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How to sell a house

How much it costs, how long it takes, and more!

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How to sell a house

Many times when you are buying a new home, you are also selling the house you own right now. Check out our step by step guide that can make selling a home easier!

Also see our answers to frequently asked questions such as "How much does it cost to sell a house?" and "How long does it take to sell a house?" at the bottom of this article.

Step 1. Hire a real estate agent

Many homeowners hire a real estate agent to help them sell their house. Real estate agents are licensed professionals who can help you set a list price for your house based on its current valuation and the local real estate market. They can give you advice on the kinds of renovations and repairs that can help you sell your home.

Agents make sure your home is listed in the right databases, so buyers looking for a home like yours can find it. Real estate agents manage open houses and showing your home to potential buyers, review offers, evaluate buyers to determine if they can afford to buy your home, negotiate with buyers and buyers agents on your behalf, and ensure necessary paperwork and agreements are completed.

You can also sell your home without a real estate agent. (You may see listings which are noted as "For Sale by Owner" or "FSBO".) When you don’t hire a real estate agent, you become responsible for the work an agent would do for you. Look at the advantages and disadvantages of hiring an agent and decide which choice is better for you.

Step 2. Prepare your home for sale

You’ll want to clean up and clean out your home before you put it on the market. Buyers will look at every room of your house, including bathrooms, closets, basements, attics, and garages as well as the lawn and landscaping.

Real estate professionals might recommend you make decorative changes as well, such as removing family photographs and other personal possessions from view so potential buyers can more easily imagine themselves living in your house. This is sometimes called "staging" your home.

Finally, your real estate agent might also recommend certain improvements that might help you sell your home more quickly or for more money. New paint and new carpeting are two improvements your agent might recommend.

Step 3. Consider getting a pre-sale home inspection

A home inspection helps identify problems with the roof and structure of your home, its electrical and plumbing, its heating and cooling system, and more. Since buyers often make their offers contingent on the results of a home inspection, knowing what problems an inspection might find and fixing them before you put your house on the market can make it easier to sell your home. Learn more about home inspections.

Step 4. Consider getting professional photographs taken

Many buyers are researching homes for sale online these days and the quality of the photographs that appear on your home’s web listings can have an impact on the number of buyers who take a closer look at your home. Good quality photographs can help your home make a good first impression online.

Step 5. Set the right price for your home

Choosing the right price for your home is an art and a science. Ideally, you want to get the most money you can from selling your home without setting the price so high that it discourages buyers.

One way to set the price for your home is to look at the sale price of comparable properties or "comps." Comparable properties are homes similar to yours in terms of size and features which are located in your community and have sold in the recent past (many real estate agents look at sales for the previous 12 months). Researching the sale price of comparable properties can help you choose a price for your home that is based on its fair market value.

Step 6. List your home for sale

Once you have completed the steps above, you are ready to list your home for sale and announce to potential buyers that your house is on the market. If you are working with an agent, they will manage the details of listing your home for you.

Step 7. Review offers and negotiate

Once you list your home, you will hopefully receive offers to buy it. Offers from potential buyers will include the price they are willing to pay as well as earnest money or a "good faith deposit" and a proposed closing date. Offers may also include contingencies, which are conditions that need to be met before the buyer completes the purchase. The buyer may also provide documents, such as a pre-approval letter from their lender, that demonstrate they can afford to buy your home.

Look at all of the details and decide which offer looks right for you. Don’t be afraid to negotiate or propose a counteroffer if there are parts of a bid you’d like to improve. Your real estate agent can help you manage these negotiations.

Step 8. Get ready to close the sale of your home

Once you accept an offer on your home, it’s time to get ready for closing. You’ll want to be prepared to pay any closing costs that are your responsibility. For example, the seller typically pays the real estate agent commissions. You’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary documents complete and ready if you need them. These might include the purchase contract, mortgage documents, the property title report, homeowners’ association documents, the property deed, tax and insurance information, and other documents.

Your real estate agent can help you get ready for closing. You might consider hiring a real estate attorney to help you with closing, particularly if you are selling your home without the help of an agent.

FAQ: How much does it cost to sell a house?

Several factors influence the cost of selling a home. One factor is the cost of your real estate agent’s commission, which averages between 5% and 6% of the sale price of the home according to U.S. News and World Report. For example, real estate agent commissions might cost between $15,000 and $18,000 if you sold a home for $300,000. This commission is typically split between the agent who represents the seller and the agent who represents the buyer. The seller usually pays the full cost of this commission even though it is shared by the buyer and seller agents.

If your home needs updates or repairs to get it ready to sell, the costs of these renovations will increase how much it costs to sell your home. You may have to pay real estate transfer taxes when you sell your home depending on tax laws in the community where the house is located. You might also have to pay capital gains taxes, although current IRS rules might allow you to exclude $250,000 of that gain if you file as an individual and $500,000 of that gain if you file jointly.

Consult a tax professional to understand how selling your home may impact the taxes you need to pay.

FAQ: How long does it take to sell a house?

Zillow estimates that it takes an average of 55 to 70 days to sell a home. Zillow states the average home was on the market for 25 days in 2020, which is the period of time between the house being listed for sale and the seller accepting a buyer’s offer. Then another 30 to 45 days is often needed to close on the sale of the home.

How long it will take you to sell your house may be different from these averages and can be affected by many things like your local housing market, the time of year, the price of the home, and more. When you are thinking about selling your home, decide when you would like the sale of your home to close and work backwards from that to date to create a schedule.

FAQ: How can you sell a house fast?

There are several things you can do to help you sell a home faster. Working with a professional real estate agent who has experience selling homes can help. Make sure your home is "move-in ready." This includes completing needed maintenance and repairs, updating the bathrooms and kitchen, and having fresh paint, carpet, and other finishes. Finally, choosing a reasonable price that reflects the fair market value can help you sell a house faster.

Last reviewed and updated October 2021 by Freedom Mortgage Corporation

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