For most people, selling a house is one of the most stressful experiences they go through.

The reason?

They’re afraid that their house won’t sell quickly and for their desired price.

That’s what I’m going to help you avoid.

These 7 tips for selling your home will boost your chances of:

  • Selling faster
  • Making more money
  • Having an easier home sale

Every single one of these tips will help you.

But one of them is the key to achieving all three.

Tip #1 – Don’t let your real estate agent represent the buyer

This seems obvious, but it happens all the time.

Why?

Because the agent wants to double their commission. 

When you sell your home, you’ll pay a commission to your real estate agent and the buyer’s agent. 

Your agent will get both if they also represent the buyer. 

If this happens to you, there’s a chance that you sold for less than you should have – mainly for two reasons:

  1. Your realtor cannot negotiate for you if they represent the buyer. 
  2. Realtors have an open invitation to risk their integrity to make twice as much.

Some real estate agents will keep this a secret from you until they have the buyer’s offer in hand. 

By the time this happens, it might be too late.

You’ll hear every reason why you should accept an offer that is most likely less than what it should be.

Here’s how you can avoid this…

Before you commit to working with your real estate agent, tell them that you don’t want them to represent the buyer.

Make sure they agree to it and you’ll eliminate the possibility of losing tens of thousands of dollars when selling your home.

 

*Bonus tipSome real estate agents work on teams and will pass the buyer off to one of their team members. Although this scenario is much better than having your realtor represent the buyer, some realtors have the same intention. If this happens, make sure you’re 100% satisfied with the buyer’s offer.

Tip #2 – Set the best listing price

The price you list your home at will have a direct impact on how fast you sell and for how much. 

Overprice it and your house will sit on the market and you’ll end up selling for less than you should have.

Price it too low and you could leave money on the table. 

But set the best price and you’ll put yourself in the best position to sell your home quickly and for more money. 

How do you do this?

Price it a bit under what your realtor thinks it might sell for (something in the 2% range).

You’ll get a lot more interest from potential buyers.

Here’s why…

Most buyers search online. 

And they’re very familiar with what homes like yours have been selling for. 

Many of them pay attention to the price per sq. ft. and the condition. 

If your condition is similar (or a bit better) to a home that is similar to yours that has recently sold, and is priced less than the price per sq. ft. it sold for, you’re going to make them put your house down as a must-see. 

This will generate more showings. 

And the more buyers that view your home, the higher the chances are that you quickly get one or more buyers interested.

Then it’s your realtor’s job to drive the price up as much as they can. 

But it also does something else. 

The potential buyers who are searching on one of the big real estate websites are going to favorite your listing.

This is what you want because buyers pay attention to the number of views and favorites. 

The higher this number is, the more desirable your home appears. 

People want something a lot more when they think they can’t have it. 

And this is especially true with homebuyers.

Set your list price a bit below market value and you’ll increase demand.

But this does not mean you are obligated to accept an offer at that price (or any price).

The house you’re selling is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. 

But your list price can influence how much money a buyer is willing to give you.

 

*Bonus tip – If you’re the gambling type, you may want to consider pricing it 5-10% below your real estate agent’s estimated selling price. You’ll drive a flock of buyers and increase your chances of getting multiple offers, no matter the type of market you’re in. But I wouldn’t price it below this range. There’s a psychological factor with some homebuyers who can’t be convinced to pay a certain percentage over the listing price. 

Tip #3 – Get inspections before selling

This can be one of the best investments you make when selling your house.

Your house can be completely remodeled, but potential buyers still won’t know what’s “under the hood.”

This leaves them with unanswered questions when deciding how much money they want to pay for your home. 

This is what you want to avoid. 

Can a buyer do their own inspections?

They can.

And in areas where this is common practice, sellers don’t do inspections before selling.

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

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

When you don’t do them, it’s almost certain that the buyer will make their offer contingent on their own inspections.

This will increase the likelihood of them asking you to make repairs and/or renegotiate the price.

And it increases the chances of them getting nervous and backing out of the sale of your home. 

