THE DECISION TO SELL
Making the decision to sell your home can be a challenging one, since there are often many factors contributing to the decision. Why do you want to sell your home? Are you looking for more land? Ready to move to a new city with better school districts? Do you want to shorten your commute? Anxious to be closer to the grandchildren? Does your spouse have a new job in a different state?
The reasons to sell are many, and yours is unique. While there’s no right answer to the “why sell?” question, it’s important to check your motivations before you go through with the process.
When Should You Sell?
After you’ve worked through the “why” of your potential sale, you need to consider the “when”. Sometimes, a quick move is unavoidable, such as when you need to be in a new locale to start a new job within the next couple of months.
Other times, you don’t have a pressing need to move for a while and can afford to take your time. If you’re not in a hurry to settle into a new address, you may wish to wait until the market is favorable for home sales in order to get the best price for your home. Work with a real estate agent to understand when the time will be right to put your home on the market.
How is the Market?
Regardless of whether you need to move quickly or can take your time with planning your sale, you need to get a feel for what the market is doing as you work through the process. You will want to rely on your agent’s knowledge and expertise to get the best feel for the market. Your agent can give you answers about prices and sales terms for homes comparable to yours, as well as provide expectations how competing homes might impact your sale.
Make the Most of Your Finances
As you might imagine, selling your home has significant ramifications for your financial situation. Items like your sales price, taxes, estate planning, and more can affect your bottom line and may not make a whole lot of sense when you try to sort them on your own. Your agent can help you get to the bottom of the financial puzzle to give you a better understanding about how your home sale will reflect on your financial wellbeing.
FINDING A REAL ESTATE AGENT
Once you’ve made the decision to sell, you must decide whether you want to sell independently or employ the help of a real estate professional. Choosing to work with a real estate professional means that you won’t have to navigate the process yourself. A real estate agent understands the market and has a network of people who assist with selling your home to the right buyer at the right price. Additionally, your agent can assist with marketing efforts to make your home sale an enjoyable process.
Selecting the Right Agent
If you decide to work with an agent, and we recommend that you do, you want to ensure that you find the right agent for managing your home sale. There are a lot of agents out there, but not all of them offer the same level of care and professionalism. Here are some things to think about when hiring a real estate agent to sell your home:
Experience. You want to select a real estate agent who has experience in home sales similar to yours. They should also have a knowledge of your locale and experience selling homes there. You may also want to ask questions of your potential agent’s marketing and tech experience, as these can be important factors in your home sale success.
Credentials. What kind of background and education does your potential agent have? Ideally, you want to work with a professional who is well-credentialed and who continues to educate him-/herself in the real estate field.
Availability. Does your potential agent respond calls, texts, or emails in a timely fashion? An open line of communication is essential when you’re selling a home, since delays can mean missing out on landing the right buyer. You want to choose an agent who is available when you need them, including evenings and weekends.
Connection. After the above factors are considered, you also need to ask yourself if you get along well with the real estate agent you are thinking of working with. It’s good to have an agent who understands your unique situation and who will work through each step with clear communication and advice.
Evaluating Your Property’s Worth
Settling on a price tag for your home sale may seem daunting. Don’t worry! This is one of the first things that your real estate agent will help you with in your home sale journey. Your agent will help you evaluate your home’s value fairly, without the emotional aspect that many homeowners weigh into their self-assessment of their property’s worth.
GETTING READY TO SELL
Now that you’ve decided to sell your home, you need to take some time to prepare your home for sale.
Consider Curb Appeal
You’ve been driving up to your home for years, or maybe even decades, but when was the last time you actually looked at your home’s facade as you pulled into the driveway? Curb appeal is your home’s first impression - and in the real estate market, first impressions are everything.
If your curb appeal is less than appealing or dated, consider ways you can boost your home’s appearance. New landscaping, tidied bushes, driveway repairs, and maybe even some seasonal decor can bring an attractive touch to the front of your home.
Make Those Repairs
Every house has those little things that get pushed to the bottom of the honey-do list, weekend after weekend. As you prepare your home for sale, it’s time to tackle those tasks so that your home is in good shape for potential buyers and will pass inspection with flying colors.
Even cosmetic repairs have their place. A fresh coat of paint, some quick DIYs in the bathroom, and small upgrades to kitchen counters or cabinets can make a big difference to prospective buyers.
Keep Things Tidy
If you wouldn’t want to walk into someone’s cluttered house and try to imagine yourself living there, your prospective buyers probably don’t want to walk into your clutter and try to imagine plugging their lifestyle into that space. When you’re preparing your home for sale, it’s important to look at your space with fresh eyes and take some time to remove the clutter that you might ignore on the day to day.
If you’ve outgrown your space or want to stage your home to make a minimal storage situation appear less tiny, you might consider storing some of your items in an external storage unit while you prepare to move. Not only will your house be more presentable, but you’ll save some work later on when you have to pack everything up after the sale.
Other Housekeeping Items
Before you put your house on the market, your real estate agent will help you to prepare a disclosure statement that’s beneficial for both you and your buyer. They’ll also help you to think through some of the finer details, like getting a pest inspection, before you list the home.
