Important Steps in the Home Selling Process
The home selling process is the same whether it’s a for sale by owner or you’re hiring a listing agent. Certain details can vary a little from state to state, but this checklist can serve as a general guide. Just be sure to confer with a local professional for details on specific requirements in your state.
Choose a Listing Agent
A listing agent1 represents you and has a fiduciary responsibility to look out for your best interests. Interview agents and meet with at least three of them as you make a decision. Try to hire based on experience.
Ask questions about your listing agreement, including the length of time the home will be listed and the commission you will pay for the agent’s services. Will you also be paying the buyer’s agent commissions? (Most traditional agreements require it).2
Find out How Much Your Home Is Worth
A seller’s greatest mistake is often overpricing her home. Keep your price in line with sold homes that have been identified in a comparative market analysis report. Consider whether your market is hot, cold, or neutral and price the home accordingly.
Get Your Home Ready for Sale
Prepare your home for sale by cleaning and decluttering it and improving curb appeal. You might want to consider hiring a professional stager to stage your home for showings or ask your real estate agent for help or ideas. You can often use your furniture.
Make any necessary repairs and consider a pre-listing, seller’s inspection3 to identify any potential problem areas. If you’re selling a home with pets, you might want to make temporary living arrangements while you show the house.
Remember, you only get one chance—and sometimes only three seconds or so—to make a great first impression. Make it count.
Market Your Home
You or your agent should identify the selling points of your home and choose the best advertising words to convey them. Approve your agent’s marketing campaign or figure out how to advertise your house for sale yourself. Hire a virtual tour company to take quality photographs and put a virtual tour online if possible.
You should also confirm that your listing is posted online. You—or your agent—should saturate the internet and social media with photographs and descriptions of your property. According to stats from the National Association of Realtors, 50% of 2018 homebuyers found their home online.4
Show Your Home
You’ll get more showings if you let agents use a lockbox or keypad to show your home rather than force them to make appointments. If you are opting for appointments, try to be flexible. Some buyers will want to see the home on weeknights (after work) and all across the weekend. Be as accommodating as possible.
Prepare for an open house, but use this approach sparingly. If you do one, be sure to ask for buyer feedback so you can adjust your price, condition, or marketing campaign accordingly.
Receive Purchase Offers and Negotiate
Be prepared to receive multiple offers if your home is priced right. Don’t ignore any offers, even if it seems too low. Negotiate by making a counteroffer.
Consider making a counteroffer that’s contingent on you buying a home if market conditions warrant it. And don’t be afraid to make a full-price counter offer if your price is competitive and it’s backed up by comparable sales.
You can also ask for a kick-out clause or right of first refusal if the buyer’s offer is contingent on selling a home.5 This contingency ensures you’re not waiting around too long if the buyer can’t offload their property.
Open Escrow and Order Title
Your agent or transaction coordinator will open escrow and order a title policy for you. Write down the contact information for the closing agent and select a date to close based on when the buyer’s loan will fund
Schedule an Appraisal
Clean the house the day before the appraiser arrives. If you receive a low appraisal, ask your agent about alternatives.
You’re typically not entitled to receive a copy of the appraisal because you didn’t pay for it. If the buyer decides to cancel the contract based on an appraisal, ask your agent or lawyer about your rights. They’ll need an appraisal contingency in the contract to pull out.6
Cooperate With the Home Inspection
Now get ready for the home inspector. Ask your agent to provide you with a home inspection checklist, so you’ll know in advance what the inspector will want to see. Prepare the attic and basement for inspection, too. Move stuff away from the walls in the garage, and make sure there’s a clear path for the inspector to get through.
If your contract calls for a roof certification, hire a reputable company to conduct the inspection. Keep in mind that states that allow for termite or pest inspections will often make these reports a matter of public record. The buyer may also request a sewer inspection if your home is older.
Deliver Seller Disclosures
If you’re aware of any other material facts or problems with the property, you must disclose them using a Seller’s Disclosure form.7 Your title company should provide the buyer with the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) for your community or the homeowner’s association, if necessary.
Negotiate Requests for Repair
You don’t have to accept a buyer’s request to make repairs, but they may back out of the deal if you don’t (as long as they have an inspection contingency in place.)
In some cases, a buyer might accept a closing cost credit instead of an actual repair.9 This credit essentially lowers the sales price, giving them cash to make the repairs on their own once they assume ownership.
Ask the Buyer to Release Contingencies
If the buyer had any contingencies in their contract, ask them to “release” them, meaning affirm that they have been resolved. The buyer isn’t obligated to provide a contingency release if you don’t demand it. In some states, you might have a right to cancel the contract if the buyer will not provide a release.
Sign the Title and Escrow Documents
Depending on where you’re located, you might sign escrow documents shortly after opening escrow, or you’ll sign them nearer to closing. It’s common in some states for everyone to sit around the table—buyers and sellers—so ask your agent about the norm in your location.
Be sure to bring a valid photo ID.
Finally, attend your closing appointment, sign the final paperwork, and hand over your keys.
Your property deed, reconveyance, and deed of trust will go into the public record, and—depending on the buyer’s possession rights—you might be required to move on the day the home closes or even in advance. This requirement should be specified in the contract.
Once all is said and done, the sale proceeds will be wired to your bank account—minus agent commissions, repair credits, and other fees noted on your closing documents.