You know what they say: there’s no place like home! What Dorothy didn’t tell you is that there’s also no sale like the sale of your home.
Selling your home is probably the biggest sale you’ll make in your life. There are, of course, the emotional parts of the sale. You need to say goodbye to a place that’s housed you, kept you warm, maybe even where your child had their first steps. But beyond emotions, selling a home is an extremely in-depth process—and one in which there’s a lot of money on the line.
Feeling a bit stressed? Fear not; we’re here to help. Read on for the ultimate guide to selling your house. We’ll discuss the home selling and buying process, chat tips and tricks, and tell you what not to do when selling your home.
Use the links below to jump to a section of your choosing:
- Timeline for Selling Your Home
- 1. Find a Real Estate Agent
- 2. Determine Your Home’s Value
- 3. Set up a Presale Home Inspection
- 4. Stage Your House for Potential Buyers
- 5. Show Your Home
- 6. Negotiate Price
- 7. Settle Contracts
- The Total Cost of Selling Your Home
- Common Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home
Timeline for Selling Your Home
There are a lot of steps that go into selling your home and a number of moving parts to keep track of. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of selling your home, let’s discuss an overall timeline for selling your home and when you should aim to complete each step.
6+ Months Before Listing Your Home
- Find a real estate agent: Ask for recommendations, interview prospective agents, and find the right choice for you
- Make a list of pre-sale tasks: This includes any necessary repairs and minor renovations you may want to complete before listing your home.
- Set a list price: You’ll want to revisit this number down the line, but it’s a good idea to get a picture of what your home might sell for ahead of time.
3 Months Before Listing Your Home
- Complete repairs and minor renovations: Getting your house in tip-top shape prior to showings can help increase its selling price
- Get a home inspection: An inspector can warn you of any issues with your home. You can then decide if you’d like to repair them ahead of time, or if you want to account for them in your home’s list price.
- Pack non-essential items: This way, you can get them out of the way for showings.
1 Month Before Listing Your Home
- Thoroughly clean: Nothing deters a prospective buyer like a dirty home! Give your home a good thorough cleaning.
- Stage: Time to make your home look its best! Create a warm and inviting space that will appeal to all types of buyers.
- Photograph: Work with your agent to get beautiful, well-lit pictures for advertising.
- Revisit your list price: Take a look at your list price one more time. Have there been fluctuations in the market? If so, adjust your list price accordingly.
1. Find a Real Estate Agent
The very first step in selling your home is finding a real estate agent. The real estate world is jam packed with agents who will jump at the opportunity to sell your home. Some advice: don’t go with just any real estate agent. If you want a successful home sale, you need to find a strong real estate agent. Here’s what to look for in a realtor:
Ask for Recommendations in Your Area
The first thing sellers tend to do when seeking a real estate agent is to ask for recommendations from friends and family. Who sold their home? How did it go? Would they work with them again?
Recommendations are, of course, useful, but they aren’t the end-all of the search for a real estate agent. It’s not just important to find a good real estate agent, but it’s important to find one who is intimately familiar with your area. So much of an agent’s job is knowing the specific market that you’re in and being adept at navigating that market. Favor the advice of trusted neighbors over that of friends and family who live far away.
Treat the First Meeting Like an Interview
Have you figured it out by now? What you’re looking for in a real estate agent is experience. You want an attentive and responsible real estate agent with a proven track record of selling homes in your area. There’s no better way to learn about a real estate agent’s experience than to ask.
Treat the first meeting with your prospective agent like an interview. Ask questions like:
- How many homes did you sell over the past year?
- How many homes did you list last year?
- How many homes have you sold in my area?
- How close to asking do your homes typically sell for?
Learn How They’ll Market Your Home
When it comes down to it, a real estate agent’s job is marketing. If you want your home to sell in good time and at a good price, you need a real estate agent who is adept at marketing. Ask your prospective agent how they intend to market your home, what types of materials they use both online and off, and how much they intend to spend on marketing.
Be Wary of Agents Who Promise a Price
If an agent ever tries to tell you exactly how much your home will sell for, they’re not the agent for you. A real estate agent simply cannot guarantee, or even pinpoint, a selling price—unless they plan on purchasing it themselves.
An honest real estate agent may give you a price range that you could expect your home to sell for and back it up with comparable sales in your area. An agent who attempts to tell you an exact number is not a trustworthy one. Don’t work with them.
