A low-stress home sale isn’t something that happens by accident. Instead, it takes time, energy, and preparation, as well as a healthy dose of know-how. If you want to make sure you’re ready, here is our ultimate guide to selling your home, including tips to prepare your home for sale and some special considerations.
Our Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Home
Always Start with Research
The first step to selling your home isn’t what most aspiring sellers expect. Before you do anything else, you want to dedicate some time to research.
First, look at your local market to find out how quickly homes are selling and whether they are going for more or less than the list price. That way, you can get a gauge on your timeline as well as prepare for future negotiations.
Additionally, use nearby comparable properties (comps) to see what you may get from the sale. By researching this a bit now, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect once you start working with a real estate professional and start talking about the list price.
After that, you can estimate your home equity and net proceeds. That lets you know what you may see as a profit, as well as what you can spend on your next home if you’re planning on using that money on a new property.
Find a Reliable, Reputable Real Estate Professional
Another one of the first steps to selling your home is to find a reliable, reputable real estate professional. They won’t just be able to help you with the listing when that time comes; they can also give you insights on the local market and other valuable advice to make your home as marketable as possible.
Plus, if you plan on selling and buying a house simultaneously, they’ll be able to get your property search underway. That way, you can get moving on both fronts at the same time.
Finding Things to Fix Before Selling Your House
One of the most important tips for preparing a house for sale is to make sure it’s in the best shape possible. The best things to fix before selling a house depend on your home’s condition, the cost involved in doing the repair, and the value going forward with the fix provides.
Usually, if you aren’t sure what may need repairing, your best bet is to get a pre-listing home inspection. With that, a professional will assess your property and identify any issues present. Once you get their report, you can look it over and decide whether moving forward with those repairs makes sense.
Upping Your Curb Appeal
When you’re selling a house, first impressions matter. That’s why you want to evaluate your curb appeal before you list.
Often, simple changes can have a big impact. Pruning overgrown plants, adding colorful flowers, or repainting the door in a striking color can all make your house more attractive.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, talk to your real estate professional as a starting point. Also, take a look at images of other homes in your area. That way, you can see what’s trending in your neighborhood and expose yourself to options that may not cross your mind otherwise.
Clean Your Heart Out
Deep cleaning your house before you list it for sale is always a wise move. It will freshen up the look of your home and ensure that there aren’t any lingering odors that prospective buyers may find unpleasant.
Plus, buyers will look in surprising places as they evaluate your house. They may peek under toilet boils, in the gap between the stove and counter, and many other areas that may not catch your attention. So, make sure that you’re thorough.
Set Up for Showings
One of the biggest tips for getting your home ready to sell is to make sure you set your home up for showings. Simply leaving it as-is usually isn’t ideal. Instead, you want to make changes that showcase your house’s intriguing features and creates a warm, welcoming environment.
Showing Your House While Living in It
If you’re still living in your house as you’re trying to sell, decluttering is crucial. You’ll end up organizing and decluttering before moving anyway, so you may as well begin that process right away, allowing you to accomplish two tasks at once.
Begin by looking at all of your surfaces. You want counters, tables, and open shelves to appear spacious, so remove extraneous items and find a place to store them. Next, hit your kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers, ensuring that excess items are removed and anything left is positioned in an attractive manner.
Then, head to your closets. You want to make sure that they seem spacious, so get rid of anything you don’t want to keep or pack up as much as you can and store it off-site.
Finally, take a moment to depersonalize your space. Remove family photos, bold art, unconventional furniture, or anything else that may prevent the house from having broad appeal. Ultimately, you want everyone to envision the space as their home, so don’t leave anything that is too niche.
Don’t Skip Staging If the House Is Empty
If you aren’t currently living in the house that you’re putting on the market, staging your home to sell is a smart move. When rooms are completely empty, it can be hard for buyers to envision how to use the space. Additionally, it may make rooms seem less usable than they really are, making the house a less attractive option.
When it comes to how to stage a house for sale, focus on neutral colors with the occasional pop of something a bit brighter. Additionally, choose furniture with broad appeal and that fits the space well. Along the way, add cozy touches. For example, a strategically placed throw blanket on a sofa can make a living room feel more welcoming and less like a store showroom.
Let the Light Shine In
When people describe their ideal home, “light and bright” is something many people will mention. Make sure your house fits the bill by using a wide variety of light sources.
First, natural light is always the best place to start. Make sure your windows and glass doors are clean and that any curtains or blinds are open before a showing is going to start.
Second, use other lighting strategically. While having overheads on isn’t a bad idea, you may want to add floor or table lamps as needed to brighten dark corners or highlight unique features.
Make Sure You Have Amazing Pictures for the Listing
No matter how beautiful your home is, it may not get enough attention if your listing doesn’t have great photos. Work with your real estate agent to get high-quality images from the right angles. That way, your home will look more enticing to prospective buyers.
