Putting your house on the market can be a stressful process for a lot of sellers. Since there are a lot of steps that need to happen in order for your house to sell, it is important to be surrounded by the right resources and people. With that said, I believe it is important to have a general understanding of the entire process. Thus, I took the time to break down the major steps in the home selling process. The exact order of the steps might vary from transaction to transaction but the steps themselves usually take place in every real estate transaction. If you would like to learn more about a specific step in the process or would like help selling your next home, reach out to me, Blake Davenport, a licensed REALTOR® and local expert via the contact information on the footer of the website. Happy learning!
When To Sell Your Home
Depending on your situation, you may have more flexibility on when you decide to sell your house. If you get a new job in a new city, you do not have much choice but to put your house on the market. But in some cases, you have the luxury of waiting till the right moment to put your home on the market.
But how can one tell if it is a good time to put your home up for sale? Well, it is important to understand the current market. Understanding the market means:
What are houses currently selling for in your area?
Is it a buyers/sellers market?
What's the housing inventory look like?
Is there a low or high demand for homes in your area?
You can find the answer to all of these questions by consulting your local real estate expert.
Find a Great REALTOR®
As I had mentioned above, there are a lot of steps that need to be taken to sell your home and can be difficult with the lack of time and resources. Therefore, it is important to find a great REALTOR® who can manage the process and has the resources and network to sell your home at its highest price.
You might be thinking, I could just sell my home myself? Well, while "For Sale By Owner" can be appealing to some people, it can be really hard due to a lack of exposure and improper knowledge of the process and contracts. One of the biggest drawbacks of selling your home "For Sale By Owner" is that real estate agents working with buyers do not see your listing on MRIS and often have no financial incentive to lead their clients to your door. Also potential buyers see that you aren't paying for a real estate agent so they expect a major discount. Finally, do to the large amount of paperwork involved and the many hurdles in a typical transaction, deals often fall apart without the assistance of a real estate professional.
Thus, find a great REALTOR® who will prep your home, price it appropriately, manage communications between all of the professionals (buyer's agent, buyer's attorney, home inspection companies, appraiser, etc), handle all of the contracts, and most importantly, sell your home.
It's important to note that most listing agents will want you to sign an exclusive right to sell contract before marketing and putting your home on the market. This contract obligates you to pay a commission to the agent regardless of who brings in the buyer.
Clean Your Home
Alright, so you found a great REALTOR® who is going to sell your home. Now it is time to prepare your home to go on the market and that starts with getting it in showing condition. Showing condition means doing all those spring cleaning chores that you have been putting off for so long. To make your home seem larger, it is important to declutter it and remove unnecessary items from closets and rooms (it's less things that you need to bring with you when you move)! Have your floors and carpets cleaned if they are dirty. Finally, spruce up the exterior of your home to ensure curb appeal.
You want to do your best to return the house to the condition when you first bought it.
Identify any problems that could derail an offer. Prevent it before it becomes an issue. In some cases, it might be good to order a home inspection ($300 -$500) before putting it on the market so you can make any repairs that are necessary.
It is important to know that Virginia is actually one of the few states that require sellers to disclose very little. Basically, it is the buyers’ responsibility to do their due diligence and check out the condition of the property by ordering the necessary inspections. While you are not obligated to point out your home's flaws, you cannot lie about a problem or try to hide it from potential buyers.
A lot of sellers do not want to put any more money into the house they are about to sell by necessary repairs, but just know that a couple repairs could be the difference between your home selling or not.
Set Your Sales Price
Determining how much you are going to try to sell your house for can be a deciding factor on whether your house sells or not. It is very important to understand the market. That's why it is good to have a REALTOR® who knows the area. They will do a comparative market analysis. A comparative market analysis uses data from MRIS to compare your home to homes that have sold and ones that are currently on the market. It is important to compare your home's location, sqft, features, etc... to other homes that have sold.
Finally, what are your financial needs? Do you need to sell your home quickly or is there no urgency to sell it right away? The answers to those questions will affect your sales price.
