home selling

How to Sell a House

12 Minute Read

If you’re like most homeowners, your house is your biggest financial asset. It’s also one of the most sentimental parts of your life. You’ve probably put a lot of time, money and effort into making it special for your family. You’ve been diligent over the years to make it your home, and now it’s time to get intentional about making it someone else’s place.

Simple Steps for Selling a House

Whether you are a few months or a few years away from putting a for sale sign in your front yard, these seven steps will help you sell your house the right way.

  • Find a stellar agent.
  • Price your home.
  • Set a timeline.
  • Hire a professional to do a home inspection.
  • Stage and engage—get your home ready.
  • List your home, and survive the showings.
  • Seal the deal.

1. Find a stellar agent.

Real estate agents are a dime a dozen. That’s why you don’t just need any agent. You need the right agent. Find someone who will super-serve you, negotiate the best deal, and sell your house fast! As tempting as it is to have a relative, a friend from church, or a friend of a friend help you, always stick with a vetted professional who has experience and can sell your home for the most money in the shortest amount of time!

Now, let’s discuss something that has crossed many home sellers’ minds: Should I sell my home myself?

Look, everybody loves saving money, and selling solo can seem like a great way to do just that. But is For Sale by Owner (FSBO) really all it’s cracked up to be? First off, if you really want to sell your home, you need to get it in front of buyers—and lots of them. This is where an agent comes in handy. An experienced real estate agent will give your home a much-needed online presence through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and expose it to thousands of potential buyers. Plus, an agent will develop a targeted strategy to market your home to their extensive network of buyers and agents.

Can you save big money by going FSBO? Not really. Even when you sell your home yourself, you still have to pay a commission to the buyer’s agent. You’d only save the commission on one side of the transaction. A stellar agent will more than make up for that cost. Consider this: The latest National Association of Realtors data shows that the average home sold by an agent last year fetched $235,000.(1) In contrast, the average FSBO home went for $185,000.(2) That’s a $50,000 difference! A great agent can help you get the most money for your home!

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2. Price your home.

Remember this: Your home is only worth what buyers are willing to pay. Therefore, you need to be objective about your home’s value. If you’ve lived in your home long enough to make memories, those sentimental ties could cloud your judgment. So, stick to the facts as much as possible when you estimate how much your home could sell for.

The best way to determine your home’s value is to ask a real estate agent to run a comparative market analysis (CMA). This free report compares your home to other homes near you that are similar in size, have similar features, and are either on the market or have sold in recent months. The comparison allows your agent to more accurately predict what buyers will pay for your home.

Your CMA will offer several pages of information including photos and a map of all the properties included in the analysis. A true pro will take time to walk you through the results so you understand exactly how your home stacks up to the competition. With this information in hand, you can work with your agent to set a competitive price that’s based on fact, not emotion.

3. Set a timeline.

Make the most of the weeks and months leading up to your home sale. If you have an idea of when you want to list your house, break your to-do list into manageable bite-size pieces. Here’s a guide to get you started. Of course, you can adjust according to your own needs and personal timeline.

ASAP

  • Interview real estate agents: Take time to find a pro who has a proven track record and inspires you with confidence.
  • Outline a plan: Work with your agent to set priorities so you can focus on knocking out one task at a time.
  • Declutter: Decide what you can live without until your home sells. Then pack it up and get it out!

2–3 months

  • Hire a home inspector: Identifying issues early lets you work fixes into your budget on the front end so they don’t wreck your deal later.
  • Tackle repairs: Ask your agent where your fix-it dollars will do the most good.

1–2 months

  • Set the stage: Create an inviting space that enables buyers to see your house as their home.

1 week

  • Deep clean: Scrub every surface to a shine. Hire a pro to make carpets and rugs look—and smell—new again.
  • Apply finishing touches: Get your home picture-perfect so your photographer can capture it in the best possible light.

Again, the key to keeping stress at bay during the weeks and months leading up to putting your home on the market is to make a plan—and then work that plan. Remember to accept help from a pro and just . . . breathe.

4. Hire a professional to do a home inspection.

Most home buyers know it pays to get a home inspection. But did you know it’s a worthwhile tool for home sellers too? It’s true!

A presale inspection might cost a few hundred dollars, but it’ll be money well spent. Why? Because it can keep buyers from demanding big bucks at the negotiation table or, worse, skipping out on the deal at the last minute.

So, what’s included in a home inspection?

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), a home inspection includes:(3)

  • Electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems.
  • Walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors.
  • Roof, attic and visible insulation.
  • Foundation, basement and structural components.

A qualified home inspector combs a property’s accessible areas to assess the home’s condition and identify any health and safety issues. Once the inspection is complete, you’ll receive a detailed report outlining what works and what doesn’t, with recommendations for maintenance and repairs.

Don’t worry about addressing every single finding in your home inspection, but do pay attention to big-ticket issues. These can scare buyers into asking for way more money than it actually takes to fix them. Your agent can help you sort through the findings, but the roof, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems typically take priority. If you have room in your budget, take care of those before you list your home.

5. Stage and engage—get your home ready.

Once your home is in good working order, it’s time to set the stage and show off its best features. That starts with a deep cleaning. Here are some ways to make your house look great.

