Do you know why most people want the best home selling tips?

Because they’re afraid their home will languish on the market. 

And rightfully so. 

As a seller, when this happens, you lose almost all leverage. Buyers start to think that you’re desperate and will entertain low-ball offers. 

This is the worst scenario to be in.

You don’t just lose time.

You can literally leave tens of thousands of dollars on the table and pile on a bunch of stress. 

So today, my goal is to help you avoid this.

I’m going to share seven tips for selling your home that will skyrocket your chances of selling fast and for top dollar. 

One of these tips will help prevent the buyer from backing out of your sale.

Let’s jump in.

Tip #1  Remove your emotional attachment

Not the home selling tip you were expecting?

Well, this one is very important. 

In fact, this can be the main reason your home might sit on the market.

There are two scenarios where this usually comes into play.

First, when you start preparing your house to sell, you might be tempted to base decisions on your personal preference. 

Don’t do it. 

Why?

Because your taste in something might not appeal to the largest audience. When you sell your home, the goal is to appeal to as many buyers as possible who are in your target market. 

When you start basing decisions on personal preference, you increase the chances of not attracting as many buyers.

I’ll touch on more of this in a minute.

Second, and this one is more common, when you negotiate with the buyer, keep one very important thing in mind: This is a business transaction. 

Don’t let your ego put you at risk of leaving money on the table. And don’t get too greedy.

Let me give you two quick examples.

Let’s say your home has been on the market a bit longer than expected. Maybe the average home in your area goes pending within ~21 days. 

You get an offer on day 29. It’s a bit under the asking price and contingent

It’s not what you were expecting, but it’s not the worst offer. 

After discussing with your agent, you decide to send a counteroffer to the buyer at the asking price. 

You’re hoping they accept it, but you’ll be satisfied meeting the buyer halfway. 

They don’t. 

They send you back a counteroffer at the same price and terms as their original offer. 

It’s decision time. 

Do you let your emotions get in the way because the buyer didn’t budge? 

You’ve been on the market for 29 days and this is the only offer you’ve received. What are the chances of getting something better (or the same)? 

Maybe you don’t accept their offer, but you need to weigh the pros and cons. Some sellers don’t. And it ends up costing them much more than they thought. 

On the flip side, let’s say you’re in a really hot market.

You get three offers within 10 days. All above the asking price. 

One of them is a bit more than the other two. 

You’re thinking that if three buyers all gave you offers above your asking price, you might be able to squeeze a bit more out of them. 

You very well might be able to. But there’s a risk. 

When you send a counteroffer (or multi-counter in this situation), you put the ball back in the buyer’s court and risk letting them walk away. 

So, it’s decision time again. 

Do you accept one of these offers or try to get a bit more because you know the buyers really like your house?

Some sellers like to gamble, but it can backfire.

Your goal is to sell your house quickly and make the most possible money. You increase your chances of doing this when you don’t let your emotions play into your decision making.

This is one reason why choosing the right real estate agent is key. They’ll be able to guide you through scenarios like these so that you can make an informed decision. 

Which leads us to the second home selling tip.

Tip #2 Hire the right agent, early

Want an easier home sale?

This is one of the best tips for selling your home that I can give you.

Hire the right real estate agent sooner than you think you should. 

Many sellers wait. 

Either because they don’t want to go through the hassle of finding an agent, or because they’re not aware that the right agent can be a tremendous benefit earlier in the process. 

They end up adding a bunch of stress that could have been prevented.

The right real estate agent will save you a boatload of time, headaches, and money. 

Notice how I mentioned the “right” real estate agent?

That’s because it’s more important than “top.”

Of course, you want to hire a top real estate agent. But don’t just hire them because they do a lot of business or have many years of experience. 

You want to make sure you hire someone who is going to have your back. 

How do you do this?

Ask the right questions when you interview them.

You want to make sure you work with someone who is going to put your interests before a commission check. 

Asking the right questions can help you do this.

We recently turned down a top real estate agent in Silicon Valley who wanted to join our platform. This agent does a lot of business and is in the top 1% nationwide. 

We turned them down because we don’t believe a specific approach they take to selling a house puts the seller’s best interest before theirs. 

And you should do the same.

If you don’t get the right vibe or the right answers, then don’t hire them.

Even if you already know them, don’t skip the interview. 

And especially don’t give them the idea that you’re going to hire them no matter what. 

This is a mistake that a lot of sellers make. 

They contact an agent they have previously worked with or someone they know, and they sign the contract without having an in-depth conversation. 

When you do this, you reduce the chances of that agent giving you 110%. 

At a minimum, you want to hear their game plan for selling your house fast and for the highest price. 

“Keep them on their toes,” as they say. 

It will be well worth it. And your sale will be easier. 

They can make it much easier if you hire them early.

If you’re like most home sellers, you’re spending a lot of time researching everything you can about selling your home. 

You’re thinking about what needs to be done and when. 

This is good.

But not everything you’ll come across can be applied to you and your home.  

For example, this post tells you that water stains are a huge red flag and need to be fixed before selling. 

If you’re reading that and you have a water stain, you’re going to freak out and might spend a bunch of time and money fixing it. 

Not all water stains need to be fixed. In fact, many of them are old and don’t require any attention (but do need to be disclosed). 

This is just a small example, but here’s the point…

The reason why hiring the right real estate agent early is one of the top tips for selling your home is because they can help you avoid making mistakes like this.

And they can help you in many other ways.

The best ones will give you a game plan from the get-go, have all of the contacts you’ll need, and offer to help as little or as much as you want. 

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is, hiring the right real estate agent early can make your sale a lot easier.

When should you contact a realtor to sell your house?

Probably as soon as you know that you’re selling, or three to four months before you plan on listing your home, whichever is shorter. 

Tip #3 Read your contract

It’s imperative that you know what you’re agreeing to before signing a contract with a realtor to sell. 

Most of them will go over this with you during your initial consultation.

I’m going to share two tips so that you’re aware of two tactics that you might come across.

But first, let’s quickly discuss what this contract is. 

What is an exclusive contract with a real estate agent?

An exclusive real estate contract is a contract between you and the agent’s brokerage that states if your property sells within a specific time period, then that brokerage is to be paid a commission. 

There are six different types of agreements you can sign with your realtor, but the exclusive contract is by far the most common. 

An exclusive contract means that you cannot hire another agent to sell your home while your contract is still valid. 

When you sign a contract with a realtor to sell your house, that contract is between you and the agent’s broker. Licensed real estate agents must hang their license under a “broker.” 

Your agreement is between you and the brokerage, with the agent acting as the representative. 

Now that you know the type of contract you’ll be signing and what it means, let’s go over the two important things in the contract you should know.

Timeframe

The time period the contract is valid for is negotiable. 

In the contract that is used for California, the time period is stated on page one. 

A quick sidenote: The language used in real estate contracts can differ depending on which state you’re in. 

They all include the “important” items, but the way they are written can differ.

I’ll be using the California contract for examples, so if you’re in a different state, you might see something slightly different.

Okay, back to the timeframe. 

This is an example of what it looks like in California. 

Tip for signing the contract with a realtor when selling a house

The start date is when your agent can officially start helping you. 

The end date is when the contract expires. 

When discussing the timeframe, you’ll want to consider these three things:

  1. The time from when you want your agent to start helping you to when you plan to put the home on the market
  2. Estimated time from going on market to accepting an offer
  3. Estimated time from accepting an offer to closing

The average timeframe for an exclusive contract with a realtor to sell is usually between three and six months. 

If you sign your contract relatively close to the time when you expect your home to be listed, be aware of agents who are pushing for six months or more. 

Unless you’re in a market where the average home takes three to four months to sell, a six-month timeframe is excessive. 

Some agents will push for (or include without even discussing it) much longer timeframes than they should need. 

This is actually one of the oldest tricks in the book. 

Here’s how it usually works…

The agent will overpromise on the estimated selling price. You’ll get excited because they’re overly confident when discussing an inflated value that sounds too good to be true.

The contract is for ~6 months, but you don’t care because the agent said they can sell your house much higher than you thought. 

After the house has been on the market for an extended period of time, your agent advises you to drop the price.

And that’s what you do.  

The house eventually sells at a much lower number than you were expecting. 

But…your agent still got paid a commission. 

In many of these cases, the agent knows there’s almost no chance of the house selling at the price they initially discussed. They used this tactic to get the contract signed. 

The agents who do this are usually the ones that have zero confidence in their ability to properly market your home, so they overpromise to secure your business.

The best agents will clearly outline your timeframe and why they think they can sell your house at or above their recommended asking price. 

I would make sure of two things when it comes to the time period in your contract:

  • Your agent discusses it with you
  • It aligns with their timeline of how long they think it might take to sell your house

Commission

Who pays the commission when selling a home?

The seller does.

You’ll pay the commission to both your agent and the buyer’s agent. 

Well, technically you’re paying the commission to both agents’ brokerages.

But, nevertheless, the seller pays the total commission. 

Depending on your area, the total commission is usually around 5-6%. But this can be different depending on the type of agent you hire and the services they provide. 

Now, here’s the tip I want to tell you about when it comes to paying the commission to a realtor when selling your house.

Make sure you understand how much is getting paid to your brokerage and how much is being offered to the buyer’s brokerage. 

Because some agents will try to slip this past you. 

You will technically pay the entire commission to your brokerage, and your brokerage offers a certain percentage to the buyer’s brokerage. 

Here’s an example:

In most cases, the total commission is split 50/50. 

But some agents will put a higher percentage for their brokerage without telling you.

This can hurt you because if you’re paying a lower-than-average commission to the buyer’s agent, then they may be less motivated to show your home compared to your neighbor’s. 

