Steps to Selling Your Home

As an alternative to working with a real estate agent, you might consider selling your home yourself. If you choose this option, be prepared for a lot of work!  It can and has been done; but it takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and “know how”. It involves knowledge, skills, preparation, marketing, negotiation, paperwork and a host of other items that can become overwhelming to someone without prior experience in selling real estate. Because of this fact most people choose an experienced real estate agent to sell their home. Statistics show that people who hire a real estate agent consistently get higher prices for their homes and have their homes on the market for less time. Whether you choose to have a real estate agent to represent you or not, there are a myriad of steps you will need to complete prior to closing. The following is a checklist to help walk you through the process:

1. Know your property.  Become familiar with such facts about your property as property taxes, zoning, lot size, square footage, etc.  Also, it is always a good idea to look at the terms of your existing loan.

2.  Do the COMPS. Research the current market and property laws in your area.  How much are properties similar to yours selling for?  What are the terms of the sales?  Familiarize yourself with the current property disclosure laws that you will need to take into consideration.

3. Pick the price.  Once you know the specifics about your home and have checked out what similar properties in your area are selling for, set a realistic price. Statistics show that overpricing your home, often leads to more time on the market and usually a lower price in the end.

4. Research financing alternatives.  Contact several lenders in your area to determine what the options might be for your prospective buyer.  It is a good idea to be informed before they ask, or your lack of knowledge may turn them off from dealing with you.

5. Do a “walk-through” of your property.  Look at the property from the perspective of both the inspector and the prospective buyer.  Make a list of all items that need to be repaired or replaced.  Keep in mind that repairing or replacing items on your own is often cheaper than a credit the buyer may ask for.

Here are some improvement considerations you may want to think about:

Exterior:

  • How is the “Curb Appeal? Is the house appealing as you approach it from the street?
  • Perhaps it could use a new coat of paint? Cracked, faded, or unusual choice in color might very well turn off prospective buyers. A new coat of paint can go a long way to changing the entire look of a property.
  • Is the lawn and landscaping manicured and attractive to the eye?
  • Is the entrance to the home dressed up and appealing?
  • Are the windows and doors in good condition?
  • Is the roof in good condition?
  • Are the hedges trimmed? Is the grass cut? Are the leaves swept up?  Are the toys and tools put away?

Interior:

  • How is the interior paint? Is it in good condition (recently updated), or does it need to be spruced up?  This is one area where you can get a big bang for your buck.
  • Do the appliances work or could they use some updating?
  • Are the plumbing and electrical systems in decent condition and functional?
  • What is the condition of the carpets or other floor coverings?  Well-kept or new floor coverings go a long way to the overall look of the property. Like new paint floors can make a huge difference in the appeal and impression of a property.
  • Are the sink, shower, tub and windows in good condition?
  • Are all light fixtures working properly? Make sure there is good lighting in each room so that prospective buyers won’t think you’re hiding something.

6. Make all repairs noted in your inspection that you think will make a difference.

7. Be knowledgeable about your neighborhood.  Many prospective buyers inquire about the local schools, shopping, parks, transportation, etc.  It is important that you can knowledgeably answer their questions.

8. Create a marketing budget.  Calculate how much are you willing to spend to sell your home? Here are some considerations:

  • Real estate commissions if you use a broker
  • Advertising costs, signs, other fees if you plan to sell yourself.
  • Attorney, closing agent and other professional fees.
  • Excise/Transfer tax for the sale.
  • Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes and home owner association (HOA) fees.
  • Any additional fees normally paid by sellers in your area (title insurance, retrofit, termite, home warranty, surveys, etc.).
  • Keep in mind that real estate agents can often give their clients very close estimates of closing costs due to the fact that they conduct transactions on a regular basis. This can be very helpful so there are no surprises in the end.

9. Look into the real estate sections of your local newspapers and other publications. What publications will expose your property to the most people and get you the most “bang for your buck?”  Many publications offer reasonable photo box ads that allow one to post a photo and basic information about the property that is sufficient to stir up interest for the right buyer.

10. Take advantage of the Internet!  Over 90% of buyers these days go on-line to look at properties prior to actually going out and seeing them in person. Most agents have their own website, which includes their clients’ listings as well as the entire MLS search.  This will certainly work to your advantage as your home will most likely be placed on their web site and on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) as part of the services offered to you. Keep in mind that these days many newspaper publications also offer Internet advertising tied in to their traditional print ads. Again, this will work to expose your property to an even broader audience.

11. Create a marketing plan.  Review the advertising alternatives and associated costs and formulate a plan on how to best reach prospective buyers on both a local and national level. Because many people relocate, be sure to include Internet advertising in your plan.  Investigate your local newspaper as they might have a national edition that you may want to place your ad in.

12. Create and design your ad.  At a minimum, you will need at least a few sentences that will run as a classified ad or a photo box ad. As an alternative, you may want to run a larger, custom-designed ad in the newspaper. You could then use this ad as a flyer to hand out at open houses or anywhere else you might meet prospective buyers.  Keep in mind that a professional, well-crafted ad can attract buyers while a poorly designed one can turn buyers off to your property.

