Step by Step Guide to Sell Your House
Maybe it’s time to look for a bigger home to accommodate your growing family, or maybe you’ve had it with the house and prefer to rent in a building with services and amenities again instead. Perhaps your job is relocating you to another city, or perhaps the market is hot enough to justify unloading the house and walking away with a sweet profit.
Whatever your reasons for selling your home, you’ll need to understand the process in order to get things done quickly and efficiently. This is especially important if time is of the essence and you need to part ways with the property and move along before too long.
We’ve taken the time to compile all the essential steps so you have a game plan right out of the gate. Follow our 10 step guide to get that house on the market and sold in record time!
Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
1. Know your “why.”
There are a million reasons to sell your house. It’s important to the process to understand your personal reason, or your “why,” and keep sight of that at all times. Maybe you have no choice because a new job opportunity is across the country and you plan to pursue it. Maybe you have a child on the way and you need more square footage sooner rather than later.
Understanding your reasons ahead of the process will help keep you motivated to follow through even when the market seems fickle or the buyers you’re attracting are offering downright insulting offers only.
As you move towards officially undertaking the selling process, you’ll want to check in on your loan and determine what amount of equity you have earned thus far. This will determine how much cash you’ll walk away with after the remainder of your debt is paid, and subsequently will determine what you can spend on the next property if you are to purchase some new digs right away.
Knowing how much equity and therefore how much cash is coming your way will also assist you later on if the buyer tries tossing a punch list at you that their offer is contingent on. Getting the firm numbers now will save you headaches later.
Having an idea of the equity, outstanding loan balance, and other factors will help you determine your motivations and help guide you through an otherwise arduous endeavor.
2. Research market trends to determine the right timing.
You’ll have to forgo this step if you get a job offer and you don’t have time to spare, unless you have cash on hand to rent a place across the country and sell the house later when the timing is better.
Most of the time, the beginning of March is the best time to list a house. The reason for this is generally twofold. For one, March marks the beginning of spring. After a dreary winter, folks are more apt to get in the car and get out to look at houses. Invigorated with the spring weather and blooming flowers, you have more buyers coming out to tour homes regularly.
This plays into our second reason for the flux in sales during this month and the succeeding months thereafter. While sellers that list in slower seasons create an environment where there are few buyers and lots of inventory available, the buyers have the upper hand. They are able to be more discerning when there are plenty of fish in the sea and plenty of other houses to tour if yours isn’t completely perfect in terms of offerings and price.
When the market heats up, houses come off the market more rapidly and the upper hand shifts to the sellers. When there are more buyers than there is inventory, now you get to determine the terms of the sale because there will always be another buyer ready to outbid someone who is less than cooperative.
Remember – listing your home in March is not the hard and fast rule. In some markets, the timing differs. It’s prudent to do the research before listing, as you don’t want to wind up with a house that sits on the market for weeks upon weeks upon months forcing you to incrementally lower the asking price numerous times just to inspire the sale.
Time it right, and you will reap the dividends.
3. Hire an agent, or don’t.
Some sellers greatly prefer hiring a real estate agent. They act on your behalf to meet prospective buyers’ agents and negotiate with your best interests, and theirs, in mind. They do a lot of the legwork staging and showing the house so you can focus on your regular day-to-day without the burden of what’s essentially a second full-time job.
The downside to hiring an agent? Those precious percentage points you lose to their commission!
We personally feel that going with an agent is probably your best bet to clinch the best deal available with minimal effort, but if you’re feeling particularly ready to undertake the selling process solo then you’re welcome to list the property as FSBO, or “for sale by owner.”
If you’re planning to list FSBO, be ready to do the following:
• List the property across multiple sites.
• Research comparable sales in the area to keep competitive.
• Be ready to meet potential buyers or utilize a lockbox or keyed entry system.
• Be open to feedback from agents and buyers and use it to make your offering more competitive with what’s on the market now.
