Guide to Selling Your Home

Whether you're relocating for work or family, downsizing, or moving into your dream house, there comes a time when it's time to sell your current home. We've compiled the ultimate guide to selling your home to act as a one-stop-shop resource for everything you need to know about selling your home.
By Alexandra C.
Updated Mar 30, 2022
Guide to Selling Your Home
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Whether you're relocating for work or family, downsizing, or moving into your dream house, there comes a time when it's time to sell your current home. Even if you've moved ten times in your life, it seems the selling process never gets quicker, easier, or less complicated. That's why we've compiled the ultimate guide to selling your home to act as a one-stop-shop resource for everything you need to know about selling your home.

Finding a real estate agent

The first tip to selling your home is to find an experienced real estate agent who knows the area and, most importantly, the market where you are selling your home. In 2019, 89% of sellers used a real estate agent to sell their home, according to the National Association of Realtors, and for a good reason. Here are a few of the benefits of using a realtor instead of attempting to sell your home by yourself:

  • Your listing will reach a lot more potential buyers. Real estate agents have access to the MLS, or 

     databases. When listed on the MLS, your home gets exposed to thousands of potential buyers.

  • You can sell your home for more money when you use a realtor. According to the National Association of Realtors, 

     by a real estate agent went for 40 percent more than homes that homeowners sold. What's more, NAR also 

    that homes listed with agents sell for 99 percent of the final listing price.

  • Working with an agent will save you time and headaches.

  • They are real estate experts and can help you navigate anything that pops up with ease and professionalism. 

Before choosing a real estate agent, look at their listings and see their recent sales and how long the properties they list typically stay on the market. You want to choose a real estate agent that actually makes sales and money. It's also vital that the agent you choose knows the area and is well-connected so they can bring in potential buyer after buyer with ease. 

Preparing your home for sale

If you want your home to sell quickly and for the best price, there are some things you need to check off your to-do list to get your home ready before you can list your home. 

  • Clean and De-Clutter: Nobody wants to buy a house that looks like it belongs on an episode of "Hoarders." When listing your home and hoping to sell it quickly, it's time to get rid of all that stuff that you swore you would someday. You want to present your home in a clean, neat way to potential buyers so that they can see all that your home has to offer without stepping on Aunt Becky's wedding dress from 1992 or wading through stacks of Garth Brooks CDs that have accumulated on the basement floor. It's time to give your home a fresh, clean start in order to attract potential buyers. Buyers are likely to open closets, cabinets, and pantries. So, those will actually need to be organized and cleaned instead of having everything jammed away in them and hoping for the best. 

  • Stage Your Home: The better your house looks, the faster it will sell. So, if you are looking to sell your house fast, it may be time to call in the pros. Staging is a common tactic in real estate, and it helps to make spaces look more visually appealing and larger. It is likely the stager will bring his or her own furniture and decor, so make sure you are able to place your home items in storage. 

  • Making necessary upgrades: You don't need to go all out and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marble countertops and cherry wood floors. But, the more up-to-date your house is, the faster it will sell. Here are some easy and budget-friendly upgrades to consider:

    • Fresh paint. Peeling, crackling paint is sure to send potential buyers running for the hills. 

    • Updating light fixtures. Another relatively easy way to modernize your home is by updating some of the main light fixtures. A modern chandelier or light fixture in the entryway can add a serious "whoa" factor to your home as soon as buyers walk in, without breaking the bank.

    • Update your kitchen without remodeling. You can do this by updating your cabinet hardware like the drawer and cabinet pulls. Add a backsplash simply with adhesive tile mosaics. Refresh your grout if you already have an appealing backsplash. Paint your kitchen island and cabinets an on-trend, modern color.

  • Create or Boost Curb Appeal: How your house looks on the outside is also essential in order to sell it quickly. In fact, the exterior is where potential buyers will get their first impression. Luckily, you can create some curb appeal pretty easily by: 

    • Trimming shrubs, overgrown trees, and hedges 

    • Clearing walkways 

    • Cleaning windows 

    • Getting rid of cobwebs

    • Replacing anything that is broken outdoors like lighting or your mailbox

    • Painting your front door

    • Adding some beauty by planting flowers

  • Create web appeal: You've likely heard of curb appeal, but what about web appeal? According to NAR statistics, half of all buyers in 2019 found their new property online. Your home's first showing is online, so you must have high-quality photos and even videos, up-to-date information, and an easy way to schedule a showing on your online listing.

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Setting the best price

Deciding what price you should list your home can be quite tricky because you want to make the most profit while also attracting potential buyers. This is where you can lean in on your realtor's expertise. Your home's price matches or must be comparable to what homes in your neighborhood are selling for. Nailing the price the first time is extremely important because when homes go through multiple price changes, buyers start to think something is probably wrong with the house and that there's a reason for the constant price lowering.

