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Sell Your Home with No Regrets with these 25 Real Estate Tips

Sell Your Home with No Regrets with these 25 Real Estate Tips
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Putting a house on the market and selling it for a price that you can live with is much different than looking for a house and buying it for a price that you can afford. The whole process is different, and home sellers often need to do a lot of homework. Finding the best real estate advice is important to selling your home.

The information here will help first time home sellers get their feet underneath them for a smoother ride through the process. It’s also great for people who have had the experience of selling a house in the past and need to bone up on the details. 

#1 – Get organized from the start

Home showing with a realtor

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Selling real estate, even with the help of a real estate professional, is a complicated process. The most important thing, the thing that will help you navigate it all and come out on the other side without getting overwhelmed, is to get organized.

It takes months to get a property from being lived into being empty and in the hands of a new owner. Through that time, you need to have your eye peeled for important information and documentation.

Homeowner getting organized ahead of home sale

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Get a binder and start collecting documents and important information as soon as you decide to sell your home. This will help you keep track of hard copies and will save you time and effort at the closing table. Create sections for:

  • Legal documentation
  • Listing/agent information
  • Repair bills and information
  • Timeline/strategy
  • Potential buyer log
  • Calendar of showings/appointments
  • Moving resources

An important section is your log of calls and interested buyers. You can do this in your binder, or you can create a Google spreadsheet to keep track. If you go with an electronic format, make sure it’s on a shared platform like Google so that you can access it from anywhere. As you get closer to the sale, you’ll want quick access to real estate information.

Solid prepwork at the beginning will prevent heartbreak later in the property process.

#2 – Educate yourself about fees

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Some of the best advice you’ll ever get about the real estate process is to educate yourself about the fees associated with selling a home.

Money is the driving force behind putting a piece of property on the market, and fees eat into the profit in a hefty way. Expect to lose 10% of the sale price in fees if you use a realtor, 1% or so if you go with a cash buyer and sell as-is. On a $300,000 home sale, that’s $30K if you use a realtor and $3K if you go with an as-is cash sale.

A full service real estate agent will take five to six percent in commission. The remaining percentage of the fees in a traditional sale go to things like inspection fees, repairs, staging, pictures, etc.

A Realtor Presenting a Blueprint

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Finally, there’s also the payoff on the mortgage. Talk to your mortgage lenders early on to find out what fees you might incur and what the payoff amount might be. A mortgage broker will be able to give you the best advice on what your loan terms are. For example, an agent at Coldwell Banker would be able to tell you the payoff amount for your mortgage with Coldwell Banker.

All of these fees add up and will eat into your profit from the property. Make sure you know what to expect so that you can plan accordingly.

#3 – Understand emotion vs. pragmatism

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Generally, buying a house is all about the emotions that the buyer feels. Particularly for first time home buyers, choosing a house is tied to looking for the dream home. Does it feel like a place that you can imagine yourself living in ten years? 

On the other hand, selling a house is all about maximizing profit. Though there might be some real emotional attachment to the home, once it’s time to go, the seller is looking for the next space. In the same way that they put emotion into the purchase of the home they’re selling, they’re not pushing all of that emotion into the next home. 

The trouble is that the home they’re currently in has to be sold. That’s where pragmatism comes in, but it’s not all structure and emotional fortitude. Selling a home is stressful, even in a seller’s market. 

Couple buying their first home

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Often, home sellers get overwhelmed with the process. Acknowledging the level of stress that goes into selling a home will help you navigate through in a smart way that allows you to make pragmatic choices.

#4 – Commit to a strategy

Open house ahead of home sale

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There are multiple ways to go about selling your house. Real estate agents are only one course.

Roughly one in ten homeowners go it on their own when completing real estate transactions. These include individuals who go the “for sale by owner” (FSBO) route, as well as those who sell directly to cash buyers. Another ten percent attempt to go it on their own without a real estate agent, only to engage in one after the process gets started.

A great real estate agent can make the whole thing go smoother, but a new real estate agent who doesn’t have experience can make things go on longer for home buyers and homeowners.

Look at the positive and negative reasons of the three ways to tackle the real estate market and decide for yourself. Before you commit to any of them, take a deep dive into what you’ll get out of each and whether it’s right for you.

  • Use a full service real estate agent
  • List it yourself (FSBO)
  • Engage with a cash buyer

It all depends on your needs and your circumstances. Take a look at the real estate market in your area, and evaluate what kinds of needs you have. If you have an unusual property or need further support, real estate agents and home investment companies can support you with real estate advice.

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Everyone has an agenda, so take every piece of real estate advice you’re given with a grain of salt. Though most people are honest and mean well, you are the best advocate for yourself. Get bids from multiple agents and talk to multiple real estate investors before committing to anything.

Once you start down a path, commit to it as much as you can. Of course, you want to be flexible, but you also want to follow through with your method.

#5 – Create a timeline

Home interior prepped for sale

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The average time to sell a home is three to four months from the first decision to sell to the closing and handing over the keys. It can sometimes take much longer, or it can happen incredibly quickly, depending on the real estate market conditions.