If you want to sell fast and for top dollar, you need to minimize the questions potential buyers have before they submit an offer on your home. 

Getting inspections before selling does this. 

If the property you’re selling is a single-family residence, these are the inspections you’ll want to have done:

  • Property
  • Termite
  • Roof

If you have a condo/townhome where the HOA is responsible for the roof, then you only need the property and termite inspections. 

 

*Bonus tip – Don’t spend a lot of time fixing things before the inspections. Go over the reports with your realtor and take their advice about which ones are worth fixing. Then have your realtor list the items you fixed in a Word document and include them with the inspections. This will give buyers more confidence and will help make your home stand out from others they might be considering.

Tip #4 – Boost your curb appeal with colors

First impressions are everything. 

And when it comes to selling your house, your curb appeal is where it all starts.

Buyers will have an immediate reaction within seconds of pulling up to your home. 

A lackluster appearance can convince potential buyers to drive off. 

But one that gets their attention can enhance their emotional state. 

This is what you want.

Why?

Because buying a home is an emotional decision. 

And the condition of your exterior plays a factor. 

Does this mean you need to go all out and spend thousands of dollars?

Nope. 

The key to making any type of improvement when getting your house ready to sell is to think visually. 

When it comes to your curb appeal, this means colors. 

Think you need new sod to make your landscaping pop?

You don’t.

Spray paint your grass instead. 

Plant colorful perennials and annuals. 

A few hundred dollars at Home Depot can go a long way and make a huge difference.

But putting a fresh coat of paint on your front door can make your home really stand out. 

Stay with neutral colors and go with something that is the perfect match with your exterior paint.

A few popular colors that can work well are gray, black, dark red, navy blue, and brown. 

But you don’t need to invest a lot of money to make the exterior of your home stand out. 

You just need a little imagination and the right colors. 

 

*Bonus tip – Walk across your 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? What little things are sticking out to you? Where can you add color to make it stand out? Take notes and compile your list.

Tip #5 – Stage it for the right buyer

The ideal buyer for your home fits within a certain target audience. 

Your marketing should be targeting this audience. 

And staging is a part of that. 

But don’t just stage it to stage it. 

Confirm the ideal target audience with your real estate agent.

Then put a game plan together on how you’re going to utilize staging to appeal to them. 

For example, the average home in a suburban neighborhood is most likely going to appeal to a younger family. 

Staging one or two of the bedrooms as kid’s rooms would be most appealing to this audience. 

But you wouldn’t do this for a condo in an urban area. 

The target audience for selling this type of property would most likely be a single person or a younger couple. 

So staging one of the rooms as a home office would most likely work best. 

This could also be an option for a home in a retirement community.

But staging one of the rooms as a den could work better. 

The key is to stage your home for the right buyer. 

It works. 

Why?

Because it reduces the number of questions buyers will have.

And it enhances their emotional state. 

Combine both of these and you put yourself in the best position to sell your home faster and for more money.

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, 83% of real estate agents representing buyers said that staging made it easier for their clients to visualize the property as their future home.

As a home seller, the last thing you want is potential buyers having a difficult time envisioning themselves living in your home. 

Staging for the right buyer is a tip that will help you avoid this. 

 

*Bonus tip – If your property will be occupied when you list it for sale, you can still use your furniture. There are stagers who will work with what you currently have to help transform your home to target your ideal buyer. Ask your real estate agent if they have contacts with any stagers and have them coordinate a consultation. 

Tip #6 Don’t get locked into an agreement with your realtor

Want to give yourself the absolute best chance to sell your home fast and for top dollar?

Then you need to have the option to cancel the agreement with your real estate agent.

Let me explain. 

When you decide which real estate agent you want to sell your house with, you’ll sign an agreement with them. 

This is known as a listing agreement and is exclusive to you and your realtor. 

This means that you’re bound to your realtor for the duration (usually 6 months), whether you’re pleased with their services or not. 

This also means that they know they will be paid a commission as long as your house sells.

Because of this, many will overpromise to get you to sign this agreement. 

