Eight Steps to Selling Your Home

1. Define your needs.
     Write down all of the reasons for selling your home. Ask yourself why you want to sell and what you expect to accomplish through the sale. (Example: A growing family may prompt you to need a larger home, or a job opportunity in another city may necessitate a move.) Write down whether it's more important to you to sell your house within a certain period of time, or to make a particular profit. Work with your real estate agent to map out the best plan to achieve your objectives and set a realistic time frame for the sale.
2. Name your price.
     Your next objective should be to determine the best possible selling price for your house. Setting a fair asking price at the outset will generate the most activity from other real estate agents and buyers. You will need to take into account the condition of your home, what comparable homes in your neighborhood are selling for, and the state of the overall market in your area. It's often difficult to remain unbiased when putting a price on your home, so your real estate agent's expertise is invaluable at this step. Your agent will know what comparable homes are selling for in your neighborhood and the average time those homes are sitting on the market.
     If you want a truly objective opinion about the price of your home, you can have an appraisal done. This typically costs a few hundred dollars. Remember: You're always better off setting a fair market value price than setting your price too high. Studies show that homes priced higher than three percent of their market value take longer to sell. If your home sits on the market for too long, potential buyers may think there is something wrong with the property. Often, when this happens, the seller has to drop the price below market value to compete with newer, reasonably priced listings.
3. Prepare your home.
     Most of us don't keep our homes in "showroom" condition. We tend to overlook piles of boxes in the garage, broken porch lights, or doors and windows that stick. It's time to break out of that owner's mind-set and get your house in tip-top shape.
     The condition of your home will affect how quickly it sells and the price the buyer is willing to offer. First impressions are the most important. Your real estate agent can help you take a fresh look at your home and suggest "staging " that will make it more appealing to buyers.
  • A home with too much "personality" is hard to sell. Removing family photos, mementoes, and personalized decor will help buyers visualize the home as their own.
  • Small defects like leaky faucets, torn screens, or worn doormats can ruin the buyer's first impression. Make minor repairs and replacements where you can.
  • Clutter is a big no-no when showing your home to potential buyers. Make sure to remove all of the knick-knacks from your shelves and clear off your bathroom and kitchen counters. Doing so will make these areas seem as spacious as possible.
4. Get the word out.
     Now that you're ready to sell, your real estate agent will set up a marketing strategy specifically for your home. There are many ways to get the word out including:
  • The internet
  • Yard signs
  • Open houses
  • Media advertising
  • Agent-to-agent referrals
  • Direct mail marketing campaigns
     In addition to listing your home on the MLS, your agent will use a combination of these tactics to bring the most qualified buyers to your home. Your agent should structure the marketing plan so that the first three to six weeks are the busiest.
5. Receive an offer.
     When you receive a written offer from a potential buyer, your real estate agent will first find out whether or not the individual is pre-qualified or pre-approved to buy your home. If so, then you and your agent will review the proposed contract, taking care to understand what is required of both parties to execute the transaction. The contract, though not limited to this list, should include the following:
  • Legal description of the property
  • Offer price
  • Down payment
  • Financing arrangements
  • List of fees and who will pay them
  • Deposit amount
  • Inspection rights and possible repair allowances
  • Method of conveying the title and who will handle the closing
  • Appliances and furnishings that will stay with the home
  • Settlement date
  • Contingencies
     At this point, you have three options:
  1. Accept the contract as is
  2. Accept the contract with changes — a counter offer
  3. Reject the contract
     Remember: Once both parties have signed a written offer, the document becomes legally binding. If you have any questions or concerns, be certain to address them with your real estate agent right away.
6. Negotiate to sell.
     Most offers to purchase your home will require negotiating to achieve a win-win agreement. Your real estate agent is well versed on the intricacies of the contracts used in your area, and will protect your best interest throughout the bargaining. You agent also knows what each contract clause means, what you will net from the sale, and what areas are easiest to negotiate. Negotiable items include:
  • Price
  • Financing
  • Closing costs
  • Repairs
  • Appliances and fixtures
  • Landscaping
  • Painting
  • Move-in date
     Once both parties have agreed on the terms of the sale, your agent will prepare a contract.
7. Prepare to close.
     Once you accept an offer to sell your house, you will need to make a list of all the things you and your buyer must do before closing. The property may need to be formally appraised, surveyed, inspected, or repaired. Your real estate agent can spearhead the effort and serve as your advocate when dealing with the buyer's agent and service providers. Depending on the written contract, you may pay for all, some or none of these items.
     If each item returns an acceptable result as defined by the contract, then the sale may continue. If there are problems with the home, the terms set forth in the contract will dictate your next step. You or the buyer may decide to walk away, open a new round of negotiations, or proceed to closing. Important reminder: A few days before the closing you should contact the company completing the transaction to make sure the necessary documents will be ready to sign on the appropriate date. Also, if you have not done so already, begin to make arrangements for your upcoming move.
8. Close the deal.
     "Closing" refers to the meeting at which ownership of the property is legally transferred to the buyer. Your agent will be present during the closing to guide you through the process and make sure everything goes as planned. By being present during the closing, he or she can mediate any last-minute issues that may arise. In some states, an attorney is required; it is your right to have one present if you choose.
      After the closing, you should make a "to do" list for turning the property over to the new owners. To get started:
  • Cancel electricity, gas, lawn care, cable, and other routine services.
  • If the new owner is retaining any of these services, change the name on the accounts.
  • Gather owner's manuals and warranties for all conveying appliances.

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