Prepare for Showing the Home
Once your house is listed, prospective buyers will tour it with their respective agents. Most buyers are more comfortable viewing the home and discussing it with their agents when the homeowner is not present.
You need to make a plan for the days when your house will be shown. Not only should you have an out-of-home activity planned for yourself, children, and/or pets, but you also want to have a quick tidying routine that helps your home appear fresh and put together and that can be performed on short notice, if necessary.
Of course, the purpose of putting in the work ahead of time is to attract the right buyer for your home. This may happen quickly or may take some time. When the right buyer - or buyers - is interested, they will submit an offer.
Think Carefully About Price Points
Many homeowners think that, when it comes to accepting an offer on their home, the higher the offer, the better. But this isn’t necessarily true. While a high offer might seem attractive, especially if you put forth significant financial investment to prepare the home for sale, price isn’t the only factor to consider.
There are a lot of factors that go into making a good offer good, and price may or may not be the determining one. Additionally, the offer price will probably not be the final price, since offers often go through multiple steps of review and counteroffers before buyer and seller settle on a final price.
Prepare for Negotiations
As you might have guessed - or experienced firsthand from previous home purchases and sales - there is a period of negotiations that occurs after the first offer is received. If you’re working with multiple offers, this period can get complicated pretty quickly.
Your real estate agent is a critical member of your home sale team at this point and you will want to employ their extensive knowledge and negotiating skills as you work through offers and negotiations. Your agent will give you guidance to help you understand how to counteroffer and provide input as to when it’s time to settle on the best offer.
Your Initial Agreement
This agreement, also known as the “effective agreement” is a legal agreement between you and the buyer upon your acceptance of an offer on the you’re selling.
There are two important points to remember here:
Keep meticulous records. Everything must be submitted in writing, including the initial offer, your counter offers, and any addendums. Even verbal agreements should be committed to writing. Your agent can help you keep track of these details.
Mind your schedule. When you accept an offer, you and the buyer will be provided a schedule for acceptance and next steps. It’s essential that both parties adhere to the schedule to avoid violating any legal agreements.
COMPLETING THE SALES PROCESS
Once you accept an offer, you and the buyer will work through the sales process. Here’s what to expect:
Your buyer will likely wish to have the home inspected before they sign on the dotted line. They may have a single inspector look at the whole home or use multiple parties to inspect things like the roof, HVAC, and other systems separately.
If the buyer’s titling is contingent on financing, they will also be required to get the home appraised. An appraiser will evaluate the home and establish it’s value based on factors like property size, location, and the home’s condition.
Your Closing Agent
Your closing agent is either an attorney or a title company that will hold the initial deposit while checking to ensure that the property you’re selling is free and clear. They will work to clear the home of any titles and liens in your name (ex your mortgage) and transfer them to your buyer.
What About Contingencies?
Sometimes, there are certain conditions required by an inspector, your buyer’s agent, your closing agent, or another party involved in your home sale. These conditions are called contingencies, and must be met before the contract can be signed.
Contingencies can vary and may be minor adjustments regarding the property or dates. Others may be larger, like a request to replace an aging roof. Your real estate agent will help you to understand requested contingencies and work through them before closing day.
After receipt of contingencies and your response, the seller may:
Be satisfied and proceed with the sale.
Wish to renegotiate terms of the contract (often, this means they will request to lower the sale price).
In the event that the buyer wishes to renegotiate, you may feel that the new agreement is unfair or disadvantageous to your position. While these feelings are valid, they may cloud your judgement in making the best sales decision. Your agent can give you some objective feedback and help you to settle on the best decision for moving forward.
The Buyer’s Loan Approval
While there are a variety of financing options a prospective buyer might bring to the table, it’s recommended that you choose a buyer with pre-acceptance for their home loan. Pre-acceptance means that the buyer has the means to proceed with the loan and will speed up the remainder of the sales process once you accept the offer.
Once you’ve successfully navigated the ups and downs of the sales process, it’s closing day. Congratulations, you’re almost finished with your home sale!
Here are some last minute items to check off the list before you hand off the keys.
The Final Inspection
On the day of your closing (or, in some cases, the day before), your buyer will go for a final inspection walk-through of the property. This is more of a formality than anything is to help ensure that the property is as they expect it to be, per the paperwork that both parties have agreed to. They will check details to verify that things are still in working order, that no personal items have been left behind, and that additional items to be left with the property (if any) are in place.
Once you vacate your home, you’ll need to discontinue utilities in your name. Contact your utility companies to deactivate your accounts (for long-distance moves) or to transfer them to your new address (for local moves).
Last Minute Snafus
As you approach the finish line, you may run into some unexpected glitches in the process. At this point, generally any problems are fairly minor and easily solved. However, in the excitement and stress of your closing day, you may not have the presence of mind to work through these on your own. Not to worry! Your agent will be on hand to help you handle these details as they arise.
Closing on Your Home Sale
A closing agent will preside over the closing process, where you officially hand off your property. Your buyer will be asked to sign their loan paperwork, as well as other paperwork associated with the financial transaction.
If, for any reason, you are unable to physically make your closing date, your agent may be able to take your place during this meeting, but you must provide pertinent paperwork and funds, if necessary. You will need to present the keys and any other information, as requested, to make the transfer process go as smoothly as possible.