Selling your home is a process rather than a single event and the journey proceeds in stages. It starts with deciding when to sell and ends with cashing the check for the net proceeds, the many tasks required to sell your house can be broken down into 10 major steps. A financial advisor can help develop a strategy for making the most of the investment you have in your home.
10 Steps to Sell Your House
Selling a house is not a strict step-by-step procedure. Some stages may occur more or less simultaneously. Others, such as showing the home to buyers and assessing offers, may happen more than once. Sellers who go without an agent can skip the job of selecting one. With those caveats in mind, here are the 10 steps to sell your house:
1. Decide when to put it on the market
Many sales occur during the summer months so families won’t have to move in the middle of the school year. Market trends can advantage either sellers or buyers, depending on when the home is offered. If you have to start a new job in a different state on a certain date, that can set firm parameters. Combining these factors and picking a time to put your house on the market is a vital first step that guides others. Bear in mind it takes about two months on average to sell a home.
2. Set a budget
Costs to sell a home include paying off existing mortgages, commissions, repairs, upgrades and closing costs. These vary but typically come to about 10% of the sale price. SmartAsset has a tool designed specifically to help you set a budget and figure out how much house you can afford.
3. Select an agent
Most sellers retain a licensed real estate agent. To choose an agent, check your state’s licensing agency for any issues. Read reviews on the agent’s site. As you interview candidates, look for good communication skills, significant experience, local market knowledge and advanced certifications. To help your budget, consider asking for a discount on the usual 3% commission.
4. Set an asking price
Setting the sale price involves finding nearby comparable properties that have sold recently and using those transactions to estimate what yours would bring. Your agent will do a market analysis of these comps as part of their service.
5. Prepare for sale
Getting ready for sale could take days or months, depending on what needs to be done within your home and what you are willing to do. Consider having a pre-inspection to identify issues that may scare off buyers and correcting whatever you can. Cost-effective upgrades include paint and landscaping. Cleaning, decluttering, staging and obtaining professional photographs are central to this step. Before listing, complete the required seller’s disclosure of concerns such as water damage, flood risks, mold and undone repairs.
6. Show your home to buyers
After your agent puts your home on the Multiple Listing Service, prospective buyers will start showing up to examine the property. Keep it clean and uncluttered and aim to accommodate all reasonable requests for showings, even if it’s inconvenient. Avoid being home during showings.
7. Assess offers
When a buyer decides your home is the one, they’ll send your agent a written purchase offer. This should include a proposed purchase price as well as a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender and proof of funds showing they have the down payment and closing costs. If you get multiple offers, you’ll want the one that combines the elements of high price, reliable financing and no unreasonable requests for repairs or other concessions.
8. Negotiate an acceptable deal
A seller can accept an offer as-is, reject it or counter-offer, usually within 48 hours of receipt. Sale price isn’t the only thing that can be negotiated. Others could include doing requested repairs, offering a credit in lieu of repairs, including appliances, allowing for a specific move-in date and so on. Once an offer is accepted, negotiations may resume if, as often happens, the inspection turns up issues the buyer wants to be addressed.
9. Prepare for closing
When all seller and buyer concerns are settled and the offer is accepted, it’s time to prepare for closing. This will involve allowing an appraiser access to the home, scheduling the buyer’s final walk-through and gathering documents such as the original purchase contract, mortgage paperwork, tax records, appraisal, proof of insurance and survey.
At closing, the seller will bring the necessary documents, a check for any unpaid fees and keys to the property. The actual move-in date is often later, but if the new owner is to move in immediately, it will be necessary to remove all personal property from the home before the closing.
Selling your house can be a lengthy process involving many moving parts. Some steps have to be done before you can move on to others. And all must to be completed before the transaction can be finalized. Knowing in advance how to schedule and perform each of the 10 major steps can contribute to making the process as painless and profitable as possible.
Tips for Selling Your Home
- Ask a financial advisor how selling and buying real estate for your primary residence fits into your overall financial strategy. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- When you sell a house you may have a profit that could be subject to capital gains taxes. SmartAsset’s Guide to Taxes on Selling a House explains how this tax works and how to minimize your tax liability when selling your home.
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