The home selling process is the same whether you are selling for sale by owner or hiring a listing agent. Certain details may vary slightly among the states, but I will use California as the example since the state usually sets the standard for much of the country. Some jurisdictional differences include the seller hiring a real estate lawyer rather than an agent and the buyer submitting an "intent offer" prior to executing a purchase contract.
1) Choose a Listing Agent
- A listing agent will represent you and have a fiduciary responsible for looking out for your best interests.
- Interview agents and meet with at least three neighborhood specialists.
- Negotiate your listing agreement, including the length of time the home will be listed.
2) Find Out How Much Your Home Is Worth
- A seller's biggest mistake is to overprice a home.
- Price your home in line with sold homes identified in a comparative market analysis report.
- Consider whether your market is hot, cold or neutral, and price according to the market temperature.
3) Get Home Ready for Sale
- Prepare your home for sale by cleaning, decluttering and improving curb appeal.
- Hire a professional stager to stage your home, or ask your real estate agent for help with staging.
- Make repairs before selling.
- Protect your privacy while your home is on the market.
- If you're selling a home where pets live, make alternate plans for your pets.
4) Market Your Home
- You or your agent should identify the sizzling selling points and choose advertising words to sell.
- Approve your agent's marketing campaign or figure out how to advertise your house for sale yourself.
- Follow the top 10 home marketing tips for selling your home.
- Hire a virtual tour company to take quality photographs and put a virtual tour online.
- Tweak marketing to increase traffic and showings.
- Confirm that your listing is posted online. Your agent or you should saturate the Internet with photographs and descriptions of your home.
5) Show Your Home
- If you're wondering about lockbox vs. appointments, you'll get more showings if you let agents use a lockbox.
- Your home will show better if you sell in spring than sell in winter.
- Selling during the holidays will likely result in a lower sales price, regardless of what agents tell you.
- Follow the top 10 home showing tips. You've got only one chance -- and sometimes only 3 seconds -- to make a good first impression.
- Prepare for an open house and use the approach sparingly.
- Ask for buyer feedback so you can adjust your price, condition or marketing campaigns accordingly.
6) Receive Purchase Offers and Negotiate
- Make certain that buyers use the right form for writing a purchase offer.
- Even if you receive a lowball offer, negotiate by issuing a counter offer. Don't ignore offers.
- Ask for a kickout clause or first right of refusal if the buyer's offer is contingent on selling a home.
- Consider making a counter offer contingent on buying a home, if market conditions warrant.
- Don't be afraid to make a full-price counter offer, if you are priced competitively.
- If your home is priced right, prepare yourself for multiple offers.
7) Open Escrow and Order Title
- Your agent or transaction coordinator will open escrow and order a title policy.
- Write down the contact information for the closing agent.
- Select a date to close based on when the buyer's loan will fund.
- Ask for a receipt for the buyer's earnest money deposit.
8) Schedule Appraiser Appointment
- Clean the house the day before the appraiser arrives.
- If you receive a low appraisal, ask your agent about alternatives.
- You are not entitled to receive a copy of the appraisal because you did not pay for it.
- If the buyer decides to cancel the contract based on an appraisal, ask your agent or lawyer about your rights.
9) Cooperate with Home Inspection
- Get ready for the home inspector.
- Ask your agent to provide you with a home inspection checklist so you will know which items an inspector will want to see.
- Prepare the attic and basement for inspection.
- Also, prepare for the final walk-through inspection which takes place the day before, or the morning of, closing.
10) Obtain Seller-Required Inspections
- If your contract calls for a roof certification, hire a reputable company to conduct the inspection.
- States that allow for termite or pest inspections make these reports public records.
- The fees for all inspection reports, even if seller-mandated, are negotiable.
- If your home was built before 1950, a sewer inspection might call for a new sewer line, but trenchless sewers are less expensive to install.
11) Delivery Seller Disclosures
- All homes in the United States are subject to lead-based paint disclosures.
- If you are aware of material facts, disclose them.
- Your title company should provide CC&Rs, but if you belong to a homeowner association, additional documentation will be required.
12) Negotiate Request for Repair
- Ordinarily, sellers do not need to accept a buyer's request for repair; however, buyers can also cancel the contract.
- You are entitled to a copy of the home inspection report if the buyers request repairs.
- If you do not choose to make repairs, a buyer might instead accept a closing cost credit.
13) Ask Buyer to Release Contingencies
- In California, for example, contracts default to 17 days, at which time, the buyer must release contingencies.
- If you do not demand a release, buyers are not obligated to provide it.
- If buyers do not provide a release, in California, sellers have the right to cancel the contract.
14) Sign Title and Escrow Documents
- In southern California, you will sign escrow documents shortly after opening escrow.
- In northern California, you will sign escrow documents near closing.
- Bring a valid picture identification.
15) Close Escrow
- Your property deed, reconveyance and deed of trust will record in the public records.
- The title company will notify you and your agent when it records the deeds.
- Depending on buyer's possession rights specified in the contract, you may be required to move on the day the home closes.