Important Steps in the Home Selling Process

Know what to expect when you sell your home

Rear view of a young couple looking at a house
••• Getty Images/Glow Images, Inc

The home selling process is the same whether it's a for sale by owner or you're hiring a listing agent. Certain details can vary a little from state to states but this checklist can serve as a general guide. Just be sure to confer with a local professional to make sure any specific requirements conform with the rules in your state.

No. 1: Choose a Listing Agent

A listing agent represents you and has a fiduciary responsibility to look out for your best interests. Interview agents and meet with at least three of them as you make a decision. Try to hire experience.

Ask questions about your listing agreement, including the length of time the home will be listed.

No. 2: Find Out How Much Your Home Is Worth

A seller's greatest mistake is often overpricing her home. Keep your price in line with sold homes that have been identified in a comparative market analysis report. Consider whether your market is hot, cold, or neutral and price according to the market temperature.

No. 3: Get Your Home Ready for Sale

Prepare your home for sale by cleaning and decluttering it and improving curb appeal. You might want to consider hiring a professional stager to stage your home for showings or ask your real estate agent for help with this. You can often use your own furniture.

Make any necessary repairs. If you're selling a home where pets live, you might want to make temporary, alternate plans for them.

Remember, you only get one chance—and sometimes only 3 seconds or so—to make a great first impression so make it count.

No. 4: Market Your Home

You or your agent should identify the sizzling selling points of your home and choose the best advertising words to sell it. Approve your agent's marketing campaign or figure out how to advertise your house for sale yourself. Hire a virtual tour company to take quality photographs and put a virtual tour online if possible.

Tweak marketing to increase traffic and showings. Confirm that your listing is posted online. You—or your agent—should saturate the internet with photographs and descriptions of your property.

No. 5: Show Your Home

Plain and simple: You'll get more showings if you let agents use a lockbox to show your home rather than force them to make appointments.

Keep in mind that your home will show better if you sell in spring rather than in winter. And selling during the holidays will likely result in a lower sales price.

Prepare for an open house but use this approach sparingly. Ask for buyer feedback so you can adjust your price, condition, or marketing campaigns accordingly.

No. 6: Receive Purchase Offers and Negotiate

Be prepared to receive multiple offers if your home is priced right. Don't ignore any even if you receive an insultingly lowball offer. Negotiate by making a counteroffer.

Consider making a counteroffer that's contingent on you buying a home if market conditions warrant it. And don't be afraid to make a full-price counteroffer if your price is competitive and it's warranted.

Ask for a kickout clause or right of first refusal if the buyer's offer is contingent on him selling a home.

No. 7: Open Escrow and Order Title

Your agent or transaction coordinator will open escrow and order a title policy for you. Write down the contact information for the closing agent and select a date to close based on when the buyer's loan will fund.

And don't forget to ask for a receipt for the buyer's earnest money deposit.

No. 8: Schedule an Appraiser Appointment

Clean the house the day before the appraiser arrives. If you receive a low appraisal, ask your agent about alternatives.

You're typically not entitled to receive a copy of the appraisal because you didn't pay for it. If the buyer decides to cancel the contract based on an appraisal, ask your agent or lawyer about your rights.

No. 9: Cooperate With the Home Inspection

Now get ready for the home inspector. Ask your agent to provide you with a home inspection checklist so you'll know in advance what the inspector will want to see. Prepare the attic and basement for inspection, too. Move stuff away from the walls in the garage.

Prepare for the final walk-through inspection with the buyer as well. It usually takes place a few days before or even the morning of closing.

No. 10: Obtain Seller-Required Inspections

If your contract calls for a roof certification, hire a reputable company to conduct the inspection. Keep in mind that states that allow for termite or pest inspections often make these reports a matter of public record. A sewer inspection might call for a new sewer line if your home was built before 1950 or so but trenchless sewers are typically less expensive to install.

The fees for all inspection reports, even if seller-mandated, are usually negotiable.

No. 11: Delivery Seller Disclosures

All homes in the U.S. are subject to lead-based paint disclosures, even those built after 1978.

If you're aware of any other material facts, disclose them. Your title company should provide CC&Rs, but additional documentation might be required if you belong to a homeowner's association.

No. 12: Negotiate Requests for Repair

You don't ordinarily have to accept a buyer's request to make repairs, but he can cancel the contract if you don't. A buyer might accept a closing cost credit instead if you choose not to make repairs. You're entitled to a copy of the home inspection report if the buyer requests repairs.

No. 13: Ask the Buyer to Release Contingencies

The buyer isn't obligated to provide a contingency release if you don't demand it. In some states, you might have a right to cancel the contract if the buyer will not provide a release.

No. 14: Sign the Title and Escrow Documents

Depending on where you're located, you might sign escrow documents shortly after opening escrow or you'll sign them nearer to closing. It's common in some states for everybody to sit around the table, buyers and sellers, so ask your agent about the norm in your location.

And be sure to bring a valid photo ID.

No. 15: Close Escrow

Your property deed, reconveyance, and deed of trust will record in public records. The title company will notify you and your agent when it records the deeds.

Depending on the buyer's possession rights, you might be required to move on the day the home closes or even in advance. This should be specified in the contract.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.