The key tip?

Make sure you understand how much is being paid to each brokerage before signing the contract. 

Tip #4 Get inspections

Many home sellers panic when it comes to getting inspections. 

Or worse, they don’t get them at all. 

Here’s the first inspection tip I have for you when selling your home:

Get them done. 

They’ll be one of the best investments you make. 

Let me explain by using an analogy I always use when it comes to selling a house and getting inspections. 

Let’s say you’re in the market for a used car. You come across one you like very much, but the owner has no paperwork, no receipts, and no Carfax. 

You don’t know what’s “under the hood.”

Are you going to make your best offer? Probably not, right?

Well, when you don’t get inspections before selling your house, buyers won’t give you their best offer. 

Or they might not even submit an offer at all. If they do, it’s almost a guarantee that their offer will include an inspection contingency. 

You might be thinking, “Doesn’t the buyer do their own inspections?” 

They can, and many of them do.

But when you have them done upfront, it does two things:

  1. Gives the buyer more confidence in submitting their best offer
  2. Reduces the chances of the sale falling through 

Let’s say you decide not to have inspections done before selling. 

You accept an offer, and the buyer has an inspection contingency. 

They have their property inspection done, and the report comes back with numerous items. Nothing major, but items that need to be fixed and will cost money. 

Many times, the buyer will think they have leverage over you because you were unaware of these. 

So, they ask you to pay for the work.

And they throw out an excessively high number.

Not only did they submit an offer that probably wasn’t their best, but they’re now asking you to pay for everything.

You and your agent think they are being unreasonable, so you go back and forth on the dollar amount. 

You can’t come to an agreement or the buyer gets turned off, so they back out of the sale. 

Now let’s say you decided to have the inspections done before putting your home on the market.

The buyer is now well aware of what’s “under the hood” and is more confident about their offer. 

Could they still include an inspection contingency? Yep, and many buyers do. 

But here’s the difference. 

As long as there isn’t a major discrepancy between your home inspection and theirs, the chances of them asking for repairs are dramatically reduced because they were aware of your report before making their offer. 

So by getting inspections done before selling your home, the buyer probably submitted a better offer and will be less inclined to ask you to make repairs.

Make sense? 

Great. 

Here’s the next inspection tip when selling your home.

You don’t need to take care of every single item called out in the report. 

And there will most likely be numerous items mentioned.

This is typical. 

Inspectors do this not just because it’s in everybody’s best interest, but also for liability reasons. 

You might see things like these mentioned in your report. 

Repair items listed in a home inspection when selling a house

These items are what most people would consider “minor”. 

The buyer and their agent are expecting to see some items called out by the inspector.

Fixing these before putting your home on the market is optional, but it’s almost always a good idea. 

If you’re working with the right agent, they’ll be able to advise you on what’s worth fixing and what’s not.

Which brings me to the next inspection tip for selling your home. 

Don’t waste time fixing things before the inspection. Wait for your agent to advise you.

Many sellers stress and think they need to go through the house, fixing everything. 

You don’t.

Now, if there are simple things that can be fixed or items you know will be called out by the inspector, then go ahead and fix them.

But you don’t need to waste a bunch of time preparing for a home selling inspection. 

You can do this instead.

Fix the items in the home inspection report that are worth fixing and then have your agent list the items you fixed in a Word document and include it in your disclosure package. 

Here’s an example of what this might look like.

List of items repaired in the home seller's inspection report

The buyer will request your disclosures and inspections when they’re thinking about submitting an offer.

Including a document that shows them which items you took care of will give them more confidence and help make your home stand out from others they might be considering.

A home inspection isn’t the only inspection you might want to have done before selling your home. 

Two other inspections that might benefit you include termite and roof inspections. 

A termite inspection is common in most areas and for most properties. 

A roof inspection is usually recommended for all single-family residences, but not for condos and townhomes as the HOA is almost always responsible for the roof. 

The most important thing about having inspections completed is that the buyers have them upfront so they can feel more confident about making their best offer. 

Here’s a summary of the best home selling inspection tips:

  1. Get them done before listing your home
  2. Minimize your time spent fixing things before the inspector comes out
  3. Ask your agent which items are worth fixing
  4. Have your agent include a document in your disclosure package that shows which items you’ve taken care of

Tip #5 Optimize your home’s appearance

This is one of my favorite tips for selling a home.

Mainly because many home sellers struggle when getting their house ready to sell.

Or they get bad advice.

Knowing what to do (and what not to do) will help you sell your house fast and for top dollar. 

How do you do this?

Think visually.

Let me explain.

Remember the first home selling tip we discussed about keeping your emotional attachment out of the sale?

Well, now look at it from the buyer’s perspective. 

Buying a home is an emotional decision. And in this case, emotion can be your best friend. 

Your goal (and your agent’s job) is to maximize the emotion a buyer feels when they see your home. 

You do this by optimizing the appearance. 

But this doesn’t mean you need a new kitchen or bathroom. 

Will making a bunch of upgrades make your home look better?

Of course.

But not all of them will pay off.

In many cases, it’s the inexpensive things that will bring the biggest bang for your buck. 

Here are a few examples:

Is your lawn not as green as you’d like?

You don’t need new sod. Spray paint your grass instead.

Do your kitchen or bathroom cabinets not have knobs or handles?

Add them. They make a huge difference. 

Can you add mulch to your landscaping?

Do it. It will have a positive impact on how buyers view your exterior.

Appeal to more buyers

The larger the audience you can appeal to, the sooner you’ll get that offer you’re hoping for. 

This means as you start to prep, keep your personal preferences to the side. 

The key to doing this is to think neutral. 

Will pictures of you and your family help potential buyers envision themselves living there?

Probably not, right?

Is your chair in front of the TV that you’ve been sitting in for the past 14 years something that most buyers would sit in?

Most likely not. 

Adamant on keeping any dark-colored walls?

Most buyers will immediately factor in the time and money they have to spend repainting.

Whether you’ve lived in your home for three years or 30 years, you have to keep in mind that this won’t be your home any longer. 

Remember, this is a business transaction. 

Here’s a tip that can help with this. 

Walk across the street and stand there for a good minute looking at your home. 

Now pretend this isn’t your house. Pretend you’re a buyer. 

How does your exterior look? 

Walk inside and go room by room. Look for the little things that you might not normally pay attention to. Because this is what buyers will notice. 

They’re going to be looking at your house with a fresh set of eyes. You want to minimize any concern they might have about how well you’ve taken care of the property. 

And this doesn’t mean you need brand new quartz countertops or engineered hardwood flooring.

For example, let’s say you have marks on your wall (which is common). A new paint job isn’t needed, but you decide to skip the touch-up. 

Now pretend you’re the buyer. 

You’re viewing these marks and you’re thinking, “What else have the sellers not taken care of ?”

You want to minimize these types of questions. 

Make sense?

Optimizing your home’s appearance is key to selling quickly and for the best price. 

But you don’t need to waste a bunch of time and money doing it. 

Get advice from an expert. And better yet, have them do it for you (without charging for it).

The best agents can walk through your house in seven to 10 minutes and tell you exactly what should be done. 

Not all of them have the expertise (or willingness to help) and contacts to help you prep quickly, but the best ones do. 

The ones who are willing to put in the extra effort can engineer a game plan and do all of the heavy lifting so you don’t have to. And they can get it done much quicker than you think and with much less effort from you. 

Here’s the home selling tip to take away from this:

Optimizing your home’s appearance is key to selling quickly and for the best price. But with the right help, it will be much quicker and easier than you think.

Tip #6 Set the best asking price

There’s a good chance that when your buyer first finds out about your home, they’ll already know what similar homes in your area have been selling for. 

Most buyers search online and have been searching in specific areas before getting their offer accepted. 

Three things will stick out to them when they see your listing online:

  1. Photos
  2. Property description
  3. Asking price

Miss the mark on any of these and the amount of interest in your home will significantly drop. 

Especially if you set the asking price too high. 

But you don’t want to set it too low either. You could leave money on the table, even in a hot market. 

And keep this home selling tip in mind: The asking price should be incorporated into the marketing plan for your home.

The goal is to generate more interest and use it to help justify why your house is worth more than your neighbor’s.

Put yourself in the shoes of potential buyers. We know that they’re most likely familiar with your area and the recently sold homes that are similar to yours. 

We also know that the asking price is going to be one of the first things they see. 

Let’s play out a scenario where you set the asking price higher than what the most recently sold homes have sold for (after factoring in the differences). 

If you were the buyer, would you be intrigued? Probably not.

What if you priced it a bit below what those homes sold for? 

You’re going to hit the “favorite” button on whichever real estate search site you’re on. And that’s what you want your potential buyers to do. 

But let’s get one thing out of the way: The asking price for your home does not mean the selling price. 

Many sellers get hung up on this and think a buyer won’t pay more than what they’re asking. They will if you have the right agent. 

And here’s another thing: Just because you set the asking price at a certain number does not mean you need to accept an offer at that number. You’re not obligated to accept any offer, even if it’s much higher than your asking price. 

Now I’m not saying you should price your home below the sale price of recently sold homes. All I’m saying is be open to the idea. 

When you do this, you’ll pique the curiosity of more buyers, which can increase demand. Then, it’s your agent’s job to “sell it” and negotiate the highest price. 

The top agents are masters at this. It’s a skill set that many don’t have. 

When negotiating, you have to know what to say, but more importantly, when to say it. And the best selling agents know exactly how to do this.

So remember this tip when selling your home: Setting the best asking price will allow your agent to have more conversations with the agents of potential buyers, which maximizes your opportunity of selling for more than your neighbor.

