A blue circle with a house in the middle

Getting the House Ready for Sale

Before you put your house on the market, it's best to put a shine to it. Presenting your property to prospective buyers can make all the difference.

Without investing in expensive and time-consuming renovation and redecoration, it's still possible to show your home to its best advantage. Your goal is to get others to see it as their potential home, not yours. The first step in getting your home ready to sell is to "de-personalize" it.

De-Personalize the Property

You want to "de-personalize" your home because you want buyers to view it as their potential home. When a potential homebuyer sees your family photos hanging on the wall, it puts your brand on the home and momentarily shatters their illusions about owning the house. Therefore, put away family photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Please put them in a box. Rent a storage area for a few months and put the box in the storage unit.

Don't Forget to Un-Clutter the following:

  • Kitchen
  • Closet
  • Furniture
  • Storage Area
A large house with two garage doors and a driveway.
A kitchen with wooden cabinets and white counters.

Curb Appeal

That first impression when prospective buyers drive up is very important. If they don't find the outside appealing, they won't be interested in seeing what's inside.

Mowed lawns, trimmed shrubbery, and clean windows are a start. Planting a few flowers or plants can do much to a front yard. Fertilize and water the lawn and plants thoroughly for 2-3 weeks before putting the house on the market. Clean up oil spots on the driveway. Make sure the garage door opens easily. Swimming pools should be clean along with the pump and filters. Clean up and throw away any junk or items lying around the yard. Now is a good time to have a yard sale; eliminate items you don't plan to take with you. Do this before you put your house on the market to reduce the "detrimental clutter look greatly."

If your house could use a paint job and you don't have the time or money, sometimes hosing it off (from the bottom up) and repainting the trim will update the entire facade. A clean front porch with a fresh-looking front door that opens smoothly is a must. Any broken windows should be fixed now, as they will most likely be before closing. A few gallons of stain or paint can impact a fence.

Setting the Price of Your Home

It's Time to Sell - You Want

  • 1 The right price
  • 2 In the right terms
  • 3 In the right amount of time.

To Reach These Goals - You Must

  • 1 Make your home look good.
  • 2 Price it at market value right away.
  • 3 Use real estate professionals.
  • 4 The three factors to consider in selling your home. Price, Presentation, and Promotion.

Location and presentation are important when selling your property as well. Your home's location and setting influence its value. A home inside a quiet subdivision sells for more than a comparable home on a busy street. Remote areas typically sell for less than close-in areas. Views, streams, and trees usually enhance value.

You have no control over location. New homes enjoy a marketing edge over resale homes because they are shiny and clean. And builders enhance their appeal by offering model homes (clean, bright, decorated in current colors and amenities) for buyers to examine. You should make your home as bright, clean, and uncluttered as possible at all times!

Price It Right!

Pricing your house at market value from the start will typically result in the best price you will get for the property in the least amount of time and inconvenience. If IBM stock is trading between 110 and 120, it does no good to insist on selling at 150. Likewise, your home must be priced within the appropriate range. Listing your property high at first only helps to sell the other houses like yours on the market. Remember, buyers preview many homes, so they know what is overpriced. The sales price must also appraise at market value to get a loan.

You must actually "sell" your property twice: first to a buyer and then to an appraiser. The buyer is more subjective and compares the amenities of your home to those of other homes in the same price range. The appraiser is more objective and compares your home's age, size, and cost-identifiable features against other sold properties. If it doesn't appraise, it very likely won't settle.

A room with boxes and plants in it

i. When Your Selling Price is too High, Beware!

  • 1 Amazingly, a couple of the Realtors have come up with lower prices than you expected. Although they back up their recommendations with recent sales data of similar homes, you remain convinced your house is worth more. Interviewing another agent's figures aligns with your own anticipated value, or maybe even higher. Suddenly, you are a happy and excited home seller, already counting the money.

ii. But which Realtor do you choose?

