving financing to buy the property, the bank will likely acquire an appraisal. During this process, a third-party appraiser will be sent to your home to verify its value. Like your real estate agent did in the initial CMA, the appraiser will take into account your home’s condition and upgrades as well as recent sales in your area to determine your home’s market value.
In an ideal world, that figure will match your sale price — another reason to offer a fair price from the start. If there is a discrepancy between the sale price and the appraised value of the property, your agent and the buyer’s agent can appeal the decision by providing their own comparable properties (comps). However, there is a possibility that you may have to renegotiate the sale price based on the appraised value.
Clear the Title
The title report is a document that outlines any restrictions that will interfere with your ability to pass the deed for your home to the buyer. These restrictions could include:
- Legal boundaries on the property
- Unpaid property taxes
- Mortgages or liens against the property
- Association documents on condos or other HOA communities
- Historic oversights, restrictions or planning requirements
Though satisfying most of these requirements is as simple as providing the buyer with written documentation, it is the seller’s responsibility to clear the title report before settlement. You will work with the title company and your real estate agent to determine what needs to be done to provide a clear deed for your property.
Prepare for Settlement
Once the inspection and appraisal are done and the title is clear, the seller has only one job left before the settlement: prepare to move. On the day of closing, the seller must be completely moved out of the home, except for any items that both parties agreed to have left behind in the Agreement of Sale.
Selling your home can seem overwhelming, but it can be easier if you are knowledgeable about the process. Use this home seller guide as a resource for what to expect when you decide to put your home on the market. We hope that we’ve made the process as simple as possible.
Are you thinking about selling your property? What questions do you have about putting your home on the market? Let us know in the comments below.