Tip #7 Vet the buyer

Want to reduce your chances of having the buyer back out of your sale?

Then keep this home selling tip in your back pocket: Make sure your agent vets the buyer. 

The best ones do. 

Here’s how…

They’ll ask that any offer submitted includes these four things:

  1. Offer contract
  2. Pre-approval letter
  3. Proof of the buyer’s funds
  4. Signed disclosures 

When an offer does come in, the first thing they’ll do is go through the offer contract and summarize the highlights (price, terms, contingencies, etc).

Then, they’ll go through the signed disclosures and/or acknowledgment of your inspections. 

Next, they’ll look at the buyer’s funds. These include all liquid assets, stocks, 401k, etc. 

The goal here is to verify that the buyer has enough funds for the down payment, their closing costs, and the required reserves (most loans require that the buyer have an additional 6-12 months worth of mortgage, taxes, and insurance after the loan closes).

Here’s another quick tip for selling your home: If you think your house might not appraise at the purchase price (e.g. you received a great offer you weren’t expecting), then make sure your agent ensures that the buyer has enough funds to cover the potential difference of what they would need to pay. 

After looking at the buyer’s funds, the next step is to call the loan officer. The agents who do this are trying to get as much information about the buyer as they can. 

Loan officers can only disclose so much, but the goal is to verify that the buyer is good with the 3 C’s of mortgages: credit, capacity, and collateral. 

Credit = credit score

Capacity = debt-to-income ratio

Collateral = down payment + additional funds

The last step of this process is to bundle all of this information into a simple summary for you. 

Vetting the buyer like this does two things:

  1. Gives you more information so that you can make a more informed decision when deciding if you should accept, counter, or decline the offer
  2. Reduces the chances of the sale falling through

Of course, a sale can fall through for any reason, but when the buyer is properly vetted, the chances of that happening are greatly reduced. 

This approach is more common in certain parts of the country than it is in others, so asking your agent about this up front is a good idea. 

Conclusion

Selling a house can be stressful. 

Applying these tips for selling your home can help you sell your house fast, for more money, and make your sale easier. 

Keep these close by as you embark on your home selling journey and boost your chances of doing just that. 

Pop quiz! Which one of these do home sellers find most stressful?

  1. Not knowing if they can sell within their desired time frame
  2. Getting a house ready to sell
  3. Not knowing if buyers are seriously interested 

Most people guess “B” — after all, if you don’t know how to get your house ready to sell, it can create all types of anxiety and stress.

But according to a recent Zillow consumer survey, the correct answer is A.

And this makes complete sense. 

Many sellers don’t believe they can sell their home fast (and for top dollar) because they don’t think a buyer will find their home appealing. 

In some cases, they accept an offer below market value. 

Of course, no matter the appearance or characteristics, there might always be a little doubt. 

Do you want to know the secret to getting a house ready to sell quickly?

Your mindset.

Along with a plan, you need to have the right mindset.

And that mindset is to think of this as a business transaction. 

Many sellers don’t.

When it comes time to make decisions on certain things, they base these decisions on their preference. 

Don’t do it. 

Homebuyers (and humans in general) buy off of emotion. 

Your specific taste in something might not appeal to the largest audience.

The more buyers you can appeal to, the better chance you have of getting the best offer in the shortest amount of time.

The goal is to optimize your home’s appearance to attract the most buyers.

And to do so while spending the least amount of time and money. 

Keeping the emotional attachment out of this process helps you do this. 

All right, now that you have the right mindset, let’s discuss how to get your house ready to sell.

Declutter

Decluttering your house to sell is one of the most common tips you’ll hear about. 

That’s because it pays off. 

But you want to know why it pays off?

Space.

Buyers love to see space and storage.

The more, the better.

Decluttering is probably one of the first things you’ll start doing when getting ready to sell. 

But it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start.

So, here’s my advice…

Get trash bags and moving boxes. If you need smaller storage containers, Home Depot has quite a few options. 

Then go room by room. 

Decide what’s going with you and what can get tossed (or donated). 

Stay focused by concentrating on one room/area at a time. 

After you’ve completed each room, you can start with the closets. 

Label the boxes, tape them up, and store them. 

If you have a garage, it’s perfectly okay to stack the boxes in there until you move. 

Buyers will want to get a peek, but having boxes there won’t have a negative impact.  

If you have a basement, I’d recommend not storing boxes there. A basement can be a selling feature, and the last thing you want to do is obstruct a buyer’s view. 

If you run out of room, or if you have bigger items that need to be stored, then you’ll need a place to store everything. 

If you’re staying local, you can rent a storage unit from a place like Public Storage

Another company that will store your stuff, but also gives you the option for a pickup, is Clutter

If you’re moving far away, you can also look into a storage container

Anything that’s not going with you can be set to the side. 

When you’re ready, you can contact a junk removal company and have them come and pick everything up. 

The key to decluttering your home to sell is to put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. 

Pretend this isn’t your house. 

What looks clustered? What is taking up too much space? Do you have personal items and/or photos? Anything outdated that probably won’t appeal to a large demographic?

These are the items you should plan on removing when getting your house ready to sell.

Get a home inspection

If you’re wondering if you should get a home inspection before selling, the answer is a definitive yes. 

Do you need to get a home inspection when selling a house? No.

Inspections aren’t required when selling but can be one of the best investments when getting your house ready to sell. 

It gives potential buyers information about what’s “under the hood.” 

Your home can look great online and in person, but even if it looks to be in great condition, buyers will want to know if everything is working as it should and if anything needs to be fixed.

A pre-sale home inspection will alleviate these concerns.

You want to know how to prepare for a home inspection as a seller?

You don’t. 

Why?

Because you’ll most likely waste your time and money. 

Many sellers will spend a lot of time making repairs before getting an inspection. And a lot of them spend way more time (and money) than they need to. 

They’ll go through the home and repair every little thing. You don’t need to do this. 

The one thing you will want to do is to make sure the inspector has access to everything they’ll need (water heater, crawl space, etc).

But why spend time on things that might not be called out in the home inspection?

Now, if something is easily visible and needs to be fixed, then sure, go ahead and fix it. 

But get the inspection first and make repairs after. This way, you can save time and knock everything out at once. 

You might be thinking, “But won’t the inspection report show a list of items that need to be fixed, which will turn buyers away?”

Yes, the home inspection might come back with a list of items. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that you will have numerous items called out in your report, even if you make repairs beforehand.

Inspectors are going to pick your home apart and call out every tiny detail they see. 

Here’s an example of an inspector calling out an uneven walkway as a trip hazard:

Home inspection before selling a house

They do this for liability reasons. And this is perfectly fine as buyers and their agents should be well aware of this. 

But if you have a great agent, this won’t have a negative impact when buyers view the report. 

Your agent should do these two things:

  1. Provide you with recommendations for things that should be fixed
  2. Provide potential buyers with a list of items that have been repaired 

An experienced agent will know which items are worth fixing and which ones aren’t. 

Here’s a quick tip: 

When you interview real estate agents, ask them what they think should be fixed or updated. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if that agent carries the expertise you’ll need to help optimize the appearance of your home.

When the inspection report comes back, your agent can give you a to-do list that should be taken care of. 

Then, when these items are completed, they can list these items in a Word doc and include them in the disclosure package (usually a PDF file for interested buyers that includes the seller’s disclosures, inspections, reports, etc.). 

This way, when buyers view the home inspection, they’ll see that you took care of the most important items. 

And if you have receipts, you’ll want to include these as it shows prospective buyers the time and money you’ve invested in getting your house ready to sell. 

A home inspection for sellers is key.

The buyer can still choose to get their own inspection, but when a seller provides an inspection up front, it does three things:

  1. Helps the buyer feel more confident when submitting an offer
  2. Reduces the chances of the buyer asking you to make repairs
  3. Decreases the chances of the buyer backing out

A pre-sale home inspection is optional but well worth the upfront investment when getting ready to sell.

Make Repairs and Upgrades

The most important repairs to make before selling a house are ones that pay off. 

That seems like an obvious statement, but it needs to be said because too many sellers spend time repairing things that don’t matter. 

Of course, making any type of repair doesn’t hurt, but there’s no need to spend time, money, and stress on repairs that won’t benefit you.

The important repairs you’ll want to make can be big-ticket items or smaller ones.

But how do you know which ones are worth making?

First, refer to your home inspection and the list of recommendations that your agent should be giving you.

Any big-ticket items will most likely be on here. 

Some of the bigger things to fix before selling your house include the following:

  • Air conditioning 
  • Furnace 
  • Water heater
  • Foundation issues
  • Replace subfloor (usually in bathroom caused by leaks)
  • Electrical problems
  • Roof leaks

A lot of the smaller items will be on the inspection too, but some might not be mentioned.

You can find some of these yourself.

Here’s how:

Walk through your home from the perspective of a buyer.

This is not easy to do, but it can really help as you start to get ready. 

Grab a pen and paper and step out your front door. Walk back in and pretend you’re seeing your house for the first time. 

Go room by room and walk slowly. Does anything stick out visually or is anything not functioning as it should?

If so, these are the things that you’re going to want to fix as they’ll get you the biggest bang for your buck. 

Spend a good 20-30 minutes and make a list.

Marks on your floor? Stains on your carpet?

Check all of your door knobs. Do they work properly? 

Open and close your windows and doors. Do they function as they should?

Can your showers and bathtubs use a re-caulking?

Check your AC filters. 

Are they dirty? Replace them.

Once you have your list completed, it’s time to determine if anything needs to be replaced. 

What should you replace before selling your house?

Anything you replace is going to help, but not everything will make you money. 

The key to knowing what to replace before selling a house is to think visually. 

