Selling a home is a complicated process.
- Hire an agent who knows the market
The internet makes it simple to delve into real estate agents’ qualifications so you can choose the right person to work with. Look up agents’ online profiles to learn how long they’ve been in the industry, . Pay attention to how and where they market their listings, and what their typical annual sales volume is. Make sure they use professional photos.
- Set a timeline for selling your home
Selling a house is a major undertaking that can take one to three months from start to finish — or much longer, depending on local market conditions and the level of inventory available.
As soon as you decide to sell your house, jump right into researching real estate agents to find someone with the right experience for your situation. Hire an agent that is well-versed in repairs and upgrades necessary to sell in your particular market.
Before listing your house, start working on staging and deep cleaning in preparation for taking photos.
Here’s a checklist of things to do before listing your home:
- Don’t waste money on needless upgrades
Consult your Realtor if you’re going to spend money on upgrades to make sure that the changes you make have a high return on investment. It doesn’t make sense to install new granite countertops, for example, if you only stand to break even or even lose money on them. Plus, these improvements may not be necessary to sell your home for top dollar, particularly if inventory levels are low in your area.
Here’s where a good real estate agent can help guide you. They often know what people expect in your area and can help you plan upgrades accordingly. If local shoppers aren’t looking for quartz tops or a steam shower, then it doesn’t make sense to add them. A fresh coat of neutral paint, new carpet and a spruced-up landscape are typically low-cost ways to make a great first impression.
In general, updates to the kitchen and bathrooms provide the highest return on investment. If you have old cabinetry, you might be able to simply replace the doors and hardware for an updated look. For example, you can swap out those standard-issue kitchen cabinet doors for modern, Shaker-style doors in a weekend without breaking the bank.
- Get professional photos
Work with your Realtor to schedule a photographer to capture marketing photos of your home. High-quality photos are critical, since maximizing your home’s online appeal can make all the difference between a quick sale or a listing that languishes. Realtors build professional photography, and virtual online tours if beneficial, into their suite of services.
A professional photographer, with a strong portfolio, knows how to make rooms appear big, bright and more attractive. The same goes for your lawn and outdoor areas. Dimly lit online photos can turn off homebuyers before they even have a chance to read about the lovely bike path nearby or the new roof you just installed, so well-taken photos can really pay off.
- Put your house on the market
Here are tips to get your home market-ready and attract buyers for a speedy sale:
Focus on the home’s online appeal
You’ve probably heard of curb appeal, but professionals say online appeal is now even more important. Your home’s first showing is online. The quality of your web presentation will determine whether someone calls and makes an appointment or clicks on the next listing.
Stage it and keep it clean for showings
Realtors will often suggest that sellers stage their homes. Staging a home simply means removing excess furniture, personal belongings and unsightly items from the home while it’s on the market, and arranging rooms for optimal flow and purpose. If you’re in a slower market or you’re selling a luxury home, investing in a professional stager could help you stand out. Choose a Realtor that has a quality stager in their list of contractors.
Make yourself scarce when potential buyers come to view your home. Let them imagine themselves in the space, free from the distraction of meeting and talking to you. Generally, buyers are accompanied by their own real estate agent to view your home. Seeing the current homeowner lurking can cause buyers to be hesitant to express their opinions. It could keep them from really considering your home as an option.
Set a realistic price. Even in competitive markets, buyers don’t want to pay more than what the comparables show, so it’s crucial to get the pricing right. Going too high can backfire, while underestimating a home’s value might cause you to leave money on the table. To price your home right from the start, consult your Realtor for your neighborhood’s comps. These are data sheets about recently sold properties in a specific area. At a glance, you can get an idea of what homes around you are selling for. A frequent mistake sellers make is pricing a home too high and then lowering it periodically. Some sellers think this practice will yield the highest return. But, in reality, the opposite is often true. Homes that are priced too high will turn off potential buyers, who may not even consider looking at the property. In addition, homes with multiple price reductions may give buyers the impression there’s something wrong with your home’s condition, or that it’s undesirable. So it’s best to eliminate the need for multiple reductions by pricing your home to attract the widest pool of buyers from the start.
- Review and negotiate offers
After your home officially hits the market and buyers have seen it, ideally the offers will start rolling in. This is where a Realtor is your best advocate and go-to source for advice. If your local market is competitive and favors sellers, buyers will likely offer at or above asking price. You might even get multiple bids. On the other hand, if sales are slow in your area and you don’t get many offers, you may have to be open to negotiating.
When you receive an offer, you have a few choices: Accept the offer as it is, make a counteroffer or reject the offer.
A counteroffer is a response to an offer, in which you negotiate on terms and price.
If you’re lucky enough to get multiple offers, you might be tempted to simply go with the highest one. But look closely at other aspects of the offer too, such as:
Form of payment (cash versus financing)
Type of financing
Down payment amount
Requests for credits or personal property
Proposed closing date
Be mindful that if a buyer is relying on lender financing, the property has to be appraised. Any shortfall between the purchase price and appraised value will have to be made up somewhere, or the deal could fall apart.
- Anticipate seller closing costs
Some other costs commonly paid by the seller include:
Government transfer tax
Additionally, if the buyer has negotiated any credits to be paid at closing for repairs or closing costs, the seller will pay those too. Your real estate agent or the closing agent should provide you with a complete list of costs you’ll be responsible for at the closing table. While the buyer typically pays the bulk of the closing costs, anywhere from 2 percent to 4 percent of the sales price, be aware that you might have to pay some fees, too.
- Weigh the tax implications
The good news is, many home sellers won’t owe taxes on profits from the sale of their primary home. If you’ve owned and lived in your home for at least two out of the previous five years before selling it, then you will not have to pay taxes on any profit up to $250,000. For married couples, the amount you can exclude from taxes increases to $500,000. However, if your profit from the home sale is greater than that, you need to report it to the IRS on your tax return as a capital gain.