The most common tactic is telling you that your house is worth more than it is. 

This is especially common among “top” realtors (the ones who sell a lot of homes).

They know that you know they have a track record of selling a lot of homes. 

They also know that you might be speaking to other realtors. 

So, to get you to sign this agreement, they’ll tell you that they can sell your house for an inflated price. 

You believe them because they’re a “top” real estate agent and their presentation was impressive.

But here’s the problem…

They know that the chances of selling your home at their inflated price are ridiculously low.

Here’s how this usually plays out:

  1. The realtor tells you your house is worth more than it is
  2. You sign the listing agreement
  3. Your house sits on the market
  4. Buyers start to wonder what’s wrong with your home
  5. The realtor tells you to drop the price 
  6. Buyers start lowballing you
  7. You eventually sell, but for less than what you should have
  8. The realtor gets paid and adds another sold home to their resume

Want to give yourself the best chance of not having this happen to you?

Then remember this key tip when selling your home. 

Before signing the agreement, ask your realtor if they’ll allow you to cancel at any time

And get it in writing.

Anything other than a “yes” is an immediate red flag. 

There are several important questions you need to ask a realtor when selling

But asking if they’ll allow you to cancel the agreement is the most important. 

Why?

Because when you have the option to cancel, your realtor knows they can be fired at any given moment. 

And they are no longer guaranteed a commission.

This means they’re much more likely to be trusted.

And your chances of selling faster and for top dollar will dramatically increase.

 

*Bonus tip – You might get several different reasons why the realtor can’t give you the option to cancel. None of them are true. It doesn’t matter if the realtor is a “neighborhood specialist,” a friend, or your brother. Even though you may never terminate the agreement, make sure you have the option to do so. It’s the single most important thing you can do when selling your property.

Tip #7 – Don’t over-improve

This happens all the time. 

Sellers think that a buyer won’t be interested in their home unless it’s full of improvements. 

Does it hurt to make a bunch of improvements?

Of course not.

But not all improvements pay off. 

In many cases, it’s the smaller things that have a visual impact that will bring the biggest bang for your buck and help you sell quickly.

The kitchen is almost always the main attraction for homebuyers, but it’s also the most expensive.

You don’t need to fully remodel an outdated kitchen. 

Instead, make smaller improvements. 

Repainting cabinets and adding hardware can save you a boatload of money compared to getting new ones. 

Upgrading to stainless steel appliances will almost always make you money.

But don’t buy anything expensive. 

The entire point of making this improvement is for the visual appeal of the stainless steel. 

It gives the impression that your home is “updated” – the opposite of black and white appliances. 

Bathroom outdated?

Don’t gut the entire thing.

You’ll throw money out the window. 

Instead, do things such as replacing the vanity, shower frame, and/or shower fixtures.

Not enough light?

Don’t add recessed lighting in every room. 

Only do it in the main living areas (kitchen, living room, and maybe the master bedroom).

If you have carpet and a little extra money to invest, upgrade your flooring.

Most buyers don’t like carpet. 

But you don’t need to go expensive. 

You can get away with laminate.

It’s cheaper than hardwood or luxury vinyl plank and has just about the same visual impact. 

Getting a deep cleaning is a no-brainer. 

This alone can transform your home’s appearance and make it shine during showings.

There is zero doubt that improvements will help you sell faster and for more money.

But the key is to only take advantage of the ones that pay off. 

 

*Bonus tip – Do the same thing as you did with your front yard. Walk outside and pretend you’re a buyer. Now walk back in 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. So take notes on anything that sticks out to you. This will help minimize any concern they might have about how well you’ve taken care of the property. 

Conclusion

The home selling process can be stressful.

Many people think of it as an emotional roller coaster and have an experience they’d like to forget. 

You can avoid this by making sure you take advantage of every single one of these tips when selling your home. 

Your chances of selling faster and for more money will skyrocket. 

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 potential buyers will find their home appealing. 

In some cases, their house sits for an extended period of time and they end up accepting an offer below market value. 