If you’re working full-time already, it might be difficult or unrealistic to undertake this task with no backup. A real estate agent will ease you of the burden and take matters into their capable hands. If you elect to go this route, be sure to select an agent that you gel with, and who has experience in your market.
4. Get the place ready.
We’re sure you had a punch list the day you moved in. You wanted to do some major renovations, once you had some cash to burn, but also a few decorating things, some rearranging of furniture, a fresh coat of paint here and there, and maybe even a capital improvement down the line.
Did you manage to check everything off that initial list?
Don’t take it so hard! People are often very particular prior to moving in and slowly de-prioritize many nonessential tasks. Big improvements are put off when you have enough dough, sometimes for much longer than you anticipated, and cosmetic alterations get put off, then put off, then forgotten about.
Now’s the time to decide what needs to be spruced up or showcased just right so your buyers can recognize the value of the property without hyper-focusing on something minute like some chipped paint on the windowsills or a kitchen faucet with notoriously low water pressure.
How do we make sure we identify everything that needs attention?
Hire an inspector to do a pre-inspection before the buyers arrive. You know they’ll be completing an inspection of their own prior to closing, so it’s prudent to have one done ahead of this so you’re aware of what will need attention.
Anything that’s quick and inexpensive needs to be done ASAP. Major repairs like roof fixes, defunct mechanical systems, or water intrusion that leads to mold growth need to be handled as well.
As for renovations and cosmetic work, be sparing and accept that some of it will simply not be done before it goes on the market. It will be the buyer’s prerogative to do these things later on, or not.
5. Price it just right.
Now that you’ve handled how everything looks in the home, it’s time to make sure it looks just right on the listing page. That means your asking price has to be competitive with similar properties in the neighborhood.
Don’t undercut everyone hoping to sell fast, as you’ll hurt the market for other sellers but also short-change yourself on some viable profit just waiting to be plucked. Likewise, don’t price it egregiously high thinking it’s just the starting point of a long round of haggling. More likely, you’ll evoke scoffs and eye rolls from buyers who would rather take their money elsewhere.
To ensure you’re valuing the home properly, do your research. Establish a good set of comps based on median home listing prices, recent sale prices, and more. Ask your agent for guidance here, as they can usually determine the value based on what they’ve observed working firsthand in the market.
If you’re really not sure that any figure you concoct will be up to snuff, hire a professional appraiser to do it for you and work from there. They’ll do all the legwork on creating a “fair” price, and you are welcome from there to buff it up in hopes for a better profit or list it as is.
6. Stage your home.
Have you ever had company come over and you found yourself snatching up clutter from each room and apologizing profusely?
You don’t want to be doing that when buyers are looking at the home. Not only does this make an otherwise viable property seem like a dump, but it makes it more difficult for a person to envision them occupying that space while there’s so much of someone else’s stuff literally everywhere.
Channel your inner Marie Kondo and get the clutter under control immediately. You want the place clean as well, so be ready to vacuum, sweep, mop, dust, clean windows, bathrooms, showers, and more. It needs to sparkle and shine as much as possible so buyers don’t focus on the wrong things during a walkthrough.
As for the actual layout and floor plan, consult your agent or a staging expert to determine if what’s already there is going to help or hurt your efforts. Sometimes, a little bit of rearranging will maximize a floor plan in a better way than what you were accustomed to. At other times, you’re better off letting the experts bring some staging furniture and overhauling the space to really showcase it just right.
Finally, be ready to keep small children and pets out of the way of buyers. When selling your home, it can be difficult to vacate the area as it is, but it’s doubly so when you have one or more rugrats or furry pals to wrangle up and bring with you. Account for this as much as possible so your buyers will have an uninterrupted experience while visiting the house.
7. Execute a marketing strategy.
So you have the place looking spiffy and you set it up just right, but now how do we get the word out?
We recommend letting your agent do all the heavy lifting here, but if your property is FSBO then you may need to develop a marketing strategy all by your lonesome. Luckily, you don’t have to have a background in advertising to get it out there and in front of buyers and their agents. All you need is a little know-how and a lot of follow through.
