What are the steps to selling a house? How can I sell fast and for the most money? How can I make the process easier?
Well, buckle up.
You’re going to learn exactly how to sell your house in 9 steps that will help you:
- Make more money
- Sell faster
- Have an easier sale
STEP 1: Estimate how much money you can make from selling
Many sellers skip this step.
But you shouldn’t.
Because you’re going to have to make decisions on certain things throughout the process.
And some of these things will affect how much you’ll make.
Estimating how much money you can walk away with will help make these decisions a bit easier.
Plus, it will help prevent any last-minute surprises.
The formula to figure this out is simple:
Selling price – mortgage balance & costs = proceeds.
Start with your selling price
Have a pretty good idea of your home’s estimated value?
If so, you can just use this number for now.
You can also use an online estimate but it’s not the best approach.
These sites know the basic characteristics of your home such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, square footage, etc. — but they don’t know your condition, layout, and location on the street.
And more importantly, they don’t compare your property to recently sold homes that are most similar to yours.
Keep in mind that you’re only using the estimated value to help you quickly find what you might make from selling your house.
Don’t use this number as your asking price or a set-in-stone number for what your home may sell for.
Get a market analysis from a real estate agent
The most accurate way to get your potential selling price is to get a comparative market analysis from an experienced real estate agent.
This analysis is a similar approach to what an appraiser uses, but it factors in buyer desirability.
Your home is compared to similar properties that have sold and value adjustments are included for the differences in features and characteristics.
The best real estate agents are very good at these.
But many of them aren’t, either because they don’t have the expertise or they intentionally give you an inaccurate analysis.
There’s a tactic behind this that can dramatically hurt the sale of your house.
I’ll tell you what this is in an upcoming step and a tip that will help you avoid this.
Now that you have a rough estimate of your potential selling price, the next step is to estimate your costs.
Find out how much it’s going to cost to sell your house
The costs when selling your house are often referred to as “closing costs.”
These consist of several items.
The biggest one is going to be real estate commissions.
When you sell your property, you’ll pay the commission to your realtor as well as the buyer’s realtor.
The average total commission to sell a house is somewhere between 5 and 6%.
Commissions are negotiable, and the average depends on your area and the type of realtor you’re hiring (more on this in a bit).
In addition to the commissions, there are other items bundled into the closing costs.
These include escrow and title fees, transfer taxes, and miscellaneous fees.
You can use our home sale calculator to get an idea of what these might be.
These costs can vary depending on which state, county, and city you live in.
Get an estimated net sheet from your real estate agent
If you use a real estate agent to sell your home, you can ask them for an estimated net sheet.
An estimated net sheet shows you a breakdown of your costs specific to your property (based on your realtor’s estimated value).
Your realtor gets this from the escrow company and can provide this to you up front.
Here’s what it looks like:
Confirm this with your tax person, but generally, all of your closing costs are tax-deductible.
Calculate your proceeds
Take your estimated value and subtract your mortgage balance as well as your estimated costs.
You’ll also want to find out if you’ll have to pay capital gains taxes.
This is especially important if you plan on purchasing a new home after you sell your current property.
While knowing your exact proceeds is impossible to know up front, using this approach to get an estimate will get you in the ballpark.
Now that you have a rough idea about how much money you’ll make when selling your house, the next step in the process is to time your sale to help you sell for a higher price.
Step 2: Determine the best time to sell
Listing your home for sale at the right time can make a huge difference.
The best time?
When supply is low and demand is high.
Real estate prices are controlled by supply and demand.
Supply is the number of homes for sale, and demand is the number of buyers.
A real estate market where there are more buyers than there are homes for sale is known as a “seller’s market.”
This is the type of market where you see homes selling quickly, and in many cases, with multiple offers over the asking price.
The opposite of this is known as a “buyer’s market.” And somewhere in the middle is known as a “neutral market.”
Get an inventory analysis from a real estate agent
You can get an analysis from a real estate agent that compares the current inventory (number of properties for sale) to the previous month.
This will give you insight into how many houses are currently for sale in your area and how fast they’re selling.
The key number in this analysis is “months of supply.”
This is the number of months it would take to run out of homes for sale.
You calculate this data point by taking the number of homes for sale in any given area and dividing it by the number of houses sold in the last month.
For example, let’s say there are 500 homes currently on the market and 100 properties have sold over the last month.
Dividing 500 by 100 gives you 5 months of supply.
Typically, anything under ~6 months is a seller’s market, and anything over that is a buyer’s market.
You can also reverse the calculation to figure out the absorption rate.
An absorption rate in real estate is another way to determine the type of market you’re in.
Using the scenario above, dividing 10o homes for sale over the last month by 500 that are currently on the market would give you an absorption rate of 20%.
Usually, 20% and above is considered a seller’s market, and ~15% and below is a buyer’s market.
Use data to help you determine when to sell your home
The real estate market can change on a weekly basis.
So keeping an eye on the absorption rate or months of supply can help you sell for more money.
Seasonality can play a factor in both of these.
A hot-weather spot like Florida enjoys the benefits of a snowbird effect in which cold-weather residents swarm the region in winter looking to relocate.
On the other hand, a place like Colorado, with its cold and snowy climate, can experience a drop in demand from home buyers.
And places like Silicon Valley or Los Angeles can see minimal impact from seasonality.
No matter the area, many sellers assume that spring is the best time to put their house on the market.
While this can be true, in many cases, it’s not.
Yes, in many markets, more buyers can pop up in the springtime.
But there are also usually more homes for sale.
This is why using data to help you determine the best time to sell your house is key.
STEP 3: Decide how you want to sell your house
At this point, you have a pretty good idea of how much money you might make and when you might want to sell.
The next step is to decide how you want to sell your house.
You have options:
- Find a cash buyer.
- Do it yourself.
- Sell with a realtor.
It’s important you understand the pros and cons of each.
Let’s break these down.
Sell your home to a cash buyer
This is what every home seller wants.
But, as with most things in life, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
And selling a house for cash is no exception.
The catch with this is that you’re almost always selling well below market value.
The three most common types of cash buyers include the following:
- Instant buyer (also known as “iBuyer”)
- Fix and flip investor
- Buy and hold investor
Sell to an iBuyer
Commonly referred to as iBuyers, instant cash buyers are companies that will purchase your home for cash.
They’re relatively new; almost all of them have popped up within the last 10 years or so.
Two of the biggest names are OpenDoor and Zillow.
These companies will make you an instant offer but leave some of the important details out until later in the process.
Here’s how it usually works:
- You get an instant cash offer for your home.
- They go over the details and costs with you.
- You accept their offer.
- They inspect your property.
- You get an updated offer (lower to reflect improvements).
The initial offer amount is almost always below market value (they need to minimize risk and make a profit).
The costs that are factored in include closing costs, commissions that you would have paid to a real estate agent, and a “convenience fee.”
If you accept their offer, you agree to have someone view the property in person. This is where a lot of them will make an additional profit.
In many cases, they’ll tell you that certain repairs need to be made and will subtract the costs (their estimate) from the amount you think you’re netting.
How much can I make selling my house to an iBuyer?
The difference in how much you net from an iBuyer versus selling your house on the open market can be quite drastic.
Think 8-15% (not including commissions and closing costs).
