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How Do I Sell My House? Everything You Need to Know

November 02 2018
by Leisl Bailey

House with sold sign out front and family in background. Sell my house!

Selling your house quickly is one of the top priorities of home sellers today. Homeowners want to make the right decisions upfront to ensure the sale is as quick and profitable as possible. Because the market has changed and buyers have become more inquisitive and demanding, the way to sell your house has changed as well.

Luckily for you, we’ve got the checklist. Instead of frantically searching “How to sell my house,” check off these boxes to sell your home quickly for top dollar:

  1. Get ready to sell.
  2. Get a pre-sale inspection and appraisal.
  3. List your home.
  4. Hire for professional home photography and staging.
  5. Price your home.
  6. Market your home.
  7. Sell that house!

Ready to get selling? Let’s go.

1. Get ready to sell.

Even if you’re brand-new to the home selling game, no fear. While you might be saying, “I don’t know how to sell my house” now, at the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to go! The first steps in selling your house actually happen before you even meet an agent.

Yep, there are a few things that you do pre-sale, like tidy up and complete repairs. And there are a few things you can do while you are in the process of marketing your home. Here are the pre-sale things to tackle before putting up a sign saying “I’m selling my house!”

Declutter everything.

If you’re like most buyers and want to get the best price for your home, then you may be tempted to start off with one big home improvement project. Before you do, however, pump the breaks!

One of the biggest mistakes that sellers make is dumping their money on things that won’t bring them a return on their investment, says Brandon Hays, principal broker of Stellar Realty Northwest. “The first thing I mention [to sellers] is to de-clutter. It’s free and liberating at the same time. Seriously, the more you get rid of the better!”

So, what do you get rid of? Start with the personal items and work your way up. Get rid of clutter that accumulates on surfaces like the dining table, countertops, and the floors lining the walls. Remove knick-knacks off the shelves and pack away family photos.

Does decluttering seem a bit overwhelming? Then start small. If you know you’re going to sell your house in the spring, for example, why not start decluttering in January? Take a few minutes or a few hours each day and tackle one area at a time.

The first impression someone has of your house is the most important. If the house feels cluttered, chances are the buyer is going to feel overwhelmed and they may even question the condition the house itself is in, which can drop their opening offer price for your home.

Fix up inside and out.

Decluttering is the first step in getting your home ready to sell, but cleaning and repairs are a close second. Lingering smells and stains can dampen potential buyers first impression. Start with the interior and work your way out.

A hand painting walls white. Choose neutral paint to sell my house.

Interior Checklist

  • Check the floors. Consider replacing your carpet if it’s more than seven years old or if it has stains, and smoke or animal smells. There are few worse things than walking into what you hope to be your new home and have the smell of animal urine or cigarette smoke greet you. If you have hardwood floors that need resurfacing, get it done. New flooring goes a long way to make the space feel fresh and new.
  • Paint the walls. Neutral colors are always a good choice.
  • Clean up the details. Small tasks, like dusting any remaining furniture and cleaning the windows inside and out, really make the house feel taken care of.
  • Make any necessary repairs. Now is also the time to also fix anything that’s been on your to-do list for a while. The last thing a home buyer wants is to have a list of repairs that need their attention right after they move in.

Make sure you don’t go overboard with renovations, however. “The biggest mistake I typically see sellers make when they’re preparing to sell their house is dumping their money back into their house that won’t bring them a good ROI [return on investment],” Hays says. “A few examples that will give you a positive return are: interior and exterior paint, landscaping, flooring (carpet, resurfacing hardwoods), and a deep professional cleaning.”

Exterior Checklist

A 2012 Texas A&M survey found that curb appeal can up sales prices by 17%! Since the exterior is the first thing potential buyers will see, take some time to make it shine.

  • Declutter. Get rid of any garbage and put away toys and other items that may be cluttering the space.
  • Pay attention to ground cover. If you don’t have a lawn or nice looking ground cover, consider getting one.
  • Plant flowers. Adding a touch of green to your home makes the property feel natural and can be very attractive to buyers.

If you’re on a budget and want to sell your house quickly for a good price, Hays recommends a few must-dos:

Landscaping (make the curb appeal the best possible), deep-deep clean (make sure to get the animal smell out if you have one), remove debris from roof and gutters, and pressure wash the home and driveway if need be.

The best part? All of those are free with a little elbow grease from you.

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3. Get a pre-sale inspection and appraisal.

Some sellers choose to do a pre-sale inspection so they aren’t surprised with last-minute repairs on what was supposed to be their closing date. If you want to get an idea of any repairs that you’ll need to tackle before your list your house for sale, now’s the time.

Remember, if you get a pre-sale inspection, you will need to include it in your disclosure to the buyer. This could work out in your favor if the inspection comes back with excellent remarks as you can advertise that to the buyer.

As with the inspection, some sellers get a pre-sale appraisal to get an idea of how to price their home. This is especially helpful if you are selling your home FSBO, because the appraiser will do a lot of what your real estate agent will do to price your home.

Keep in mind that just because you already paid and completed a pre-sale appraisal and inspection doesn’t mean the buyer won’t complete their own. If the buyer gives you a cash offer, they may forgo the appraisal, but if they are using a loan, lenders always hire their own appraiser to make sure the value is in the house.

