Updated: May 15, 2020
Step 1 - Prepare Your Home for Market
Well before you’re ready to plant that “For Sale” sign in your front yard, there is work to be done to prepare your home for sale. Remember how keen your eye was to every small detail and defect in the houses you saw as a buyer? Now that door to your bedroom that never quite closed properly or that leaky faucet that you never got around to fixing will be seen by a potential buyer with that same keen eye.
Start making the obvious repairs today – even if you don’t plan to sell until a year from now. These repairs can cost money and take time. Plus fixing it now will allow you to enjoy the results before it’s time to move out.
If you plan on doing some improvements before the sale, the best place to start is where the buyers start: at your curb. Potential buyers base a large part of their decision on a property’s “curb appeal,” so make yours say something positive. That means a tidy front yard, a house with well-painted trim, a tidy driveway and a clear, welcoming entryway.
Inside, the biggest return on your investment continues to be improvements to the kitchen, followed closely by improvements to the master bedroom. If you’re making these improvements shortly before selling the house, consider painting and decorating the rooms in neutral colors, the most appealing choice to the greatest number of potential buyers.
Inside and outside, start reducing the clutter. When it comes time to show your home, less will mean more. Potential buyers don’t want to see how your closets overflow with clothes, how every room feels cramped with furniture, or how the yard is difficult to maneuver with that rusty swing set in the way. So downsize now; it not only will make the preparation for showing your home easier, it also will make packing for your move faster.
Step 2 - Get Your Paperwork Together
When you meet with your new listing agent, he or she will need a lot of documents from you to prepare your home for sale. Among the things he or she will want to see are:
Pay-off Notice: A letter to the lender stating intention to payoff the mortgage. Assessments or Easements: If there’s a tax assessment or easement on the property, documents stating such will have to be included in the purchase contract.
Property Taxes: Proof of property taxes paid.
Utilities: Provide a record of the past 12 months’ utility bills. You’ll want to make it clear now which items in the home you want to take with you – the heirloom chandelier in the dining room, the washer and dryer set you just bought last month – and which can stay behind as part of the home sale. Your real estate professional can help show you which items you should put away or replace before your house goes on the market.
Step 3 - Pricing Your Home
There are a number of factors that will affect the success of your home sale. They include:
location of the home
time of year
condition of the home
marketing the home
terms of the sale
accessibility to the home
Some of these are not within you or your listing agent’s control – location of the home, interest rates, economic conditions. The other factors are items you should discuss with your real estate professional to determine what would benefit the sale of this property most.
For example, marketing your property in more innovative ways, such as on an Internet site like this one or realtor.com, may broaden the pool of potential buyers. If you can, waiting for a good time to sell your home – spring or fall, the most popularly home buying times – also may help it sell faster. And pricing the home properly can make a huge difference in whether a house is snapped up within the first several weeks of listing or sits on the market for more than a year.
To price a home properly, your real estate professional will have to study the local market, research comparable properties and consider current market conditions. This is where the “comparative marketing analysis” will come in handy as a place to start.
Your competition: Are there many properties just like yours for sale in your area right now?
Listing prices: What are other properties like yours listing for?
Selling prices: What are other properties like yours sold for recently?
Based on these findings, your real estate professional should have the experience to help price your property at the right price for a sale that benefits you.
Be reasonable about the price you set. You will always be better off setting a fair market value price than setting your price high expecting that someone will come along and be willing to pay it. If your home stays on the market too long because it is overpriced potential buyers may think that something is wrong with it and you may end up selling it for less than what you could have gotten if you had started out with a realistic asking price.
Step 4 - Marketing Your Home
Products that sell well usually have a good marketing strategy. The same can be said for your home. Work with your real estate professional to decide where you want to advertise. Will the house be advertised only with a yard sign? One of the best advertisements that we do is to actually advertise to all the realtors in the area; they are the ones with clients that are ready to buy right now.
Decide what information should be included in the description of your home that will make it a must-see – and hopefully, a must-buy. Include one or more photos of the home to showcase the most appealing features of your property and help remind potential buyers of what they saw as they visit home after home. You may even want to include a few lines about benefits of moving to this property, such as good schools, convenience to mass transit and other desirable community features.
Prepare Your Home for Showing
You’ll be thrilled that you did the hard work of Step 1 (Prepare Your Home for Sale) now that there’s little time left to get your house ready for visitors. Now is the time to put on the finishing touches, just like that quick housecleaning you do before company comes over for dinner.
Keep your lawn trimmed
Rose bushes pruned
Put away the garden hose and the tools
Make sure the bulbs in your home’s exterior lighting fixtures are all in working order
Be vigilant about removing flyers, handouts and newspapers left on your front doorstep or driveway
Brighten the rooms by opening the drapes
Turning on the lights
Cleaning the windows
Clear the clutter on the kitchen counter bathroom sink, coffee table and couches
Make all the beds
Clean all your bathroom and kitchen fixtures
Do a quick vacuuming of the entire house
Catch any cobwebs in the corners along the ceiling
Finally, take out the garbage
If you have pets, find a safe place to keep them during a house showing: in the garage, in the basement or at a friend’s house
Now leave the work to your real estate professional. Try to be away from home during a showing, but if you happen to be home when the potential buyers arrive, greet them at the door then politely excuse yourself. Make yourself scarce or go take a walk. It’s easier for a buyer to picture himself or herself living in the house when you’re not there. This is your home’s time to shine.
Step 5 - The Offer Process
Depending on market conditions, you may receive one or more offers for your property from interested buyers. Each offer will include the sale price, proposed closing date, proposed move-in date, financing, and contingencies that may include an appraisal or sale of the buyers’ current home. Let your real estate professional help you sort through the variables to determine whether you should accept, counter-offer or reject the offer.
If there are multiple offers, each offer will be presented to you in the order registered. You don’t need to decide anything until after you’ve seen all the offers. If you do accept or counter more than one offer, you are required to establish an order of precedence noting which is the primary offer, followed by the backups in order. This will help you avoid selling the house to more than one buyer.
Once you have accepted an offer to buy your house, expect to make your house available to a housing inspector, a termite inspector and an appraiser.
After seeing the results of the inspections, the buyer may request additional work is completed before purchase, such as repairing a damaged roof or fixing a leaky faucet. You should consult with your real estate professional to determine whether to comply with the buyer’s request or risk losing this offer.
During this flurry of activity, try to keep your home in show condition. The deal has not closed and still may fall through, which may mean showing your home to more potential buyers.
In the meantime, the buyer is working with a lender to secure a loan for the purchase. When the buyer has written loan approval, a closing date can be set.
Step 6 - The Closing Process
There will be a final walk-through before all signatures are collected and the deal considered done. The buyer will go room by room to check that everything is in working condition and, if you had agreed to do so, any additional work requested after inspection is completed.
Now you can prepare for your own move, notify your utility companies of the date to transfer your account to a new address and start packing.
Congratulations, you’ve sold your home!