Selling a home is a major financial transaction that can come with a lot of uncertainty. From listing prices to offers, negotiations, and beyond, the more you know about how to sell a home, the better off you’ll be when it’s time to put your house on the market.
To help you avoid mistakes that could limit good offers or cause a deal to fall through, here is a practical, step-by-step guide to selling a home. It breaks the home selling process down into 15 steps, making it easier to navigate and prepare for every stage.
How to Get Started Selling Your Home: 5 Steps
The first steps to selling a new home are all about planning. You need to get your house ready, and you need to have a clear idea of how to market it to prospective buyers. In fact, these initial steps can be some of the most critical to selling a house. That’s because they can set the stage for how appealing your listing may be—and how fast your home sells or how long it ends up sitting on the market.
1. Make the necessary repairs and updates.
Be strategic here. Focus your time, energy, and funds on the upgrades and repairs that are absolutely necessary. In general, problems that will come up on a home inspection report and/or that would devalue your home should be fixed. That can include things like roof problems, foundation issues, broken HVAC systems, and plumbing problems.
Pre-listing inspections can help you identify any major issues to repair before you list your home. An experienced Realtor® can also help you figure out what types of upgrades can be more appealing to buyers.
2. Clean up.
Do a thorough, deep cleaning of your house, inside and out. Consider hiring landscapers and/or a professional cleaning service if you’re under a time crunch. Also, think about how you will maintain a clean, ready-to-show home once it goes on the market. You may want to have landscapers and/or professional maids visit your home routinely to keep it looking its best at all times.
3. Stage your home.
Make it easy for buyers to “see” themselves in your home—and fall in love with its best features—by staging it properly. From the décor to the furniture layout, the right staging can go a long way towards presenting your house in the best light possible to prospective buyers.
Some important things to do as you stage your home include:
- Removing clutter and personal items, like pictures
- Arranging furniture in a way that optimizes flow and a room’s space
- Use of the proper lighting, like layered lighting options or effective use of natural light
- Smart decorative touches, like mirrors to open up smaller spaces or art to create more warmth
4. Set your asking price.
This can be one of the most important decisions you make when it’s time to sell your home. List it too high, and you could drive away buyers; list it too low, and you could be leaving money on the table.
To figure out the listing price, you will need to look at recent sale prices for comparable homes in your area. This is another key area where a Realtor® can be incredibly helpful. A pro can do the research for you, factoring in the unique features of your property, and give you key insight into the market and the ideal price range for your home.
5. Decide how and when to show your home.
Will you host open houses? Will you offer showings by appointment? What about video tours of your home? These are just some of the questions you need to answer as you’re listing your home. You also need to think about:
- When to start showing your home: Deferred showings (putting up the listing and then waiting at least a few days to show your home) can generate wider interest. So, carefully consider when you want to have your first showings after putting your home on the market.
- Whether you want to be at the showings: Buyers can feel uncomfortable in the presence of sellers when they’re looking at a home. So, consider whether it may be better to have an agent show your home.
How to Review & Negotiate Offers: 5 Tips
Receiving offers on your home is exciting! It can also bring new stress and challenges when it’s time to consider the details of each offer. As you evaluate buyers’ offers, here are some helpful tips to make the process easier.
6. Ask about mortgage pre-approvals upfront.
Buyer financing can be one of the biggest hold-ups in the sale of a house. It’s also a key reason why so many home purchase deals fall through and houses go back up on the market.
So, as you evaluate offers, be sure to ask buyers whether they are prequalified for a mortgage. Ideally, look for buyers who have pre-approvals in hand from a local mortgage company. If you do, the next steps in the home selling process can go much more smoothly.
7. Don’t automatically dismiss your first offer.
No matter when your first offer rolls in, don’t treat it as a “test” and don’t automatically rule it out simply because you want to see what other offers you can get. In fact, first offers can be ideal for some sellers when they come at the right time and/or they involve cash.
Also, don’t forget to consider the market and your potential buyers. If you are competing to sell your home in a buyer’s market—or if your home is at a higher price point that fewer buyers can afford—a first offer can be the only one you may be getting for a while. So, take it seriously.
8. Look at more than just the price offered.
What are your priorities for the sale, beyond just getting your asking price? Do you need to relocate by a certain date? Do you need to stay in the home after closing? Are you willing (or not) to make any necessary repairs to the home?