Remember, buying a home is an emotional decision, so the items that will pay off are usually the ones that a buyer will get excited about when viewing your home

Making the right replacements is one of the best things you can do when getting your house ready to sell.

Buyers will pay you more money than what it cost you.

Upgrades to the kitchen get the most excitement, but they are also usually the most expensive.

Could your kitchen use a little updating?

If so, start here. 

If your cabinets have outdated knobs or handles (or none), replace them.

This can make a huge difference. 

And they’re cheap.

You can get a 10-pack at Home Depot for $20. 

Keep it simple. No need to get too fancy. 

Satin nickel works well with many cabinets. 

Should you replace your appliances before selling your house?

If you’re asking this question, the answer is yes.

Upgrade to stainless steel. 

If some of your appliances are stainless steel and others aren’t, replace the ones that aren’t. 

Upgrading to stainless steel appliances is one of the best things you can do before selling a house. 

They make your kitchen pop.

Not just in-person, but in your photos too. 

But, as with other things you might replace, don’t spend a fortune. Unless you’re in an area of higher-end homes, you don’t need higher-end appliances. 

The most important thing is that they’re stainless steel. That’s it. 

It makes sense to replace your countertops before selling your house if your kitchen is in good condition but your countertops aren’t. 

For example, are your cabinets in decent shape but you have something like Corian countertops?

Think about replacing them with granite or quartz. 

Quartz is more desirable right now.

And if your kitchen is in decent shape and you have older tile countertops like these, then you should definitely think about replacing them:

Tile countertops in kitchen being replaced for quartz before selling a house

The older tile countertops are an eyesore. 

Updating your appliances and countertops can be a great investment when getting a house ready for sale.

Just like the kitchen, remodeling a bathroom can be expensive. 

In many instances, replacing things in the bathroom will make you more money compared to a complete remodel.

Vanities can also be a great investment.

Is yours outdated?

Then I would highly consider replacing your vanity before selling.

Look at your shower fixtures too.

Are they older? Replace them. 

Bathrooms don’t have as much of an impact as a kitchen does, but they’re next in line.

Flooring is another biggie.

When you upgrade your flooring before selling, the resale value will usually be higher than the cost. 

A lot of this will depend on the current condition of your home. 

For example, replacing carpet before selling a house will almost always pay off if your home is in “average to good” condition. 

And when I say replace, I’m talking about replacing the carpet with a new type of flooring.

Carpet was sought-after 15-20 years ago, but nowadays, the majority of buyers prefer flooring such as laminate, vinyl plank, or hardwood. 

If you’ve updated your kitchen and bathrooms within the last ~15-20 years, then replacing your carpet with new flooring probably makes sense.

If your kitchen and bathrooms are a bit outdated, then I would probably leave the carpeting. 

When you replace a sought-after feature such as flooring, kitchen, or bathrooms, if the others haven’t been updated in a while, the positive impact is minimal.

The only exception might be the kitchen. But it depends on the home.

If replacing your carpet with new flooring doesn’t make sense for you, you have two other options:

  • Replace your carpet with new carpet
  • Keep your current carpet, but get it cleaned

As long as your carpet hasn’t been torn apart, always shoot for option B.

Should I replace my roof before selling my house?

Unlike your kitchen, bathrooms, and flooring, replacing your roof before selling will most likely cost you more than the added resale value. 

Buyers don’t tend to pay attention to the roof when viewing a home.

So, in a lot of cases, adding a new roof before selling your house will bring a negative return on your investment.

Remember, it’s all about visual appeal.

The upgrades that make you money when selling are the ones that enhance a buyer’s emotional state when they view your home — and a roof isn’t one of them.

But replacing a roof before selling a house can make sense if it’s in really bad shape or if you have a wood shake roof in an area where this isn’t desirable (most areas). 

A roof inspector is going to state the condition as something such as “great,” “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” 

And they’ll usually give an estimate of the remaining life left. 

If your estimated roof life comes back in the 5-to-7-year range, then it probably makes sense to replace it. 

This tends to be the range at which buyers will start factoring in the cost for a new roof into their offer. 

Anything greater than that and you should be good, but you’ll want to confirm with your agent.

And if your home is a complete fixer, then it’s definitely not worth it (unless you’re updating everything).

Many sellers opt to not make any updates or replace anything before selling their house because they think that the buyer will do them. 

And some do. 

But a lot of them don’t because they don’t have the money to do so.

You want to know why replacing certain things before selling your house can pay off?

Because the majority of buyers are paying ~20% at most out of their pocket for that upgrade. 

They’re financing the rest. 

The lower upfront costs allow them to pay you more money if the upgrade is something they want.

So when you know what you should replace before selling your house, you can drastically improve your chances of putting more money in your pocket.

Enhance Lighting

Bad lighting is something that can immediately turn a buyer away. 

Even just one dark room can have a negative impact. 

A quick fix for this is to check your bulbs to make sure they are giving off the light that they should. 

Go room by room and check each one. 

If they aren’t as bright as they should be, take them out and have them replaced. 

And you might want to consider upgrading.

LED bulbs are the best light bulbs for selling a house. 

These are the most energy-efficient bulbs, and they add an extra incentive to buyers. You can find some good deals in bulk on Amazon

The next thing you want to check is your light fixtures (interior and exterior).

There are a handful of things that can really enhance your visual appeal at a low cost, and light fixtures are one of them. 

An outdated light fixture can give the impression that other things in your home might be outdated and need to be fixed. 

The best light fixtures to sell a house depends on the condition of your home.

If your home is in “average” to “good” condition, then upgrading to modern fixtures will have a positive impact on your home’s perceived value. 

The key is to keep it simple. 

Remember, you want to appeal to as many people as possible. This means staying neutral and not going with something out of the ordinary.

Something like this could work well for many homes: 

Modern lighting is the best lighting to sell a houseYou might also want to consider upgrading to recessed lighting. 

Recessed lights are a selling feature and the best interior lighting for selling a home.

They’ll almost always pay off. 

Depending on your location and who you hire to do the work, the average cost can range somewhere between $200 and $350 per light (materials and labor). 

If you go this route when getting your house ready to sell, keep it to a minimum.

I would stick to the main areas of your home only (kitchen, living room, master bed).

Paint

Should you paint before selling your house?

It depends. 

If your home isn’t a fixer-upper and hasn’t been recently painted, then it’s probably a good bet. And probably only the inside. 

But what you probably really want to know is if you only need to touch up paint or paint the entire interior, or maybe only certain rooms. 

When’s the last time the interior of your home was painted?

10-15+ years?

Then painting the entire interior probably makes sense. 

If you’ve painted sometime within the last ~10-15 years, then I would suggest walking through every room and seeing how much touch-up paint you might need. 

Numerous places in every room?

Consider painting the entire interior.

Not that many places in need of a touch-up?

Then you’re probably okay with just a thorough touch-up job.

What about the colors?

Colors are important.

Do not go with anything crazy.

Staying neutral is key.

These are some of the best paint colors for selling a house. 

  • Swiss Coffee
  • Frost
  • Wise Owl
  • San Francisco Fog

You can find these at Kelly-Moore.

Painting the exterior is usually recommended if your paint job is extremely old or if your exterior color is something that isn’t common. 

If not, you’re probably okay keeping your exterior paint as-is.

First impressions are everything, and painting a house before selling will almost always make a great impression. 

Landscape

Speaking of first impressions.

Enhancing the landscaping to sell a house can make an even greater impression. 

Your front yard is the first thing a buyer will see when they pull up to your home. 

Remember when I said a buyer’s emotion will influence their decision?

Well, this is where it all starts. 

When a buyer gets out of their car, they’re going to have an immediate positive or negative reaction. 

If done right, enhancing your landscaping and curb appeal will immediately give off a positive vibe.

But this doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars.

When it comes to landscaping, think colors. 

Having multiple colors is important and will help make your curb appeal pop. 

Here’s how you can improve the curb appeal when selling a house:

  1. Plant colorful plants and flowers
  2. Apply mulch
  3. Spray paint your grass

When it comes to planting plants and flowers, you don’t need to go extravagant. 

Keep this simple. 

Going with a combination of something like annuals, ground-covered plants, and flower bulbs can work wonders.

Sought-after for their low maintenance, drought-tolerant plants can also be a great investment. 

For the average home, you can spend several hundred dollars at Home Depot or any other home improvement retailer and get everything you need.

Applying mulch can cover up the “wasted” areas with an updated look. 

There are different types of mulch, but two of the more common ones you’ll see are shredded hardwood (tanbark) and wood chips. 

Can you really spray paint your grass?

Yep.

Check this out…

One of our partner agents helped their clients do this to their back lawn.

This is what it looked like without the spray paint:

Backyard lawn before selling a house and without spray paint

And here it is 20 minutes later:

Landscaping to sell a house with spray painted grass

You can apply these same landscaping upgrades to your backyard, but your front yard will have a bigger impact. 

Here are a few other cost-effective ways to enhance your curb appeal when selling your house.  

  • Power wash
  • Paint trim
  • Manicure/edge your lawn
  • Clean your gutters
  • Check/upgrade your lighting

Want to know how you can really improve your curb appeal when selling your house?

Paint your front door. 

The best color to paint your front door when selling your house will depend on the color of your exterior. 

A light-colored front door goes well with a dark exterior, whereas a dark-colored front door goes well with a lighter exterior.

Again, don’t go crazy. 

Stay conservative and stick with colors that will appeal to a wider audience. 

So, how important is curb appeal when selling a house?

Very. 

Why?

Because when you know how to improve your curb appeal when selling, you make a great first impression.

And when you make a great first impression, you make buyers want to find out more. 