Only a small percentage of home sellers who request an instant offer from one of these companies end up selling to them.
iBuyers know this and use the “instant offer” tactic as a “hook” to get your information and sell it to realtors in your area.
There are also matching sites that will connect you to iBuyers.
They get a fee for doing so, and that fee is factored into your offer price.
They also use the “instant cash offer” as the “hook” so that they can sell your information to realtors.
You’re better off going to the iBuyer directly, not to a site that makes the connection.
Sell to a fix and flip investor
Have you seen a sign while driving that says something like, “I’ll buy your house for cash?”
Or maybe you’ve received a postcard that says something similar.
These are usually “fix and flip” real estate investors.
These types of investors are usually looking to buy a house that needs work.
Their profit margins are usually in the 10-20% range. This is after factoring in the costs of selling the home and the amount of money that needs to go into it.
When you do the math, these types of buyers are looking to purchase properties for way under market value.
Usually, they strike deals in desperate situations or with homeowners who are unaware of the real value of their home.
Sell to a buy and hold investor
These types of real estate investors are the opposite of the fix and flip.
They’re looking to buy your home and keep it as a rental property for a long period of time.
Many buy and hold investors are looking to buy a home in average to good condition, but are almost always looking for a “discount.”
Most of them will use a real estate agent and are looking in areas they think have great potential for growth.
What are the benefits of selling a house for cash?
The main benefit is a quick home sale.
In many cases, these types of buyers can close the transaction in just one to three weeks.
Which means you’ll eliminate many steps of the selling process.
You don’t need to worry about showings, inspections, and having your house sit on the market.
Need to sell fast and don’t mind sacrificing tens of thousands of dollars for the sake of convenience?
Then you may want to think about selling your house to one of these cash buyers.
Sell your home by yourself
Let’s start with the number one reason why homeowners decide to manage the entire process themselves: to save on commission.
Selling your home yourself can save you thousands by not having to pay the commission to your realtor.
But it will most likely cost you much more than you’ll “save.”
If you decide to go this route, you can cut your commission costs in half.
You’ll be able to skip the amount you would have paid to your real estate agent.
But it would be in your best interest to still pay the buyer’s agent.
Saving money is the biggest benefit when selling your own home; however, you need to consider the potential negatives.
The biggest one?
There are many steps involved in the home selling process.
And time is the price you’ll pay for not having to pay your realtor’s commission.
But that’s just the start.
You’ll need to factor in the required paperwork when selling a home, making sure you price it right, marketing, negotiating, and much more.
All of these are crucial steps in the process and a few reasons why choosing the right real estate agent to sell your house can make you much more than you’d save.
Is it worth selling your house yourself?
In my opinion, the answer has a lot to do with your availability, personality, and how savvy you are.
Do you have extra time? How well do you handle stress?
Are you comfortable setting the best asking price?
Do you know how to market a home (not just put it on the MLS and Zillow)?
How well do you negotiate? Do you know what to say and when to say it to squeeze more out of the buyer?
Do you know the requirements for the numerous disclosures that are required to sell a property?
If you can honestly answer all of these with a yes, then save the money and sell your house yourself.
If not, you’re risking thousands of dollars and a boatload of stress.
And you may want to consider the next option.
Sell your house with a real estate agent
If you go this route, you can pretty much skip everything I just mentioned above.
This is your real estate agent’s job.
Your job is to make sure you choose the right agent.
How do you do this?
You need to ask them the right questions, and you need to get the right answers.
Because reviews can be fake and manipulated (e.g. Yelp and Zillow).
And just because a realtor was referred to you (or someone you worked with in the past) doesn’t mean they’re going to put your interests before theirs.
There are plenty of great realtors out there.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad ones too.
There’s one main reason for this: the contract you’ll sign with them.
Let me explain.
Don’t be forced into a contract when selling with a realtor
When you sell a house with a real estate agent, you sign a contract with them.
This contract is often referred to as a “listing agreement.”
And in almost all cases, it’s an exclusive agreement.
This means that you’re bound to your agent for the duration of the contract, 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.
As you can imagine, this isn’t in your favor.
Many real estate agents will overpromise when meeting with you so that you sign this agreement.
This can be anything from intentionally telling you they can sell your house for an inflated price (more on this shortly) to an exaggerated marketing plan that they never plan on implementing.
These tactics are often the reason why a house will sit on the market and sell for less than it should.
How to not get stuck into a contract with a realtor
Want to increase your chances of selling with a realtor you can trust?
Then here’s what you should do.
Ask them if they’ll add a clause in the agreement that will allow you to cancel at any time. No questions asked.
Anything other than a “yes” should be an immediate red flag, and you should seriously think about not working with them.
It should look something like this:
When you’re not forced into a contract, your ability to trust your realtor skyrockets.
Because they know that there’s a possibility they might lose your business.
When you don’t have the option to cancel, they have a sense of security that they’ll still get paid.
In many cases, you’re looked at as another “number” while they try to get the next home seller to sign an agreement.
Although, let me say this.
Most realtors strive for excellent service.
And many of them accomplish this.
Don’t sell with the wrong person
The forced contract is the root cause of why many people have a bad experience when selling a house.
And the root cause for the tactics that you’re not aware of when selling.
Having the option to cancel should be your number one requirement if you decide to sell your house with a real estate agent.
It is for us.
That’s why SoldNest only matches home sellers with real estate agents who allow the listing agreement to be canceled at any time.
We analyze sales data to find the best agents who can be trusted.
If an agent has a track record that meets our stringent criteria, then we interview them.
And the first question we ask is whether they allow the agreement to be canceled.
Anything other than a no is a deal-breaker for us.
And it should be for you too.
Asking if you’ll have the option to cancel is only one of several crucial questions you should ask when interviewing realtors to sell your house.
But you’ll need to do more than just ask the right questions.
You need to get the right answers and make sure you have a “good feeling” about them.
You’ll boost your chances of selling your house with a realtor who will treat your home sale like it’s their own.
And if you want to sell for the best price and make the process easier, you’re going to need this person.
When you think you’ve found the right realtor, the first step to working with them is signing the agreement.
Here are a few other things you need to know before doing that:
The type of listing agreement you’ll sign with your realtor
The most common type of listing agreement is the one that is exclusive to you and your real estate agent.
This is called an exclusive right to sell.
It gives your agent the right to list your home on the multiple listing service (MLS), take photos, market your home, and receive a commission if your home sells before the expiration date listed in the agreement.
The other two agreements are called open agency and exclusive agency.
An open agency agreement is the opposite of an exclusive agreement. It allows sellers to hire more than one brokerage at a time (most realtors will not agree to this).
With an exclusive agency agreement, the seller can try to sell the house themselves while working with only one realtor.
If the seller finds a buyer and sells it themselves, then the realtor is not due a commission.
A listing price that doesn’t feel right
This occurs way more than it should.
But most sellers don’t say anything.
Or they don’t know the tactic that’s being used on them.
Here’s how it usually plays out:
- The agent suggests a list price that is higher than market value.
- You sign the agreement.
- Your home sits on the market.
- Buyers wonder what’s wrong with your house.
- Your agent suggests reducing the price, so you do.
- You sell for much less than you should have.
Why does this happen?
Because the real estate agent is hoping that the “more money” sales pitch will get the seller to sign the agreement when initially meeting with them.
The agent knows that the price is inflated from the get-go and that the house is going to sit.
