You know you need to sell your house and you know you need to move elsewhere but all the steps in between aren’t as clear. Here’s everything you need to sell your house, organized in a very easy to follow checklist.
1. Start with A Good Realtor
Not hiring a professional agent to sell your house is a lot like trying to trim the trees around the power lines yourself. You can do it, but you shouldn’t.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll come out of it with a few scratches or a new fear of heights. If you’re not so lucky, you could fall, cause a neighborhood-wide power outage or start a fire.
You’re unlikely to save any money trying to do the task yourself, and if you make a mistake, the repercussions are steep. It’s nice to leave the task (yes, we’re talking about both tree trimming and selling your house still) in more capable hands than your own.
When you’re in search of a real estate agent, don’t waste your time sifting through a bucket of mediocrity. Homelight has an algorithm that matches you with top-performing agents in your area who are relevant to your needs (and side note: it’s free.) Once you have a few choices, ask them a few questions — like a job interview, except maybe more practical. Ask about:
- Experience: How long have they been in real estate? How long have they lived and worked in the area? How many homes per year do they sell?
- Exposure: What are they going to do to get the word out about your house? What will they use to market it?
- Additional Services: Do they offer professional photography? Staging? Open houses?
2. Nail Down An Accurate Price Tag
A desk is for sale on Craigslist. It’s worth maybe $100, but the seller decides to list it for $500. He’s unlikely to get much interest, even by those who need a desk, or have $500 to spend on it. Once it sits there for a month or two, the owner might reconsider the price or take it off the site altogether. Either way, he’s lost many potential buyers who skipped over it completely.
Now, consider this sale with higher stakes. A house is listed at $500,000 in an area where the houses barely peek over $300,000. Overpriced, it sits… and sits… and sits. People start asking “What’s wrong with it?”
To Price Your Home Accurately:
Ask Your Agent for Comparables: To determine how much your home is worth, you need to know what all the similar homes in your immediate area have sold for. A real estate agent will provide this analysis. If they haven’t yet, ask.
Meet and Discuss Strategy: An agent will not only be more experience at home selling than you are but will also be more objective. The fair price of a home is what a person is willing to pay (or not pay) for it, not what you think it’s worth.
List and Monitor: If your home is up for sale for two or three weeks and you haven’t gotten a single bite, it may mean you’ve over estimated the price. Closely monitor activity so you can pivot quickly if necessary.
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Hire Professionals to Get the Job Done
Getting your home ready for sale isn’t a one-person job. Here are some of the people you may need in the process:
- Hire an interior decorator and/or home stager to make sure your home is presented from its best angle. Easy pillow swaps and furniture rearranging can make your house sing.
- Bring in a housekeeper. You can certainly clean yourself but for a few hundred dollars, you can walk into a dust-free, disinfected and ready-to-sell home.
- You’ll need someone to patch the holes in the walls, re-caulk the tub and fix the carpet edging. Find a handyman to fix the little stuff, and a specialist — like a plumber or electrician — to fix the big stuff.
- A home appraiser will help you determine what your home might be worth based on its space and features. From there, you and your Realtor can determine how set the price.
- A home inspector (usually hired by the buyer, not the seller) will take a look at the home after you have an offer (or before, if you opt for a pre-inspection) and point out if anything isn’t up to snuff.
Collect Every Document You’ll Need to Sell Your House
Buyers must collect everything from their paycheck stubs to that one credit card statement they paid one day late five years ago. Then they have to sign their life away on what appears to be an encyclopedia-length manuscript.
As a seller, you need quite a few items too but if you’re working with a Realtor, they’ll gather much of this for you. Items you’ll need include:
- Final closing instructions and statement of closing costs
- Title report
- Mortgage and loan information
- HUD-1 Settlement Statement
- Lien information or affidavits regarding liens
- Bill of sale (for anything you leave behind)
- Property tax information
- Homeowners’ insurance paperwork
- Trust documents
- Lead-based paint disclosure (if your house was built prior to 1978)
- Manuals for electronics and appliances
- Homeowners’ association materials
Create Curb Appeal to Die For
Your mother probably told you “it’s on the inside that counts,” and by most accounts she’s right. However, when was the last time you picked up a book with a boring cover or a bottle of wine with an uninteresting label? Of course it’s what’s on the inside that counts but the outside calls the first shots.
Front Door: Your front door is one of the best returns on investment — meaning if you have an old unflattering one, you’ll get your money back out of it if you replace it with the shiny, new one before you put your house up for sale, according to Remodeling’s 2017 Cost vs Value Report. If you’re not ready to replace the door but it needs some help, slap on a new color or buy a new door knocker or knob.
Porch: Just because your focal point is on your front door, don’t neglect the rest of the outside. Plant new succulents in the pots. Nurse those geraniums back to health (or replace them and pretend you nursed them back to health). Sweep the porch and shake out the mat. Repair any railings that are broken. Mow the lawn. All this sounds easy (and cheap!) but sellers forget and it’s to their detriment.
Entryway: In this case, the inside counts too! Make sure when people walk into your home, they feel at ease. Entryways tend to be a dumping ground for whatever you’re carrying as you walk into the house. Declutter. Put away coats and hats. Find a drawer for wallets and keys. Keep decor simple — like a mirror and a plant, or a coat tree and a piece of art.
Make Arrangements for Your Pets
Every day at 3, your dog barks wholeheartedly at the mailman. He protects the house from the gardeners working on the house next door and he paces the back wall as the neighbor’s cat teases him. While you appreciate this canine security guard, strangers will be less endeared. In fact, many might find a pet nerve-wracking or allergy-inducing.
Selling your home when pets live there is a bit of a minefield. For best results:
Freshen: Your house might not smell like a dog; install some air fresheners anyway. You can’t go wrong with Lavender Febreeze or Clean Linen sachets.
Vacuum: Even you — the owner of this fur baby — don’t like when you sit down on your couch and get dog hair all over your black sweater. Home-viewers will be even less enchanted with it.
Scoop: Got a garden or a cool barbeque-pool area out back you want viewers to see? Make sure the backyard is walking ready. Nothing stops a successful showing like stepping in dog poop.
Care: Do you have a plan for your pup when your agent calls you at work and asks if she can show the house that evening? If you don’t, get one. Call your local groomer and see if they’ll work with you on the days you’re in a pinch. Talk to the neighbors or friends who live nearby to see if they can take the pooch for a few, or use the time for your daily walk together.
To sell quickly, you’ll need some drive, the right team and a pile of paperwork, but even if you haven’t done it before, the path is clear with a checklist in hand.