Nine Steps to Selling Your Home

1. Define Your Needs

Write down all the reasons for selling your home. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to sell and what do I expect to accomplish with the sale?” For example, a growing family may prompt your need for a larger home, or a job opportunity in another city may necessitate a move. For your goals, write down if you’d like to sell your house within a certain time frame or make a particular profit margin. Work with your real estate agent to map out the best path to achieve your objectives and set a realistic time frame for the sale.

2. Name Your Price

Your next objective should be to determine the best possible selling price for your house. Setting a fair asking price from the outset will generate the most activity from other real estate agents and buyers. You will need to take into account the condition of your home, what comparable homes in your neighborhood are selling for, and state of the overall market in your area. It’s often difficult to remain unbiased when putting a price on your home, so your real estate agent’s expertise is invaluable at this step. Your agent will know what comparable homes are selling for in your neighborhood and the average time those homes are sitting on the market. If you want a truly objective opinion about the price of your home, you could have an appraisal done. This typically costs a few hundred dollars. Remember: You’re always better off setting a fair market value price than setting your price too high. Studies show that homes priced higher than 3 percent of their market value take longer to sell. If your home sits on the market for too long, potential buyers may think there is something wrong with the property. Often, when this happens, the seller has to drop the price below market value to compete with newer, reasonably priced listings.

As you set the price for your home, your real estate agent will explain and ask you to sign several documents before he/she can put your house on the market. These documents include Working with Real Estate Agents, the Exclusive Right to Sell, Listing Agreement, Residential Property and Owner’s Association Disclosure and the Mineral and Oil and Gas Rights Mandatory Disclosure Statement. Other documents may be necessary depending on your situation. At this point, you may also want to consider the purchase of a home warranty. A home warranty gives potential buyers some peace of mind and will provide you, the seller, with coverage for those unexpected repairs. The home warranty will be paid for at closing, so no up-front costs to you.

3. Prepare Your Home

Most of us don’t keep our homes in “showroom” condition. We tend to overlook piles of boxes in the garage, broken porch lights, and doors or windows that stick. It’s time to break out of that owner’s mindset and get your house in tip-top shape. The condition of your home will affect how quickly it sells and the price the buyer is willing to offer. First impressions are the most important. Your real estate agent can help you take a fresh look at your home and suggest ways to stage it and make it more appealing to buyers.

4. Get the Word Out

Now that you’re ready to sell, your real estate agent will set up a marketing strategy specifically for your home. There are many ways to get the word out, including;
  • Internet
  • Yard signs
  • Open houses
  • Media advertisement
  • Agent-to-agent referrals
  • direct mail marketing campaigns

In addition to listing your home on the MLS, your agent will use a combination of these tactics to bring the most qualified buyers to your home. Your agent should structure the marketing plan so that the first three to six weeks are the busiest.

5. Receive an offer

When you receive a written offer from a potential buyer, your real estate agent will first find out whether or not the individual is prequalified or preapproved to buy your home. If so, then you and your agent will review the proposed contract, taking care to understand what is required of both parties to execute the transaction. The contract, though not limited to this list, should include the following:
  • Legal description of the property
  • Offer price
  • Due diligence money
  • Due diligence end date
  • Initial and additional earnest money deposits and dates for the deposits
  • Financing arrangements of buyer
  • List of fees and closing costs and who will pay them
  • Method of conveying the title
  • Closing Attorney
  • Appliances and furnishings that will stay with the home
  • Settlement date
  • Contingencies

At this point, you have three options – 1) accept the contract as is,
2) reject the contract and make a counter offer, or 3) reject the offer. Once both parties have signed a written offer, the document becomes legally binding. If you have any questions or concerns, be certain to address them with your real estate agent right away.

6. Negotiate to Sell

Most offers to purchase your home will require some negotiating to come to a win-win agreement. Your real estate agent is well versed on the intricacies of the contracts used in your area and will protect your best interest throughout the bargaining. Your agent also knows what each contract clause means, what you will net from the sale and what areas are easiest to negotiate. Some negotiable items: 1) Price, 2) Financing, 3) Closing costs, 4) Appliances and fixtures, 5) Due diligence money and due diligence end date, 6) Amount of earnest money and when paid, 7) Settlement date, and 7) Move-in date. Once both parties have agreed on the terms of the sale, your agent will prepare the revised North Carolina Offer to Purchase and Contract for both parties to sign.

7. Due Diligence Period

The due diligence period and associated fee are negotiable items in the North Carolina Offer to Purchase and Contract. The due diligence fee is paid directly to the seller and is compensation to the seller for removing his property from the market for a specific period of time to allow the buyer the opportunity to inspect the property. The buyer can choose to have a variety of inspections performed on the seller’s property, typically at the buyer’s expense unless negotiated in the contract. Typical inspections include: 1) home inspection, 2) wood destroying pest inspection, 3) well and septic inspection, if applicable, 4) structural inspection, 5) HVAC inspection, 6) roof inspection, 7) survey, 8) appraisal, and 9) other buyer desired inspections. Your real estate agent can spearhead the effort and serve as your advocate when dealing with the buyer’s agent and service providers.

During the due diligence period, the buyer can walk away from the contract for any or no reason. If the buyer terminates the contract, the seller keeps the due diligence fee but the buyer gets his earnest money back. If the buyer wants to still purchase the home, but there are some needed home repairs, the buyer’s agent will prepare a repair request and submit it to your agent before the end of the due diligence period. You and your agent will discuss what repairs you are willing to make and your agent will negotiate the repairs with the buyer’s agent. If the seller and buyer agree on the repairs, then they will both sign the revised Due Diligence Repair Request and Agreement. It then becomes part of the Contract.

8. Prepare to Close

Once the due diligence period is over, you and your buyer are on your way to closing the deal. You should make a “to do” list for turning the property over to the new owners. Here is a checklist to get you started:
  • Gather owner’s manuals and warranties for all conveying appliances.
  • Plan how and when you are going to move your belongs off the property to your new home.
  • Don’t neglect maintenance on the property, e.g., cutting the lawn.
  • Make arrangements to clean the house or have it cleaned.
  • Cancel electricity, gas, lawn care, water and sewer, cable and other routine services. The services necessary to run the systems and appliances should be maintained in the seller’s name through the day of closing.
  • If the new owner is retaining any of the services, change the name on the account.
The buyers and their agent will do a walk-through of the house either the day of closing or the day before closing. All appliances and systems must be in working order so as to not delay closing. During the period between the due diligence end date and settlement, the closing attorney will perform a title search to identify all the liens on the property and prepare the deed for you to sign. The closing attorney will also work with the buyer’s lender to assure that the funds are in place to complete the transaction.

9. Close the Deal

Several days before the settlement date, the attorney will provide
you and the buyer with a preliminary settlement statement for your review. You and your agent should review the settlement statement carefully. If you choose to attend settlement, the closing attorney will review the final settlement statement with you and you will sign the deed and the settlement statement. After the buyer’s complete their portion of the settlement procedure with the attorney, the attorney will do a final title search to make sure no additional liens have been filed against the property. The attorney will then file the deed with the appropriate county registrar of deeds. After the deed is filed, the buyer officially owns the property. The attorney will then disburse the settlement funds to the appropriate individuals to complete the transaction.