But all they care about is getting that agreement signed.
Because they get a commission no matter how long your home sits on the market.
You’d be surprised at how many “top” agents use this tactic.
Their entire business model is based on the “turn and burn” approach.
Do anything they can to get the agreement signed, move on to the next homeowner, and keep marketing themselves as a “top agent.”
This is one of many reasons why it’s important that you have the option to cancel.
Your realtor will be much more inclined to recommend the best listing price.
Which means your home will be less likely to sit on the market.
And your chances of selling for more money will be much higher.
But it can work the other way too.
Don’t set the listing price too low
Some selling agents will want to drastically underprice your home.
The pitch for this usually has something to do with “getting lots of buyers interested to drive up the price.”
While this is true, there’s an ulterior motive behind this.
So that they can use your home sale to market themselves with something like, “Just sold for $50k over asking!”
You’re happy because you sold way over your asking price.
But there’s a chance that you could have sold for more.
A home is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, but there’s a psychological factor that’s involved with buyers.
Some of them don’t want to feel like they’re overpaying.
So they won’t offer a certain percentage over your asking price.
This means there’s a chance that you won’t sell your house for its full potential.
But your realtor will look like a hero.
So if you think the price they’re recommending might be off, then dig deeper.
Why are they suggesting that price? Which comps are they using to justify it?
And if you have a gut feeling that the price is off and they’re not doing a great job justifying it, then consider it a red flag.
The asking price is listed in the agreement.
But this is not set in stone.
You and your agent will confirm the price before listing your home for sale (one of the upcoming steps we’ll discuss).
Be aware of the commission being paid to both realtors
When you sell a house, you pay the commission to both your real estate agent and the buyer’s agent.
The way that the listing agreement states how the commissions are paid can be a little confusing, so here’s a simple explanation.
The total commission you’ll pay goes to your real estate agent’s brokerage (the company your agent works for).
And your agent will state in the agreement how much of that is being offered to the buyer’s agent.
This is what you want to watch out for.
The norm is that this is split 50/50.
Half to your realtor and the other half to the buyer’s realtor.
But some agents will try to sneak this past you and offer less to the buyer’s agent, leaving more for them.
When this happens, buyer’s agents will be less inclined to show your home because you’re paying them less than other sellers in your area.
Here’s an example of what this would look like:
The key takeaway here is that you want to be aware of how much commission is being offered to the buyer’s real estate agent.
A longer-than-usual expiration date in the agreement
The listing agreement has an expiration date.
If your home doesn’t sell by this date, then the agreement with your realtor is automatically terminated.
The expiration date should line up with your realtor’s estimated selling timeline.
For example, if your realtor is estimating that the time to sell your house from start to finish is 3 months, then an agreement with anything longer than, say, 4 months, might be a bit concerning.
But if you have the option to cancel, then the timeframe shouldn’t really be an issue for you.
You could have it for a year, and it still shouldn’t be a concern.
But it should be a concern when you don’t have the option to cancel.
This is when you’ll want to make sure that the length of the agreement doesn’t extend too far past their estimated timeline of selling your home.
If it does, then consider it a red flag.
Choose the right realtor to sell your home
The right real estate agent is worth their weight in gold.
That might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s true.
Selling a house is stressful and the difference between two realtors can literally be tens of thousands in your pocket.
It is most likely the largest financial transaction in your life.
You need someone who is going to make you a top priority.
And someone who will sell your house as if it’s their own.
This is how you’ll maximize your chances of having an easier sale and making more money.
Follow these steps to help you choose the right realtor:
- Ask the right questions.
- Get the right answers.
- Understand your listing agreement.
- Make sure you have the option to cancel.
- Go with your gut to make sure there’s a connection.
You might be tempted to skip some of these.
Especially if you’re referred to an agent from a friend or go online and see a bunch of five-star reviews.
The steps above will prevent you from selling with the wrong person.
And they will help you find the right realtor who you can rely on throughout the process.
Here are just a few things they’ll be doing for you (more on these in the next steps):
- Provide an analysis to help you price your home right
- Help you prepare to get top dollar
- Marketing (telling the world that your house is for sale)
- Handling disclosures, inspections, and other paperwork
- Scheduling and coordinating showings
- Walking you through the offer process
- Vetting prospective buyers
- Making sure the deal closes
All of these can have a big impact on how much you sell for and how long the process takes.
So make sure you’re selling with someone you trust.
Step 4: Prepare your home for sale
Now that you’ve found the right real estate agent, it’s time to get ready.
If done right, this step is where you really boost your chances of selling for more money.
And in less time.
But in order to give yourself the best shot, you’ll need to start the prepping process with something important.
Remove your emotional attachment.
Think of selling your house as a business transaction.
Because that’s what it is.
The goal is to sell for the highest price.
And in the shortest amount of time.
You do this by appealing to the largest possible audience of prospective buyers.
This sometimes means you might need to remove your personal preferences from parts of the decision-making process.
But this can be tough to do.
Especially if you’ve lived in your home for a number of years and have raised your family there.
Think of selling as the launching pad to the next step in life’s journey.
Leave parts of the decision-making process to your real estate agent and other experts.
If you do, you’ll appeal to a larger pool of buyers.
Which can bring you an offer at a higher price than you were anticipating.
Let’s show you how to do that by going through the prepping process step by step.
Declutter and maximize your space
Buyers need to envision themselves living in your house.
This is what starts the emotional upswing for them.
An emotional upswing is what you want.
It helps sell a house.
Too much clutter and a bad use of space will have buyers asking themselves numerous questions.
You don’t want this.
You want buyers viewing your house with minimal questions.
And decluttering is where this all starts.
It’s difficult to put a price tag on this, but it’s a biggie.
Buyers love it.
You want to maximize your space as much as you can.
Start by getting garbage bags and boxes.
Go room by room and make several piles:
Stay focused and finish one room before moving to the next.
Do you plan on living in your property while it’s for sale?
If so, anything you keep can be stored in the garage.
This is common and many buyers expect it.
Have a basement?
I probably wouldn’t keep anything down there as a basement can be a selling feature.
Have anything worth selling?
Think about having a garage sale.
The Salvation Army can save you hassle by picking up the items for you.
Go through every room, and don’t forget the closets.
You probably have more stuff than you think.
So start this process early and don’t procrastinate.
Boost your selling price with money-making improvements
Many sellers are hesitant about making improvements because they think that the buyer will want to do them.
Yes, some do.
But some don’t because they don’t have the extra money.
Or they don’t want to invest the time.
This is one of the reasons why certain improvements can make you money when selling your house.
You make the improvements, and prospective buyers will factor them into their offer price.
And in some cases, the added value far exceeds the amount you paid.
Because home buyers are essentially financing the improvements through their mortgage.
They’re willing to pay you more money because the home is in better condition and it saves them the hassle of having to do the work.
But not all improvements are worth making.
The ones that pay off are the ones that have the biggest visual impact at a lower cost compared to the others.
The kitchen and bathrooms are always a biggie for buyers.
But they’re also the most expensive.
So, in some cases, doing a complete makeover for either of these rooms doesn’t make sense.
The four upgrades that will usually make the most money when selling a house are:
- Stainless steel appliances
- Front yard landscaping
Tip#1 – Update your flooring
Have carpet in your home?
Then there’s a strong likelihood that replacing it will pay off.