- Ask for recommendations on realtors who specialize in your area.
- Treat the first meeting with a realtor like an interview.
- Ask detailed questions about how a real estate agent may market your home.
- Be wary of agents who promise a selling price.
2. Determine Your Home’s Value
Now that you’ve secured your real estate agent, it’s time to pick a list price for your home. Determining the selling price for your home is perhaps one of the hardest steps in selling your home.
To you, your home can feel like a living breathing thing. It’s a place where you’ve grown, made memories, and so much more. If you have any sentimental attachment to your home or have put considerable work to your home, you may overvalue it.
To a buyer, your home’s value is so much more objective. A buyer sees your home in its current state. They do not know what it looked like before, how much work you’ve put into it, or how wonderful it’s been for you and your family. They’re much more focused on the physical features of your home. How many square feet? How many bedrooms? Will it need renovations? What are similar homes in your area priced like?
If you want to pick a competitive price for your home, the first thing to do is to ask your agent for a competitive market analysis. This report will give you a clear picture of how your home compares to similar homes in your market and show you what those homes sold for. You can then work with your agent to pick a price that’s both competitive and feels right for you.
3. Set up a Presale Home Inspection
Home inspections are a common tool that buyers use to check on the health of their prospective purchase. As a seller, you can almost guarantee that any prospective buyer will call in a home inspector. Our advice is to beat them to it and call one in first.
You may be thinking that’s crazy; why pay for an inspection yourself when the buyer is going to do one anyway?
Our answer is this: here’s a common trope in home buying and selling. A buyer puts an offer in on a prospective home. Before they make any more moves, they send a home inspector in to look for any concerns. The home inspector finds a massive red flag. The buyer pulls out. The deal is off.
Rather than risk an unpleasant surprise, bring a home inspector in yourself prior to listing. The home inspector will inform you of any serious issues with your home. You now have the upper hand. You can choose to repair the issue, or work the cost of the repair into the price of your home. Prospective buyers will see you as a trustworthy seller and will be more likely to go through with the purchase of your home.
4. Stage Your House for Potential Buyers
There’s no way around it: staging your home can feel intimidating, but it’s essential for a successful sale of your home. Staging is especially important if your home is at a relatively low price point; it’s not terribly common in less expensive homes and can make yours really stand out.
By smartly staging your home, you can create an inviting and appealing space that highlights your home’s best features while drawing attention away from those that are less desirable. Use the following tips to do so.
Clutter is the number one enemy of a successful home staging. Clutter makes spaces look small and cramped. Pare down to just the essentials in each room to make the space look liveable, while remaining open. Learn more about the pros and cons of downsizing.
Opt for Neutrals
No matter your particular taste, you want to opt for a neutral style when staging your home. Paint the rooms off-white or beige, choose neutrally colored furniture, and avoid any overly-stylized pieces. Neutral styling keeps your house looking homey, while leaving space for buyers to picture their own items in your home.
Put Personal Items Away
Your house is probably full of personal keepsakes, whether it’s family photos, kids’ artwork, and more. When staging your home, it’s a good idea to put these away. Remember that the goal is to create a space your prospective buyers can see themselves in. The more items that are specific to your family, the less they’ll be able to see theirs.
Don’t Forget the Outside
When staging a home, it’s common to focus on the inside and completely forget about curb appeal. Remember: first impressions are everything! The outside of your home is just as important as the inside. Spruce up your home with a good power washing, repaint anything that’s shabby or faded, and pick out new plants for your planter boxes and flowerbeds.
- Declutter your home to make the space feel bigger and highlight its best features.
- Opt for neutral colors and furniture; anything especially stylized should be put away.
- Similarly, put away any personal items like family photos or kids’ artwork.
- Don’t forget to clean and spruce up the outside of your home.
5. Show Your Home
It’s showtime! Once your agent has listed your home, the real fun begins. They’ll take care of getting buyers into your home; your job is simply to survive the showings. Here’s how.
Maintain the Cleanliness
Your home has already been deep cleaned and decluttered. Your first job, throughout the length of your showings, is to maintain your home’s cleanliness. Neaten up your home before every showing, make sure high-traffic places like the kitchen and bathroom are spick and span, and put away personal items like pet things, shoes, and more.
Ramp Up the Lighting
Though it might feel a bit odd, it’s a good idea to turn on every light in your home prior to a showing, in addition to opening up all of the curtains and blinds. A well-lit home is not only more inviting, but it allows prospective buyers to clearly see your home.
