Whether you need to downsize or upsize, the neighbors are creepy, the wallpaper is grating on your last nerve or you "just can't live in this hell anymore," you've officially decided to sell your home. "What next"? is the question most often asked, and I hope to answer that in the following step-by-step guide to the home-selling process. Although a Realtor can walk you through the process better than I can in an 1100-words-or-less article, I'm going to start the ball rolling.
Find a Realtor. The reason this is the first step is because it's the most important step. Yes, Im a Realtor so I tend to advocate representation, but there are several excellent reasons to call an agent. The first is that it's a good way to avoid lawsuits, property disputes and contractual no-nos when you have a knowledgeable professional watching your back. We've had extensive schooling and keep our knowledge up-to-date with classes and informative postings. We know real estate. Very few real-estate-related incidents crop up that surprise us.
Another reason to use a Realtor is we have resources at our disposal to better sell your home. Besides the MLS, Homes magazine, signage and other tools, we talk. We talk to each other. We talk to our buyers. We talk to strangers. We sell your house at charity events and soccer games. We're not afraid of alienating people talking up your home! We are marketing gurus, and we're the greatest advocates for your home. What a combination!
Having said that, finding a Realtor is easy. Talk to people you trust. Ask them if they liked their Realtor, and why. Good Realtors should get more business from word-of-mouth than soliciting folks at their doors.
Preparing your home for sale. There's a lot of information available regarding this subject, including an article I've written, aptly titled, "Preparing Your Home for Sale." But because it's not included in this one, I'll just cover the highlights.
The first impression is oftentimes the most important, so tackle the outside. Mulch, trimmed foliage and flowers go a long way toward beautifying your property, as does power-washing the exterior of your home and painting trip and shutters. Fix broken windows (and yes, clean them).
Next is the interior. My personal rule of thumb is this: If you haven't used it in a month (excluding holiday fare) or didn't even know you owned it, let it go.
Clutter is the silent killer of home sales. A "busy" room will make even the most sedate buyer twitch. Countertops should be swept clean of all but the most necessary items. The smaller the room, the less clutter. A fresh coat of paint on walls will work wonders too. Remember, though, dark-colored paint makes a room feel smaller and . . . well, darker.
Make those repairs that you've put off and put off. If the light bulb is out, replace it. If you have to jiggle the toilet handle to flush it, fix it. Because if it doesn't come up when the buyers are looking at your home, it will certainly be revealed in the home inspections.
Putting it on the market. Your Realtor will be able to go into more details, but here's the synopsis: You'll sign a contract with the agent agreeing to list it for a certain amount of time for an agreed-upon commission. In most instances, that commission will be split with the agent that brings the buyer. Your agent will then take photos and write remarks about your home making it sound much, much better than it is. Don't fret. You've become used to your home. It actually is as good as it sounds!
Then your agent will likely put your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Every Realtor and anyone who uses a Realtor to buy their home will have access to the MLS. Used to its full potential, it's a wonderful tool with which to entice buyers.
Selling your home. If you're in the majority and your home doesn't sell the first day, you won't believe the amount of people that will traipse through your home without buying it. It's enough to discourage even the most stalwart Pollyanna. But persevere. There's a buyer out there somewhere who will love your home!
Receiving an offer. The buyer's agent will submit the offer to your agent, who will then present it to you. You will have a limited amount of time to either accept it, reject it or counter it. Once the offer or counteroffer is accepted, you move on to the next (and sometimes scariest) stage.
Home inspections. As a buyer, home inspections are vital . . . as a seller, home inspections are just plain frightening. And I'm going to take just a moment to enhance that fear. Don't be thinking your home will pass inspections with flying colors simply because you haven't had any noticeable problems. Home inspectors delve deeper than oceanic treasure hunters. You may not know that the polarity is reversed on 14 of the 32 outlets in your home or that the insulation in your attic is insufficient or you've got standing water in your crawlspace that could lead to the M" word (mold). Be prepared to be unprepared for the results.
And remember, this is a negotiation, just as the terms of the original contract were. The best real-estate transaction is a win-win for both parties involved. You're both just people, and you both just want the best for yourselves and your families.
Escrow. Escrow is just the period of time from contract acceptance to closing. Not to put too fine a point on it . . . it's boring. Use this time to pack up your home.
Utilities. Remember to call the utility companies a week ahead of the closing date to schedule the turning off or transfer of service for the day of possession.
Closing. More often than not, closings for the seller are bittersweet. A lot of memories are compacted within four walls and a roof. But take heart, when you're sitting across from the buyers at the closing table, know that you've made their dream of homeownership come true. But please don't forget to hand over the keys . . .
And not all-important, but certainly significant enough to warrant a shout out, don't forget to recommend your Realtor to others. We love referrals!