Many buyers prefer laminate or hardwood flooring over carpet.
It’s easier to clean and appears more modern.
If you already have laminate or hardwood flooring, then you probably don’t need to replace it.
But you may want to have it cleaned.
You can use a cleaning solution like Rejuvenate to bring them back to life.
You can find it at Home Depot for ~$6 per bottle.
If you have hardwood floors and this doesn’t do the trick, then you might want to think about having them refinished.
Have carpets but don’t want to go through the hassle of having them replaced?
Then having them cleaned instead could make the prepping process easier for you.
You can rent a professional-grade cleaner from somewhere like Lowe’s and do it yourself.
Tip #2 – Replace your appliances
Replacing older appliances with stainless steel ones makes sense if your kitchen is at least in decent condition.
White and black appliances were appealing 15+ years ago.
But now, buyers like stainless steel.
They can make your kitchen really pop.
And not just in person, but in the online photos too.
If you do replace your appliances before putting your house on the market, don’t buy anything expensive.
The whole purpose of making this upgrade is for the visual impact.
So look for something cheap to medium-priced.
Tip #3 – Improve your curb appeal
Remember how we talked about the emotional upswing for buyers?
And how that should be your goal?
Well, your curb appeal is where it all starts.
When prospective buyers pull up to your house, they’re going to have an opinion.
So you want to make a great first impression.
You can do this by adding color and spending a day on a few DIY projects.
Here is a list of things that can enhance your curb appeal when selling:
- Pressure wash the entire exterior.
- Pull weeds.
- Add mulch to dirt areas.
- Paint your front door.
- Knock down cobwebs (especially by your front door).
- Add colorful plants or flowers.
Are parts of your lawn discolored?
Don’t get new sod.
Instead, go to Amazon and purchase a bottle of LawnLift.
Then spray paint those areas and have your grass look like new.
Tip #4 – Paint every room with a neutral color
Has it been more than ~10 years since the entire interior of your home has been painted?
Then you may want to think about having it done before listing it for sale.
But make sure you get your real estate agent’s opinion first.
If you hire a professional, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2-$6 per square foot.
Neutral colors are key.
They appeal to a larger audience, and they can make your rooms appear bigger.
Two paint colors that work well in many homes are Wise Owl and San Francisco Fog.
You can find these at Kelly Moore.
At a minimum, you’ll want to go room by room and apply touch-up.
If you do, look for the spots that you don’t always notice.
These include things like door jams, baseboards, and crown molding.
Get inspections before listing your home
Having inspections completed before selling your house could be one of the best investments you make.
There are two reasons why:
- Buyers will feel more confident when submitting their offer.
- It reduces the chances of the buyer asking you to repair something after you accept their offer.
When a prospective buyer is interested in your home, they’re going to want more information.
Your home can be in great condition, but they don’t know what’s “under the hood.”
Inspections can help alleviate these concerns.
In some parts of the country, many sellers don’t do inspections before listing their house.
They leave them up to the buyer.
You could do this too.
But you’ll give the buyer more leverage after you’re under contract.
You’ll take this leverage away if you get inspections before putting your house on the market.
Because it’s much more difficult for a buyer to say they weren’t aware of something when they were given the inspection reports up front.
This means that you reduce the chances of them asking you to make repairs after you accept their offer.
And you’ll also reduce your chances of having them back out of the sale.
Can a buyer still do their own inspections if you provide them up front?
But many of them don’t.
Even if they did, in order to justify asking you to make repairs, their inspector would need to find something that your inspector didn’t.
Which inspections should I have done before selling?
These are the three most common inspections when selling a single-family residence:
A roof inspection is almost never needed for condos and townhomes as the roof is the HOA’s responsibility.
The cost for each will depend on the size of your property and where it’s located.
On average, you can expect to pay somewhere between $600 and $1,500 for all three inspections.
Ask your real estate agent for recommendations. Most of them have contacts and will coordinate for you.
And it’s okay to make repairs before you order inspections.
But don’t spend too much time on this.
This is a mistake that many people make when selling a house.
Instead, wait for the inspection reports to come back, and then take care of any repairs that are worth making.
It will save you time and money.
The inspectors will need access to the attic, crawlspace, water heater, and garage walls.
So before they visit your property, make sure these are easily accessible.
And be prepared to see numerous items mentioned in the inspection reports.
They do this for liability reasons.
But don’t worry…
Unless your property is newly built, this is very common and expected by buyers and their realtors.
And this doesn’t mean that you need to fix everything.
The whole purpose of getting inspections before listing your house for sale is to provide potential buyers with the information they need to make their best offer.
Make repairs (but keep them minimal) before selling your home
Now that you have inspections completed, the next step in the prepping process is to make repairs.
Do you need to fix everything that is called out in the inspection reports?
All of it is optional and negotiable.
Of course, the more items you fix, the more attractive your home will look to prospective buyers.
But not everything is worth fixing.
Go over the reports with your real estate agent and get their advice about which repairs are worth making.
Need help or don’t have the time to do the work yourself? Speed up the process and contact a service professional on one of these websites:
Make a list of the items you fix and give them to your realtor.
They can attach this list to the inspection reports so that buyers are aware of the work you’ve done.
Doing this will show prospective buyers that they don’t need to spend the time and money fixing certain things.
This makes them happy.
And happy buyers help sell a house for more money and in a shorter amount of time.
Get a deep cleaning and make your house shine
There are places in your home that you haven’t noticed in years.
But buyers will.
Anything that’s dirty might make them think that your house hasn’t been well taken care of.
So getting a deep clean is almost always a must.
Hiring a professional will save you time and the hassle of having to do it yourself.
The cost will depend on your area and the size of your home, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $200 and $600.
Or you can take the DIY approach.
If you do, here’s a list of what you’ll want to make sure you clean:
- Vanity doors and handles
- Appliances (including inside of oven)
- Cabinets (including inside shelving)
- Windows (inside and outside)
- Window coverings
- Vents (and replace filters)
Transform your space by staging your home
You’re in the final steps of getting your house ready to sell.
But you need one final touch.
You need buyers to envision themselves living in your home.
Because if they can’t, their chances of submitting an offer deteriorate.
This is why staging pays off when selling a house.
And if done right, it maximizes your space, making your home look bigger than it really is.
But staging also does something else.
It helps with the emotional impact on prospective buyers.
Not just when they view your home in person.
But also when they see your listing online.
Let me show you.
Look at this house:
Now look at this one:
Pretty big difference, right?
Both of those homes were vacant.
You shouldn’t think twice about staging if your property is going to be vacant when selling.
Online photos of a vacant home make a bad first impression.
And a bad first impression can easily convince buyers your home isn’t worth visiting.
Staging your house while it’s occupied
You can still stage your home if you plan on living in it when selling.
You have two options:
- Get partial staging
- Stage it yourself
There are stagers who can work with your furniture.
In most cases, they’ll use a combination of what you have and their own decorative pieces.
Be prepared as they might make suggestions that you don’t agree with.
But remember, selling your house is a business transaction.
So let them do their job.
Ask your realtor for recommendations.
Most of them have at least one stager they work with and can help coordinate.
Stage it yourself
The other option is to stage it yourself.
It might not look as good as it would with partial staging, but you’ll save on costs.
The key to staging your own home is to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer.
Think about how you can appeal to as many potential buyers as possible.