For one, the listing should be available on multiple sites. Don’t post on one and hope for the best. Get it live on all the usual spots like Zillow, Trulia, and more. It also won’t hurt to add signage to the neighborhood and in front of your home.
In addition, we recommend shelling out for professional photos and even a videographer to create a video tour of the home for the listing site. Today, some iPhone pics will actually be pretty good, but they’re usually still inferior to what you can get from a professional photographer, especially one well-versed in taking pictures of homes for sale.
Finally, make sure you have a great listing description. If you’re a natural born writer, kudos to you! It’s time to put those literary and linguistic skills to good work! If not, there’s no shame. You can easily outsource the task to those more gifted with the pen to freelancers, professional writers, real estate agents, and more.
8. Expect the unexpected.
Up to now, we’re assuming most of this is all going according to plan. We’re flying through our to-do list and getting things looking incredible, attracting ourselves a plethora of prospective buyers who have pre-approvals and clearance to make a firm offer.
It’s only a matter of time before the deal is struck and we’re good to go, or is it?
There are a number of setbacks that might happen at any time after all of the preceding steps have already been taken. For one, the house might sit on the market. Whether you’re getting shoddy offers or no offers at all, this might indicate that something is amiss in the house’s presentation and you may need to address some things before it can be considered realistically.
Perhaps you have gotten an offer, but the buyer’s inspection yielded something unforeseen that is now jeopardizing the deal. Similarly, the appraisal may come back too low and now the buyer believes they are paying too much.
In these scenarios, be ready to pivot as needed. If you’re eager to unload the home and the differences are negligible, you can choose to eat it and give some leeway on the final purchase price. This illustrates to the buyer that you’re reasonable, willing to play fair, and that you are still committed to closing the deal despite the setbacks.
Likewise, you can agree to address any concerns raised by the inspection. This keeps the previously negotiated price the same and lets you dictate how much will be spent to complete the repair. It could be as costly as hiring a specialist to overhaul the punch list item, or as inexpensive as busting out the old toolbox and trying your hand to rectify things personally.
No matter what curveballs are thrown at you at this juncture, be ready to adjust and accommodate if you want to stay the course.
9. Move out.
Call yourself Billy Joel because you’re moving out. With an accepted offer pending and days to the closing, it’s time to undergo the chore no one looks forward to and hire movers to get out of the buyers’ way.
Make sure to budget enough time and money to afford the movers and cover whatever expenses you incur if you are temporarily displaced in any way. It’s nice when the timing lines up that you’re out of one home and into the next instantly, but sometimes your closing on your next home is delayed or your lease start date, if you’re going back to renting, is not timed perfectly.
Do your best, but be ready to pay for storage and/or temporary accommodations if the timing is less than ideal.
10. Closing time!
With your stuff out of the house and your closing date just around the corner, it’s time to finish off the last few things before going to that ever-important final meeting with the buyer, their attorneys, and their agents.
Here’s a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything important that you’ll need to get done before that date:
• Fulfill your closing obligations.
• Perform all repairs as agreed upon.
• Obtain all agreed upon certifications.
• Submit property disclosures.
• Review expected closing costs.
• Sign all required legal documents.
• Physically hand over the keys.
• Close the transaction.
It will still take some effort and follow through on your end, but the finish line is in sight. We recommend leaning heavily on your real estate agent for these final items, as they know the process intimately and will easily guide you through it so you don’t miss anything important.
Once these steps are completed, you have officially sold your house! Congratulations!
Selling yourself seems daunting, but it’s quite doable with some know-how and a great team of professionals to assist your efforts from start to finish.
If you’re up for the challenge and don’t want to give up any points for an agent’s commission, you can elect to go solo and sell it yourself. However, hiring an agent is often the best bet for getting the house on the market in a quick and competitive way to all but guarantees it sits for a relatively short time on the market while earning you the maximum amount possible.
As long as you keep our above tips in mind, you will persevere and successfully sell your house in no time! Good luck, sellers! You can do this!