Stay as Flexible as Possible Once You List
Once you list your house, things can get a little hectic. Prospective buyers may want to schedule showings without much notice, something that can be frustrating if you’re also trying to buy another house, maintain a work schedule, and keep your family life in order.
However, it’s important to remember that you need a buyer. Do your best to stay flexible and be accommodating whenever possible. That way, you’ll hopefully be able to land an offer quickly.
Navigate Negotiations Like a Professional
Negotiating can be surprisingly hard for sellers. Usually, you have some level of emotional attachment to your house. In some cases, that means a below-list price offer feels like an insult, even though it isn’t.
As you review offers and prepare to negotiate, don’t take anything personally. In the end, the buyer is simply trying to get the best deal, so their offer isn’t necessarily a comment on whether your home is lovely or not.
If you aren’t sure if an offer is reasonable, talk with your real estate agent. Their expertise is incredibly valuable during this step, so turn to them if you’re worried that your initial thought isn’t based on market conditions but something more personal.
Special Considerations When Selling Your Home
No guide to selling your house is complete without talking about a few special considerations. Here are a few unique circumstances that may apply to your situation.
How to Sell a House That Needs Major Repairs
Selling a house that needs major repairs is trickier but not impossible. If you don’t plan on handling any of the work before you move out, you’ll want to list the property for sale as-is. That way, it’s clear that you do not intend to make repairs to facilitate a sale.
In most cases, selling as-is means you’ll need to accept a lower selling price. You’re sharing that the house needs work and that you aren’t interested in handling it, dramatically reducing the number of potential buyers.
Plus, if the house wouldn’t be livable while repairs are underway, then your buyer pool may be mainly investors or flippers. In those cases, low offers are incredibly common, as most of them want to leave enough space to turn a profit eventually.
How to Buy Another House Before Selling Yours
Many people wonder, “Can I buy another house before I sell mine?” While the answer is “yes,” whether it is the best approach depends on your financial situation.
You may have fewer loan options when buying another house before selling yours if you haven’t paid off your current home. Some traditional mortgage alternatives are available, like using a bridge loan or tapping the equity in your existing property. Still, those choices can be expensive and high-risk, especially since you don’t know how long your house will take to sell.
When you’re buying a house before selling yours, and you don’t have a mortgage, that usually isn’t an issue. However, if you don’t have access to a solid down payment or only qualify for a smaller loan than you’d prefer, not having access to the cash from a sale could work against you.
Selling Your House Before Buying Another
If you’re wondering, “Is it better to sell your house before buying another?” the answer is, “It depends.” Selling before you buy comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. You may have money to put toward your new house or easier access to financing, which works in your favor. However, you may have to find temporary housing arrangements to cover the time between the sale and your new home purchase.
How to Buy and Sell a House at the Same Time
The steps to selling a house and buying another aren’t necessarily hard, but they require good timing. First, you need to time the start of your house search and listing your home correctly. Exactly what that involves depends on several factors, including the state of the housing markets, the marketability of your current home, and what you’re hoping to find in a new one.
Usually, your real estate professional can help you determine exactly how you should time the process. That way, you can increase the odds of the purchase and sale happening close together.
However, part of getting the timing right may also involve the prospective buyer and seller. When you find a home, you may be able to make a contingent offer that ties the timing of closing to the sale of your other house. If your home gets an offer first, you may be able to request a longer closing time to see if you can complete a purchase before having to move out.
In either of those cases, the prospective buyers and sellers ultimately get to decide if they are open to those arrangements. While some may be willing to work with you, others may not, so keep that in mind as you move forward.
How to Sell a House with a Mortgage
Selling a house with a mortgage isn’t difficult as long as you owe less than what you’ll receive from the sale. You’ll simply work with a title company to ensure the proper amount of money goes to your lender when the deal closes, paying off your home loan as part of the transition to the new owner.
If you owe more than you can sell the house for, it’s more complex. You’ll either need to pay off enough of your mortgage to correct that issue or work with your lender to get approved for a short sale, the latter of which is never a guarantee.
Bonus Tip: Organizing and Decluttering Before Moving
Decluttering before moving isn’t as hard as it may seem. Hopefully, you’ll have done some of it while preparing your home for sale. However, even if you haven’t, you can still pull it off.
Often, a six-box system is a great place to start. Get a box for each of these purposes:
Go one room at a time, deciding which box is suitable for every item. For things you’ll keep, you can simply move forward with packing them. For items that need fixing, try to repair them before moving. That way, if it turns out they can’t be fixed, you can throw them away before you move.
After you’re done decluttering for a move, you may find yourself with numerous boxes filled with items you don’t plan on taking with you. As a result, you’re probably trying to figure out what to do with unwanted stuff when moving. Luckily, there are plenty of options.
First, if you used the box method, take the “sell” items and hold a yard sale, head to a consignment shop, or list them online. The “donate” box can go to your local non-profit, while garbage and recycling can either go in your cans or to your local waste management center.
Once you’ve done that, all that should be left are items you want to keep. Then, you can start packing them up for moving day.