And how you can maximize your space.
This means removing the family photos and anything else that’s personal and easily visible.
Go room by room and see if there is any other furniture that can be removed.
Reclining chair in the living room that doesn’t need to be there?
Extra nightstand or dresser in one of the bedrooms?
Put it in the garage and make the bedroom appear larger.
Remember, you’re selling a house.
Which is the largest financial transaction in most buyers’ lives.
They’re going to have some doubt.
You want to minimize (or eliminate) their doubt.
Staging helps with this.
Take professional photos
All right, now your house is “show-ready.”
But you need to convince prospective buyers that they should take a look.
This is why you need professional photos.
Let me repeat one word in that sentence.
Do not take these photos yourself, and do not let your realtor take them.
Most realtors will hire a professional photographer and cover the cost.
But some won’t.
When this happens, it can be damaging.
The difference between a professional photographer and an amateur is night and day.
Even for a home that is upgraded.
Forgot the mess.
Look at the angle and lighting.
Here’s another one.
That house was recently renovated too.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 90% of home buyers search online.
Which means your photos (and price) will be the first thing home buyers see.
A great photographer can make your home look better than it really is.
Photos like the ones above can do the complete opposite.
How to get ready for photos
You can expect your real estate agent to coordinate the photo shoot.
Here’s what you’ll want to do to prepare:
- Make sure your house is clean.
- Turn on all lights.
- Open all window coverings.
Show as much light as you can.
Buyers love it.
You should also expect your realtor to tell the photographer to not show any negative property characteristics or features.
Some of these might include things such as high voltage lines, a really small stall shower, or maybe a backyard that needs work.
Even if your photos are great, these can turn prospective buyers away.
The entire purpose of taking photos when selling a house is to entice buyers to visit in person.
So they need to be eye-popping.
Without showing anything that gives them a reason to not visit.
Fill in your selling disclosures
There’s a lot of paperwork involved when selling a house.
But don’t worry — your real estate agent will handle this for you and guide you through the process.
Some of this paperwork is commonly referred to as “disclosures” or “disclosure documents.”
Many of these are template-based and only require signatures from the seller and buyer, but several will give you a list of questions that you’ll need to answer.
Here are a few examples of what you’ll be required to disclose:
- Water damage
- Neighborhood noise
- Environmental contamination
- Potential risk from natural disaster
- Death in the property
- HOA information
Here’s an example of what one of these disclosures looks like:
These are meant to give prospective buyers information about the property that could have a potential negative effect.
The exact legalities will depend on where you live, but here’s the key takeaway:
Do not conceal any information that you think might impact the value in a negative way.
Doing so can mean a future lawsuit from your buyer.
So fill these out as best you can and remember that it’s always better to over-disclose.
An escrow company is a neutral third party between the buyer and seller.
They’re responsible for:
- Making sure that the seller doesn’t receive their proceeds until all of the conditions in the purchase contract are met
- Ensuring the buyer doesn’t receive the deed to the property until those same conditions are met
- Handling the funds between the buyer and seller
Someone will need to contact an escrow company to start the process.
In some areas, the seller opens escrow, and in others, the buyer does.
Most of the time, one of the real estate agents will do this.
If you live in an area where it’s common for the seller to open escrow, you can expect your realtor to do this.
This is what will start the escrow process.
Step 5: Set the best listing price
You’re almost ready to put your house on the market!
But there’s one key step before you do: Set the best list price.
Notice how I said, “list price” and not “selling price?”
That’s because the list price does not mean your selling price.
This seems obvious, but many sellers get too hung up on this.
They think that the price they “ask” for is the maximum amount a buyer will pay.
Maybe it is.
And maybe it’s not.
Your house is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it.
The “asking price” should be used as part of your marketing strategy to attract the most buyers AND maximize your selling price.
If you’re working with the right real estate agent, this is exactly what they’re going to help you do.
How to set the best listing price
You’ve already discussed the list price with your agent before you signed the agreement with them.
But now it’s time to revisit.
The real estate market can change on a weekly basis.
So checking recent market activity is crucial.
Get an updated analysis from your realtor and ask them to include the following:
- Recently sold homes
- Properties that are currently for sale
- Listings that are currently pending (seller accepted an offer, but the sale hasn’t closed yet)
Buyers will put more weight on the houses that have sold.
So you should do the same.
The properties that are pending are good to look at because they’ll give you insight into how long it took for the seller to accept an offer.
And the ones that are currently on the market will be your competition.
As we discussed in an earlier step, the homes that you should compare yours to are the ones that are:
- Closest to your interior square footage
- Most recently sold
- Closest in proximity
Finding at least three recently sold homes that fit these criteria is ideal.
Make sure that the “value adjustments” are included
This is important.
Value adjustments are dollar amounts for key differences between your home and the ones you’re comparing to.
Some of these differences include the following:
- Interior square footage
- Lot size
- Street noise
The dollar amount for each adjustment will depend on the sold price of the comparable home.
The best approach is to take the comparable price of each home and divide it by the number of homes to get an average.
For example, if the comparable prices for the three homes in the analysis are:
Then you would use $1,060,000.
Determine the perfect number
The last thing you’ll want to do is determine the actual number to use for your list price.
Using numbers that are slightly less than a rounded number is very common, and it works.
For example, in the scenario above, since the average is $1,060,000, setting the list price to $1,049,000 is probably the best strategy.
The key is to not set your price too high or low.
An inflated price will discourage buyers from wanting to learn more about your home.
However, if you price it too low, you could be leaving money on the table.
Remember, your house is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it.
Finalize the perfect number with your real estate agent, and you’ll maximize your chances of getting a top-dollar offer sooner than you think.
Step 6: List your house for sale
Now it’s time to sell your house.
And find that perfect buyer.
This is done through marketing.
There should be one goal when it comes to marketing your house: to tell the world that your house is for sale.
This is how you increase demand.
Which will increase your chances of selling for more money.
You do this by utilizing the right channels to reach your target audience.
A sign in your front yard and postcards to your neighbors aren’t the best ways to do this.
They can help.
But they’re not nearly as effective as they were 20 years ago.
Nowadays, buyers search for homes on websites and apps.
So this is where your real estate agent will want to focus their strategy.
And this strategy should have one goal: Get buyers to visit.
Upload your listing to the MLS
The “MLS” is a database used by brokerages and agents across the country to list their homes for sale.
This is the number one marketing tool to sell a house.
It allows every real estate agent and broker to easily see the listings that are currently on the market in their area.
Your real estate agent will strategize with you on a date to upload your listing to the MLS.
This is what usually starts the marketing process.
And your listing doesn’t just go on the MLS.
It gets syndicated out to numerous sites, including all of the major real estate search sites, such as Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, and realtor.com.
This means that you should see your listing plastered online on the day that your home is officially listed.
Include all property characteristics and features
Make sure your realtor uploads the property characteristics and features to the MLS.
These are things such as countertops, flooring, heating/AC, exterior features, and more.
A lot of this optional.
If it’s not added, it won’t show when buyers are viewing your home on a real estate search site.
A lot of realtors do this.
But for some reason, some of them don’t.
Buyers will be looking for this information, so make sure it’s there, and make sure it’s accurate.
Utilize social media
There’s an extremely strong chance that the buyer for your home is on social media.