Get flexible with showings 

We know that showings can sometimes be an annoying part of the home-selling process. But, in order to sell your home fast, you'll need to open up your schedule for the showings. Last-minute showings, late-night showings, early morning showings, weekend showings, no matter when the potential buyers want to come to look at the house, you're going to need to be available if you want to sell fast. 

Best time to sell a home

There's no universal answer to the question, "when is the best time to sell my home?" It really depends where you live. For example, if you live in Montana, it's going to be a lot more challenging selling your home in January when potential buyers have to trek through snow and ice and deal with below-freezing temperatures to come to a showing, rather than selling a home in the balmy 80 degrees Florida January. 

  • Spring: In most areas, the best time of year to sell a home is during the first two weeks of May. You can expect to sell 18.5 days faster than any other month and for 5.9 percent more money. In other places, early April or June is better for home sales than May. 

  • Summer: Similar to spring, summer is another top time to sell a home. In some regions, June is the top month for home closings. A study by Attom Data Solutions found that June 28 is the best day to sell a home. The least popular month to sell was December.

  • Fall: Fall is an area where it really depends on where you live. Some climates have beautiful falls, but in others, it can still be blazing hot. Parents with kids in school likely want to be settled in a new home before the fall semester begins. But, there's also less inventory in the fall months, which means less competition, and your house may sell a lot faster.

  • Winter: In most areas of the country, selling in winter is exceptionally challenging. But, if you are lucky enough to live in a resort area, buyers are likely extra motivated to get out of their freezing cold climate and move into a tropical one.

Reviewing and negotiating offers

When you receive one or multiple offers, it can feel overwhelming. There are a lot of emotions, some unexpected, that come with getting an offer. From excitement to sadness to be leaving, to feelings of anxiety about whether you should accept the offer or not. If you are using a realtor, the good news is that they will act as your best advocate and source for advice during the negotiation phase. In addition to weighing how much the offer is for, there are some other things to take into account before accepting any offers:

  • Is the buyer paying with cash or another type of payment?

  • What kind of financing is the buyer using?

  • The down payment amount

  • Contingencies

  • Any demands for credits or personal property 

  • Any requested maintenance or changes

  • Proposed closing date

 Consider hiring a real estate attorney

Some states require sellers to have a real estate attorney for closing, but not all do. Even if you live in a state that does not require you to have a real estate attorney, it can still be worth the investment. This is especially true for sellers who are selling their homes on their own without the help of a real estate agent. Real estate attorneys help with paperwork, contract review, identifying issues, and making sure the sale goes smoothly. An attorney can also spot problems with the title that can delay your sale by weeks or even months, including:

  • Tax issues

  • Encroachments

  • Trust issues

  • Outstanding liens or judgment

  • Mortgage balances

Getting your paperwork together

It's no secret that there is a ton of paperwork involved to document a home's sale properly. The sooner you can organize all of the necessary paperwork, the easier it will be in the long run. There's nothing worse than ravaging your entire house looking for your home's original contract. Here's what you should gather ASAP:

  • Your home's original purchase contract

  • Property survey

  • Certificate of occupancy 

  • Certificates of compliance with local codes

  • Mortgage documents

  • Tax records

  • An appraisal from your home purchase

  • Homeowner's insurance

  • The home inspection report, if applicable 

Homeowner's insurance and selling your home

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), about 85 percent of homeowners are insured by home insurance policies. If you're selling your home, you likely have homeowner's insurance. So, you don't have to worry about getting a different policy just to sell your home. But, there are some homeowner's insurance situations that homeowners encounter when selling their homes. 

One of them is if you vacate your home before you sell it, does it stay insured? If your house is unoccupied, your homeowner's insurance will likely cancel your policy or deny any claims that you make. So, you will probably need to get a vacant house policy in addition to updating your policy for your new home. If you are relocating states or regions, your new home may require extra homeowner's coverage, like flood insurance or hurricane insurance, depending on where you will be living. Use an online resource like PolicyScout, that offers in-depth reviews for homeowner's insurance policies where you can review all of your options in one convenient spot. It's best to give your homeowner's insurance agent a call as soon as you plan to list your home so that you can go over what's required for your particular policy based on your individual case and move.

If you plan to stay in your home until It sells, then you don't have to worry about making any changes to your homeowner's insurance policy until you move. As long as you are still living in the home, your homeowner's insurance policy will continue to cover you. For more information on the different types of home insurance policies and an overview of what's offered and required in each state, click here.