Deep Clean

Cleaning before selling a house should come right before staging.

It’s the final touch that can give your house sparkle. 

Buyers are going to be walking through your home with a fresh set of eyes. 

They’re going to notice things that you won’t. 

Just like with everything else we’ve discussed, when you’re getting your house ready to sell, the goal is to do things that will eliminate any doubt from prospective buyers’ minds. 

And a house that has been deep cleaned can do that. 

If you have the time and want to put in the work, you can do this yourself. 

But hiring a professional cleaner can save you time and stress, and it can improve your chances of not missing anything.

Here’s a checklist of things that should be cleaned before selling a house.

  • Living room/Family room
    • Clean floors
    • Wipe down baseboards
  • Hallways
    • Clean floors
    • Wipe down baseboards
  • Kitchen 
    • Wipe down countertops
    • Wash/mop floors
    • Wipe down cabinets and drawers
    • Thoroughly clean fridge (wipe down shelving, etc.)
    • Clean microwave
    • Clean oven
  • Bathrooms
    • Wash/mop floors
    • Wipe down countertops
    • Clean mirrors
    • Scrub shower tub and tiles
  • Bedrooms
    • Clean floors
    • Wipe down baseboards
  • Windows
    • Clean inside and outside
    • Wipe down window sills
    • Remove screens and wash
  • Garage
    • Remove debris
    • Sweep
  • Exterior
    • Remove debris
    • Power wash
    • Remove cobwebs, etc. by the front door

Conclusion

Let’s recap…

How to get your house ready to sell:

  • Declutter
  • Get a home inspection
  • Make repairs and upgrades
  • Enhance lighting
  • Improve your landscaping
  • Paint
  • Deep clean

There are two things that will determine how fast you sell and for how much: the agent you work with and how you optimize your home’s appearance. That’s why knowing how to boost your home’s visual appeal is a key tip when selling.

Yes, getting a house ready to sell can be exhausting, but if done right, it will pay massive dividends for you in the end. 

Stick to these seven steps and get your home ready in less time and with less stress. 

Knowing which questions to ask a realtor during your first meeting to sell your house is crucial.

Why?

Because the right realtor can not only sell your home faster and make you more money, but they can also make the process much less stressful.

Choose the wrong person and it can be the complete opposite.

But how do you know if you’re hiring the right realtor?

You need to ask the right questions.

And here’s the key…

It’s not just about knowing which questions to ask your realtor.

It’s about getting the right answers.

There’s one question that is so important that, in my opinion, if you don’t get the right answer, don’t hire them.

Let’s get started.

Question #1: How did you arrive at your suggested list price?

Notice that this question isn’t, “What do you think my asking price should be?”

Every realtor will tell you what they think you should list your home for. 

But the “how” is much more important.

Setting the right asking price is key to maximizing your offer price and selling quickly. 

Your home is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, but the list price sets the initial tone.

Set the price too high and you’ll discourage motivated buyers from even visiting. 

Price too low and you could be leaving money on the table.

The purpose of asking a realtor this question is to ensure they are not suggesting an inflated price to secure your business. Unfortunately, this tactic is not uncommon.

Here’s the thought process for the realtors who do this. Their plan is to:

  • Get you excited about a higher price
  • Sign the listing agreement with you
  • Let the home sit on the market (they know this will happen)
  • Tell you to reduce the price
  • Sell the home at a lower price, but they still get a commission

Want to avoid this happening to you?

Then ask them how they arrived at the price they’re suggesting. 

You’re looking for an answer backed by data.

Let me explain.

During your initial meeting, the realtor should be presenting you with a comparative market analysis (also known as a CMA). 

This is an analysis they put together that compares your property to the best recently sold homes (also known as “comps”).

Realtors who cannot justify their suggested price will usually keep their analysis very vague.

They might show you a few recently sold homes, but they won’t back up their reasoning with how they arrived at the price.

What you want to see is a breakdown of how your house compares to each recently sold home. 

Here’s an example of what this comparison might look like:

 

Adjustments shown on a realtor's comparative market analysis

This type of analysis is what you’ll see on an appraisal report. 

It’s comparing the features and characteristics of your home to the features and characteristics of each recently sold home nearby.

Seeing a breakdown of how they arrived at their recommended asking price will increase the chances that they’re not overpromising. 

If the answer you get is vague and doesn’t include an in-depth explanation, then I would consider this a red flag.

Asking a real estate agent about how they arrived at their suggested list price (and getting the right answer) will give you a sense if you’re working with someone who has the experience, expertise, and integrity you’ll need.

Question#2: Will you also represent the buyer?

This is a great question to ask because the realtor’s answer will tell you about their integrity.

Can a realtor who is selling a home also represent the buyer?

In most states, yes.

Should they also represent the buyer?

It depends.

Your realtor will play a big role in how much money you make. Negotiating is a big part of this.

A top-selling realtor can literally net you thousands more just by knowing which questions to ask the buyer’s agent and when. When they also represent the buyer, they cannot negotiate for you.

You can see this in the agreement you’ll sign with them.

Here’s where it says this in the listing agreement used in California.

Dual agency explained in a real estate contract

Why would a real estate agent want to represent the buyer?

Commission.

The total commission you pay when selling your home is usually split 50/50 between your agent and the buyer’s agent. If your agent also represents the buyer, this means they could make twice as much (you can negotiate this beforehand and see if the total commission will be less if this happens). This is where their integrity can be tested.

A realtor who is willing to risk their integrity for more money can mean a lower sale price. There are many realtors who won’t do this, but some will.

If they tell you they will not represent the buyer, then you have nothing to worry about.

If they say it’s a possibility, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if you get an offer that meets or exceeds your expectations, then it could be a great thing.

Your realtor may already be working with a buyer who could be interested in your home. Or a buyer who is interested in your home might not be working with anyone and wants to submit an offer through your realtor.

The point of asking your realtor this question is to test their integrity.

So, if they tell you there’s a possibility that they can also represent the buyer, then ask them this follow up question:

How will you negotiate for me if you’re also representing the buyer?

You already know the answer but the realtor doesn’t know that you do.

The answer you want to hear from them is that they can’t.

Anything else is a red flag and I wouldn’t hire them.

Question #3: How will you market my home?

Marketing is key. It’s what can drive higher demand.

Higher demand means more buyers.

More buyers can mean a higher selling price in a shorter amount of time.

Buying a home is an emotional decision and top agents incorporate emotion into their marketing plan.

When you ask a real estate agent how they’re going to market your home, most will discuss these items:

  • Multiple listing service (also known as “MLS“)
  • Syndication to real estate portals (Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, etc)
  • Staging
  • Property description
  • List price
  • Photos/Video
  • Advertising (flyers, brochures, ads, networking, etc)

Hearing about these is great. You want to know how they’re going to get the word out.

But you want to dive a bit deeper and hear about their specific approach.

What are the selling features of my home?

Every home has selling features.

It doesn’t matter if the home is in great condition or a fixer-upper.

Or if the schools have high scores on greatschools.org or below-average scores.

Top realtors will find positive selling points and will use them when marketing.

For example, the two selling features for a home in need of work could be the following:

  1. Lower price, which means lower monthly payments and lower property taxes
  2. The opportunity for the buyer to add their “own artistic touch”

A good agent will do their homework before meeting with you and should be able to tell you the features they would use as selling points.

Who do you think the buyer for my home will be?

This is a great marketing question to ask a real estate agent.

The type of buyer for any given home can be different depending on the area, property type, price range, selling features, etc.

For example, a buyer for a condo in San Francisco is probably going to be different than a buyer for a single-family residence in a suburban neighborhood. A buyer for a home listed in a retirement community is going to be different than a home for sale in Downtown Austin.

The answer you’re looking for is something specific. Of course, your buyer can be anyone, but every home will appeal to a larger demographic more than others.

A generic answer most likely means the agent doesn’t know who they’re selling to. This doesn’t mean you won’t get a great offer, but it does mean their marketing plan won’t maximize the opportunity.

How do you plan on marketing to those buyers?

When your realtor knows what the selling features are and who the buyer for your home might be, it’s almost certain they’re going to have a plan on how to market to those buyers.

Top realtors excel at this.

The approach used to target a younger audience will be different than an approach used to target an older audience.

An approach used to market a home that needs work will be different than an approach used to market a home in great condition.

Any agent can put your home on the MLS. The best ones will have a plan and use the right marketing channels.

Questions to ask a realtor when selling

The first three questions are the most important because they’ll have the biggest impact on how fast you sell and for how much.

When you work with a realtor who tells you they can’t negotiate for you if they also represent the buyer, then you know there’s a great chance you’re working with someone who has integrity.

Working with a realtor who has a five-star marketing plan and the right data to back up your asking price will dramatically increase your chances of a successful sale.

Here are the other best questions to ask a realtor when selling.

Question #4: How will you vet the buyer?

Want to reduce your chances of having your offer fall through?

Then you need someone who knows how to vet the buyer. 

This is the number one reason why you’ll see a home go back on the market after it was pending. 

There are usually two reasons why this happens:

  1. The buyer wasn’t able to get financing
  2. The buyer backs out during their inspection contingency period

Here’s how a realtor can vet a buyer for financing:

  • Make it a requirement for the buyer to submit their pre-approval letter with the offer
  • Call the loan officer after receiving the offer

A key question a realtor can ask the loan officer is this:

“What’s the buyer’s debt-to-income ratio?”

All lenders have a maximum ratio. If a buyer is not able to obtain financing, this is usually the reason. 

Knowing the buyer’s ratio upfront lets you know that the buyer meets this qualification. 

It can also help in negotiating.