So marketing your house on one or more of these platforms is key:
You’ll increase the number of people who know that you’re selling your house.
Real estate agents who are tech-savvy use social media to their advantage.
They do this by showing your listing to their audience and/or by placing ads on these different platforms.
And here’s the thing with social media…
Content can be easily shared.
So you’re not just getting exposure to the audience that you’re targeting; you’re making it easy for those people to tell others that you’re selling a home.
Spread the word through a network of top realtors
Working with the right realtor has many benefits.
And this is one of them.
The agents who consistently sell more homes than their peers have a lot of contacts.
If your real estate agent falls into this category, then your listing will have access to their network of top agents.
They’ll use this network to further expand the marketing reach of your property.
One quick tip with this: Many agents who sell a lot of homes will try to also represent the buyer to double their commission. This can be damaging because in many cases, the agent will minimize the marketing and focus on finding a buyer who doesn’t have an agent. When this happens, the house almost always sells for much less than what it should have. If you want to take full advantage of your agent’s network and make the most money, you’ll need to get a commitment that they won’t represent the buyer.
The chances are low that an open house will be the sole reason why a buyer knows that you’re selling your house.
They most likely discovered your listing somewhere online and discussed it with their realtor.
Which is a good thing.
This means your listing piqued their curiosity and your online marketing strategy worked.
Now it’s time to get them interested in making an offer.
Open houses give them that opportunity.
Most open houses are scheduled for two to three hours on Saturday and Sunday.
A Friday evening twilight open house can also work well.
Your realtor will game plan with you ahead of time so that you have plenty of time to prepare.
On the day of an open house, aim to keep the appearance similar to what it was for the photos.
Turn on all the lights.
Open all of your window coverings.
And remove anything that takes up space.
Remember, buyers will be viewing your house from a different point of view.
So even the smallest things can make a big difference.
Sometimes buyers can’t attend an open house.
Or they want to view your home before others do.
These are set up through a private showing.
Your real estate agent will coordinate a plan for this ahead of time.
If you’re living in the property when selling, you can tell your agent to schedule these only on certain days or certain times of the day.
This will make the process a bit easier for you.
But if you restrict it too much, you can discourage prospective buyers from visiting your house.
So try to be as flexible as you can.
And it’s never a good idea to be at your home while potential buyers are viewing it.
Many of them will feel uncomfortable asking their real estate agent important questions as they’re walking around.
This is one of the hassles of selling a house.
But you’ll let buyers feel more comfortable when viewing your home.
Which can help you get an offer faster.
Step 7: Vet, negotiate, and accept an offer
Now the fun begins.
This is the step in the process where many sellers get anxious.
Waiting for a buyer to give you an offer can be nerve-wracking.
But if you followed everything we discussed in the previous steps, you shouldn’t be waiting too long.
We’re going to break this step down into three “sub-steps.”
- Vet the buyer and their offer
Because the offer process when selling a home doesn’t work how most sellers think it does.
How to vet the buyer and their offer
Vetting an offer from a buyer is key.
This will do three things:
- Eliminate any surprises that the buyer might be trying to sneak in
- Increase the probability that your sale closes on time
- Minimize the chances of the buyer backing out
The offer from the buyer will be on a contract and sent to your realtor. This is commonly referred to as a “purchase contract” or “purchase agreement.”
Vet the buyer’s offer
The first step in the vetting process is to thoroughly go through the offer and look for these:
- Offer price
- Deposit amount and due date
- Days to close
- Type of financing
- Percentage of down payment
You’ll see some of these listed on page 1 of the offer contract.
Your real estate agent will go through the offer and discuss the details with you.
For most people selling a home, price is most important.
But pay attention to the others.
They can have a big impact on your sale.
For example, did the buyer include contingencies?
A contingency is a condition in the contract that must be met in order to make it binding.
The three most common contingencies from homebuyers are:
This is important to understand when selling.
Because a contingency allows the buyer to back out of the sale (for that contingency reason) and get their deposit back.
This means that you can get an exceptional offer price, but it doesn’t mean much until the buyer removes their contingencies.
And even when they do, they can still back out of the sale.
But it’s much less likely because their deposit is at risk.
This is just one example of why vetting the buyer’s offer is important.
It paints the entire picture of how good their offer really is.
Which helps when it comes time to decide how you want to respond to it.
Vet the buyer
The second step in the vetting process is to vet the buyer.
Here’s how to do it…
First, make sure your real estate agent requests that every buyer submit the following with their offer:
- Pre-approval letter
- Proof of funds (liquid assets, 401k, etc.)
- Signed disclosures and inspections.
The pre-approval letter will include the loan officer’s contact information and state how much the buyer is pre-approved for.
The signed disclosures and inspections are proof that the buyer is aware of all of the information you provided up front.
This makes it difficult for them to come back and say they weren’t aware of something.
Which makes it less likely that they’ll ask you to repair something after the offer is accepted.
The proof of funds verifies that the buyer has enough for their:
- Down payment
- Closing costs
- Remaining assets that will be required from their lender
Have your real estate agent call the buyer’s loan officer
There are two goals for this phone call:
- Verify that the buyer is well qualified.
- Extract additional information from the loan officer.
A loan officer can only reveal so much, but sometimes they’ll say things that can benefit you.
For example, your agent can call and ask about the buyer’s debt to income ratio.
This is one of the main qualifying factors for the buyer’s loan. There’s a certain percentage that most lenders will go up to (~42-50%).
The loan officer might slip up and reveal that the buyer has a debt to income ratio well below the max.
This would eliminate the opportunity for the buyer’s real estate agent to use this as an excuse as to why the buyer can’t pay more (common when negotiating).
These are the little things that can give you and your agent an advantage when negotiating.
Which can help you sell your house for more money.
This is why vetting the offer and the buyer is key.
Negotiate with the buyer
Now it’s time to see if you can squeeze more money out of the buyer — and maybe better terms.
This is one part of the home selling process that many people assume works only one way.
There are two different scenarios that can take place when negotiating:
Before you get the offer and after.
Negotiating before you get an offer
Your realtor might talk about price and terms without you knowing.
This happens when the buyer’s agent initiates the conversation before putting the offer in writing.
They’re trying to see if your real estate agent will show their cards.
If you’re selling with the right realtor, they’re going to know exactly how to take advantage of this.
The elite ones know what to say and when to say it.
And can literally bump your selling price by thousands of dollars with just a few words.
But many agents don’t take advantage of this opportunity.
Or even worse, they do exactly what the buyer’s agent is hoping for.
This usually happens with real estate agents who:
- Don’t have the experience.
- Are just looking to sell a house for a commission check and move on to the next listing.
Strategize with your agent before you go on market and make sure there’s a plan of attack.
Negotiating after you get an offer
You have three options when you receive an offer for your home:
If you want to negotiate with the buyer, you do so by sending them a counteroffer.
How to counteroffer when selling a house
The first thing you’ll need to do is accept the buyer’s offer and make it subject to your counteroffer.
You’ll do this by checking a box on the buyer’s offer contract that states this.
It looks like this:
Next, you need to determine what you want to counteroffer.
You can counter more than just the price.
You can negotiate anything that the buyer included in their offer.
For example, let’s say you received an offer for the following price and terms:
- $1,100,000 purchase price
- 14-day inspection contingency
- 30-day close of escrow
- Deposit made within 72 hours after acceptance
You and your realtor discuss it, and you think the best approach is to send the buyer a counteroffer for $1,120,000 and no inspection contingency.