And almost every time this happens, there are things they could have done before selling that would have prevented this.

That’s what we’re going to discuss.

But before we do…

You need to start with this.

Get your house ready with a different mindset

Do you want to know one of the secrets that will help you get your 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 selling your home 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 pool of potential buyers. 

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

The key to getting a house ready to sell is to optimize its appearance to attract the most buyers.

But 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 go through 7 money-making tips for getting a house ready to sell. 

#1: Maximize your space

Decluttering your house is the first thing you’ll want to do as you get your house ready. 

This can be one of your biggest payoffs.

Why?

Space.

Buyers love to see space and storage.

The more, the better.

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. 

Potential 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 is to put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer.

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.

#2: 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? No.

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

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

Your property 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 getting ready 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 report might come back with a list of items. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that you will have numerous items called out, 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 potential buyers and their realtors should be well aware of this. 

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

Your realtor 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 real estate 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 realtor can give you a checklist of items that are worth taking care of. 

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

This way, when potential 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. 

The buyer can still choose to get their own inspection, but when you do it before selling, 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 is one of the best tips when selling your home

#3: Make repairs and upgrades that pay off

The most important repairs to make as you prepare to put your house on the market 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 before selling your home 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 realtor should be giving you.

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

Some of the bigger things to fix when getting ready to sell 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 potential 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 I replace before selling?

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

The key to knowing what to replace before selling 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 potential buyer will get excited about when viewing your home.

Make the right replacements when getting ready and buyers will pay you more money than what it costs 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 tips to get your home ready.

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 when getting ready 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 when prepping.

Is yours outdated?

Then I would highly consider replacing it.

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, 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 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.

What about my roof ?

Unlike your kitchen, bathrooms, and flooring, replacing your roof 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 when getting your house ready to sell will bring a negative return on your investment.

Remember, it’s all about visual appeal.

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

But replacing a roof before selling 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 realtor.

And if your property 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 when getting their house ready to sell 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.

Do you want to know why replacing certain things before selling 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 as you prepare to sell, you can drastically improve your chances of putting more money in your pocket.

#4: Enhance your 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 light 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 potential 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 potential buyers 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).

#5: Paint with neutral colors

Should you include painting on your checklist when getting ready?

The answer is almost always, yes.

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 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.

But your best bet is to get your real estate agent’s opinion.

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 when getting ready to sell will almost always make a great impression. 

#6: Boost your curb appeal

Speaking of first impressions.

Boosting your curb appeal before selling can make an even greater impression. 

It’s 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 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.

Spray painting sod is one of the best tips for selling a home.

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 getting ready.  

  • 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?

Paint your front door. 

The best color to paint your front door 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 getting a house ready to sell?

Very. 

Why?

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

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

#7: Deep Clean

Incorporating a deep clean into your checklist when getting your house ready to sell should be mandatory. 

It’s the final touch that can give your house sparkle and should be done right before staging.

Potential 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, 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 when you get your house ready:

  • 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 a house ready to sell

  • Maximize your space
  • Get a home inspection
  • Make repairs and upgrades that pay off
  • Enhance your lighting
  • Paint with neutral colors
  • Boost your curb appeal
  • Deep clean

There are two things that will determine how fast you sell your home and for how much: the real estate agent you work with and how you optimize your home’s appearance.

That’s why both are key steps when selling a house

Yes, getting your 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 tips 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 selling 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.

Questions to ask a realtor when selling

Many homeowners don’t know what to ask a realtor when selling.

So they’ll ask a few generic questions and make sure they have a “good feeling” about them. 

While having a good feeling about the real estate agent you’re selling with is important, the questions you ask and the answers you get are much more important.

Your real estate agent can literally make or break your sale. 

Don’t risk hiring the wrong person because you didn’t ask the right questions. 

And don’t skip the interview process just because you know them or think you can trust them. 

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

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 real estate agent 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 listing price sets the initial tone.

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

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

You want to ask a real estate agent this question before hiring them to ensure two things:

  • They have the knowledge to justify this price when negotiating.
  • They’re not suggesting an inflated price to secure your business. 

