Selling Overview

Odds are that if you’ve ever bought a house, you’re either going to need to sell one or you’ve already sold one. Just like buying real estate, selling it can be complicated. But you can remove a lot of the hassles and headaches by simply doing some early preparation work.

Research shows that more than 5 million homes are sold each year; every deal is unique. Prospective sellers might be daunted by the fact that selling a home isn’t as easy as it once was. New disclosure statements, environmental concerns and more complex form agreements have all entered the marketplace in the past decade.

Typically, selling your home should start several months before you make the property available. To start, look at your home through the eyes of a would-be buyer and then begin to work on things that need to be cleaned, painted, fixed or thrown away.

The goal is to show a home that looks good, roomy and creates as much demand among buyers as possible.

In real estate, timing can be everything, so keep in mind that there tend to be more buyers during the summer months because parents want to get settled and get their children enrolled in a school before the semester starts. It is also the time of year when more homes generally come onto the market.

The next step is to work to improve your home’s value, keeping in mind the general rule of thumb that buyers seek the least expensive home in the best neighborhood they can afford. Improvements should be made that showcase the property consistent with the appearance and preferences of the neighborhood.

Cosmetic improvements, such as paint and wallpaper, help a home’s appearance and are typically smart investments. While cosmetic improvements may help make a home more attractive to prospective buyers, ensuring that systems and appliances are in working order is imperative to fetch the best price possible for the home.

Most sellers work with a real estate agent to sell their home. An agent is an expert in the community who understands real estate trends, guards your interests and keeps you informed through each step of the process.

Finding a real estate agent can be as easy as using the Realtor.com search engine on the Internet, thumbing through the business listings in your phone book or soliciting recommendations from people you know and trust.

Whether you choose a real estate agent or not, you must set the price of your home. Consider several factors, including the law of supply and demand, and keep in mind the sale price isn’t everything; terms of the deal are equally important in any deal.

After you’ve established an asking price, it’s time to bring buyers to your doorstep. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including having an “open house,” where your real estate agent hosts prospective buyers at your home, answering questions, seeking feedback and providing literature about the home and showing its rooms.

The agent also will see that the home is listed in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and also on the Internet, which is emerging as a vital resource for buying and selling real estate.

Hopefully, once the house is on the market, potential buyers will start making offers. Weigh buyers’ offers against several factors: how near it is to the asking price, what are the alternatives to the offer, can you afford to wait for other offers, what if no other offers are received and what if several other offers are received.

The seller has three options on any offer: accept it; reject it; or provide a counter-offer. The counter-offer is nothing but a new offer, generally looking to strike a compromise between what the buyer wants and the seller needs.

If the offer (or one of the ensuing counter-offers) is accepted, it’s time to close the deal. A closing shouldn’t take place too quickly because there are other steps to take care of (such as a home inspection) or too late (because mortgage rates can fluctuate). At close, basically money is transferred from the buyer to the seller and the title is recorded in local records along with any mortgage liens.

Once the paperwork is completed, it’s time to move out of the way and let the new owners move in.

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