If your realtor knows the buyer’s debt-to-income ratio up front, then the buyer’s agent cannot use this as an excuse as to why the buyer can’t come up in price. 

Make sense?

Great. 

A buyer can back out of the sale during the time they have for their inspection contingency

Sometimes there is nothing you or your realtor can do to prevent this. 

But if you want to reduce your chances of this happening, then I suggest two things:

  1. Have inspections completed 
  2. Make sure the buyer is aware of what’s in the inspection reports

After receiving the offer (or sometimes before), your realtor should simply ask the buyer’s agent if they have thoroughly gone through all of the inspections. 

By doing this, it will be very difficult for the buyer to back out of the sale due to something they were already aware of. 

When you work with a realtor who knows how to vet the buyer, your chances of a successful sale will dramatically increase.

Question #5: What do I need to do to get my home ready?

The appearance of your home will have an effect on how fast you sell and for how much.

A common mistake we see many sellers make is spending too much time and money on things that don’t matter.

The goal is to spend the least amount and only on things that will bring a return on your investment.

If you plan on living in the home while it’s for sale, ask the realtor what items inside your home can stay and which ones should go.

The best real estate agents can walk around your home and immediately provide you with a list of what you need to do to get your home ready to sell.

Question #6: What are the costs?

You probably want to know how much you’re going to walk away with.

The equation to figure this out is simple:

(Selling price – anything owed on the property – closing costs = your net proceeds)

A chunk of the closing costs is going to be the commission. Depending on your area and price point, the total commission is generally in the 5-6% range and is negotiable. The total commission is usually split between the seller and buyer’s agents.

There are other closing costs too, such as escrow fees, title fees, and attorney fees (if you live in a state that requires this), but the commissions will be the largest part of your total cost. Here’s an example of the closing costs a seller pays in California.

You can also ask the realtor to provide you with an estimated settlement statement. This is a one-page document provided by an escrow officer that shows an estimated sale price with the estimated costs.

You’ll get a final settlement statement when the sale closes, which is the document you’ll need when filing your taxes the following year. Check with your accountant, but usually, all of your closing costs are tax-deductible.

Do these three things to get a really good idea about how much you’ll net from the sale of your home:

  • Ensure your suggested asking price is accurate
  • Get a copy of the estimated settlement statement
  • Check to see the remaining balance of your mortgage

Question #7: How many homes have you sold?

What’s the purpose of asking a realtor this question?

To make sure you’re working with someone who has experience. Working with someone who has minimal experience is going to drastically reduce your chances of making the most money.

There are many moving parts in a real estate transaction and you want to work with someone who has the experience you’re going to need to maximize your chances of a successful sale.

Ask to see their portfolio of homes sold and when. The more recent, the better.

Some realtors have been in the business for twenty years with a lot of sales under their belt, but the number of homes they’ve sold over the last several years is minimal.

You should aim to work with someone who doesn’t just have the experience, but someone who also has numerous sales over the last several years.

Question #8: Have you sold homes in my area?

This isn’t as important of a question to ask your realtor as it used to be, but there’s a reason why I included it.

Twenty years ago this question was much more important than it is today.

Why?

The Internet.

Today, many buyers search online and are able to find out everything they need to about a neighborhood.

When I say everything, I mean everything…

  • Schools
  • Shopping
  • Proximity to freeways
  • Crime
  • Recent sales

If a real estate agent has sold homes in your area, then they should already be familiar with potential selling points.

But if they haven’t, you shouldn’t cross them off your list.

Most sellers ask this question when interviewing real estate agents because they think it’s a necessity. It’s not.

If the realtor answers this question with “no”, then you want to hear an answer that includes how they plan on getting the information about your neighborhood that they’ll need.

A savvy realtor can browse online and find most, if not all of the information they’ll need in a matter of twenty minutes. Plus, you’ll be able to tell them what you think the selling points about your area are.

Question #9: What’s your sale to list price ratio?

Any realtor can show you how much they’ve sold homes for.

But you want to see what the original list price of those homes was.

This number is calculated by taking the selling price of all of the homes a realtor has sold and then dividing them by the listing prices of those homes.

For example, if a realtor has an average selling price of $1,000,000 and an average asking price of $950,000, then their sale to list price ratio would be 105%.

You can take this number and compare it to other agents.

Be leery of realtors who have a number that is much lower than others. This may mean they intentionally overpromise on their suggested list price.

In my opinion, anything under 95% can be a red flag.

Question #10: What’s your average days on market?

The average days on market is the number of days from when your home is first listed on the MLS to when you accept an offer (not when the sale is closed).

This can give you a rough idea of how long your home might take to sell (although there are many other factors that can impact this).

Similar to the sale to list price ratio, this is another number you can compare to other realtors.

This is what we do with the realtors who we invite to become partner agents with SoldNest. They must be best-in-class with both of these numbers.

It’s a major red flag if the average days on market for a realtor are considerably higher compared to their peers.

Question #11: What percentage of your listings have fell through?

I particularly like this question because a number that is higher than usual can mean the agent doesn’t do a great job vetting the buyer or helping prepare their clients’ homes as well as they should.

A transaction can fall apart for many reasons, but an agent who has a track record of not having to put their listings back on the market can mean you’re working with a top professional.

For me, anything over 5% is concerning. Of course, the total number of listings the agent has needs to be factored in. The more homes they’ve sold, the better this number will represent how well they do their job.

Question #12: Will I be working with anyone else?

Some top realtors have teams. This isn’t a bad thing as it can mean more resources.

But you want to know upfront who you’ll be working with and who will be the main point of contact.

The last thing you want is to not know who you’ll be communicating with.

Question #13: How often will we communicate?

You’re about to embark on a journey.

You don’t just want to know who will be your main point of contact, you want to know how often you’ll be communicating.

Not all transactions are smooth sailing. Sometimes there are bumps in the road.

You want a real estate agent who has no problem discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It’s important they commit to how often they’ll be in touch, no matter how good or bad it’s going.

Conclusion

Let’s recap…

Questions to ask a realtor

  1. How did you arrive at your suggested list price?
  2. Will you also represent the buyer?
  3. How will you market my home?
  4. How will you vet the buyer?
  5. What do I need to do to get my home ready?
  6. What are the costs?
  7. How many homes have you sold?
  8. Have you sold homes in my area?
  9. What’s your sale to list price ratio?
  10. What’s your average days on market?
  11. What percentage of your listings have fell through?
  12. Will I be working with anyone else?
  13. How often will we communicate?

Hiring the right person is one of seven key tips for selling your house. Asking these questions when interviewing realtors will maximize your chances of selling your home faster and for a higher price.

Remember, it’s not just about knowing which questions to ask. It’s about getting the right answers.

What does contingent mean?

If you’re asking this question, you need to know more than the meaning.

You need to know how the term “contingent” can have a major impact on your home sale.

Because it can.

It’s the number one reason why a real estate listing will fall through after being under contract.

I’m going to tell you everything you need to know so that you can reduce your chances of this happening to you.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  1. The meaning of contingent in real estate
  2. Difference between contingent and pending
  3. Most common contingencies (with examples)
  4. How contingencies can ruin a home sale

Let’s dive in.

What does contingent in real estate mean?

Contingent in real estate means that the sale of a home is under contract but includes one or more contingencies.

A contingency is certain criteria in the purchase agreement that needs to be met before the sale can be final. Almost all contingencies in the agreement will be from the buyer, but they can come from the seller too.

Think of contingencies as clauses in the purchase agreement.

When a buyer makes a contingent offer on a house, they’re essentially saying, “I’d like to purchase the property, but I want to make sure some things are finalized on my end before closing the sale.”

Different types of contingencies can be included in a purchase agreement and each of them has a big impact on determining if the sale closes or not.

I’ll tell you how shortly.

An offer on a house that includes one or more contingencies is called a contingent offer.

A non contingent offer on a house means that the buyer did not include any contingencies in their offer.

Imagine you’re selling your home.

Would you rather have a buyer give you an offer that is contingent upon certain conditions being met or an offer without any of these conditions?

Without, right?

This is why you’ll see a lot of non contingent offers in a hot real estate market where buyers are competing with each other.

When a buyer makes a non contingent offer, they need to acknowledge they’re removing all contingencies.

Here’s what that looks like in the California purchase agreement.

non contingent offer on a California purchase agreement

Contingent offers are more common.

When a buyer includes any type of contingency in their offer, they need to remove it before the closing date.

This happens on an addendum to the purchase agreement called a contingency removal form. Here’s what that looks like.

contingency removal form

Contingencies play a big role in real estate.

Here’s why…

The buyer’s good faith deposit is at risk once the buyer removes their contingencies.

Shortly after a purchase agreement is under contract, the buyer will make a deposit to the escrow company. This is referred to as a good faith deposit or an escrow deposit.

The buyer risks losing this deposit to the seller should they want to back out of the sale after removing their contingencies.

From the seller’s point of view, having the buyer remove their contingencies is a big hurdle to cross as it means the buyer is more committed. This is why a non contingent offer on a house is more attractive to a seller.

What’s the difference between contingent and pending?

Contingent on a house for sale means that the property is under contract but some contingencies need to be met before the sale is final. A property that is pending means there are no contingencies.

You’ve probably seen the terms “contingent” or “pending” on a real estate listing.

They look like this.

Contingent and pending houses for sale on Zillow

When you see a house that is pending, it means one of two things:

  1. The buyer submitted an offer with no contingencies.
  2. They made an offer contingent upon certain items but have since removed their contingencies.

The latter is why you’ll see the status of a real estate listing change from “contingent” to “pending”.

When this happens, it means that the seller’s real estate agent received the contingency removal from the buyer.

This is known as a “status change”.

