Have you been thinking, “I want to sell my house, but where do I start?” If so, you’re not alone. Perhaps you’re thinking about selling your home because you need more space, you’re ready to downsize, or you’re relocating for school or employment reasons. Whatever your reason, it’s important to be prepared for the sale process. It can be both emotional and stressful, especially for first-time home sellers, since you probably have an emotional connection to your home — and because it’s likely your biggest investment.
The following 10 steps compile several of the best tips for selling your home.
Spend some time exploring your reasons for selling. The process can be arduous and expensive, so make sure you’re certain you want to sell before you get too far into it.
Address finances: Call your current loan servicer to discuss your remaining mortgage balance. It’s your first step toward understanding how much equity you’ll have when you sell. Knowing this figure can help you budget for improvements you’ll need to make before listing or help you plan for your future home purchase.
Make a list of non-negotiables: Jot down your must-haves and deal breakers. What’s your time frame to move? What’s your budget for pre-listing home improvements? What’s the minimum sale price you will accept?
Understanding the state of your local real estate market — including whether you’re in a buyers or sellers market — can help you identify the best time to sell. If you have flexibility in your timing, you might consider waiting for a sellers market, which occurs when there are more buyers searching for homes than there are homes available. It gives sellers the negotiation power and can drive up prices.
One of the first things you’ll need to decide is if you’re going to sell your house on your own (which is called “for sale by owner” or “FSBO”) or if you’re going to use a real estate agent. Just 10 percent of sellers who sold in the last 12 months completed the sale of their home without ever engaging an agent. Another 10 percent tried to sell on their own but eventually turned to an agent or broker for help.
Preparing to sell your home typically takes some work, whether that’s your own sweat equity or some professional improvements. After all, you want buyers to fall in love with your home, like you did when you first bought it. Spend some time getting your home move-in ready, in a way that will appeal to the broadest range of potential buyers.
Finding the right listing price for your home can be a challenge, but it’s one of the most important factors in a successful home sale. Homes that are accurately priced are more likely to sell in a timely manner. According to Zillow research, 57 percent of homes nationwide sell at or above listing price when they accept an offer in the first week. In the second week on the market, that drops to 50 percent and trends downward as the weeks go on.
Your real estate agent should be an expert in home values in your area, so they’re a great resource for finding the right listing price. Plus, they can provide guidance on a pricing strategy that will spark the most interest and maybe even inspire a bidding war.
Preparing your home to sell should also include arranging your furniture, organizing and decorating in a way that appeals to the widest range of potential buyers. Seeing a home staged was extremely, very or somewhat important to 47 percent of people who bought a home in the last 12 months.
Once your home is ready for buyers, the next step is getting your listing in front of as many buyers as possible. Here are some tips for how to list a home for sale:
If your home has been on the market for a while and isn’t selling as quickly as you had hoped, you may need to rewind and address some of the steps discussed above, such as making home improvements, setting a competitive price and marketing effectively.
Getting that great offer is probably the biggest hurdle to the home-selling process, but once your home goes under contract, that doesn’t necessarily mean the challenges have ended. Consider these potential issues that can come up between the time you accept an offer and closing day:
Plan for moving costs: No matter where you’re moving, moving is expensive and time-consuming. Even a local move of less than 100 miles, serviced by two movers and a moving truck, has an average charge of $80 to $100 per hour.
Time it right: Not only is moving expensive, but the timing is crucial, as 61 percent of sellers also buy within a 12-month period. If you’re buying and selling simultaneously, you might consider temporary housing so you don’t have to worry about timing your sale and purchase perfectly, which rarely happens.
Be prepared to move quickly: The average time it takes to sell a house in 2018 is between 65 and 93 days, from list to close, so you’ll need to be prepared to move out in a short period of time. It’s a must that you be out of the home by the closing date.
When it comes time to close on the home, you as the seller are responsible for some legal documents and processes.
Complete repairs and obtain certifications: If you are obligated to complete repairs as a condition of your post-inspection negotiations, it is your responsibility to complete those tasks before closing. Additionally, if the buyers asked for (and you agreed to) any specific inspections or certifications, like a sewer line inspection or roof condition certification, those should be completed as well.
Submit property disclosures: In most states, as a seller you’re required to disclose any known defects or issues that could affect the value or safety of the home — this is known as a property disclosure. These must be documented in writing prior to closing, and the specific rules and procedures vary based on where you live.
Review expected closing costs: Selling a house can be expensive, so review your estimated closing costs ahead of closing day to prepare for the charges you’ll see. Closing costs for sellers can be as high as 8 to 10 percent of the sale price of the home, and that amount is made up of your agent’s commission, the buyer’s agent’s commission (which is typically paid by the seller), and taxes and fees. But, assuming you have some equity in the home you’re selling, these costs will come directly out of the profits you’ll be receiving upon closing.
Sign documents: One of the very last steps is showing up for your closing appointment, where you’ll sign all the legal documents related to the sale of your property. Depending on the state you live in, you may sign during the same appointment as your buyer, or you may do it separately.
Hand over keys: The keys are handed over to the buyer once you vacate the premises, and as dictated in your contract with the buyer. If the buyer is taking immediate possession, you might hand over the keys at the closing appointment. Or, depending on the terms of your agreement, it could be much later.
Close the transaction: At closing, the settlement agent (either the closing attorney or escrow company hired at the outset of the transaction) will record the new deed for the home with the county, pay off your remaining mortgage balance, pay all closing costs and make sure you receive your profit.