Step 1Consider Timing

Kayaking in Seattle

Before committing outright to selling your home, it’s important to consider the timing related to your personal circumstances as well as a few other general factors. If you are changing jobs or planning to buy a home, for example, you’ll want to time the sale of your current home appropriately. If you have not built enough equity to owe less than the value of your home and/or you cannot afford the costs of selling (repairs, staging, etc.), you may want to rent it out for a period of time with help from a property manager. Otherwise, plan on the process to take a minimum of several months in total. In the Puget Sound area, people often chose to move in the summer months when schools are out-of-session and warm weather makes inspections and viewings easier. As such, you’ll want to begin the process in the spring to be ready for summer showings.

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Step 2Connect With An Agent

Agent and clients

Although it’s possible to sell your home independently using a variety of online tools, hiring an agent both eases the process and benefits you financially. Today, the vast majority of sellers contract with a real estate sellers agent, who will advise you on the most important decisions using market expertise gained from years of experience that cannot be replicated with just a few weeks of self-education. In addition, agents maintain access to a network of real estate professionals, such as fellow agents who can refer qualified buyers. To begin the process, your agent will help you set a target date by which to have your home ready to take to market. After pre-inspection, repairs, and an appraisal take place, your agent will help you to determine an asking price. Once offers begin to arrive, agents use negotiation skills that will almost always benefit you in the form of a higher sale price. Using familiarity with regulations and knowledge of legal documents and language, your agent will assist you to review and negotiate contracts, ensuring that you are protected as you proceed through closing.

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Step 3Pre-Inspection

Home inspection report

You may wonder why it would be necessary to pay for a pre-inspection given that the buyer will also conduct a professional inspection later in the process, but there are several good reasons. A home inspector will discover any issues with your home’s appliances; plumbing; electrical, gas, heating, and cooling systems; and structural components such as roofing and foundation. By staying ahead of the curve, you will buy time to fix any issues before advertising and ensure that your asking price accurately reflects information from the inspection report. Conducting a pre-inspection demonstrates good faith and a willingness to go the extra mile, which will attract qualified buyers who feel confident to submit an offer.

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Step 4Repairs

Tools

Whether or not the home inspection suggests the need for any major repairs, you’ll want to do minor repairs and improvements throughout your home to impress potential buyers and make it feel more welcoming. Homes that are move-in ready often command a higher price as it allows for new buyers to avoid prolonged disruption to their normal routine. Replace small features such as old light fixtures, kitchen cabinet hardware, and shower curtains without overspending as your buyer may replace the items. You’ll also want to replace worn/stained carpets or substitute with a hard surface, such as wood or laminate. Look for opportunities to add a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint throughout your home, especially in rooms with old wallpaper or walls with nail holes. Be sure to check that all of your faucets are working properly and check your light switches to avoid any embarrassing moments during a showing. Outside, you can improve your curb appeal and impress potential buyers with a painted front door, pressure-washed deck, and weeded yard. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, hire a handyman or general contractor.

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Step 5Appraisal

Writing on clipboard

Once repairs are completed, you’ll want to have your home deep-cleaned professionally before hiring a certified residential appraiser to assess the value of your home. Relying upon the property tax assessment, in contrast, can be problematic given that it may be out-of-date and not reflective of the current real estate market. Additionally, unless the buyer is making a cash offer, the buyer’s financier will require an appraisal of the home by a third party before closing day to validate that your home is valued as high as the agreed-upon sale price. By having an appraisal done before setting the asking price, you can avoid a situation in which the deal falls through as a result of the lender’s appraisal coming in lower than the sale price. Your certified appraiser will take measurements, notes and photos regarding the size of the home, zoning, lot size, location, condition, amenities, construction details, and any needed repairs or upgrades. The appraisal expert will combine this information with comparable sales in the neighborhood and the state of the local housing market to provide you with a written report that will assist you and your agent in the next step.

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Step 6Listing Price

Overhead view suburbia

It should be no surprise that price is the bottom-line for most buyers. Given the local and national trend for a small volume of homes on the market, however, you’ll want to price your home on the higher side with an eye to the potential for going too high and causing an unnecessary delay. To avoid a delay, you’ll want to rely on your agent, who will use the report from the appraiser in conjunction with their own comparative market analysis (CMA). The CMA will compile data based on active, sold, and expired listings of homes in your neighborhood with similar characteristics such as the age, amenities, square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms, and architectural style. Sold listings will inform your agent as to what was actually paid for homes while expired listings indicate which ones were overpriced. Unless your home is in a subdivision with near identical characteristics, no comp is perfect. For that reason, having a local agent who can interpret the data used in the CMA will prove useful in settling on a listing price.

