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Seller’s Guide

Your home isn’t just a house, it’s where you’ve raised your family, it’s where you’ve lived. Selling your home is a big decision. From choosing a realtor to preparing your home to sell, we’ve put together a Seller’s Timeline to not only simplify the process, but increase the value of your home.

Interview several Northwest Realty agents and choose someone you feel comfortable with, someone you see eye-to-eye with on the issues that matter most to you. Once you decide who will represent you, feel free to check their credentials with their agency.

Your agent knows the current market trends. They also can know of comparable home sales (comps) for your area, i.e. your “competition” in the market. With their help you will be able to determine a fair listing price.

Q: Why shouldn’t I price my house a little high? I can always drop the price. The strategy sounds good but, in fact, it rarely works out. Sellers often settle for a lower sales price in the end. Why? You will see the most activity in the first few weeks on the market. Your over-priced house will have to compete with houses in that higher price range. Your competition will almost certainly be larger or newer or more luxurious. Against the competetion, your over-priced home is unlikely to attract an offer. Worse yet, during those first weeks other agents are previewing your house. If it’s over-priced, they may not even bother showing it to their buyers. When you eventually have to drop the price, you will create a lack of confidence in the property. Buyers will wonder why the house has been on the market so long and what might be “wrong” with it. This will likely factor into any offers you receive.

Determine what improvements need to be made including cleaning, painting, landscaping, repairs, etc. Trust your agent’s eyes! They can see things you are “used” to. Together, decide what needs to be done.

Q: Where do I begin? We’re glad you asked. Our Preparing Your House For Sale guide is full of advice, tips and ways you might increase the value of your property. We’ve even included a printable checklist…just for you!

Q: What if I don’t have the time or money to make big repairs? If there’s something you don’t want to tackle before going on the market, consider getting estimates for the work. That information can help in the price negotiations with your future buyer.

Q: How can I know if there’s something really wrong with my house? Consider having a structural inspection. This will reveal any significant problems you might face when the buyer has their inspection. Remember, information is power.

Q: Should I get a termite infestation report? The buyer’s lender will likely require one, but if you want to avoid potential problems, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

About a week before your house goes on the market, invite your agent to walk through your house again. Together, make a quick list of necessary finishing touches and get busy! Don’t forget to give your agent a set of keys.

Now that your house is on the market:

  • Ignore the temptation to go shopping and fill up all those “spaces” you just created.
  • Avoid cooking food that has a strong, lingering smell…fish and garlic come to mind.
  • Keep it tidy! You never know when the phone might ring with a potential buyer.
  • If it’s lawn mowing season, mow often and pick up your pet’s pooh daily!
  • Listen to your trusted agent if they suggest lowering your price.

Q: Should I stay or go during a showing? There are a couple good reasons to leave. First, you want buyers to talk freely about your house. Dreaming out-loud helps! If you are there prospective buyers might not discuss their ideas and vision for fear of offending you. Secondly, even though it is expected that these guests will open closets, peer into cabinets and walk through your bedroom, having you present may make them feel like intruders. This could stop their “search” for the perfect house short of a sale.

Quite often the first offer is the best offer, but be prepared to counter-offer. Your agent will guide you through the process based on their knowledge of the market, comps, and their homework on your prospective buyer.

Q: How do I handle multiple offers? What a great problem to have! Remember, money isn’t everything. Your trusted agent will help sort through the offers. Consider price, contractual terms and contingencies in your decision. The highest price isn’t always the best offer!

Q: Isn’t counter-offering an insult to the prospective buyer? Not at all. Actually most home sales involve multiple counter-offers which are used to negotiate the sale of a house in writing. Perhaps the offered close date is too soon or there are contingencies you aren’t willing to accept. Your agent will help fashion a counter-offer that better suits your needs and desires. Of course, your prospective buyer may not accept the offer at which point you have a decision to make…accept their offer or stand your ground.

Q: What are contingencies? Contingencies are stated events which must occur before a contract is binding. Here are some very common contingencies:
– Buyer’s ability to obtain financing and insurance
– Completion of structural inspections and local mandatory inspections (e.g. gas inspection)
– Buyer’s ability to sell their current home
– Seller’s ability to fix/repair stated items

Upon accepting a buyer’s offer to purchase your house, the buyer will put earnest money into escrow. This begins the inspection and appraisal phase.

Before a buyer actually completes their purchase of your house, they are typically given a set amount of time to:

  • Inspect the property
  • Obtain financing
  • Secure insurance
  • Review preliminary title report and all disclosure documents

At the successful conclusion of each of these steps, the buyer will either remove the corresponding contingency or request a renegotiation of the terms of the contract (often the price) based on what they have learned. An objective, experienced agent can help you make an informed decision on how to respond to the buyer.

Q: What is Escrow? When you accept a buyer’s offer, their earnest money (deposit) is temporarily held in escrow (a holding account) by a third party (usually a realtor or title company). Once the sale is official, you will receive a check for the proceeds from the sale of your house. This check contains the earnest money that has been held in escrow, and the escrow account is closed.

Q: What kind of inspections should I expect? The buyer has the right to have a wide variety of property inspections to determine the property’s condition and the cost of any impending repairs or upgrades. Inspections may include roof, termite/pest, chimney/fireplace, property boundary survey, well or septic. You are entitled to a copy of any of their inspection reports.

Q: How do I know a buyer can afford to purchase my house? We recommend accepting offers from buyers who have a lender’s pre-approval letter, which is stronger than a pre-qualification letter. Later, the lender will send an appraiser out to the property, to ensure the property is worth the sales price.

Q: Title reports, disclosures, encumbrances…help! Before the sale can be finalized, someone has to make sure every lien (encumbrance, claim) on your property is addressed. A title company (hired by the buyer) will research the complete recorded history of your property, making sure the title is free and clear of all encumbrances by the date of closing, and that all new encumbrances are properly added to the title. The title company also supplies a number of documents and facilitates the closing.

Closing day can be exciting and sad as you close one chapter of your life and begin a new one. You may be invited to take a final walk through the house with the new owners. Enjoy this time, but be ready for a little writer’s cramp…there will be plenty of papers to sign at the title company.

Q: Are there any documents or items I should leave in the house for the buyer? Leave manuals for appliances as well as the furnace, hot water heater and air conditioner. If you have any warranties that are transferable to the new owner, leave them as well. If you have any service agreements (for example, furnace inspection twice annually) that you are unable to take with you to your new home, leave contact numbers as well. Don’t forget to pull garage door openers out of your cars and leave them in the garage.

Q: When do I turn over the keys? Most likely you will give your keys to the realtor, who will then turn them over to the title company, who will in-turn give them to the buyer once closing is complete.

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