Last Updated on June 28, 2023
Knowing what to expect in the home selling process can take away a lot of stress and anxiety. When you break the seemingly huge undertaking into steps, all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and eventually you’ll be walking out of your closing with a successful home sale in the books.
We’ve put together a general timeline so you can see the steps in the process from start to finish. Now you’re ready to take the first step!
Step one: Hire an agent and tour the property
You need a strong team to get the most out of the home selling process. Start by finding a real estate agent who knows your local market inside and out and has experience with pricing, marketing, and negotiation. Your agent is your advocate throughout the entire process, so it’s important to get this step right before you move on.
Once you’ve found your “just right” agent, take them on a comprehensive tour of your property. The more familiar the agent is with your home, the better they can price it, market it, and negotiate on your behalf to get the best offer on the table.
Step two: Consult on listing details
Next you’ll take a realistic look at your property, compare it to similar properties, and come up with the asking price and listing timeline that will get you the best offers. Your agent will guide you through this step with a Competitive Market Analysis, which includes photos, maps, and details about comparable homes that are on the market or have recently sold.
It’s important to have a “just the facts” approach to this stage. Our homes can feel like extensions of our families, but when you’re trying to sell one, everything is business, not personal.
The best asking price may be lower than what you feel your house is worth, but that could be due to things outside your control, like the neighborhood, schools, and the state of the local real estate market.
Your agent might feel like the market is primed for multiple offers and a slightly lower price could end up working in your favor by generating a lot of interested people who are willing to make great offers.
Although you’re not yet ready to show your home, this is the ideal time to start de-cluttering. Clear out closets as much as possible and put non-essential belongings in storage to make your house feel spacious.
Related reading: How to stage your garage to increase your home’s overall value
Step three: Prepare to show your house
Once you’ve determined the perfect asking price and identified the best time to put your house on the market, you’ll finalize the contract documenting that you’re working with the agent you’ve chosen.
Now it’s time to get your home ready for its big debut! Decide which repairs will get you the best return on investment for showings. Hire a cleaning service to make your home sparkle, especially carpets and rugs.
Give dingy walls a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color. This is when you’ll stage your home if that’s part of your plan. Your agent can refer you to staging specialists.
Related reading: Most sellers forget about this when selling their home
Step four: Market the house
You’ve put a lot of effort into finding the right agent, determining the ideal asking price, and making your home shine. Now it’s time for all that work to pay off by putting your house on the market and spreading the word.
Your agent will enter the property information into the Multiple Listing Service so other brokers can consider your home for their clients. The best agents will use an old-school/new-school approach that takes advantage of tried and true tools like flyers, open houses, showings and postcards, and also uses online resources like virtual tours and real estate websites.
We hope this stage is a short one, but even a week can drag on when you’re rearranging your life for last-minute showings. Even so, you’ll want to do everything in your power to be flexible and accommodate prospective buyers so you can get through this step quickly.
Take every showing and open house as an opportunity to get valuable feedback on your listing price, staging, curb appeal, and other important factors. Ask your agent to follow up after showings and open houses to see if other agents or their clients have any comments that can help you market the home successfully. Remember, it’s not personal! It’s about getting the best offer on the table so you can have a successful sale.
Related reading: Allen Tate tech tools to help you buy or sell a home
Step five: Negotiate with the buyer
This is where the experience of selling a home starts to feel like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Everyone’s experience varies a bit, and we recommend staying optimistic yet flexible and relying on your real estate agent’s experience to make this step successful for you.
As a general guideline, make sure everything agreed on is in writing, don’t be afraid to accept a great offer just because it’s the first or second, and make sure your attorney reviews the contract before you sign it.
Step six: Pending period
In the pending period between accepting an offer and closing the sale, your house will be inspected and the buyer’s loan process (including the appraisal) will get underway. Once the buyers review the inspection report, both parties will work through their real estate agents to agree on any needed repairs or concessions.
Here are some general tips to make this step work for you:
-Prepare the attic, garage, and basement for the inspection. Make sure the inspector can access the walls, plumbing, and electrical systems.
-Keep your home in great shape up to and continuing through the final walk-through when the buyer and their agent inspect your home to make sure it’s in the same condition as it was when they made their offer.
-Hold onto your homeowner’s insurance policy until you are officially no longer the homeowner (this is usually the day of closing).
Step seven: Closing
You made it to closing day! Before you break out the bubbly, make sure you know what to expect and how much money you’ll need to hand over. On closing day, you can expect to sign the documents required to complete the sale of your property. The property transfer will be recorded and funds will be disbursed (this exact timeline depends on the property location).
Ask your agent what you need to have prepared for the closing. Closing documents typically include the mortgage, title insurance and homeowner’s insurance policies, certificate of title, and deed. Bring your property tax bill, water and sewer bills, utility information, warranties for items included in the sale, repair records and referrals, and a survey/plot plan.
Keep reading: How to avoid closing day surprises