  • 1 If you're like many people, you pick the Realtor whose figures align with yours. This is an agent who seems willing to listen to your input and work with you. This agent cares about putting the most money in your pocket. This agent is willing to start at your price, and if you need to drop the price later, you can do that easily, right? After all, everyone else does it!
  • 2 The truth is that you may have just met an agent engaging in a questionable sales practice called "buying a listing." He "bought" the listing by suggesting you might be able to get a higher sales price than the other agents recommended. He is most likely doubtful that your home will sell at that price, and the intention from the beginning is to talk you into lowering the price eventually.
  • 3 Why do agents "buy" listings? - There are two reasons. A well-meaning and hard-working agent can feel pressure from a homeowner who has an inflated perception of his home's value. On the other hand, some agents engage in this sales practice routinely.

iii. Behind the Scenes

  • 1 Whichever the case, if you start with too high a price on your home, you may have just added to your stress level, and selling a home is stressful enough. There will be a lot of "behind the scenes" action that you don't know about.
  • 2 Contrary to popular opinion, the listing agent does not usually attempt to sell your home to a homebuyer, which isn't very efficient. Listing agents market and promote your home to the hordes of other local agents who do work with homebuyers, dramatically increasing your personal sales force. During the first couple of weeks, if the price is right, your home should be a flurry of activity with buyer's agents coming to preview your home so they can sell it to their clients.
  • 3 If you and your agent have overpriced, fewer agents will preview your home. After all, they are Realtors; their job is to know local market conditions and home values. If your house is dramatically above market, why waste time? Their time is better spent previewing homes that are priced realistically.

iv. Dropping Your Price Too Late

  • 1 Later, when you drop your price, your house is "old news." You will never be able to recapture that flurry of initial activity you would have had with a realistic price, and your house could take longer to sell.
  • 2 Even if you successfully sell at an above-market price, your buyer will need a mortgage. The mortgage lender requires an appraisal. If comparable sales for the last six months and current market conditions do not support your sales price, the house won't appraise. Your deal falls apart. Of course, you can always attempt to renegotiate the price, but only if the buyer is willing to listen. Your house could go "back on the market."
  • 3 Once your home has fallen out of escrow or sits on the market for a while, it is harder to get a good offer. Potential buyers will think you might be getting desperate so they will make lower offers. By overpricing your home initially, you could settle for a lower price than you would have normally received.

v. Realtors Talk to Each Other

  • 1 Remember those two conscientious agents who got aced out of the listing? If your listing agent routinely engages in "buying" listings, he has probably aced out scores of other agents in the same way. Being human, Realtors talk to each other. If they don't like your listing agent, not as many of them will be showing your home.
  • 2 In short, you may have ended up with an agent who was good at selling you but not good at selling your house. And you're going to pay them a commission for it.
  • 3 It is human nature for you to want the highest price for your home. However, choosing the agent who promises what you want to hear often leads to stress and frustration. Most of the time, it will take you longer to sell your home, and you may sell at a lower price instead.
A street with many houses on the side of it


People Need to Know Your House is for Sale

MLS – Multiple Listing Service
The MLS is still the number one and the best effective way to market your home to the public, even in today's fast-paced world of the internet.

Price it right the first time. Buyers are smart, comparing many properties and looking for the best value in the location that appeals to them. They have the same statistics you and your agent have.

A FOR SALE sign should be placed in your front yard. Not allowing a sign on your property will greatly decrease your marketing power.

Showing your Home and Presentation
Your house is on trial. Make the most of every show. You've cleaned, polished, painted, and made your home available, and now what? Put all the lights on even on a bright day, shades warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and leave the house.

Accessibility -- A Lock Box
If agents can't get in conveniently, they won't show your home. You must have a lockbox so agents can preview and show the property during the day. Not allowing a lock box will dramatically reduce the needed exposure to market your home properly. Lock boxes are very secure devices that record who uses it. Agents don't like to show property if access is an inconvenience. Use a lockbox

Yes, the commission is a marketing tool. Commissions are negotiable and can vary between 4%-10%, depending on the type of property, current market conditions, and the seller's motivation. Many people wrongly assume the whole commission goes to one person. Typically it is divided into four ways: the listing agent, the listing agent's broker, the buyer's agent, and the buyer's agent's broker. Referral fees and franchise fees many times are a factor also.