Set the Mood
Another effective way to make your home feel warm and inviting is to set the mood. Turn on some calming music, light a fire, and put out a nice bottle of wine. If you have a jacuzzi or water feature, get them bubbling. The idea is to create a space that feels simply irresistible.
Add a Personal Touch
It’s best for you not to be there during showings. You want buyers to feel comfortable exploring your home, and often a lingering homeowner can make a visitor feel intrusive. That said, it’s always nice to add a personal touch in the form of a thank you note and some snacks or treats. After all, you want buyers to feel good about doing business with you!
- Do a last minute clean and tidy up before every showing.
- Open blinds and curtains and turn on all the lights.
- Set the mood with music, a fire, and a bottle of wine.
- Leave a note and a treat for prospective buyers.
6. Negotiate Price
Congratulations! You’ve got your first offer; you’re nearly there. Now, it’s time to negotiate.
Push Back with Your List Price
Negotiations typically go like this: you’ve set your list price, a prospective buyer comes in substantially under asking, and in response, you counter with a price that’s lower than your asking. Rather than doing that, counter the first time with your asking price again.
Here’s why: you priced your house competitively from the get go. A good buyer with a good agent will recognize that. They’re likely to be willing to come much closer to asking if you stand your ground. If they continue to lowball you, it may be a sign that they’re not worth negotiating with.
Use Multiple Offers for Leverage
If you’re in a sellers market and your home is priced competitively, you’re likely to get multiple offers. That’s a great situation to be in; use those offers as leverage to ask for more. Let prospective buyers know what they’re up against and see if they’re willing to up their offer.
Negotiations can feel intimidating, but they’re important if you want a good deal on your home. Remember that your agent has navigated many, many negotiations in the past and you should use them as a resource.
7. Settle Contracts
Remember that a home purchase contract is not just its price. There are lots of different factors that go into a contract and none of them should be overlooked. Pay attention to the following in addition to the purchase price:
- Escrow period: How long is escrow? This will depend on whether your buyer is paying cash for the house.
- Contingencies: Are there any conditions that your buyer must wait on before the purchase is done? This may include securing financing, the findings of a home inspection or appraisal, or the sale of their own home.
- Closing costs: How will you divide the closing costs? Learn more about how to save on closing costs.
The Total Cost of Selling Your Home
When calculating the cost of selling your home, it’s common to overlook a number of different factors. Many home sellers consider the cost of their agent as the cost of selling their home, but in truth, it’s significantly more. As a general rule, you can expect to pay approximately 10% of the sale price when selling your home.
Here’s how that all breaks down:
- Agent commissions: Typically 5-6% of your home’s sale price. This will comprise the bulk of the cost of selling your home.
- Home inspection: While this depends on the size of your home, typically a home inspection costs around $300.
- Repairs: Again, this will vary according to the findings of your home inspection and the number of repairs you wish to complete prior to selling. That said, the average home inspection reveals $11,000 in repairs.
- Staging: Budget around $2,000, though scale up if your home is particularly large.
- Closing costs: Typically 1-3% of your home’s sale price.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home
If you’ve followed our guide, you shouldn’t make any significant blunders when selling your home. However, here are a few common mistakes that homebuyers often make when selling their home.
- Getting too sentimental: At the end of the day, a home sale is a transaction. If you are unable to put aside your emotions and sentiments when selling your home, your home sale can quickly go awry.
- Opting for a cheap agent over an experienced agent: Be wary of agents who offer extremely cheap rates. An agent who charges dramatically low commissions may be desperate for clients or favor quantity over quality.
- Forgoing an agent altogether: Wondering how to sell your home without a realtor? While you can sell your home on your own, it’s not a recommended strategy. A real estate agent is an additional cost, but it’s a worthwhile one. By enlisting the help of an agent, you’ll likely get a better price on your home and save yourself a lot of stress.
- Omitting serious issues: Approach the sale of your home with the expectation that your buyer will have an inspection done on it prior to purchase. If you know of any issues with your home, tell the prospective buyer about it. Either way, their inspector will uncover it. If you don’t tell them, you’ll look like a shady seller and risk losing the sale.
- Selling in winter: Did you know there’s a best month to sell a house? Conventional wisdom is during the spring. Whatever you do, don’t sell during winter.