Your Start-to-Finish Checklist for Selling a Home
A good roadmap is the key to any journey, especially one on a road you’ve never traveled. Because selling a home by owner is a new experience for many, five simple steps can ensure a smooth and satisfying trip.
Ready? Let’s go.
Deciding to Sell Your Home
Sometimes a homeowner has no choice but to sell based on life circumstances — a job transfer to another city, for example. Other times, the decision is reached only after careful emotional and financial deliberation. After all, a home is the single most expensive and important investment most of us will make, and a transaction of that magnitude is bound to weigh heavily on a seller’s mind.
Getting financial documents in order, checking your credit status and figuring out when to list a home all are important steps. Choosing to become a for sale by owner (FSBO) seller can be a major decision, too. Derek Morgan, manager of broker relations at ForSaleByOwner.com, says many people need convincing that with online resources they have the same power as real estate agents in listing a property and closing a sale. “But once they realize that selling their home online can be almost as easy as planning a family vacation, they’re convinced,” Morgan says.
Preparing, Repairing and Pricing
Here’s where by-owner sellers must force themselves to view their home as a prospective buyer will and decide on repairs, upgrades and home staging inside and out. Brutal honestly is needed to see the work that must be done — and nearly every home will need some, experts say.
“Lived-in homes have too much in them,” says Barb Schwarz of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals. At the very least, yours will require a thorough cleaning and decluttering so that you present your home in the most neutral way so that prospective buyers can envision themselves in it. “Detail your house like you’d detail your car,” Schwarz says.
If your home needs repairs, it’s best to do that now, as buyers will point out any problems to make you lower the price. And regarding the listing price, Eddie Tyner, general manager of ForSaleByOwner.com, says too many sellers set the figure way too high. Online services offer tools to help sellers choose a price that’s right for their neighborhood and market.
Marketing Like a Professional
At least 90 percent of today’s homebuyers begin their search online — and they rely on sites like Zillow and Trulia to view listings. The Multiple Listing Service can distribute your listing to these sites so your home is seen by even more prospective buyers.
Just having a listing on one of these sites isn’t enough, however. Your home must outshine the thousands of others vying for visitor attention. One of the best ways to do this is with quality photos. If you have the skills, do it yourself. If you don’t, a company like Al Larson Photographic Publishing of Cape Coral, Florida, can help. How important are photos? “I had just finished shooting a house for an agent and was packing up and reviewing my images on a laptop,” Larson says. “A couple walked by, saw the for sale sign and asked if they could go in.” Larson let the couple look at his photos and the couple called the agent, who came over and gave them a tour of the home. “They bought it,” Larson adds. Most sellers will need to post photos online and then schedule open houses, however.
Unconvinced at the power of photos? Take a look at Larson’s Hall of Shame Real Estate Photos. Would you consider touring one of those homes?
Negotiating an Offer
You’re in the home stretch here, and the closing should be in sight. “Concessions can be made at this point, but if you’ve priced your home correctly, that issue shouldn’t become that big of an issue,” says ForSaleByOwner.com’s Tyner, as you’ll already have a counteroffer strategy in place.
Closing the Deal
According Tyner, people fear the closing process and expect that the paperwork will be overwhelming. At this stage, you’ll be dealing with the buyer’s appraiser and inspector. That’s where one of the most important professionals on the checklist comes in: an experienced real estate attorney. Even those who use agents to sell their home need an attorney to finalize the paperwork – attorney fees just may be included in the closing costs.
“If you hire a good attorney, that fear goes away,” Tyner says. Typically, the fees are $500 or less. “That attorney will help you navigate the closing and keep you out of trouble. I think the attorney is the most underpaid person,” Tyner adds.
That’s it! As Tyner puts it: “It doesn’t require a Ph.D. or a license in real estate to navigate the by-owner selling process if you have the right resources.”