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How to Sell Your House

Choosing to sell a home can feel like a monumental decision, but millions of Americans do it every year. Because houses are so valuable, of course, it can be tough to go through the process on your own. That’s why many people opt to work with a real estate agent. Just know that you don’t necessarily have to work with an agent, as there are multiple financial benefits related to selling a home on your own. If you want more hands-on guidance, it’s also possible to work with a financial advisor to see how the decision to sell your house fits into your holistic financial plan at large. 

Choosing a Real Estate Agent

Just because you want to sell your house quickly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thorough. If you fail to be comprehensive, you might leave money on the table. This is why the objective views of real estate agents are often welcomed by sellers. In fact, most homes are sold with the help of real estate agents.

Working with a real estate agent can make the home selling process less burdensome. An agent can guide you through every step, from pricing and listing your home to negotiating with buyers. One downside to using a real estate agent, however, is that you will have to pay the agent a commission for his or her services. But since it’s generally negotiable, you might be able to talk your way into getting a better price.

To find the right agent, it’s a good idea to do some research and see if anyone you know can refer you to someone. Before settling on an agent, double-check his or her credentials and find out whatever you can about the person’s background and level of experience.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of agents when you begin interviewing them. After all, they are responsible for the sale of your home. Here are a few icebreakers:

  • What is your sale-to-list ratio?
  • What are your fees?
  • How will you market my house?
  • What makes you better than other agents?
  • Do you have any references from past clients?
  • What else should I know?

Selling a House Without an Agent

If you’re a fan of DIY, you might opt to sell your house without a Realtor. This is known in the real estate world as “for sale by owner,” or FSBO. To get started, try to become as familiar as possible with the home selling process.

Keep in mind that all housing markets aren’t the same. That’s why it’s wise to learn as much as possible about the market in your area. That way, you can pick the appropriate selling price based on what similar homes are selling for in your neighborhood.

When you’re ready to list your home, consider posting it online. Websites like Zillow let homeowners list their homes for free for a specific period of time. For a fee, you also have the option of advertising your home on a site like, which can include your listing in almost every multiple listing service in the U.S.

Depending on where you live, an open house may or may not be necessary. If you want your home only to be available to certain kinds of buyers, you could create a pocket listing. But if that’s the route you want to take, you might have a hard time attracting buyers without the help of a real estate agent.

Once you receive offers from possible buyers, you’ll need to decide which offer you prefer. Don’t automatically settle for the candidate who can afford to pay the most for your house. Remember that it’s important to think about other factors as well, including the number of contingencies each buyer has, whether his or her timeline aligns with yours and whether the person has access to a large enough mortgage.

In some instances, you might need to make a counteroffer. If you’re not happy with what a buyer’s offering, you can reject their original terms and create new ones, such as an adjusted purchase price or a request for additional earnest money.

Figure Out the Value of Your House

How to Sell Your House

Before you get too deep into the home selling process, be sure you have an accurate estimate of your house’s value. This will help you keep your possible selling prices grounded in reality. If your price is overly aggressive, you run the risk of missing out on selling your home in a timely manner, which could cost you dearly.

An accurate home value is especially important if you’re venturing into the market without the aid of a real estate agent. To help refine your price, review market analyses for your area and similar places around the country. Don’t forget to take into account the overall state of the market as well.

If you don’t mind shelling out the cash for it, you can always get an appraisal on your home. Appraisers can help decipher how the details of your house fit in the grand scheme of your local market. Prices vary, but appraisals for single-family homes usually come in at around $300 to $400.

Preparing Your House for the Market

First impressions are everything. Before you even attempt to put your home on the market, it could be worthwhile to do an in-depth review of the current status of your home. For example, try thoroughly cleaning your home and removing personal items. It’s often been stated that neutral colors are the best for paint when you’re selling your home. But, again, this helps to improve your house’s image to any potential homebuyers.

Besides the actions above, you perhaps might need to make other major renovations. Homebuyers likely won’t be impressed by a dingy carpet, worn furniture or outdated appliances. If at all possible, try moving whatever you can into your new home. For those that haven’t bought a new house yet, a storage facility could be a worthwhile investment.

Of course, it’s best to prioritize and decide what’s most important to buyers. After all, you don’t want to spend a fortune updating every single room in your house. There are plenty of quick fixes you can make on a budget. Just don’t forget to trim your shrubs, clean your gutters and do whatever else is necessary to add to the curb appeal of your house.

Making sure your home’s interior and exterior look as attractive as possible can also help you sell your home fast. So can advertising your home listing in multiple places and being flexible when it comes to scheduling times for buyers to view your house.

What Kind of Paperwork Do I Need?

With typically thousands of dollars involved in a home sale, sufficient documentation becomes necessary. Real estate agents often handle this side of things for their clients. If you’re choosing to sell your house by yourself, though, it might take some time to get this paperwork together.

While the rules vary by state, you’ll generally need to gather the following documents:

Documents for Selling a House
Stage of the Home Selling Process Documents Needed
Prior to Listing – Original sales contract and appraisal
– Mortgage statements
– Home maintenance records
– Homeowners Association documents
– Copies of utility bills
– Any warranties
– Homeowners insurance documents
– Market analysis
– Listing agreement and proposed marketing plan
When the House Is for Sale – Preliminary title report
– Pre-inspection report
– Disclosures
When an Offer Is Made – Purchase offer
– Counteroffer
– Final purchase agreement
At Closing – Appraisal report
– Home inspection report
– Deed
– Most recent tax statements
– 1099-S Form
– Closing statement

Closing the Home Sale

How to Sell Your House

After you accept a buyer’s offer and he or she has the home inspected, you can proceed to the final step: the closing. At this point, you, the homebuyer and your real estate agents will meet to transfer ownership of your home.

You might want to sell your house yourself but when you get to the closing table, it’s best to bring along a real estate attorney. In some states, an attorney must be present during the closing. Be prepared to pay legal fees, real estate commissions (if applicable), any additional fees that are due for your insurance, utilities or property taxes and any remaining amount that you owe for your mortgage.

Once you’ve officially turned over your home to your buyer, you can cancel your homeowners insurance policy. Don’t forget to cancel or transfer your utility accounts.

Bottom Line

Selling a home requires a lot of effort. While the sale might take months to complete, delays and problems can extend the process. You’ll have to make many decisions, including whether you’re going to sell your own home or find a real estate agent to assist you. Plan ahead and know what steps you’ll need to take so you can sell your home and make a smooth transition into the next stage of your life.

Tips for Buying a New Home

  • Financial advisors are great partners in the endeavor of buying a new home. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Did you just sell your home? If so, you’re probably looking for a new place to move into. Before you take a look at too many options, figure out how much house you can afford. Based on this, you’ll be able to determine how large your mortgage will need to be.

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Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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