  • Scrub every surface until it sparkles. We can’t emphasize this enough! You need to clean your home and keep it clean during showings.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint. Paint is relatively cheap considering the impact it has on making a home look fresh and inviting.
  • Pay a pro to deep clean rugs and carpets.
  • Minimize clutter to maximize space.

Once you have a clean home, you can begin to stage. Keep your colors neutral and try to depersonalize as much as possible. Take down most of your family photos so buyers can picture their families enjoying your house. Closets are a big deal to home buyers, so create the impression of spaciousness by storing away out-of-season clothing and miscellaneous gear.

Don’t forget to stage outdoors too. Clean your front porch and place nice planters near your entryway. If you have a deck, pressure wash it and add a few colorful plants to give the space an extra pop.

Make sure to prep your home to be show-ready and camera-ready. Professional photos that show off your home’s features are an essential part of your online listing. Your agent should help coordinate the photo shoot, so that’s less pressure for you. Here are a few additional staging tips to get your home ready for its glamour shot:

  • There’s a place for everything, and everything needs to be in its place. Again, a tidy home is nonnegotiable. Channel your inner Mr. Clean or Snow White and whistle while you work if you have to—just clean up the place.

  • Pick up the toys and pet stuff. Babies and puppies sell breakfast cereal, but not homes. Keep the kid clutter and pet supplies under wraps.

  • Add extra touches. A pair of colorful pillows or a few green plants will add color and life to any room.

  • Clear the counters. Throw your juicer and kale smoothie maker into the kitchen cabinet. The same goes for your bathrooms. Pitch those personal items in a drawer to keep them out of sight.
  • Shine a light for all to see. Bright rooms make your home look bigger. Throw back the curtains, pull up the blinds, and let the sunshine in! Remember to wash your windows first!

  • Go easy on the rugs. Rugs generally don’t photograph well and can make your space look smaller. Your agent can help you decide which rugs can stay and which ones should go.

  • Put a lid on it. Your toilet, that is. Friends don’t let friends leave the lid up during a nice photo shoot.

Keep in mind, staging should accentuate the positives of your house without overwhelming potential buyers. The right real estate agent can help you know the difference between good and gaudy staging.

6. List your home, and survive the showings.

Home showings are hard to juggle, whether your home is empty or full of kids running around. If you’re still living in the home you’re trying to sell, these handy tips can help you stay sane and get your home sold.

Make a daily to-do list.

Surprise showings always seem to happen when your home is a complete wreck. Reduce last-minute panic by putting things away as soon as you’re done with them and creating a checklist of simple tasks to knock out before you leave every morning. That way you’re always ready for guests.

Get the pets out of dodge.

Man’s best friend can be your home deal’s worst enemy. Leaving pets home for showings brings mess to mind, and a yap-happy dog is just plain annoying. Take the fur babies for a joyride or send them to Grandma’s house so buyers can focus on your home’s best features.

Let it go.

Separating yourself from the place you’ve called home can be hard. But if you want to make a deal, you’ve got to give buyers time and space to fall in love with your home. Be flexible about scheduling showings, and don’t make buyers step around you—or your feelings—when they visit.

Tackle the toys.

Paring down the piles of plastic is a tough task, but it sure does make cleanup a breeze. Ask your kids to choose a few favorites to keep in their room then store the rest in bins. Be sure to explain to them that they’ll see their toys again. If they get bored with their selections, you can always rotate toys out.

Enlist help from the kids.

Want to ease your load? Give Junior a job to do! It’s a great way to teach the value of hard work. Have a little fun and build big motivation by running timed practice drills. Don’t forget to recognize a job well done. If you can’t spare extra cash, quality time spent with you works too!

Try Your Best . . . But Be Human

There will be days you just can’t get everything put away and make it out the door on time. If you get a call for a showing, tell your agent what happened so they can prepare the buyer ahead of time. Just don’t miss an opportunity to get your home seen!

7. Seal the deal.

Negotiations between you (the seller) and the buyer kick off with the buyer’s initial offer. Keep in mind the contract stage works differently in every state, so your agent should explain state-specific details of the offer in terms you understand. Never sign a purchase agreement before you’re clear about what’s included in the offer, what isn’t, and how it affects you.

Pay close attention to the following:

  • Purchase price
  • Closing or escrow date
  • Special allowances for personal property, home improvements, and closing costs
  • Contingency deadlines for the home inspection, appraisal and buyer financing
  • Additional contingencies such as the sale of the buyer’s current home

Once you and the buyer reach a final purchase agreement, you’re not home free quite yet. There’s still a lot to do from contract to closing, so here’s how to manage this stage of the game:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to pack.
  • Keep your buyer in the loop.
  • Keep your home insurance up to date until you’ve signed the dotted line.
  • Make a list of what to bring on closing day.
  • Remain flexible because delays can, and will, happen.

Use a Pro to Sell Your Home

The best way to have a great experience selling your home is to partner with a professional agent. The right agent should guide you every step of the way without taking over the driver’s seat. They should inform you, but not overwhelm you.

Dave’s real estate Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) are just the ticket to take the stress out of your home sale. ELPs are professional real estate agents who have earned Dave’s endorsement because of their track record of success and excellent customer service. Go ahead and find your agent today!

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