Steps to Getting Your Home Sold
Start Doing Some Homework
Two months before listing
It’s a good idea to carefully evaluate your finances and how much leverage you have before you jump the market. For example, how urgently do you need to sell your house? Is a career or job change prompting your relocation? Is your move tied to the school year, medical concerns, or financial pressures? Urgency often plays a role in determining your asking price and what you’ll be willing to accept. If there isn’t pressure to sell, you can wait for the ideal offer and price your house accordingly.
Here are a few other tasks you should complete to help you get prepared.
Get a feel for your local market – You don’t need to dive into market data and crunch the numbers just yet. At this point, just be aware how much homes like yours are selling for. You’ll want to check out home listings regularly and call a Realtor so you have a general idea of what your asking price should be. It’s important to know early on if you’re likely to get the dollar amount you’re hoping for.
Collect key documents – Now’s the time to gather up the paperwork you’ll need so you aren’t scrambling to find them when things get hectic. The most important documents you’ll need are your mortgage balance information and recent tax bills. It is also a good time to make a breakdown of your utility cost (12 month history) as buyers will likely ask for this information later.
Look at Your Home Like a Buyer Would
Two months before listing
Nobody wants to buy your postponed projects. To get the best – and most – offers, tour your home with a critical eye. You may want to get an outspoken friend to give you an honest opinion of how your house looks to an outsider. Here’s how to approach the various flaws you may encounter as you evaluate your home. I will guide you thru this process as well.
Take care of cosmetic problems. These are issues that can be fixed or neutralized quickly at minimal cost. Grimy walls should be painted. Torn carpeting should be replaced. Small repairs, such as torn window screens and crooked light fixtures, should all be completed.
Consider making upgrades. Sure, you’ve lived with that gold-tone refrigerator for four decades, and it may still have ten more useful years… maybe. But why would a buyer pay top price for a kitchen with an ancient refrigerator? Evaluate the condition of appliances, plumbing, electrical, heating, air conditioning, roof and structural elements of your house. When you repair or replace iffy systems, you remove a reason for people to reject your house.
Structural elements will typically need to be addressed no matter what. However, keep in mind most renovations will not earn back more than what you pay to make them. You’ll need to determine if there are issues that might send home buyers running for the hills, and if there are, make those so your home doesn’t sit on the market for months.
Be aware of what you can’t fix. The location of your house is something you can’t change. The same can be said for your neighbors, the school district, noise and traffic patterns, and other factors. Be honest about these unchangeable traits. Will most buyers be turned off by certain aspects of your home? If so, you’ll have to price and market your house accordingly.
Some unfixable problems (such as seepage in the basement) must be disclosed to buyers, per state law. You can provide ease of mind to buyers through a home warranty, which covers the cost of repair or replacement for some major house systems.
Get Your Home Sell-Ready
One month to two weeks before listing
Prepping your home for buyers is one of the most important steps to selling a house. The goal is to make your home as attractive as possible while spending as little as possible. Unless your yard is an overgrown jungle, or your interior hasn’t been updated since the 70s, you can manage this by doing some house cleaning and staging to highlight your home’s best features.
Declutter and clean.
Clearing out the debris of everyday life will help buyers see the actual house. You might want to rent a storage unit for out-of-season clothes, decorations, memorabilia, sporting equipment, furniture and other goods that come between a house hunter and the house itself. Once you clear things out, freshen up your suddenly-spacious house. Consider having the carpet and windows professionally cleaned and adding a fresh coat of paint if any rooms haven’t had one applied in quite some time.
Use some staging techniques.
Staging is the art of creating a welcoming environment that helps buyers envision their life in your home. Chances are you can stage using accessories and furniture you already have, though you may want to add a rug, some throw pillows or artwork to brighten a room and call attention to its best features. Be sure to group accessories by color, shape or texture to avoid a choppy or disorganized look.
To make a room seem larger, you may want to reposition couches and chairs away from the walls into little clusters, making traffic lanes in each room obvious. This will create a more spacious, user-friendly feel at first glance. Home lighting is also important to the appeal of each room. HGTV recommends 100 watts for each 50 square feet to create a warm and welcoming setting.
Spruce up your yards.
While a professional landscaping company can make a home’s exterior truly sparkle, you probably don’t need to make that kind of investment. Consider applying some fresh mulch to garden beds, doing some pruning and adding a few flats of annuals for color. In most cases, that’s enough to add some instant curb appeal without breaking the bank.
List and Market Your Home
One week before listing
Meet with your Realtor and start working on the listing paperwork. You will need to complete a Seller's Property Disclosure and sign some listing documents. Schedule time with your agent for a photo shoot.
Get your house on the MLS.
Your Realtor will know exactly what to do.
Once you are on the market make your home available for showings. You need to be flexible and cooperate with buyers schedules. Have a plan for your pets and children. Allow your agent to install a lock box so other Realtors to access you home easily. You can easily loose your perfect buyer by not allowing a showing when requested.
Negotiate and Accept an Offer.
In real estate, negotiation happens through counteroffers. After a buyer submits an offer, you have the opportunity to accept, decline, or, as should happen in most cases, respond with your counteroffer. The best way to make sure you get what you need is to know what you need first. List out your must-haves, nice-to-haves, and not-that-important-to-haves. This will make it easier to know when to stand firm and when to compromise. Beyond that, be willing to make concessions on points that aren’t as important to you. The goal is to meet a buyer in the middle so both of you walk away happy.
Here’s an overview of what to focus on as you review an offer and how to make your counteroffer:
Consider more than the price. Your eyes will probably fixate on the dollar amount being offered first. This is typically the number that both buyer and seller are most concerned with. However, it’s not necessarily the most important. As a seller, the most important number is your net gain from the deal.
Look outside the numbers.
There are plenty of factors to consider beyond price. If you need to move out right away or need some time to find your new home, being able to set the closing date is a big benefit. This is something you can determine through the occupancy portion of a contract. You’ll also want to pay close attention to any contingencies included. A buyer’s offer could be contingent on them selling their current home, getting financing, being able to move in within a certain amount of time and getting an inspection. The more contingencies an offer has, the less dependable it is. The Buyers financing is a very important contingency to look at. Are they pre-approved with a reputable lender? Are they using a government based loan that will have stringent appraisal guidelines that will require repairs to you home? Are they paying cash so no appraisal will be used?
Aim for a win-win agreement.
As you make counteroffers to get more of what matters to you, be sure to offer concessions to keep things fair. Does a buyer want the pool table in your basement? Throw it in as an inclusion. Creating a give-and-take dynamic makes both parties eager to cooperate and reach an agreement.
Complete Paperwork and Close
6-8 weeks before closing
In most cases, accepting an offer and signing a purchase agreement is a huge relief. It signals the end of the prepping, marketing and negotiating phases, which, during the for sale process, can be quite demanding. But as soon as all those tasks end, another list of to-dos begins. Here’s a typical list of to-dos that closely follow a purchase agreement:
• Make your own arrangements to move
• Contact your lender to start mortgage payoff process
• Cooperate with the buyer’s appraiser (as determined by the mortgage lender)
• Cooperate with the buyer’s home inspector