A real estate listing will go through four different “statuses”.

  • Active – The property is currently for sale on the MLS (multiple listing service).
  • Contingent – The seller has accepted an offer but the buyer has not yet removed their contingencies (also referred to as active contingent).
  • Pending – The buyer removed their contingencies.
  • Sold – The sale is final and has recorded in the county where the property resides.

You’ll see the status of a property for sale change after the seller’s agent updates the listing in their local MLS.

Which contingencies can be included in the purchase agreement?

Now that you know what contingent means in real estate, let’s discuss the different types of contingencies you might come across.

The buyer can make their offer contingent upon any type of contingency, but there are four that are more common than others.

  • Inspection contingency
  • Appraisal contingency
  • Loan contingency
  • Home sale contingency

It’s not just the type of contingency that is important, it’s the contingency period too.

A contingency period is the number of days that a buyer has before they need to remove that specific contingency. The lower the number of days is, the more attractive it looks to the seller.

If the buyer doesn’t remove the contingency by the end of the contingency period, then they risk having the seller cancel the purchase agreement.

Inspection contingency

When most people hear of an inspection contingency, they think of a home inspection contingency. While a home inspection is the most common inspection for a buyer, there are other inspections they might want to have done.

Here are a few of the more common ones:

  • Termite
  • Roof
  • Pool
  • Chimney
  • Foundation

An inspection contingency doesn’t mean a buyer is only allowed to do inspections. This contingency period allows them to do any and all due diligence on the property that they want.

Maybe they’re thinking of remodeling and want to bring a contractor out to the property. Or maybe the home has previous structural modifications and they want to check on the permits.

No matter what it is, this is the time for the buyer to finish doing their homework on the property.

What if a seller has inspections done upfront?

A seller has the option to have their inspections completed before marketing their property and putting it on the MLS.

When they do, it not only allows them to know what they might need to have fixed ahead of time, but it also gives prospective buyers more information about the property to help them make a more informed decision about what kind of offer they want to submit.

A good analogy for this is buying a car.

When you go to the dealership and shop for a used car, they’ll usually have a Carfax or something similar. This information is helpful because, without it, buyers may be hesitant about making an offer.

Well, it’s the same thing when buying a house but at a much higher price.

When a seller has inspections completed upfront, it improves the chances of a buyer not making their offer contingent upon any inspections.

Inspection contingency example

Let’s say a buyer made their offer contingent upon inspections.

They included a 14-day inspection contingency and decided to have a home inspection completed.

The buyer’s real estate agent helps coordinate the inspection and the report comes back on day 9. After going through the report with their agent, the buyer feels there are a couple of items that need to be addressed.

In this scenario, the buyer has three choices:

  1. Ask the seller to repair the items
  2. Negotiate with the seller to fix some of the items and/or reduce the sale price
  3. Do nothing and remove their inspection contingency

The location and type of market will affect what the buyer decides to do. In a neutral or buyer’s market, the buyer has more leverage, and sellers are more willing to negotiate or repair the items.

If the buyer wants to ask the seller to repair the items, they need to have their real estate agent send over a repair request.

This request is made on an addendum to the purchase agreement.

Repair requests on a purchase agreement that is contingent

When the seller’s realtor receives this request, the seller can decide whether or not they want to make the repairs.

So in our scenario, let’s say the buyer’s agent sent the repair request on day 11. The seller’s realtor discusses it with the seller and they decide to go ahead and have the items repaired.

When this happens, the inspection contingency will be extended until the work is done. Once the work is completed, the buyer will submit a contingency removal form to the seller and their inspection contingency will be released.

Inspection contingency removal addendum

What if the seller didn’t want to fix the items?

Then the buyer has a decision to make.

They can either try and negotiate to have some of the items repaired or have the work done themselves after the sale closes.

If the contingency removal isn’t submitted by day 14, then the seller has the option to send what’s called a notice to perform. A notice to perform tells the buyer that if they don’t remove their contingencies within a certain number of days (usually 1-2), then the seller can cancel the purchase agreement.

Appraisal contingency

An appraisal contingency is a clause in the purchase agreement that allows the buyer to back out if the appraised value does not meet the purchase price.

The contingency period for an appraisal is the time frame the buyer has to not only have their appraisal completed but more importantly, signed off by their lender’s underwriter.

When a buyer gets a loan, the house is used as collateral, and an appraisal is proof of that collateral. This is why every lender requires an appraisal for a real estate transaction. They want to make sure that the house is worth at least what the buyer is paying for it.

The appraisal is ordered by the buyer’s loan officer shortly after the purchase agreement is ratified. When the appraiser goes out to the property, they are aware of the sale price and will need to justify that price in the appraisal report by comparing the property to recently sold homes (also known as “comps”).

In many purchase transactions, the appraised value will match the sale price. When this happens, the buyer will remove the contingency by submitting an appraisal contingency removal.

However, in some cases, the appraisal comes in lower than the sale price.

According to the latest Confidence Index Survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, 6% of real estate listings had their purchase agreement terminated and appraisals were the cause for 10% of these.

So what exactly happens when the appraisal is lower than the sale price on a contingent offer?

Let’s find out.

Appraisal contingency example

A buyer and seller have agreed to a sale price of $1,200,000.

The appraisal comes back at $1,150,000.

The buyer has three options:

  1. Renegotiate the price
  2. Pay the difference
  3. Back out of the transaction

In a neutral market or a buyer’s market (more buyers than homes for sale), sometimes the buyer can renegotiate the price.

But remember, they made their offer contingent upon the appraisal. This means they can back out of the transaction (and get their deposit back) if the appraised value does not meet the sale price. And some buyers will do this.

In a competitive market where there’s high demand, many buyers will pay the difference. Here’s where many people get confused; the buyer doesn’t pay the entire difference.

Banks will use the sale price or the appraised value, whichever is lower.

So, in our example, the buyer and seller agreed upon a $1,200,000 purchase price and the appraised value came in at $1,150,000.

This means the lender will lend on the $1,150,000 amount and not $1,200,000. In this scenario, the buyer does not pay the full difference of $50,000.

If the buyer planned on putting 20% down on $1,200,000, that means they planned on a $240,000 down payment.

Since the appraised value came in at $1,150,000, this means the buyer will now need to pay 20% of $1,150,000 (which is $230,000) plus the difference of $50,000. This means that the down payment will now be $280,000.

In other words, if the purchase agreement is contingent upon the appraisal, and the appraisal comes in lower than the sale price , then the buyer will pay 80% of the difference between the appraised value and the sale price, not the entire 100%.

How an appraisal contingency can affect the seller

An appraisal contingency doesn’t just have an impact on the buyer, it affects the seller too.

Let’s say your real estate calls you and says that they’ve received a non contingent offer at a phenomenal price.

You’re ecstatic, right?

Of course.

But wait…

What if the appraisal comes in lower than the sale price and the buyer doesn’t have the funds to pay the difference?

You are either going to have to lower the sale price or cancel the purchase agreement and put the house back on the MLS.

How do you prevent this from happening?

When interviewing real estate agents, you’ll want to make sure they know how to vet an offer. By doing so, they can find out how much money the buyer has.

If the buyer only has enough for their down payment and closing costs, your agent should explain the pros and cons of accepting an offer that includes an appraisal contingency.

Loan contingency

A loan contingency, also known as a mortgage contingency, is a clause in the purchase agreement that allows the buyer to cancel the sale if they are not able to get financing.

The loan contingency period is the time frame a buyer has to make sure they’re fully approved for the loan.

Most buyers will get a pre-approval letter from their lender before they make an offer on a home. A pre-approval letter is a great start but most pre-approval letters are not actual loan approvals.

As soon as the property is under contract, the buyer’s loan officer will send all of the necessary documents to the underwriter to start the underwriting process. Once the underwriter looks over the documents, they’ll decide if they should issue a conditional loan approval or not.

It’s rare for a loan to not get approved if the buyer has a pre-approval letter from a good loan officer, but it does happen. When it does, and if the buyer made their offer contingent upon the loan, then they’re able to back out of the sale and get their deposit back.

In most cases, the buyer will remove their loan contingency after they receive their loan approval. They need to submit their loan contingency removal before the contingency period expires or risk having the seller cancel the purchase agreement.

Sale of home contingency

Many sellers will ask if they should even accept an offer that includes a sale of home contingency.

If you have an experienced and savvy realtor, it can work in your favor. We’ll discuss how, shortly.

When a buyer needs to sell their property before they’re able to purchase a new one, they’ll make an offer contingent upon the sale of their home.

In some states (e.g. California), this is simply known as a home sale contingency and there is one addendum to the purchase agreement.

In other states, there are two different types of  home sale contingencies:

  • Sale and settlement contingencies
  • Settlement contingency

This is what the home sale contingency addendum looks like in California.

Home sale contingency addendum

No matter the state, a home sale contingency operates in a similar capacity.

Sale and settlement contingency

A buyer will include a sale and settlement contingency when the property they’re selling is not yet under contract.

This usually happens when the buyer doesn’t want to be in a time crunch and make an offer on a home after their home is in escrow.

As a seller, getting an offer contingent upon a sale and settlement contingency can seem daunting.

And it can be.

Instead of worrying about one buyer being able to close, you now have to worry about two. Plus, the time to close is going to be much longer than the average sale.

Most sellers who accept an offer with this contingency will do so because their home has been on the MLS for some time.

But if a seller is working with a real estate agent who knows how to negotiate, they can use a sale and settlement contingency to their advantage.

First, the buyer is getting the ideal scenario with this type of offer.

