Rather than working with a real estate professional, you may consider selling your home on your own; however, if you decide to take this route, be ready 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 are trying to sell in a hurry), this route may not be the best for you.
If selling your home on your own sounds too stressful, you should consider assist-to-sell programs, which many real estate agents offer. These programs can include common selling tactics such as yard signs, a marketing strategy and flyers at a reasonable cost. Ninety percent of sellers do not have the time or the resources that a real estate agent may have, so it is in your best interest to use someone who is fully committed to selling your property, has access to a variety of resources and most importantly is motivated on getting the highest price possible for the sale of your property.
Regardless of your decision to use a real estate agent or not, you still need to do your homework! The following is a checklist to assist you through the selling process:
Know your property. Ensure you are familiar with all aspects of your property so you are ready for any questions from potential buyers. Familiarize yourself with the terms of your existing loan, property taxes, zoning, lot size, square footage, etc.
Study the current market and property regulations in your area. Find out how much properties similar to yours are selling for and what are the terms of the sales? What property disclosure laws do you need to consider?
Set the price. Once you know more details about your property and have looked into what similar properties in your area are selling for, set an accurate price accordingly.
Determine financing alternatives. Get in touch with lenders in your area to determine what options your prospective buyer has. You want to ensure you are informed before they ask any questions, or your lack of knowledge may lose you a sale.
Do a complete “walk-through” of your property. Look at your property from the viewpoint of both the prospective buyer and the inspector. Be attentive and take notes on items that require repair or replacement. Things to consider the following:
- Is the property appealing from the street? This is called “curb appeal”.
- Does the property need a new coat of paint (due to paint being obviously cracked or faded, or due to an uncommon choice in color that may turn away prospective buyers)?
- If your property is a house with a yard, is the lawn and landscaping attractive and in good condition?
- If your property is a condo, you don’t have much control over the building, but is the front door (and balcony, if applicable) likeable?
- Are the windows and doors appealing and in good condition?
- Is the roof (and gutters) in good condition?
- Is the grass cut, are the hedges trimmed, and are the leaves raked? Are all toys such as bikes, scooters, etc. put away?
- Are the interior paints and finishes in good condition, or do they need to be redone? This is something that can easily be done with little cost and result in a more desirable property. With a small investment, you could possibly make or break a sale by having your property look well-kept and welcoming.
- Are the appliances in good working condition? Are the appliances fairly new?
- Are the plumbing and electrical systems in good condition? Are they fully functional?
- Are the carpets or other flooring clean and in good condition? For example, is the paint attractive and clean? Floor coverings are worth the cost so that your home makes a good impression on your prospective buyers.
- Are the sealants (sink, shower, tub, windows) in good condition?
- Are all light fixtures working properly? Is there good lighting in each room?
**Make all repairs noted in your inspection.
Familiarize yourself with your neighborhood. Most prospective buyers will want to know about the local schools, shopping, parks, transportation, etc. Be ready so you can answer their questions.
Create a marketing budget. How much are you willing to spend on the following to sell your house?
- Real estate commission
- Advertising costs, signs, and other fees
- 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 (surveys, inspections, etc.).
- Real estate agents work with transactions every day and can give you an accurate estimate of seller closing costs.
Research the real estate pages of local newspapers and other publications. What will get you the most “bang for your buck?” Are there free real estate publications in your area that accept ads from individual sellers? Do they include “photo boxes” where you can have both text and a photo of your property?
Use the Internet. Most real estate agents have their own website, which shows their clients’ listings along with the entire MLS search. If you work with a real estate agent, your property will most likely be featured on their website and on the full MLS search included in the services they will provide. If the real estate agent’s website you view does not service your area, visit www.agentwebpros.com to find a real estate agent who does.
Furthermore, some newspapers offer Internet advertising along with their traditional print ads. Familiarize yourself with the rates and deadlines for each publication, and then decide which one is more suitable for you and your market.
Create a marketing strategy. Create a plan on how to best reach prospective buyers, both near and far. Since many people relocate from a distance, make sure you include Internet advertising in your plan. If your town is large enough, the local newspaper may have a national edition that you could place your ad in.
Write the text and/or design your ad. You will need a few sentences that will run as a classified or a photo box ad. Also, you may choose to run a larger, custom-designed ad in the paper and/or to use as flyers to pass out at open houses. Don’t hold back on on this. A professional, well-written ad can attract buyers while a poorly designed one can turn buyers away from your property. Even if you do not have full service agent representing you, you may consider assist-to-sell programs, which some agents offer at a lower price.
Make yourself available. Make preparations 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 a real estate agent, they will take care of showings and open houses for you. It is best to allow your real estate agent to show your home on their own so that the prospective buyer does not feel uncomfortable or pressured.
Buy a “For Sale” sign. This sign should be well-designed, eye-catching and weatherproof. The sign should be placed where it can be visible from the street. If you are working with a real estate agent, they will provide the sign to you.
Create a fact sheet. Create a one-page description of your property listing all the features and positive aspects of the property that will attract prospective buyers. This should be attractive and look professional. Have enough copies to pass out at open house showing. If you are working with a real estate agent, they will do this on your behalf.
Buy “Open House” signs. Ensure they include an area for the address of your property and the date/time of the open house. Along with the one for the front yard, you should place several in noticeable locations around the neighborhood, including main streets leading to your house. For these, directional arrows can point prospective buyers in the right direction towards your house. Remember to take these signs down as soon as the open house is over to avoid people coming to your house afterwards.
Set up a schedule of open houses. While most open houses are held on the weekend, this is not convenient for all buyers. Ensure that your advertising includes information about your next open house.
Keep note of prospective buyers. As people come to 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. Focus your attention on those who seem serious about your property, as opposed to those who are just checking out the neighborhood. Make sure that you make follow up calls to all those who show interest in your property.
Once you have an offer, be ready to negotiate. Leave your emotions behind when you enter negotiations. You never want to get upset or give off the vibe that you’re overly eager to sell.
Prepare your forms. Many forms are required for the legal sale of your property. In addition to the contract of purchase and any counteroffers, there are roughly 20 other forms that the seller is required to provide to the buyer. It is essential 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 these documents are prearranged 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) about the following:
- Inspection contingencies
- Financing terms
- Date of closing
- Date of possession
- It would be wise to have an attorney review all contracts before the deal is finalized
Schedule a final walk-through. When the buyer(s) and a witness can be present, schedule a final walk-through of the property to determine that the property meets the expectations of all parties involved. Resolve any disputes before the transfer of title.
Make arrangements for the home you will be moving to. Unless you have already built or bought a new residence, you will need to be the “buyer” for a new property while being the “seller” for your current one at the same time. If possible, schedule both transactions to close at the same time, or close your purchase shortly before closing your sale. You need to be moved out before the new owners take possession.