If you’ve been paying attention to the real estate market, you’ve probably noticed that right now is a good time to buy. Before you can do that though, you’ll need to sell your current house. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered with our step-by-step guide.
First, Ask Yourself: Are You Sure You’re Ready to Sell?
We know, we know: You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t absolutely positive. But it’s important to check. This decision shouldn’t be made lightly. Check in with yourself personally by asking the following questions:
- Have I outgrown this home? Or do I need something smaller?
- Is my current home missing features that I want or need?
- Am I ready to open my home to real estate professionals and potential buyers?
And even if you are ready, better make sure your bank account is on board, too.
- If my current home needs repairs before selling, do I have money to pay for those?
- Will I be able to afford a mortgage for my new home?
- Am I ready to make a 10 to 20 percent down payment on my new home?
Talk the decision over with family members and seek the advice of trusted friends, if necessary to obtain their honest perspectives. However, don’t get trapped in analysis paralysis: You know yourself best, and if you feel you’re making a wise decision by deciding to sell, then go for it.
Next, Set a Home Selling Timeline
Depending on the market, repairs your home might need, and other various factors, it’s hard to predict when exactly things will line up. However, you can set up your own timeline and expectations – given those expectations are reasonable, of course.
Spring is the busiest season in real estate, so you can expect good traffic and attention if you list sometime between January and mid-May. Once you decide when you’re going to list your home, you can plan other major steps. Prior to the listing date, you should:
- Interview and acquire a real estate professional if you’re using one
- Decide on a selling price
- Have your home inspected
- Take care of major repairs
- Deep clean the entire home
- Apply finishing touches and stage your home for showings and photos
Feels like too much to handle? Let’s break down each step.
Step 1: Hire a Professional … Or Not
You’ll hear tons of opinions on whether or not you should use a real estate professional when selling or buying a home. While the final decision is up to you, you should closely consider the pros and cons. If this is your first time selling a home, having the guidance of a professional who does this for a living could be priceless. They can help you navigate challenges you might not think of ahead of time and can serve as an objective perspective throughout the process.
On the other side of the coin, some people don’t want to trust someone else to the process. If you have the experience and knowledge to steer the ship, go right ahead, but be sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. Others lean away from real estate agents because they want to save money. While selling your home yourself would save you from paying a seller’s commission, you would still have to pay a buyer’s commission if the buyer retains an agent.
At the end of the day it’s your choice, so go with whatever is best for you.
Step 2: Determine Your Selling Price
You’re going to need a few things for this step: A black marker, a few 4×6 notecards, tape, and some darts. Write down an assortment of prices on the notecards with the black marker. Tape them randomly to a blank wall, close your eyes, and throw the darts. Whichever one has the most darts by the end of your throwing session – throw as many as you like, but we recommend an odd number so you don’t wind up with a tie – is how much you should list your home for!
Sounds fun, right? But there’s also a more logical method that will spare your walls.
For the less dicey and more reasonable, take a look at similar homes in your neighborhood that are listed or have sold recently. How is your home similar or different from theirs, and how might this affect the price? You can do this by perusing local listings over the last few months, or if you’re working with a real estate professional, ask them to conduct a comparative market analysis, or CMA.
Regardless of which method you use (we really recommend the latter), keep in mind that you’re pricing your home to sell. Separating the physical value of the home from the memories accrued there can be difficult for some, so approach the task with a level-headed perspective and don’t hesitate to get an outsider’s objective perspective.
Step 3: Hire a Home Inspector
This one is optional but could have huge benefits down the line. First, conducting your own home inspection before the official appraisal – which mortgage companies require – will make sure you’re not caught unawares by any surprises.
Additionally, proof of a professional inspection can also save you money. Let’s say you’re getting ready to sell, and the buyer insists you should lower the listing price because they’ll need to replace the HVAC system. If your home has been recently inspected and you can offer proof the HVAC system is in prime working condition, you’ll be able to easily counter these negotiations.
Step 4: Take Care of Major Repairs
Okay, but what if the buyer is right, and the HVAC system – or any other major aspect of the home – is in need of some major TLC? If you want to sell your home for the full amount it’s worth, you’re going to need to get these things repaired.
While we’re talking big challenges like plumbing issues, holes in the roof, or unruly pests, it’d behoove you to take care of cosmetic damages, as well. If you’ve had pets and a windowsill or carpet has paid the price, patch up what you can yourself and hire a professional for the rest. Even small things left unfinished can derail a conversation with contingencies when the buyer makes an offer.
Step 5: Deep Clean the Entire Home
You know how you look at aged leather boots and think, The distress just gives them character? Homes don’t work in quite the same way. That coffee stain in the carpet from four years ago isn’t going to add a “personal touch” to the home in potential buyers’ eyes; instead, they’ll probably just leave with a bad taste in their mouth.
You want your home to look its best, so scrub every surface, mop floors, get carpets and rugs professionally cleaned – whatever you need to do to make sure your home shines. Your home will need to stay clean for showings while it’s listed; set up a plan so you’re not scrambling last minute to scrub the entire home top to bottom every weekend.
If you have littles or pets – or anyone in the family who is accident- or mess-prone – designate “off limits” rooms so the mess can be controlled. Lots of toys around the house? Keep a few out for easy access and store the rest out of sight; they’re going to get boxed up eventually, so there’s no harm in getting a head start.
Don’t forget to clean up the exterior, as well. Repair simple damages, power wash the driveway, and maintain the lawn and landscape so your home makes a good impression from the moment people pull up to the drive.
Step 6: Finishing Touches and Staging
Finally, take care of all the final cosmetic touches that will really help your home stand out. Consider adding a fresh coat of paint to rooms where color is fading. Make your furniture show-ready or hire a staging expert and rent furniture. Go with neutral colors and, difficult as it might be, depersonalize the space. Take down family photos and instead hang up neutral artwork so potential buyers can envision their own lives in your space. That’s the goal, after all: To make sure others see your home as livable and lovable as you have.
Ready, Set … Sell!
That’s it! Six easy steps to get your home ready to sell. Breaking down this overwhelming process into bite sized pieces makes it much more manageable. If you’re still looking for your dream home, there are plenty of new builds waiting to be discovered.