The answer you get needs to be 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 your potential listing agent will 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 real estate analysis is what you’ll see on an appraisal report. 

It includes value adjustments for the key differences that can impact your potential selling price. 

The ones that have the biggest impact are:

  • Square footage
  • Condition
  • Bedrooms
  • Lot size
  • Schools
  • Proximity to road noise
  • Bathrooms

You want the answer from the listing agent you’re interviewing to include the same data. 

It will immediately give you a glimpse into how savvy the real estate agent is before hiring them. 

This is important because if their answer is vague and doesn’t include data like this, they’re likely inexperienced or they’re intentionally inflating their price to secure your business.   

I would consider this a red flag. 

If their answer and analysis do include real estate data that justifies their price, then you know they’ll make the same argument when negotiating for you.

But be careful…

If the real estate agent to whom you’re asking this question sells a lot of homes, they have the experience to use data like this to convince you that they can somehow magically sell your home for a price that is too good to be true. 

This is an extremely common tactic that can cause your house to sit on the market and end up selling for a much lower price than it should

One of the upcoming questions will help you almost completely eliminate this from happening to you.

Question#2: Will you also represent the buyer?

This is a great question to ask a real estate agent when selling because their answer can 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?

No.

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

The right 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 your real estate agent want to represent the buyer?

To double their commission.

The total commission you pay when selling your home is usually split 50/50 between your listing agent and the buyer’s agent.

If your real estate agent also represents the buyer, this means they make twice as much.

Unfortunately, many real estate agents are willing to risk their integrity to make this happen. 

In many cases, the end result means a lower selling price by tens of thousands of dollars. 

The point of asking your realtor this question is not just to save you from potentially selling below market value, but also to test their integrity.

The immediate answer you want to hear is that they will not represent the buyer. 

Anything other than this is a red flag.

If they do give you the answer you’re looking for, then follow up with this question:

“In what percentage of your listings have you also represented the buyer?”

This is a great follow-up question to ask your real estate agent before you commit to hiring them.

Why?

Because even if they tell you that they won’t represent the buyer, their answer to this question can paint a better picture about their integrity. 

I would be leery if their answer is anything above ~10%.

Many of the “top” selling agents who make it a priority to also represent a buyer client in the same transaction have a percentage of ~12% or higher.

Question #3: How will you market my home?

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

Higher demand means more homebuyers.

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

Buying a home is an emotional decision and the best 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 need 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.

A realtor who knows how to get top dollar 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 homebuyers?

When your real estate agent 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.

The best selling agents 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 real estate agent can put your home on the MLS. The best ones will have a plan and use the right marketing strategy.

Question #4: How will you vet the buyer?

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

Then you need a good agent 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 good agent 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 up front 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. 

You want the answer from the real estate agent you’re interviewing to include how they’re going to make sure the buyer is qualified. 

But you also want to hear about their approach to minimizing the chances of a buyer backing out during their contingency period.

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

But there are two things that can help:

  1. Have inspections completed before selling 
  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 sell with a real estate agent 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 that 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.

And that’s exactly what the answer should be about when you ask your real estate agent this question. 

This will tell you how experienced and savvy the realtor is. 

The best ones know exactly what should be done to make your home more appealing to buyers.

And 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 as part of the closing process, 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.

Asking the realtor about the costs during your first meeting will allow you to compare their services and fees to those of other realtors you might interview. 

Question #7: How many homes have you sold?

What’s the purpose of asking a real estate agent 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: Can I cancel the listing agreement?

This is the most important question to ask a realtor.

The answer you get will 100% tell you about the realtor’s integrity.

Let me tell you why…

When you decide which real estate agent you’re going to sell with, you’ll sign an agreement with them. 

This is exclusive to you and your agent. 

The length of this agreement is usually 6+ months. 

This means that you cannot fire your agent and hire another one during this time. 

This also means that as long as your house sells, your realtor gets paid, whether you’re pleased with their services or not.