Having a clear idea of your bottom-line price point and your deal-breaking terms will help you decide which are the best ones. As you look at prices and terms in the offers, be sure to carefully go over the buyers’ contingencies for the purchase. While some contingencies (like hinging the purchase on the appraisal value of the home) are common, others may be far too vague and potentially cause problems during the closing process.
Reviewing offers with an experienced Realtor® can help you identify the best ones to consider countering or accepting—and the ones you shouldn’t waste your time on.
9. Carefully craft your counter-offer(s).
If you receive an offer that comes close but misses the mark, craft your counteroffer. Typically, sellers’ counter-offers will take issue with one or more of the following matters:
- The price point: Often the focal point of offers and negotiations, the sale price a buyer proposes can fall short. When it does, you can either counter with the original asking price, signaling an unwillingness to move off of that amount, or you can counter with a price between the asking price and the buyer’s offer, indicating that you are open to negotiating the price.
- The closing costs: Either party may pay these costs, or both parties may decide to split them. If you’re eager to complete the sale, you may want to offer to pay some of these costs. If it’s a sellers’ market and you have several buyers submitting competing offers, you can have more leverage to ask that the buyer pay these costs.
- The timing of the sale: How long or short do you need escrow to be? If you need the timing of the sale to align with your other plans (like moving), include these details in your counteroffer.
10. Be ready for escrow when you accept an offer.
Once you have finalized the price and terms of the sale, it’s time to sign the contract and make it official! In general, it’s best to have the buyer sign the contract first to lock in the offer.
After the contract has been executed, submit it to the escrow and title company. This will kick off the final phase of the home selling process.
How to Close the Sale: 5 Final Steps to Selling Your Home
About 1 in every 4 home sales is held up during the closing process, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtor® (NAR). Limit the chances that this will happen to you by knowing how to navigate the closing process.
11. Check the title and resolve any issues ASAP.
The title report can reveal issues with the deed that you may not have been aware of. Depending on what those issues are, it may take weeks to months to clear them up. Some of the issues that title reports can uncover—and that can hold up the sale of the home—may include:
- Property tax issues
- Liens or judgments against the property
Remember, title and deed issues won’t necessarily prevent a deal from going through, especially if you get a preliminary title report and give the buyer a head’s up on any potential issues highlighted by that report.
12. Prepare for the home inspection.
Within 10 days of the home going into escrow, the home inspection should take place. This should be done by a reputable, certified inspector. Their report will point out any major safety issues, structural defects, and/or mechanical problems with the home. Specifically, some of the issues that could present problems with the buyer (if the purchase is contingent on the inspection report) can include:
- Foundation problems
- Aged or damaged roof
- Electrical and/or plumbing issues
- Water damage
- Pest infestations
Typically, the inspection itself will take a couple of hours, with the detailed write-up following a couple of days after that. Sometimes, the results of the inspection will highlight additional repairs that sellers may need to complete as part of the terms of the sale.
13. Schedule the appraisal.
After the home inspection, it’s time for the appraisal. This is often required by lenders, who want to verify that the house is worth the value of the mortgage loan they intended to issue to the buyer. With the appraisal, it can be helpful to:
- Have an agent represent you and handle the process.
- Carefully review the appraisal report to make sure it’s accurate.
- Have comparable sales on hand in case you need to show the lender that the appraisal may be off.
14. Finish any remaining repairs & move out.
After the home inspection and the appraisal, you can find yourself in a holding pattern as lenders work on the loan documents to finalize the purchase. This can be a good time to complete repairs from the home inspection and get any of your remaining possessions out of the home. It’s also smart to:
- Pay off any last bills you have for the home, like outstanding utility bills
- Change your mailing address so everything is properly forwarded to your new residence
- Turn off the water and gas shut-off valves to minimize the risk of flooding or fires
15. Sign the closing documents.
Ask your agent if you need to be at the closing. Sellers often sign the closing documents before the actual closing because this process mainly involves the buyers going over all of the details of the loan with their agent and signing off on all of the paperwork. Once they do and the loan has been officially recorded, you can pick up a check from the escrow company. Keep in mind that the check may have deductions for things like closing costs if you agreed to cover those as part of the terms of the sale.
How to Get Half of the Seller’s Commission at Closing
Selling a home can be a lot simpler—and you can get cash back at closing—when you work with the 5-star Realtors® at New Home GURUs. Once you’ve connected with a qualified buyer, we can help you with offers, negotiations, contracts, and closing, simplifying the process and supporting you at every step. Then, at closing, we will give you HALF of the seller’s commission.
Home sellers who work with New Home GURUs get an average of $4,500 to $12,000 at closing.