As an alternative to working with an experienced real estate agent,
you might consider selling your home yourself; however, if you choose
this option, be prepared for a lot of work! It can and has been done,
of course, but if you don't have the time and energy to commit to it
(or need to sell in a hurry), this option might not be for you.
If selling your home on your own sounds like too much work, you might
want to consider assist-to-sell programs, which most agents offer and
can include yard signs, a marketing strategy and flyers at a very
reasonable cost to you. Nine out of ten times, most do not have the
time or the resources that a real estate agent may have, so it is best
to use someone that is fully committed to selling your property, has
access to a wide variety of resources and is focused on getting the
highest price possible for the sale of your property.
Whether you choose to use a real estate agent or not,
you still need to do your homework! The following is a checklist to
help walk you through the process:
Know your property. If you are not already, become
familiar with such facts about your property as property taxes, zoning,
lot size, square footage, etc. Look at the terms of your existing loan.
Research the current market and property laws in your area.How much are properties similar to yours selling for? What are the
terms of the sales? What property disclosure laws do you need to take
Set the price. Once you know the specifics about your
home and have checked out what similar properties in your area are
selling for, set a realistic price.
Determine financing alternatives. Contact lenders in
your area to determine what the options are for your prospective buyer.
You want to be informed before they ask, or your lack of knowledge may
turn them off from dealing with you.
Perform a "walk-through" of your property. Look at it
from the perspective of both the prospective buyer and the inspector.
Take notes on all items that need to be repaired or replaced. Things to
- From the street, is the house appealing? This is called "curb appeal".
- Does it need a new coat of paint (either because the old paint
is obviously cracked or faded, or because of an uncommon choice in
color that might turn off prospective buyers)?
- If a house with a yard, is the lawn and landscaping attractive and well-kept?
- If it is a condo, you can't do much about the building, but is the front door (and balcony, if there is one) appealing?
- Are the windows and doors attractive and in good condition?
- Are the roof (and the gutters) in good condition?
- Is the grass nicely cut, are the hedges trimmed, are the leaves swept up? Are all toys put away such as bikes, scooters, etc.?
- Are the interior paints and finishes in good condition
(recently updated), or do they need to be freshened up? This is one
area with the best ratio of least expensive to most desired. For a
minimal investment, you could possibly make or break a sale by having
your home look well-kept and inviting.
- Are the appliances in good working order and of recent vintage?
- Are the plumbing and electrical systems in good condition? Are they fully functional?
- Are the carpets or other floor coverings clean and in good
condition? Like the paint, are they attractive and well-kept? Floor
coverings are worth paying for so that your home makes a good
- Are the sealants (sink, shower, tub, windows) in good condition?
- Are all light fixtures working properly, and is there good
lighting in each room so that prospective buyers won't think you're
**Make all repairs noted in your inspection.
Know your neighborhood. Most prospective buyers will
want to know about the local schools, shopping, parks, transportation,
etc. Be prepared so you can knowledgeably answer their questions.
Establish a marketing budget. How much are you willing to spend to sell your house?
Investigate the real estate sections of local newspapers and other publications.
- Real estate commission if you use an agency to sell.
- Advertising costs, signs, other fees if you plan to sell by owner.
- Attorney, closing agent and other professional fees.
- Excise tax for the sale.
- Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, home owner association fees, and fuel tank rentals.
- Any other fees typically paid by the seller in your area (surveys, inspections, etc.).
- Real estate agents deal with transactions every day and can give you a very close estimate of seller closing costs.
What will get you the most "bang for your buck?" Are there "throwaway"
(i.e., free) real estate publications in your area that accept ads from
individual sellers? In the local paper(s), is it better (in your area)
to run a text-only classified, or do they have "photo boxes" where you
can run both text and a photo of your property?
Don't forget the Internet. As you have probably
noticed from the website you have found this article on, most agents
have their own website, which includes their clients' listings as well
as the entire MLS search. If you work with an agent, your property will
most likely be placed on their web site (if they have one) and on the
full MLS search as part of the services they will offer you. If the
real estate agent's website you are currently viewing does not service
your area, log onto www.agentwebpros.com to find an agent who will be able to list your property on their website.