Because of this, many realtors will overpromise during your first meeting with them.

They’ll do and say whatever they have to so that you’re locked into an agreement with them.

The most common one?

Telling you that they can sell your house for an unrealistic price.

This is especially common among “top” real estate agents.

Many of them base their entire business model on this and have been doing so for years.

They market themselves as a “top selling agent” or “neighborhood expert” and suggest an inflated price to get the seller to sign the agreement. 

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 an agent commission

When this happens, the listing becomes “stale” and buyers start to wonder what’s wrong with the property. 

The final selling price is usually much lower than it should have been if the home had been priced right from the start.

Want to reduce the chances of this happening to you?

Then the realtor’s answer to this question should be “yes.”

Without any hesitation.

There is absolutely zero reason why you should be locked into a contract. 

And you need to get in writing. 

You might hear something that sounds convincing about how they can’t do that. 

It’s simply not true. 

The listing agreement does not include this language but the realtor can easily add it.

Even though you may not cancel the agreement, having the option to do so will no longer “guarantee” their commission check.

Which means their trustworthiness will skyrocket.

This also means that you’ll be selling with someone who will be doing everything they can to sell your house fast and for top dollar. 

This is the exact reason why not being forced into a contract is one of the best home selling tips.

Do not skip this question. 

It’s extremely important to the sale of your home. 

How important?

If they don’t give you an immediate “yes,” then you shouldn’t hire them.

Question #10: 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 listing price of those homes was.

This number is calculated by taking the selling price of all of the homes a real estate agent 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 realtors you might interview.

Be leery of listing agents with a number that is much higher or lower than others. 

A ratio that is on the higher end means that the realtor underprices the homes they sell. 

They do this so that they can market the home they just sold to other homeowners with something like, “Just sold for $$$ over the asking price!”

Usually the listing agents who do this have a sale to list price ratio of ~110% or higher.

Ones with a ratio on the lower end overprice the homes they sell. 

Either because of a lack of experience or because they intentionally overpromise on their suggested listing price.

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

Question #11: 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.

A higher-than-average number of days to sell means that the realtor overprices their listings. 

And a lower-than-average number almost always means they underprice the homes they sell. 

Question #12: What percentage of your listings have fallen 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. 

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 knows how to make sure the sale closes. 

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 #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. Can I cancel the listing agreement?
  10. What’s your sale to list price ratio?
  11. What’s your average days on market?
  12. What percentage of your listings have fallen through?
  13. How often will we communicate?

Your first meeting with a realtor to sell your house is crucial. 

It’s your opportunity to make sure you’re hiring someone who will treat your sale as if it’s their own. 

This is the person you’re going to need. 

There are many steps when selling a house, and your realtor can literally be the difference between selling fast and for top dollar and having your house languish on the market and selling below market value. 

Ask these questions when interviewing real estate agents and you’ll put yourself in the absolute best position to ensure they’re the perfect match before hiring them.

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 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.

And it also reduces the chances of the buyer backing out of the sale or trying to renegotiate after their offer is accepted.

This is why getting inspections completed before selling is one of the best tips when selling your home.

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 meeting with realtors to sell your house, 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 the number one reason why the sale of your home might fall through.

This is why knowing which questions to ask a realtor when selling your house is key.

The best ones don’t just excel at negotiating, they know the intricacies 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 you sell 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 closing costs and how much you might walk away with.

What are the typical closing costs for sellers in California?

The average closing costs for sellers 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 closing costs are based on the county and city you live in.

Assuming you don’t owe more than what your home in California is worth, all of your closing costs are paid out of your net 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 closing costs. The average total commission most home 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 lower real estate commissions

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 and listing agent 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 (the company your listing agent works for) 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 real estate 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 home 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 real estate 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 home 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 home 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 documentary 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 fees or 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 documentary 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, city transfer fees 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 (including home inspection fee) 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 closing 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 in California is a big financial transaction.

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of what your total closing costs might look like. If you’d like to see numbers specific to your sale, you can try our California seller closing costs calculator