Homeowner's Warranty
A Home Warranty provided by the seller will be viewed as a benefit to the buyer. Adding a home warranty to your listing adds confidence and might result in someone purchasing your home over a newer home.

The Internet
The internet is an additional method for buyers to find. Ninety-seven percent(97%) of all potential buyers start looking for homes on the internet. A tremendous amount of information can be found on the internet. As with much of the internet, some are very good, and some are not as good. Your home will be listed on one hundred plus sites.

Open Houses
Open houses invite "lookers," not buyers, they sell less than 1% of all homes, and they can attract nosey neighbors and unqualified buyers and can be a serious security problem.

A living room with a fireplace and a flat screen tv.
A large brick house with two garages and a driveway.

Showing Your Home

It's now time for buyers to review their new homes. Most Brokers use one or two showing services, giving you as much showing notice as you agree. They will contact you with a phone call or text or if you prefer a "go and show ' notice. That will give you time to tidy up, make beds, turn on all lights, and perhaps pop something in the oven, like a spicy cake, pie, bread, or even a pan of cinnamon. In the summer, keep the house cool, and in the winter, keep the house warm. Make every effort to accept all appointments-you never know when your buyer will walk through the front door.

If You are Home (and you should not be home)
If you're home, greet the prospects at the door, politely excuse yourself, and leave. Too many people present during inspection may make the potential buyer feel like an intruder, which makes it difficult for the selling broker and buyer to be at ease.

If You're Not Home
Have the house ready, enclose pets in the basement, garage, or back yard, and ensure the house is as bright and cheery as possible.

Should I let anyone in to see the house?
For security reasons, if a prospective buyer calls or comes by unexpectedly without a broker, get their name and phone number and have them call us. Do not show the home.

If we have an offer, should we still show the home?
Yes. A property is either under contract or available-there is no in between.

Selling Your Home and Sale to Settlement

The Offer (s)

A buyer makes an offer by submitting a written and signed offer to purchase, which will become the sales contract ratified by everyone's signature. Once the seller and buyer sign the paper, they are bound by the contract conditions.

The "presentation of a contract" begins when the buyer's broker submits the offer to the Seller's Broker, usually electronically.

Net Sales Price

What is the net price? Has the buyer accepted the asking price or something close? Has the buyer buried thousands of dollars in discounts and seller costs within tiny clauses and contract additions? Two contracts with the same sales price can have different bottom lines.

Terms and Conditions

Price, or net, is only one factor to consider when considering an offer. What good is a full-price offer if the buyer is not qualified?

Some of the other considerations are:

  • Settlement date: Can you work with the date?
  • Inspections: Are they customary?
  • The Buyer: Is the Buyer qualified? If not, you don' have a sale.
  • Inclusions/Exclusions: Are they correct?
  • Contingencies: Is the sale of home contingency or other contingency which would affect your decision?
  • Type of buyer financing: Is the financing conventional, FHA, etc.?
  • Deposit: Is the deposit acceptable?

Multiple Offers

What if several offers are received? Do you choose the high offer from the purchaser with questionable finances who may not be able to close or a somewhat lesser offer from a buyer with pre-approved? All offers registered must be presented to the home seller, and they will be presented in the order registered. The home questions. No action is necessary until all offers are heard.

Seller's Action

If possible, a decision on an offer should be made at the presentation. A home seller has two options.

  • 1 Accept the Offer as written.
  • 2 Reject the offer if it is unacceptable. Otherwise, if the offer is rejected, you should consider a "counter offer" to the buyer (technically a new offer). A contract exists when the initials of all principals ratify all terms, including changes.

Does the sale of a condominium or a property within a Homeowner's Association (HOA) require any special action? Usually yes. The purchase offer for a condo sale or Homeowner's Association property will require the seller to provide the buyer with certain disclosure information and documents in compliance with the law.

What do You do If the Property Doesn't Sell?

The first step is to review carefully with the listing broker why the property has not sold. Usually, price and property condition are the keys. Study and analyze what has sold in your area and at what price. Then relist the house after adjusting for shortcomings.

A living room with green walls and white furniture.

