Home Seller’s Guide
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SELLING YOUR HOME
Aside from buying the home of their dreams, selling your home is one of the biggest tasks many people will undertake in their lifetimes. It’s not quite as simple as putting up a “for sale” in the yard and advertising it on the internet.
Whether you’re a selling a home for the first time, or a repeat seller, the process of selling your home is a complex, and often times emotional, transaction that requires the experience and support of a team of reliable professionals. It can also be time-consuming, and costly, if you’re not familiar with all aspects of the process, or don’t have the necessary resources at hand.
Approaching the task of selling your home can also be overwhelming; there’s much to consider:
- How much is my home worth?
- Should I work with a Realtor or sell by owner?
- How do I present my home in the best light?
- Which repairs or renovations will give me the best return?
This Seller’s Guide will answer these questions and more, and help familiarize you with the process ahead.
Meet with a Real Estate Professional
Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your home on your own, sit with a local real estate professional to see what they have to offer. Agents can save sellers time, money, liability and hassle — in fact, nine in 10 sellers use a state licensed real estate agent to market and sell their homes and ensure the process goes smoothly.
The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and state regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that in recent years, fewer than 8 percent of sellers have successfully sold their home themselves, the lowest recorded figure since 1981.
It’s also important to note that 88 percent of buyers work with a Realtor® to represent their interests. Real estate agents are often skeptical of unrepresented sellers because the seller is not held to professional, industry standards, do not provide the necessary disclosures, and therefore present a greater risk to their buyer clients.
If you’re successful in receiving an offer from a buyer who’s represented by an agent, you’ll be negotiating with a professional and relying on your own skill to finalize a contract and meet the state mandated disclosures.
Several factors, including market conditions and interest rates, will determine how much you can get for your home. In other words, selling your home is part art, part science, part marketing, and part negotiation.
One of the benefits to working with a Realtor® is determining the ideal selling price. Your real estate agent has access to years of data regarding home sales in your community and surrounding neighborhoods and current market trends.
Your agent will prepare a “Comparative Market Analysis” (CMA), containing detailed information on homes nearby that are currently on the market, homes that are under contract or have recently sold, and other factors that could affect a sale of your home. The CMA helps sellers price their home objectively, taking into account size, lot, interior and exterior features, like models and floor plans, and location.
Prepare, List and Market Your House
Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house — and end up with a lower sales price.
Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light. Making minor repairs and cosmetic improvements (such as painting and cleaning carpets), help a home show better and often are good investments. Mechanical repairs that ensure all systems and appliances are in good working condition are required to get a top price.
More than 90 percent of home buyers will begin their house hunt online, and they’ll never come see your home if your online listing isn’t compelling. In real estate, compelling means pictures! Many sellers, and even some agents, fail to realize the importance of using large, vibrant professional photographs that accentuate your home’s best features. Be sure to ask your prospective listing agent how your home will be marketed.
Ultimately, however, the most important aspect of selling your home is how you present the property. The day your home goes on the market it should be in prime condition. While your listing agent will offer suggestions to make your home more appealing, your job is to get your home pristine clean, remove clutter and personalization, and keep it “show ready.”
Remember, potential buyers may ask to see your home on short notice. It’s best if you can accommodate these requests, as you never want to miss an opportunity to sell your home!
Negotiate and Accept an Offer
Perhaps the most complex moment in the sales process comes when you get an offer for your home. The reality is that not every offer will be immediately acceptable. Your listing agent will help you to carefully evaluate each offer before beginning a negotiation with the buyers and their agent.
When reviewing the terms and conditions of the offer, the most important factor to consider is whether the buyer can fulfill the terms of the contract. Your listing agent will also ensure the buyer has been pre-qualified by a lender, or has the necessary funds for a cash sale. Based on the contract terms, you’ll be able to accept, reject, or counter any offer presented.
Escrow and Closing
Once the contract is agreed upon and signed by all parties, the buyer’s earnest money will be deposited with an escrow agency, a neutral third party that will receive, hold, and ultimately distribute all funds associated with the transaction. The escrow period is usually 30 to 45 days or more, but can be as little as two weeks on a cash purchase. This will be the most complicated time in the process, but your listing agent will coordinate all the activities for you, and keep you advised of your role each step of the way.
During escrow, the buyer’s lender will order an appraisal to confirm the property’s value and the title agency will conduct a records search to identify any mortgages or liens that must be settled before the property can be sold. Buyers will also hire a state licensed home inspector to conduct a physical inspection of the property and check for termites or other infestation.
If any issues arise as a result of the inspection, title search or appraisal, buyers will be able to request repairs, re-negotiate terms of the purchase contract, or cancel the purchase entirely and receive a refund of their earnest money. Your listing agent will be well versed in this process and will advise you of the best course to ensure a successful sale.
“Closing,” also referred to as “settlement,” is the process of finalizing and settling the transaction after all terms of the contract have been satisfied. On the closing date, ownership of the property is transferred to the buyer.