Here’s what that would look like on a counteroffer:
There’s a default expiration date but you can adjust this to what you think is best.
In many cases, you want to shorten this so that you don’t give the buyer too long to think about it – but discuss this with your realtor.
Is there a risk of sending the buyer a counteroffer?
Because you’re essentially turning down the buyer’s offer and sending them your own.
This means that their original offer is not valid and they can walk away.
There are many different scenarios that can play out.
Strategize with your realtor and weigh the risks of the price and terms you want to counter with.
If you’re selling with the right agent, they won’t just guide you through the entire process; they’ll know exactly how to maximize the opportunity to get you the best price and terms.
This is another reason why your real estate agent can make or break your sale.
Accept an offer
The day has finally arrived!
You accepted an offer for your home.
Most realtors will immediately change the status of the MLS to “pending” or “contingent” (depending on whether the buyer has contingencies).
But tell your realtor to do this instead…
Don’t change the status until after the buyer makes their deposit into escrow.
There’s a good chance that the buyer for your home was searching on a real estate search site.
And they probably saved your home as a favorite.
Every time there’s a change in status, these sites send a notification to every user who saved that property.
Your buyer might wonder why they aren’t seeing a change of status.
This is what you want.
It makes them think that your property is still on the market.
This creates urgency, which will put pressure on them to make the deposit sooner rather than later.
You want the buyer to make their deposit as soon as possible.
It’s the first big step for a seller after accepting an offer.
Because the buyer is doing more than just putting pen to paper.
They’re telling you that they’re serious.
But don’t celebrate just yet.
You have several more steps to complete before you officially sell your house.
Step 8: Financing, Appraisal, and Inspections
Have you seen a listing go back on the market after the seller accepted an offer?
It’s almost always because the buyer had an issue with one of these three things:
These are your next three hurdles in the process.
If you and your agent followed the previous step and vetted the buyer and their offer, you’ll reduce the chances of any of these being a problem.
But a real estate transaction has many moving parts.
Anything can happen.
That’s why this step in the selling process is underrated.
Having the buyer make their deposit is a great start.
But now it’s time to manage the rest of the process to make sure the sale doesn’t fall through.
Let’s break these down so you know what to expect.
Keep an eye on the buyer’s loan
The pre-approval letter you’ll see with the buyer’s offer is not a commitment to lend.
The lender still needs to see other documents that are a part of the transaction (purchase contract, title report, etc.) before issuing the actual loan approval.
This is what the loan officer will be working on as soon as you and the buyer have a ratified contract.
They gather all of the documents and send them off to an underwriter.
An underwriter is the person who says yay or nay to the buyer’s loan.
Your real estate agent should be following up with the loan officer and keeping an eye on this process.
Because when the buyer does receive loan approval, their chances of getting the loan skyrocket.
This is why most buyers will not remove their loan contingency (if they have one) until they’re approved.
But the approval doesn’t mean that the buyer is guaranteed the loan.
There are still going to be several conditions that need to be met before the lender will draw up the final documents for the buyer to sign.
One of these is an appraisal.
Complete the appraisal
Your property will be used as collateral for the buyer’s loan.
So their lender will want to make sure that the collateral is valued at the price the buyer is paying.
The appraisal report will be proof of this.
The buyer’s loan officer will start the appraisal process by ordering the appraisal (buyer pays for it).
Your real estate agent will let you know the day and time that the appraiser will be at your property.
They usually take ~30 minutes, and there’s no need to stress about cleaning beforehand.
Cleanliness doesn’t help with the appraised value.
When the appraiser arrives at your home, they’re aware of the selling price.
Their job is to justify the price with comparable homes that have recently sold.
This is why, in many transactions, the appraised value will match the purchase price.
When this happens, the buyer’s underwriter will look it over and remove this as a condition for the buyer’s loan.
And if the buyer included an appraisal contingency in their offer, this is the time that they’ll remove it.
What happens if the appraised value is less than the selling price?
This happens when the appraiser can’t justify the price.
Can this have an impact on your sale?
When the appraised value is less than the purchase price, the buyer is going to have to make one of three choices:
- Pay the difference.
- Walk away.
Their decision is going to be influenced by whether or not they have an appraisal contingency.
If their offer did include an appraisal contingency, most buyers are going to renegotiate.
They do this by having their real estate agent send your agent an addendum to the contract.
The addendum will reflect the updated purchase price (usually the appraised value).
Then, you’ll have a decision to make.
You’ll need to decide if you want to accept the updated price or cancel the contract.
If you cancel the contract, the buyer gets their deposit back and your house goes back on the market.
This is an example of how a high offer price with an appraisal contingency can initially look better than it really is.
If this happens, you’ll want to discuss the pros and cons with your real estate agent.
What if the buyer did not include an appraisal contingency in their offer?
Then more pressure is put on them to perform.
Most buyers are aware of the risks when waiving their appraisal contingency with their offer.
The biggest one?
Coming up with a larger down payment.
But this doesn’t work how most people think it does.
Lenders will lend on the selling price or the appraised value, whichever is lower.
Let’s say you accept an offer for $1,100,000 and the buyer plans on putting down $220,000 (20%).
The appraised value comes in at $1,050,000.
This means the lender will use $1,050,000 as the number they’ll lend on, but the purchase price is still $1,100,000.
In this example, the buyer’s down payment will now be $260,000 (20% of $1,050,000 + the difference of $50,000).
The nightmare scenario is when the property doesn’t appraise and the buyer doesn’t have the extra money for the difference.
If this happens, you’ll have one of two choices to make:
- Accept the appraised value as the new selling price.
- Put your house back on the market.
If you decide to put your house back on the market, you might be entitled to the buyer’s deposit.
But this is something you’ll need to discuss with your realtor.
These situations can be messy if the buyer tries to put up a fight.
This is why vetting the buyer and their proof of funds is imperative.
Buyer’s inspections after an accepted offer
The buyer can choose whether or not to have inspections done.
It doesn’t matter if you provided your own inspection reports up front or if they waived the inspection contingency in their offer.
In some parts of the country, it’s uncommon for sellers to get inspections before selling their house.
But as we discussed in an earlier step, doing so can pay big dividends for you.
Because the buyer has this information before making their offer.
This means they will be less likely to:
- Ask you to repair something.
In many cases, this also means that they might waive the inspection contingency in their offer.
As a seller, this is the ideal scenario.
It makes it much more difficult for the buyer to back out of the sale.
But what happens when the buyer’s offer is contingent on inspections?
Let’s go over this part of the process so you know what to expect.
What type of inspections can a buyer have done?
Any type of inspection they want.
The three most common ones are:
A few others include:
The buyer will have a certain number of days to get their inspections completed after you accept their offer.
This is spelled out in the contract.
Their real estate agent will let your agent know what day and time the inspections are scheduled for.
And the reports will usually come back within 48 hours.
What happens when the buyer gets their inspection reports?
The first thing they’re going to do is discuss them in detail with their realtor.
Then, there’s a strong likelihood that they are going to renegotiate the price or ask you to fix certain things.
To what extent will depend on what’s included in the reports.
Any requests from the buyer will be put on an addendum and sent to your real estate agent.