If your area is a metropolitan area that has a lot of new people moving in, your home might sell within just a few days of listing it. If you’re in an economically depressed area, it could take many months to find the right buyer. Real estate is all about location.

Start as soon as you can in getting your home ready for potential buyers, even if you are in a competitive market. If you decide you need repairs before putting your house on the market to get a good market value, then those will take time.

Layout a timeline of what you need to get done and how long it will take, including how much time you expect to spend getting your house ready for sale.

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Here’s a simple timeline to give you an idea:

  • Research potential real estate agents/home investors
  • Start decluttering and packing
  • Get a home inspection
  • Schedule repairs
  • Do a deep clean
  • Final declutter and staging
  • Get photos taken
  • List the home

Everything prior to listing could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the needs of your house.

If you’re on a really tight timeline, one of the best tips is to sell your home as-is to a cash buyer. It can take as little as a week to two weeks, though you won’t get top dollar for your house with this tack.

#6 – Know your home

White sofa in a stage home for sale

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One of the most important pieces of advice you could get is to get to know your house well before you sell. Oftentimes, sellers have a good foundation of knowledge about their home, but it’s in your best interest to get as much information about your home so that you can get it priced correctly in the current market.

If you have been putting off small repairs or if you know of substantive issues with the house, you’ll have to choose whether to tackle those or to put them off and sell as is.

One of the best real estate tips you’ll get is to get a pre-listing inspection scheduled. If you haven’t done necessary repairs in the past year, they’ll be able to get you information about whether those problems have affected the value of the home. This is a service that’s generally worth the money, unless you’re planning to sell your home as-is.

#7 – Know your potential buyer

Home ready for sale thanks to agent advice

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Understanding your potential buyer, especially in a competitive market, can help you get the best deal for your home. This is how you wind up with a bidding war and how you rise above comparable properties in the neighborhood.

Depending on where your home is, you might be targeting first time buyers or experienced real estate investors. Do you want a buyer who’s pre approved so that the sale goes quickly? Are you open to counter offers, or do you want to dispense with the negotiation?

Someone buying their first home might be more willing to pay a premium for a house that they fall in love with. There’s a huge emotional investment in the first home a family purchases.

Once you have an idea of your ideal purchaser, you can make sure you get top dollar for your home.

#8 – Find the right price for your home

Interior of home for first time buyers

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No home seller wants to leave money on the table when selling their home by setting the price too low. At the same time, it’s easy to turn potential buyers off by setting the price too high. 

Finding out what the value of your home is isn’t as simple as looking at the online prices of other homes in your area, though that is a place to start. 

When real estate agents set a home price, they do so by looking at what other homes with similar amenities have sold for in your area recently. They’ll also see if necessary repairs have been done. A reputable real estate will do a lot of due diligence to get the pricing just right for your home. 

This is called a comparative market analysis, and there’s definitely an art to it. However, you should always do your own research so that you feel comfortable with what anyone offers you. 

If you decide to forego working with a real estate agent and instead go after a cash buyer, you should know that they’ll offer you less than market value. Keep in mind that a real estate agent will take upwards of five percent of the total sale price. If you are working with a cash buyer who offers you 96% of the price you’d get with a realtor, you’ll still come out with more money. 

#9 – Make smart, appealing repairs

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If the home you’re selling has been lived in for any amount of time, it’ll show signs of normal wear and tear. This might include dings in the walls, scratches in the paint, and fixtures that have come loose. 

Putting a fresh coat of paint on surfaces, having carpets professionally cleaned, and making those minor cosmetic changes will add up fast. When all of these things are done, it makes a home feel like it was well maintained. Even though these repairs don’t technically add direct value to your home for sale, they definitely create a powerful impression for potential buyers. 

Man painting home to get ready for sale

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Keep your eyes peeled for realtors who are experienced with fixer uppers and can offer you advice to get you the highest amount of money for your home. The right agent can make a big difference.

Home improvement costs are one of the biggest reasons that home buyers are hesitant to purchase some homes for top dollar. Be aware that serious repairs will prevent a mortgage broker from signing off on a loan.

#10 – Declutter & consider professional staging

Decluttered home

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When preparing your home for sale, you might want to consider working with a professional stager. These professionals will know just how to put your home together to make it as appealing as it possibly can be to potential buyers. 

Fun fact – when sellers get rid of half of the furniture, most homes get a better reaction from potential buyers. Why? It allows buyers to envision themselves in the space.

Home staging can make a big difference in how first time homebuyers view your home. Home prices are shown to consistently raise the price that a home sells for. There’s a cost for this service, but you’ll get a better deal than if you do it without these real estate experts.

It all comes down to how much you want to put into the piece of real estate before you sell it.  

Speaking of making space, decluttering is an absolute must for every seller.  Every bit of your personality should be packed away and readied to move on out. Packing up has the added benefit of making it easier for you to move. It makes the home accessible for first time buyers as well as making your life better during the transition.

#11 – Consider curb appeal

Home prices are higher for houses that look good from the outside.

