Your home is probably your largest asset. Like most Americans, buying your next home is dependent on how quickly and at what price you sell your current home. You want the process to be smooth, but also to result in a profit you can use to pay off your existing mortgage or purchase a new home.

Understand the basic process of selling a home, be ready to put your house on the market and sell with confidence by following these steps:

  1. Find a real estate agent. While you can sell your home without an agent, a good real estate agent has years of experience to help you through the process of selling your home. They also have access to multiple channels of advertising to get your house seen and sold quickly. Yes, they take a commission, but houses sold by a real estate agent typically sell at a higher price and faster than those sold by an independent homeowner. A real estate agent typically charges 5-6% of the purchase price as commission. Look for an agent that has been in the industry for years and has a good track record of selling homes like yours.
  2. Price your home right. Your real estate agent will be able to help you with a market analysis to determine the right price for your home. Look at other properties similar to yours in size and features that are currently on the market or have recently sold in your neighborhood. This will give you an idea of what your home is worth right now. Homes are worth what buyers are willing to spend on them so this can fluctuate over time. If you need to sell quickly, you can lower your price to motivate buyers to act now. If you want a higher profit and are willing to wait for that perfect buyer, you can price your home accordingly. However, homes that have been on the market for a long time lead buyers to believe something is wrong with them that has prevented people from purchasing. Discuss your goals with your agent to find a happy medium.
  3. Prep your house. In pictures as well as during showings and open houses, you want your home to look its best. Declutter, do repairs, deep clean and remove personal items so visitors can see themselves living in the space. Small touches such as fresh paint, refinished floors or cabinetry and new hardware make your house stand out to buyers. It is generally recommended to use neutral colors and remove any overpowering or quirky art. Adding curb appeal and having a well manicured lawn gives a great first impression for viewings and may generate interest in those driving by. If there are any structural or mechanical issues, fix them now. You will probably need to before the sale closes, and having them taken care of in advance will save you time and net you more money after the sale.
  4. Plan for showings. You can request 24 hour notice for any showings, but you can be asked at any time to leave the house for a potential buyer to walk through. During this time, keep things as tidy as possible to make is easy to show. Find places your pets can stay and plan to leave the house for about an hour for each showing.
  5. Negotiate. Hooray! Someone has made an offer to purchase your home. Read the offer carefully so you understand what you are agreeing to before you sign. Besides the purchase price, the offer will also contain information about a closing date, requested repairs, appliance or other items the buyer wants left in the house and any other contingencies such as a home inspection or mortgage approval. If you want to counteroffer, now is the time. Don’t be afraid to let a buyer know if their offer is too low or unreasonable. Some give and take is normal in real estate deals. If you get multiple offers, compare not just the offer price, but all the other details to find the offer that best matches your goals.
  6. Complete the process. It may seem that nothing is going on between an offer being accepted and the closing date, but it can take 30-45 days to complete all the necessary inspections and paperwork. During this time, your home will be inspected and appraised. Any issues that are uncovered during this time can cause delays or even invalidate the offer. Your real estate agent, broker, attorney, and bankers are all busy at work making sure closing day is smooth and uneventful.

Selling your home can be a time of uncertainty and stress. Understanding the process and what is expected of you will help you navigate it with more confidence. Fortunately, a real estate agent has experience and can answer any questions you have. They can guide you through each step of the process and catch any potential problems before they happen. Good luck!