The Selling Process

There are a number of reasons people sell a home. As families grow and change, you may need more square footage or less. You might be relocating due to a job, or to be closer to family. No matter the reason, educate yourself on the process, and you’ll be equipped to have a successful sale of your home.

Step 1: Find a REALTOR®

“Realtor®” and “real estate agent” are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. While both sell real estate, only a Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors®, bound by the professional standards of the Realtor® Code of Ethics. This code stipulates that Realtors® deal with all parties of a transaction honestly.

Home selling has become a more complex business than it used to be. New seller disclosure statements, longer and more mysterious form agreements, and a range of environmental concerns have all become the new normal.. It makes sense to have someone by your side who is a professional with a wealth of knowledge and training.

Step 2: Preparation

The home-selling process can sometimes start weeks or even months before a property is made available for sale. It's necessary to look at a home through the eyes of a prospective buyer and determine what needs to be cleaned, painted, repaired, and tossed out. Since they spend their days walking homebuyers through houses, your Realtor® will know what’s likely to catch someone’s eye.

Have your Realtor® help you evaluate your home by suggesting improvements and pointing out changes you should make to attract buyers. Your Realtor® can see flaws you’re oblivious to because you see them every day—or because you simply don’t view them as flaws. Ask yourself: If you were buying this home what would you want to see? If you have some flexibility, they can also advise you on the best time of year to sell.

Step 3: Set the Price

All homes have a price, and sometimes more than one. There's the price owners would like to get, the value buyers would like to offer, and a point of agreement which can result in a sale. Every reasonable owner wants the best possible price and terms. Several factors, including market conditions, inventory, and interest rates, will determine how much you can get for your home.

While anyone can spend a few minutes online and pull information on sales of comparable houses, Realtors® also have knowledge of the current market conditions, which change month to month and fluctuate with the seasons. These factors will inform where you set your list price, along with the desirability of the neighborhood and your home’s various features.

Step 4: Market It

Home buyers look at countless listings online. The best-marketed homes have beautiful photos and compelling property descriptions, so they can get immediate buyer interest. The marketplace is always in flux, which requires Realtors® to craft marketing plans specifically for individual homes and today’s market conditions.

Once listed, the home will be entered into the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and placed on a property search page. Realtors® sometimes market by mail with new-listing announcements and hold open houses. In the case of an open house, a Realtor® typically advertises that the home will be open for a given period (for example, 1 - 3 pm on a Saturday). The Realtor® will provide literature, answer questions, and maintain a visitor log, which will give them the opportunity to follow up with prospective purchasers.

Step 5: Sell It

What's an acceptable offer? The goal of every seller is to have a line of buyers outside the front door, each clutching higher and higher offers. Recently, there have been a lot of instances of multiple offers on a home. However, in a typical market, there is some balance between the number of buyers and sellers.

A number of factors determine whether a buyer's offer is acceptable. They include:

  • Is the offer below, above, or very near the asking price?
  • Does the owner have enough time to wait for other offers?
  • What if no other offers are received?
  • What if several offers are received? Do you choose the high offer from the purchaser with questionable finances who may not be able to close, or a somewhat lesser offer from a buyer with pre-approved financing?

In each case, owners – with assistance from Realtors® – will need to carefully review offers, consider marketplace options, and then determine whether an offer is acceptable.

Step 6: Negotiations

Offers and counter-offers reflect the back-and-forth activity of the marketplace. Negotiating should be seen as a natural business process; buyers should be treated with respect; and owners should never lose sight of either their best interests or their baseline transaction requirements. The Realtor® who lists your home can explain the bargaining process in detail and assist in the actual negotiations.

Most purchase agreements are contingent on a home inspection (plus an appraisal, which will be managed by the buyer’s lender). This gives the buyer the ability to inspect the home from top to bottom and request repairs — some even could be required per building codes. You have some room to negotiate, including about certain repairs. Once again, your Realtor® will be there to help you effectively communicate with the buyer.

Step 7: Closing

Closing is essentially a meeting where the closing agent (the party who conducts settlement) takes in money from the buyers, pays out money to the owners, and makes sure that the purchaser's title is properly recorded in local records along with any mortgage liens.

How do you prepare for closing? It's important to look at the sale agreement and review your obligations. For instance, if you have agreed to paint a room or replace the dishwasher, such work must be completed before closing. Your Realtor® can discuss your agreement and the steps which must be taken to complete the transaction.