To get a quick idea of what your house is worth, our Home Value Estimator below.
List Your Home For Sale
After you have found a REALTOR®, cleaned your house, identified and addressed any deal breakers, your are now ready to put your house up for sale.
The first thing is that you should make sure your REALTOR® uses a photography service or has a nice camera to take pictures of your home. You will not believe how important the pictures are when buyers are looking at a listing. Pictures make or break a potential buyer's decision on whether or not they want to see your home in person.
Next, it is important that your REALTOR® has a good marketing plan. There are plenty of agents that will just post your house on MRIS and think their job is over. Avoid those agents! It takes a lot of effort to sell a house so make sure you get an agent who is going to do everything possible to sell your house. Hard working agents hold open houses on weekends, knock on neighbors doors, reach out to other members of their company, do creative marketing, keep their sellers updated throughout the process and so much more.
Maintain Showing Condition
While your house is on the market, you should keep your house in great condition inside and out. Try to accommodate potentials buyers who wish to see your house on a Tuesday night at 7pm. Also open houses are very popular in the DMV area so it's common for your agent to hold your home open on Sunday afternoons. Therefore, it's important that your home is always in the best looking shape if it is not staged.
Negotiating / Accepting the Offer
Finally, you have received an offer from a potential buyer. Here are some things that you have to consider when looking over the offer:
- Are the buyers pre-approved for their mortgage / how is the buyer's financing?
- What are the buyer's terms/contingencies?
- Are there any other offers?
After you have reviewed the offer with your REALTOR®, you have a couple of things that you can do. You may reject the offer outright, accept it as, or (more typically) respond to a buyer’s offer with a counteroffer. A counteroffer accepts some or most of the offer terms, but suggests changes to others, such as a higher price or a closing date that’s sooner than the buyer proposed.
Once you come to agreement and sign a purchase contract with a buyer, all of the contingencies on the contract have to be resolved before going to settlement. So even if you sign a purchase contract, there's several things that could go wrong that destroy the real estate transaction of your home. That is why I stress that it is important to have a REALTOR® that will work to put out your fires.
Some of the most common contingencies include home inspection, home appraisal, buyer financing, and sale of the buyer's home. I talk about these contingencies more in depth on the buyer's guide page. Click the button below to learn more.
So any contingency issues that occurred after the contract ratification process have been worked and you have reached the settlement stage. Congratulations!! Settlement is also referred to when closing occurs at the end of the selling process where the both sides of the transaction get together and sign any remaining documents related to the sales transaction. In Virginia, a settlement agent or attorney can represent a buyer or seller if they cannot attend.
Once the key documents are signed and payment has changed hands, the keys are handed over to the buyers. How exciting! While that sounds easy, a large amount of work goes into settlement. Below are the steps in the settlement process.
1. A title company or attorney conducts a title search to see if there are any liens or assessments on the title. Once all liens are taken care of, title insurance is prepared and a closing date is set.
2. The total cost that the buyer needs to bring to the settlement is then determined. This includes mortgage closing costs, property taxes, and utilities paid to the date by the seller.
3. A final walkthrough is performed to ensure the same condition of the property as when the process began.
4. Buyer and seller sign all closing documents and funds are transferred.
5. The title company or attorney records the transaction and deed with local court.
6. Finally, the buyer is handed the keys and possesses the property.
Plan Your Move
Finally, you have sold your house and are prepared to move into your new home. How exciting! Here are some tips to make the process less stressful.
1. When packing up, categorize boxes by rooms so it is easy for the movers to know where they go.
2. Make sure to read through the contract with the moving company to confirm everything is right before they ship your belongings somewhere else.
3. Supervise the packing process to ensure that they don't break anything.
4. Perform one last check of your house to make sure you don't forget anything or to make sure there were no damages caused by the movers.
5. Once arriving at your new home, do a walk through with your real estate agent to make sure everything is how it is supposed to be like checking to make sure all of the utilities work.
6. Finally, don't overwhelm yourself. Don't schedule any other services on moving day.