3. List your home.

Once you’re done prepping your home, it’s time to list. This is where you reach a fork in the road and ask yourself, “Should I use a real estate agent or sell my home myself?” Whichever direction you choose, we’ve got your checklist to match.

Choosing a Real Estate Agent

If you are going the real estate agent route, it’s time to find one. You’ll want to have a few questions lined up to make sure you are getting a local expert. Interview a few agents and choose them based on experience and their knowledge of the market.

You may find yourself wondering why you need to pay a 6% commission to both agents in order to sell your home. In that case, consider working with a flat-fee agent. Flat-fee agents from Clever provide all the benefits of working with a traditional agent—full services and years of expertise—but they’ll do it all at a low flat rate.

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Selling on Your Own

Making the choice to sell the home yourself requires quite a bit of planning, so decide now if that is what you want to do. If you do decide to your home yourself, now is the time to plan out how you are going to market your house. Are you going to list it on the MLS? If so, what service are you going to use?

If you aren’t going to list your home on the MLS, decide how you are going to get the word out about your house and consider offering a commission to a buyer’s agent. A buyer’s agent commission increases the likelihood that your house is seen by those who are working with a buyer’s agent.

At any point when selling FSBO, you can decide to work with a real estate agent. Although it is best to get them in before you list your house for sale, we understand that you might have budget restraints keeping you from using a professional. If you don’t really want to sell FSBO but don’t want to pay full price on commission, either, talk to a Clever Partner Agent. They are experts in your area who work for just 1% commission. (And you pay nothing until you close.)

4. Hire for professional home photography and staging.

Do you really have to pay for a professional photographer to take your house pictures? Often, sellers have their own camera and have taken a few photos before and really don’t want to pay money to have someone else do it.

This is the very same thinking that inspires those awkwardly posed family photos that hang on other DIYer’s walls. That is, to say, we do not recommend doing this.

Professional home photography and staging in a living room with chair, wood floor, and natural lighting.

Remember, these pictures have to sell your house. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, 51% of home buyers find their home online. That means if your photos don’t show your house in an appealing way, that 51% chance of finding a buyer online decreases significantly.

Along with a great photographer, you may want to consider hiring a stager. Staging your home can make it stand out from the pack—and it doesn’t have to be pricey. Today you can even get a virtual stager to stage some pictures for you online for under $100.

Invest in your home sale by hiring a professional photographer and stager. They’ll be able to take the pictures that your buyers will be hooked on.

5. Price your home.

This step is crucial. The price of your home is what will attract buyers who can afford the property, repel buyers who can’t, and will ultimately determine if you’ll close quickly.

To properly price your home, your real estate agent will take a look at your area’s data. They’ll compare homes that have sold recently that are similar to yours, and do the math to come up with what your house’s market value is.

Oftentimes, sellers will want to sell their house for more than what real estate agent recommends.

There’s a lot of greed in today’s market, Hays says. “I’ve had clients ask me to list it at 15% over the comps just because they thought it was worth it.”

He continues, “This is what it comes down to: Comps don’t lie. Data is data for a reason. You can track recent solds, pendings, and actives, and break them down to the dollar per square foot while knowing the proper range prices by distinguishing adjustments.”

But what if your real estate agent is wrong? Hays recommends taking a look at their data and if it doesn’t add up, don’t hesitate to challenge them.

If you’re selling your house FSBO, deciding on the right price for your home is up to you. You should complete your own comparative market analysis, but unless you’ve got experience in this area, you may be shooting in the dark. Your best bet is to hire someone who knows how to price your house well to come in and do it for you.

6. Market your home.

The amount of time you spend in this stage all depends on the prep work you put in before.

If you’ve cleaned up your space, got the professionals in on the photography, and set a great price, you shouldn’t have to wait long.

But if your home stays on the market for several weeks without a bite, you may want to re-evaluate your prep work.

During the marketing phase, your agent will hold open houses, show the house to interested buyers, and generally advertise the sale.

7. Sell that house!

Once you’ve found a buyer, gone through a second round of inspections and appraisals, and negotiated your price, you should be ready to go. After waiting the typical 30 days, you should get to close of escrow.

That means it’s time to turn over the keys. The deal is done. The house is sold.

You’re now one of the many people who can say, “I sold my house.” Congratulations!House keys with house keychain on them.

House Selling FAQ

Q: How long will it take to sell my house?

A: If you price it right and complete all the prep work, you can typically expect to get your house under contract within two to three months. The time to sell depends on the market, though. If it’s a seller’s market, you may sell your house much faster

Q: How much do I pay in closing costs to sell my house?

A: According to realtor.com, closing costs for the seller typically ranges between 1% and 3% for the seller, while the buyer pays anywhere between 1% and 7%.

Q: Do I need a real estate agent to sell my house?

A: It certainly helps. A good real estate agent is an expert in your specific market and knows exactly how to price and market your home for a great sale. You don’t have to use an expert, but if you don’t go with one, you run the risk of either not pricing and marketing your home as effectively as you would like, or needing to become the expert yourself (which is not an easy task!).

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Wondering how to sell your house? Work with a Clever Partner Agent. They not only provide you with the level of service you need to sell your house quickly for a profit, they’ll do it for a low flat rate. Call us today at 1-833-2-CLEVER or fill out our online form to get started.