In addition, some newspapers automatically (or for an extra fee) offer
Internet advertising tied in to their traditional print ads. Learn the
rates and deadlines for each publication, then decide which one (or
more) is best for you and your market.
Establish a marketing plan. Now that you know what
advertising will cost, create a plan on how to best (within your
budget) reach prospective buyers, both local and out-of-town. Since
many people do relocate from a distance, be sure to include Internet
advertising in your plan. If your town is large enough, the "local"
newspaper might have a national edition that you want to place your ad
in, at least periodically.
Write the text and/or design your ad. At the very
least, you will need a well-written few sentences that will run as a
classified ad or a photo box ad. In addition, you might decide to run a
larger, custom-designed ad in the paper and/or to use as flyers to hand
out at open houses (or anywhere else you might meet prospective
buyers). Don't skimp on this. A professional, well-crafted ad can
attract buyers while a poorly designed and executed one can turn buyers
off to your property. Even if you do not have full service agent
representation, you may consider assist-to-sell, which some agents
offer at a lower price.
Clear your schedule. Make arrangements so that you
have free time to schedule appointments at the prospective buyer's
convenience, as well as for any "open houses" that you hold. If you are
working with an agent, he or she will take care of showings and open
houses on your behalf. It is best to allow your agent to show your home
on their own so that the prospective buyer does not feel uncomfortable
Purchase and install a "for sale" sign. This should be
well-designed, attractive and weatherproof. The sign must be placed
where it can clearly be seen from the street. If you are working with
an agent, he or she will most likely provide the sign to you.
Prepare a fact sheet. Design a single sheet
description of your property listing the features and benefits that
will draw in prospective buyers. This should be attractive and
professional looking. Have enough copies on hand to give out at open
house showings. Again, if you are working with an agent, he or she will
most likely do this on your behalf.
Purchase "open house" signs. Make sure that they
include a place to write the address of your property and the date/time
of the open house. In addition to one for the front yard, you'll want
to place several in conspicuous locations around the neighborhood, such
as main streets leading to your house. For these, directional arrows
can point prospective buyers to your house even if they don't know the
area. Make sure that you take these signs down as soon as the open
house is over. You don't want people showing up on your doorstep at all
hours of the day and night.
Set up a schedule of open houses. While most are held
on the weekend, this is not convenient for all buyers. Make sure that
you coordinate your print advertising to include information about your
next open house.
Keep a list of prospective buyers. As people come
through during open houses, or as they call from reading your ads or
seeing the sign out front, keep a list with their names and phone
numbers. Concentrate your attention on those who seem serious about
your property, as opposed to those who are just checking out the
neighborhood or whiling away a Sunday afternoon. Make sure that you
make follow up telephone calls to all those who seem seriously
interested in your property.
Once you have an offer, it's time to negotiate. Leave
your emotions behind when you enter negotiations. You never want to get
angry or give away the fact that you're overly eager.
Get your forms in order. A number of forms are
required for the legal sale of your property. In addition to the
contract of purchase and any counteroffers, there are approximately 20
other forms that the seller is required to provide to the buyer. It is
necessary to review the contract carefully to determine when these
forms/documents are due and what the buyer's rights are once they
receive the document. The form and content of many of these documents
are prescribed by state or federal law and must be adhered to in their
entirety. The proper forms may be obtained from your local Board of
Realtors or from your real estate agent who is representing you.
Negotiate final terms of the sale. Buyer(s) need to come to an agreement (in writing) regarding the following:
- Inspection contingencies
- Financing terms
- Date of closing
- Date of possession
- It would be prudent for you to have an attorney review any and all contracts before the deal is finalized
When both the buyer(s) and a
witness can be present, schedule a final walk-through before you
complete settlement in order to determine that the property being
conveyed meets the expectations of all parties involved. Resolve any
disputes before the transfer of title.
Find and make arrangements for the home you will be moving to.Unless you have already built or bought a new residence, you'll need to
be the "buyer" for a new property while simultaneously being the
"seller" for your current one. If possible, schedule both transactions
to close at the same time, or else close your purchase shortly before
closing your sale. You need to be moved out before the new owners take
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