The CMA Explained

Step 7Staging

Living room

To prepare your home for visits from potential buyers, it’s critical to keep in mind the essential goal of encouraging homebuyers to envision themselves living in your home. In many cases, this is best achieved by hiring a professional staging company who will view your home from a buyer’s perspective and make adjustments accordingly. Whether your hire a professional or handle the staging yourself, the first thing you’ll want to do is declutter your home. Remove as many personal items and photos as possible so that you won’t risk distracting potential buyers from imagining their possessions in the home. Given the value currently placed on storage space, it’s best not to move items into closets. Instead, move items into temporary storage units that can be delivered directly to your new living location. With space again in mind, furniture should be limited to make rooms appear larger while remaining functional. Furniture and decor left in rooms should be as nondescript as possible to avoid distracting potential buyers from imagining their style of décor in the space. Next, be sure to maintain the cleanliness established by the professional deep clean from step five. A spotless home will make potential buyers feel comfortable and convey the impression that you have taken excellent care of the home throughout your tenure there. Pay attention to the structure’s exterior condition and yard as well to increase curb appeal and avoid turning off any potential buyers.

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Step 8Marketing

Kitchen

The first step in marketing your home should be to obtain professionally done photographs as the vast majority of potential buyers will initially view your home online. Your agent will likely have a photographer with whom they are accustomed to working who can bring out the best in your home with professional lighting, camera, and editing equipment. In today’s world, it’s also prudent to ask your agent about options for both video and real-time virtual tours. Your agent will launch a campaign via real estate websites, social media, emails, and word-of-mouth marketing. With an effective marketing campaign, you should expect only serious potential buyers to schedule a showing, thereby limiting the time and energy commitment you’ll spend showing your home. You can, however, contribute by letting people in your social and professional networks know about your listing. Consult with your agent regarding your home’s most attractive selling points to formulate an elevator pitch.

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Step 9Showing

Chair and plants

It will be up to you and your agent to decide if they will attend showings. Whereas it can be helpful to have someone who can answer complicated questions the potential buyer may have, having the agent there can make some potential buyers feel less comfortable. Regardless, you’ll want to do everything you can to make the potential buyers feel welcome. Try to be flexible in scheduling a convenient time for them and, if you can’t be there at the requested time, ask a friend, family member or neighbor to show the home for you. Prior to the potential buyers’ arrival, open windows and open blinds to let in as much fresh air and natural light as possible. Ensure the temperature is pleasant and don’t forget to tidy up, paying extra attention to bathrooms and kitchens. Replace used towels, vacuum, wipe down counters, and put away dishes. During the showing, be polite and positive. You can ask the potential buyers about their interests and tailor the conversation accordingly. Without rushing, show the potential buyers around your home and property. Answer any questions to the best of your ability and exchange contact information if they’d like to follow-up on anything that you weren’t able to answer.

Step 10Closing

Couple shake hands with agent

When a potential buyer makes an offer, be prepared for a negotiation period during which you and your agent will work to close the deal. Don’t be concerned if the initial offer is lower than expected as you can negotiate upwards with one or more counter offers. Closing day typically is scheduled one-to-two months after finalization of the sale agreement, during which time any money paid up front will be held in escrow. A title insurance check will occur to make sure you’re the legal owner and no liens exist. You’ll want to get started as soon as possible on any contingency repairs negotiated into the deal to avoid experiencing any unforeseen delays that could end costing you on closing day. During this time, you’ll typically need to make the home available for a home inspection and professional appraisal on behalf of the buyer’s lender. In addition, typically twenty-four hours before closing day, the buyer and their agent will conduct a walk-through to confirm that any agreed-upon repairs in the sale contract were completed. On closing day itself, expect a long day of reviewing and signing documents with the guidance of your agent. Closing costs – split between you and the buyer – are typically deducted from your profit on the sale. Finally, shut down your water and electrical systems, close subscription accounts, and arrange for the handover of keys and other essential items.