They’re playing it safe and waiting to put their home on the MLS until they have a ratified contract on their new purchase. Plus, they have fewer homes to choose from as many sellers won’t accept an offer contingent upon the sale of their property.

Because of this, the agent should be able to negotiate a higher price.

Second, a sale and settlement contingency allows the seller to accept a backup offer and “kick” the buyer out if they don’t remove their contingency within a certain timeframe (usually 1-3 days).

A great real estate agent will use this to their advantage and market the property accordingly.

What is a kick out clause?

A kick out clause allows the seller to kick the buyer out of the sale if they receive a backup offer that does not include a sale and settlement contingency.

When a seller receives the backup offer, they can notify the buyer and request that they remove the contingency.

If the buyer doesn’t remove it, then the seller can accept the backup offer (buyer gets their deposit back).

Here’s how the language in the California purchase agreement reads for a kick out clause.

Kick out clause in a purchase agreement

As a seller, you want your agent to be aggressive and see if they can attract a better offer.

Sometimes, just changing the status from active to contingent will spark more interest from buyers. When a home has been on the market longer than usual (common for homes that accept a sale and settlement contingency), buyers start to question why.

Once the status has changed, it shows that there was someone else interested and that there’s an opportunity for a new buyer to take advantage.

Settlement contingency

A settlement contingency is when the buyer has a ratified purchase agreement on their current residence but have not yet closed.

This contingency protects the buyer in case their sale falls through.

Many sellers are more receptive to accepting an offer that is contingent upon a settlement contingency as opposed to an offer that is contingent upon a sale and settlement contingency.

Conclusion

Contingencies in real estate can have a big impact on the sale.

Price is almost always most important to both the buyer and seller, but contingencies come in a close second.

They’re another reason why selecting the right real estate agent to sell your house is critical.

The best ones don’t just excel at negotiating, they know the intracicies of every contingency and how to prevent them from causing a disaster to the sale of your home.

Want to know how much seller closing costs are in California?

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

We’re going to break this down in detail.

First, I’ll outline all of the seller closing costs in California. I’ll also run through examples so you can get an idea of what your estimated cost for each of these might be. 

Then, I’ll show you all of this together so you can see what your total closing costs might look like when selling your home in the Golden State.

By the time we’re done, you’ll be able to get a really good idea of your total estimated costs and how much you might walk away with.

What are the typical closing costs for a seller in California?

The average closing costs for a seller in California can be broken down into six categories:

  • Real estate commissions
  • Escrow fees
  • Title insurance
  • County transfer taxes
  • City transfer taxes
  • Miscellaneous items

Some of these costs are based on the county and city you live in.

Assuming you don’t owe more than what your home is worth, all of your closing costs are paid out of your proceeds, meaning you don’t pay anything out of pocket.

You’ll see these costs toward the end of your estimated closing date on a settlement statement. This is a one-page document detailing the final selling price, your total closing costs, and your net proceeds. 

I’ll show you what this looks like later.

California real estate commission

This is going to be the chunk of your costs. The average total commission most sellers pay in California is five to six percent of the final selling price.

Do you have to pay this amount?

Nope.

Real estate commissions are negotiable.

In fact, there are numerous options to pay lower real estate commissions in California. These include the following:

  • Discount brokerage
  • Flat fee company
  • Selling without a Realtor
  • Negotiating a lower commission with your agent

Just like with many things in life, a lower price can mean you’re sacrificing something else in return. When it comes to selling your home, this usually means you’ll be missing one or more of these:

  • Service
  • Experience
  • Marketing
  • Negotiating

Here’s how the commission works…

Let’s say you list at a five percent total commission. You’re technically paying the five percent commission to the brokerage you list with (this is how it’s worded in the listing agreement).

The total commission is usually split fifty-fifty between the brokerage you hire to sell your home and the brokerage who the buyer’s agent works for.

This is detailed in the listing agreement you’ll sign with your agent.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Real estate commission on a California real estate contract

I’m not a CPA, so don’t take this as tax advice, but you should feel pretty confident that all of the real estate commissions are tax deductible. Of course, I would make sure by confirming with your accountant.

Escrow fees In California

Escrow fees will be another part of your closing costs.

You might be asking what the heck are escrow fees and what is an escrow company? I won’t dive into the specifics of what an escrow company does, but here’s the short version:

An escrow company is a neutral third party between the seller and the buyer who holds the money until the sale is final. They are responsible for making sure that the buyer doesn’t receive the property and the seller doesn’t receive payment until everything is executed as agreed upon in the contract.

This isn’t the first thing that usually comes to mind when selling, but it is an important part of the overall closing costs a seller pays in California.

Ok, now that you know what an escrow company is, let’s talk about the escrow fees.

Escrow fees

For providing their services, the escrow company charges a fee. These are usually referred to as “escrow fees” on your settlement statement.

Depending on which county you’re in, you may or may not have to pay this. Each county has a preset “standard” of determining if the buyer or seller pays for this.

This will be detailed in the offer contract you receive from a buyer and is negotiable.

A rough calculation of the cost is $2.00 for every $1,000 of the sales price, plus $250.

So if your home sells for $1,000,000, and you live in a county that requires the seller to pay, you’ll pay an escrow fee of roughly $2,250. Most escrow companies charge around the same amount.

Here are a few examples of who typically pays for the escrow fees in California:

Alameda County  Buyer

Contra Costa    Buyer

El Dorado     Split 50/50

Fresno   Split 50/50

Los Angeles   Split 50/50

Orange  Split 50/50

Riverside   Split 50/50

San Francisco Buyer

San Mateo  Seller

Santa Clara  Seller

Santa Cruz  Split 50/50

Ventura  Split 50/50

What is title insurance?

Title insurance is an insurance policy that protects the buyer from a financial loss due to defects on the title. An example of this is someone claiming ownership of the property after it sold.

It can also protect against liens that might pop up during or after the transaction closes. Sometimes in the process of selling a property, it can turn out that more people have a right to ownership than previously thought. Potential unpaid debt that the seller may have had might also come up after the sale closes. Title insurance works to protect against all of this.

In most real estate transactions, there are two title insurance policies: one that covers the buyer and another that covers the buyer’s lender. If the buyer is obtaining financing, this policy is required.

The policy that covers the buyer is usually referred to as an owner’s title policy. The policy that covers the buyer’s lender is typically called a lender’s policy.

Title insurance cost in California

Unlike escrow fees, there isn’t a set calculation to determine the cost of title insurance.

We’ve found that title companies in California usually charge around the same price. To get an idea of what this is, take the sale price and multiply it by .00225.

For example, if your final selling price is $1,100,000, then the cost for title insurance might be $2,475. The cost can vary depending on your final selling price.

You can use this free title insurance calculator to get a more accurate estimate.

Unless they ask the seller to cover some or all of their closing costs, the buyer will pay for the lender’s policy.

Who pays for the owner’s title policy (the policy that protects the buyer) can also vary by county.

First American Title does a great job breaking down who pays for escrow and title fees in California.

California transfer tax

Part of the closing costs for a seller in California is city and county transfer taxes. These are also referred to as “documentary transfer taxes”.

What exactly is a transfer tax?

Think of it this way. Every time a property changes ownership, the local governments want a piece of the pie.

County transfer taxes

Every county in California has a transfer tax.

The cost of the county transfer tax in California is $1.10 for every $1,000 of the sale price, except for San Francisco County.

So if your house sells for $1,000,000 and your property is not located in San Francisco County, then the county transfer tax would be $1,100.

San Francisco’s transfer taxes operate under its own unique calculation. Here’s how it works…

Example of San Francisco transfer tax as part of the closing costs for a seller

City transfer taxes

Not all cities in California have a transfer tax. For example, in Santa Clara County, the only cities that have a city transfer tax are San Jose, Palo Alto, and Mountain View.

The cost of the city transfer tax in these three cities is $3.30 for every $1,000 of the sale price. On a home that sells for a million dollars, this comes out to $3,300.

The cost for city transfer tax can vary for each city.

Who pays for these documentary transfer taxes?

Similar to the escrow and title fees, it can vary by area. In almost every scenario, the seller will either pay both or these costs will be split fifty-fifty between the buyer and seller.

Miscellaneous Fees

You might see several miscellaneous fees itemized on your settlement statement.

Some of these include the following:

  • Recording fee
  • Notary fee
  • HOA fee (if the property has an HOA)
  • Any reports and/or inspections that are not paid upfront

Ok, as promised, here’s an example of a settlement statement detailing the closing costs for a seller in California.

Example of a seller's settlement statement showing how much the closing costs are in California

You’ll notice on this settlement statement that the seller’s pro-rated amount for their county taxes and mortgage payoff is included. And you’ll see the same on yours.

sample of settlement statement showing prorated taxes and a mortgage payoff as part of the closing costs for a seller in California

These aren’t necessarily costs, but they are itemized with your closing costs on your final settlement statement. 

Conclusion

Now that we’ve gone through each cost you might see as part of the total closing costs, let’s quickly recap…

What are the closing costs for a seller in California?

  • Real estate commissions
  • Escrow fees
  • Title insurance
  • County transfer taxes
  • City transfer taxes
  • Miscellaneous items

How much are seller closing costs in California?

  • Real estate commissions = 5% (can be higher or lower)
  • Escrow fees = $2.00 for every $1,000 of the final sale price + $250
  • Title insurance = sale price x .00225%
  • County transfer tax = $1.10 for every $1,000 of the final sale price
  • City transfer tax = the costs depend on the city you live in
  • Miscellaneous items = varies for each transaction

Selling a home is a big financial transaction.

Educating yourself on your estimated costs is key to planning for your next move. Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of what your total costs might look like. If you’d like to see numbers specific to your sale, you can try our California seller closing costs calculator