All of this is negotiable, but you’ll have a decision to make.
As with the buyer’s original offer, you can:
If you decide to fix certain things, the buyer will want proof before removing their inspection contingency.
If you and the buyer cannot come to an agreement, they can cancel the contract and get their deposit back.
This means you’d have to put your house back on the market.
And you would need to disclose the buyer’s inspection reports to the new buyer.
This can be a big negative, so you’ll want to discuss the pros and cons with your realtor.
The buyer’s inspection contingency is a critical part of the process for many people selling their home.
And it will be for you too.
Once the buyer removes it, you’re one step closer to a successful sale.
Step 9: Close the sale
The big hurdles are out of the way.
The buyer has removed all of their contingencies, and their loan is almost finalized.
Now it’s time to complete the final step in the process.
The buyer’s final walkthrough
The buyer will conduct a final walkthrough of the property with their realtor several days before the closing date.
This walkthrough is not a contingency.
The purpose is for the buyer to acknowledge that the property is in the same condition as when they first saw it.
They might check for things like:
- Functioning heater/AC
- Broken windows
- Working appliances
If all is good, then they’ll need to state this on a disclosure that you’ll also need to sign.
If for some reason, there is something that comes up, their real estate agent will discuss the issue with your agent.
This is rare, but it can happen.
If it does, the buyer may ask you to take care of the issue before closing.
Check to see if you need an attorney at the closing
Some states require you to work with an attorney during the closing process.
They’re there to look over the contract and final documents that will officially transfer the property to the new buyer.
Here are the states that make it mandatory:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
If your property is not in one of these states, you can still hire an attorney.
Many sellers don’t and choose to rely on their real estate agent instead, but it might be something to consider.
Especially if you have specific questions regarding real estate law or taxes.
Sign the final documents
It’s time to make it official.
You’ll sign the closing documents with a notary and will need to bring the following with you:
- Legal photo ID (e.g. driver’s license or passport)
- Account and routing numbers where you want your proceeds wired to
The buyer may or may not sign at the same time as you.
In most transactions, the seller and buyer will sign at different times — and sometimes on different days.
Nevertheless, you’ll both sign sometime very close to the closing date.
One of the documents you’ll sign is your estimated settlement statement.
This is the same statement we discussed in the first step.
The one that shows your estimated costs.
But this one will show your costs and proceeds with your mortgage balance.
Down to the penny.
The mortgage balance is ordered from your lender.
The escrow company does this for you and handles all of the necessary paperwork to pay it off.
You should get the final version of this statement after the sale is final.
You’ll want to keep this in a safe place as you’ll need to give it to your tax person when filing your taxes the following year.
Get ready for closing
There will probably be ~2-5 days between the time you sign and the day that the sale of your house is official.
During this time, there are a number of things you’ll want to do to ensure the closing process goes smoothly.
Here’s a checklist for those items…
Home closing checklist for sellers
- Remove everything that’s not included in the sale.
- Anything not attached to the property will need to be removed. Your realtor will tell you what can stay and what needs to go.
- Get it cleaned.
- This is optional, but many sellers will do this.
- Take utilities out of your name.
- Call your utility and cable companies and schedule the end date as the same day as your closing date.
- Leave keys, garage door openers, and manuals.
- You can give these to your real estate agent. They’ll coordinate the handoff with the buyer’s agent.
- Cancel homeowner’s insurance.
- You can call them prior to closing and tell them you want the policy to end on your closing date. If you have remaining time on your policy, you should get a refund for the difference.
- Update your mailing address.
- Register your new address with the USPS, credit cards, banks, and any other accounts that need your address.
Funding the buyer’s loan
The final closing documents that were signed by the buyer will be sent back to the lender.
The underwriter will then look them over to make sure all of the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted.
If it all looks good, the lender will wire the buyer’s loan amount to escrow.
This is called “funding.”
During this same time, the buyer will put their remaining down payment in escrow.
Once escrow has all of the funds (buyer’s initial deposit + remaining down payment + loan amount), they prepare for their final step — closing.
Time to make the sale official
The sale of your home will be official once the grant deed is recorded in the county where your property resides.
The escrow company will take care of this and will notify your real estate agent once it’s official.
Receive your money
You’ve finally arrived at the very last step in the selling process.
The one you’ve been patiently waiting for.
There are two ways to collect your proceeds:
- Cashier’s check
- Wire transfer
If you requested a cashier’s check, you should be able to pick it up later in the afternoon on the day of closing, or at the latest, the next morning.
If you requested a wire transfer, you should see the funds hit your account no later than the morning after closing.
And once you do?
You completed the home selling process.
Let’s quickly recap.
What are the steps to sell a house?
- Estimate how much you can make
- Determine the best time to sell
- Decide how you want to sell
- Prepare your home for sale
- Set the best listing price
- List your house for sale
- Vet, negotiate, and accept an offer
- Financing, appraisal, and inspections
- Close the sale
How long does it take to sell your home?
The entire process can take anywhere from 7 days to several months. For the average person who is selling with a real estate agent, a rough estimate for the entire selling process from start to finish is ~3 months.
What can impact the timeline when selling?
The 4 things that have a direct impact on your timeline are:
- How you decide to sell
- Preparing to sell
- Which agent you sell with
- Your listing price
How you decide to sell
Selling to a cash buyer will be the fastest, but will net you much less compared to selling with an agent.
Managing the process and selling yourself will take the longest.
Selling with a real estate agent will take less time than doing it yourself and will make you more money.
Preparing to sell
This will depend on how much work you do before putting your home on the market.
If you want to save the most time, then all you need to do is declutter and take photos – but this approach can drastically reduce the amount you walk away with.
Making upgrades will take the longest but can fetch you a higher selling price.
The real estate agent you sell with
If you’re selling with an experienced and savvy real estate agent you trust, then you’ll put yourself in the best position to sell quickly and for top dollar.
They’ll be able to guide you through the process and will know how to save you a boatload of time without sacrificing a single dollar.
Your listing price
The price you list your home for will have a big impact on how long it will take you to sell.
The key is to list at the perfect number. Listing above market value will almost certainly be the reason why your house would sit.
Listing below market value will help you sell much faster, but can also net you a lower price (some buyers won’t offer a certain percentage over your listing price).
There are many things that need to be factored into determining what price you’ll list your home for.
Some of these include the condition of your home, recently sold properties that are comparable to yours, current market conditions, road-noise, layout, and more.
What steps are included in the timeline when selling with a realtor?
You can break the timeline down into three steps when selling your house with a realtor:
- Getting your house ready. This can range anywhere from 2-8 weeks. The average time it takes to get ready is about 4 weeks.
- Time on market (from list date to accepted offer). This will depend on the current market trends in your area, the condition of your home, your list price, and how well your realtor markets and negotiates. If priced right, the average seller accepts an offer usually within ~30 days, no matter the market conditions.
- Closing process. The majority of this is the buyer’s financing. Assuming there aren’t any bumps in the road, the average time to close is ~30 days.
Selling a house involves numerous steps that can be overwhelming.
Especially if it’s your first time.
But the process can seem more daunting than it really is.
The key to selling faster and for the most money will be the realtor you decide to sell with.
The right person will take the weight off your shoulders and will sell your house like it’s theirs.
Follow the steps in this home selling guide and boost your chances of having an easier, faster, and more profitable sale.