The Hard Part - From Sale to Settlement

Really Sold?

Now what you have is a ratified offer to purchase. Your house is not yet settled. Several inspectors and professionals come into your home during this period, including but not limited to the items below. A serious defect with any of these can kill the sale. Most of this process is commonly completed within the first three weeks.

A Home Inspection

The purpose of such inspection is usually to discover significant material defects, if any, in the condition of the listed components and systems of the property and other items and usually excludes items of routine maintenance or cosmetic nature. Normally the buyer will give the seller an addendum listing any defects to be corrected by the seller.

Well and Septic Inspections

The well usually has two components: first, the yield has to pass local standards, and second, the water has to be potable. In addition, the septic has to be certified that it is in satisfactory operation, and failure of one of these requires correction by the seller.

Radon Inspection

When the purchaser requests a radon test and the radon level is more than the EPA suggested, the seller is normally requested to mitigate.

Termite Inspection

Based on a careful visual inspection, the termite inspector must certify that there is no evidence of termite or other wood-destroying insect infestation in residence and that damage due to the previous infestation has been repaired. Treatment and repairs are the responsibility of the seller.


A property appraisal is ordered to confirm that the property is adequate security for the mortgage (the home seller should expect the appraiser to call for an inspection appointment). An FHA or VA loan may specify requirements, such as repairs that must be met before the loan is made.

After Buyer's Loan Approval

The buyer's broker will remind the buyer to arrange for insurance coverage in at least the mortgage amount as of closing and bring a certified cashier's check to the settlement attorney or title company.

Walk-Through / Buyer's Final Inspection

The purpose of the walk-through inspection before the settlement is to determine if the conditions in the contract are satisfied. The time for the buyer to inspect and note defects for correction by the seller is during the contract negotiation and before signing the sales agreement. Repair or replacement items should be noted in the contract. If possible, the listing broker will confirm with the Buyer's Broker that repairs have been made before settlement. Upon receipt of bills and notification that repairs are complete, the attorney will release the balance of funds to the seller if money is escrowed for needed repairs.


Settlement Signing Papers And Transferring Keys

An attorney or title company representative will be at the settlement, the buyer, listing and selling brokers, and all owners. The home seller should bring all warranties on equipment (or leave them in the house) and any equipment maintenance or operation instructions.

The attorney will have searched the title and obtained lender instructions. First, all unresolved walk-through deficiencies are resolved.

With the buyer, the attorney explains the deed of trust, deed of trust note, and settlement sheets. The buyer signs all three and pays the balance of the down payment and the buyer's closing costs.

With the seller, the attorney explains the deed and settlement sheets and gets the home seller's signature on them. Seller pays appropriate closing costs.

A living room with white furniture and brown walls.
A house with a garage and driveway in front of it.

Seller's Settlement Costs

Closing costs for the seller may include :

  • Attorney's fees (preparation of deed, settlement fee, and any release fees)
  • Lender's inspection fee
  • Appraisal
  • Broker's commission
  • State deed transfer tax or recordation fee
  • Condominium or Homeowner's Association packet fees
  • Water escrow (to reduce, bring canceled check and last bill; amount prorated at settlement)
  • Termite inspection
  • Loan discount fee (points based on loan amount)
  • Mortgage pay-off penalty (see a deed of trust note)
  • Interest up to the date trusts are paid off

If the seller's taxes or insurance have been escrowed, the seller will receive any money accumulated in the account for bills not yet due. Additionally, the seller will be reimbursed for any money paid in advance and not used, such as property taxes. Depending on the locality, the seller will receive these refunds at or after settlement. Taxes and homeowners' dues or condominium fees will be prorated daily. Seller, buyer, and brokers are supplied with a copy of settlement sheets for their records. The house keys are transferred to the new owners.


The attorney or title company will disburse funds after all funds are in hand, checks have cleared, the new lender has reviewed papers, and the title has been re-checked and deed recorded. Sellers should not plan to receive funds for up to four days, although they may be disbursed the same day in some localities.

The house has now been sold, settled, and funds disbursed. Congratulations!

A living room with gray furniture and a large rug.