13. Make time in your schedule for appointments and open houses to show the property to prospective buyers.  If you have hired an agent, he or she will take care of showings and open houses on your behalf. Keep in mind it is often best to allow your agent to show your home on their own. This is advisable so that the prospective buyer does not feel uncomfortable or pressured and can speak openly about the property. If the seller is home, the buyer may mask his or her true feelings. Buyer comments can sometimes be interpreted the wrong way from a seller’s point of view and feelings can get hurt. One does not want a transaction to get started on the wrong foot.

14. Install a “for sale” sign.  The sign should be attractive, weatherproof and well designed. It should be placed where it is clearly visible from the street.  Many prospective buyers drive around the areas they are considering buying in and neighbors often know friends that are looking into buying in the area. A sign is very important. If you have hired an agent to represent you, he or she will most likely provide the sign to you.

15. Prepare an information sheet to accompany the flyers you have prepared. This single sheet description of your property should list the important features and benefits that will draw in prospective buyers.  If the property has been remodeled, the sellers have an opportunity here to list all of the upgrades that are significant. Again, if you have hired an agent, he or she will most likely do this on your behalf.

16. Buy “open house” signs.  They should include a place to write the address of your property and the date and time of the open house.  Keep in mind, it is not only good to place one in the front yard, but it is smart to place several in high-traffic locations around the neighborhood, such as main streets leading to your home.  Most of these signs have directional arrows on them that can point prospective buyers to your home even if they don’t know the area.  Make sure that you take these signs down as soon as the open house is over; otherwise, buyers could show up on your doorstep at all hours of the day and night. Also, be aware that some cities have laws restricting sign sizes and where they can be placed. If you have hired an agent, he or she should know the permitted uses in your neighborhood.

17. Prepare a schedule of open houses.  While most are held on the weekend for the general public, this is not always convenient for all buyers.  It is also important to have an open house for brokers and agents as well as just the general public.  A broker open house can be as important or even more important than a public open house. Most buyers are represented by agents and exposing the property to the agents when they normally see properties can go a long way to getting your property sold. Different areas have different days that the agents make their “rounds”. Make sure to investigate the days and times for your areas. In addition, make sure that you coordinate your print advertising to include information about your next open house.

18. Keep a list of all prospective buyers.  As people come through during open houses, or as they call from reading your ads or seeing the sign out front, keep a list with their names and phone numbers.  Concentrate your attention on those who seem serious about your property, as opposed to those who are just checking out the neighborhood.  Follow up with a telephone call to all those who seem seriously interested in your property.

19. Once you have an offer, it is time to start negotiating. Do not let your emotions get the best of you when you enter negotiations.  Although selling your home is more often than not an emotional experience for anyone, it is important not to get angry or give away the fact that you’re overly eager. Emotions can get in the way and “kill” deals before they get off the ground. It is important to keep one’s eye on the ultimate goal of selling the house.

20. Get all of your necessary forms in order.  A great number of forms are required for the legal sale of your property.  In addition to the purchase contract and any counter offers, there are many other forms that the seller is required to provide to the buyer.  Many of these forms are in the form of disclosures about the condition of the property itself or disclosures about the area the property is located in. It is necessary to review the contract carefully to determine when these forms and documents are due and what the buyer’s rights are once they receive these documents.  The form and content of many of these documents are prescribed by state or federal law and must be adhered to in their entirety.  The proper forms may be obtained from your local Board of Realtors or from your real estate agent who you have hired to represent you.

21. Negotiate the final terms of the sale.  The Buyer will need to come to an agreement per the contract regarding each of the following:

  • Price
  • Inspection contingencies
  • Financing terms
  • Date of closing
  • Date of possession

It is always recommended to have an attorney review any and all contracts before the deal is finalized. Attorneys are familiar with these contracts and can advise on terms and implications.

Have the buyer conduct a final walk-through of the property a few days prior to the closing. This is important in order to determine that the property being conveyed is in the same condition as it was when the buyer made his or her offer and it still meets the expectations of all parties involved.  If issues arise, be sure to resolve any disputes before the transfer of title.

Your final step as a seller will be to find and make arrangements for the home you will be moving to. On many occasions the seller will need to be the “buyer” for a new property while simultaneously being the “seller” for their current one unless they have already bought or built their new residence.  If possible try to schedule both transactions to close at the same time. If this is not possible then try to close your purchase shortly before closing your own sale.  This is important because you will need to be moved out before the new owners take possession. If the two transactions are not coordinated properly you may have to find a short-term lease or stay in a hotel until you can take possession of your new property. Some buyers will allow the seller to leaseback the property they are selling for a short time so they can avoid this issue. If this is the case, be sure to work out the terms of the lease (price, length of time, security deposit, etc.) when negotiating the original contract.