Keeping up with lawn maintenance, repairing outdoor fixtures, putting a forest coat of paint on the front door, and fixing broken fences, all of this can make first impressions of your home better for buyers.

Real estate agents often offer advice about curb appeal. There’s a reason this is one of the most consistent tips for making your home stand out in the neighborhood.

Curb appeal is all about inviting first time buyers to fall in love with your home from the outset.

#12 – Choose the right day to list

The first day that a home is on the market is when it gets the most visibility. However, don’t put too much pressure on this moment in the homebuying process.

What does matter is the time of year. There are more sold homes during the summer months than any other time of the year. It’s when real estate is hottest, in part because families are trying to get moved in the summer months before school starts.

If at all possible try to list your home in the spring. Real estate experts will often give this advice to sellers because it’s a tried and true time of year to get more showings and to get an offer earlier.  

#13 – Make showings work for you

Agent showing a home for sale

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It’s important to be flexible with showing your home, but you also have to make it work for you.

For some families, home showings are incredibly stressful. If that’s the case for you, you might want to get out of the neighborhood for a weekend and allow your real estate agent to show the home. Real estate agents are happy to do open houses without the homeowner around.

More showings in a short period of time are a smart way to play the market. Touring homes, whether it’s a family looking for their first home or an agent scouting the neighborhood for a client, are best offered after working hours or on the weekend.

Choose a time that works with your schedule. Though realtors will often push you to have showings on their schedule, it’s good advice for you to do showings during a time that you can have the house clean and show ready.

A bonus of you not being home is that the potential buyers will be more open with the agent about questions and concerns for the home. It’s a great idea to let your agent take care of this – realtors are happy to do it.

#14 – 20 minute showing preparation

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If you are tight on time and need to get your home ready for a showing, you can do a quick prep in just 20 minutes. Unfortunately, all too often realtors bring in potential buyers with little notice. It’s not always smart in terms of money to ask an agent to wait.

Should you decide to go ahead with a last-minute showing, here are some things you can do in twenty minutes to get ready.

  • Do a walk through pickup of scattered items and put them in the bin.
  • Throw clothing in a covered laundry hamper.
  • Wipe off countertops in bathrooms and the kitchen.
  • Wipe off the bottom of seats and toilets.
  • Put loose dishes in the dishwasher.
  • Put any loose paperwork on the counter in a drawer or a standing file folder.
  • Close every closet.
  • Make all the beds.
  • Take the garbage out.

#15 – Hold an open house

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An open house is a great way to show off your home to potential buyers while also letting you have some control over the process. You can advertise your open house online, or you can put up signs in your local neighborhood.

Depending on your square footage, you might not be able to fit a lot of people into your house. However, you’ll get a better deal and reach more potential buyers if you bring in local residents who might be interested. Even if they keep a poker face on when walking through the house, they might well go home and tell others about your piece of real estate.

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Holding an open house means cleaning the home, putting out fresh flowers, and then leaving it to the real estate professionals to work with the people coming in and out. It’s only a few hours, but it’s a few hours that’s well worth it when you’re selling real estate.

Real estate agents have a lot of experience with open houses. Trust their expertise, and take the day off!

#16 – Do your home justice with great photos

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Getting incredible photos of your home before a home purchase is important. If you’re working with an agent, they might well take care of this step and home staging for you.

Fantastic real estate photos pull people in. A clean home, fresh flowers, and a well-staged living area make people fall in love with a home. They have a depth of color, and they look inviting. Flat, monochromatic pictures don’t bring in top dollar. If your realtor is handling the photos or the virtual tour, make sure to ask to approve the pictures before they go live.

#17 – Evaluate your online listing

Don’t just assume that your house will look great on every website. Go check out the listing on various websites and in mobile to make sure that it looks the way you want it to. If you see something that isn’t quite right, reach out to your real estate agent and ask them to make any changes.

#18 – Be ready for things to move fast

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Periodically, you should check in with the strategy and the timeline that you set out early on in the process. However, once things start moving, it’ll all happen at once. Most people who are selling a home for the first time aren’t ready for the avalanche at the end. A house can sit on the market for weeks with little movement, only to be flooded with competing offers.

Talk to your agent consistently about what’s going on with the home listing, and always be ready to make a move.

#19 – Respond quickly to offers

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Life doesn’t stop for you to sell your home, but at the same time, you need to be ready to make some decisions when an offer is made.

Most purchase offers come with an expiration date that’s just a couple of days. If you wait too long to respond, you might leave money on the table. Real estate agents know how fast this process needs to go at the offer stage, and they’ll push you to make those big choices.

You’ll have three options:

  • Accept the offer.
  • Reject the offer.
  • Propose a counteroffer.

This goes back to those plans that you made early on. If you know what your absolute “musts” are in the sales process, then you can make a quick decision on the offers placed in front of you.

#20 – Schedule movers as soon as you can

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As soon as you have an idea of when your move out day will be, go ahead and schedule your movers. Some times of the year are hugely challenging for getting a mover onboard. The beginning of the summer is the busiest time for movers, so book early if you know that you’ll be moving then.

Selling a home is so stressful already. If you don’t have movers ready to work with you, it can be even more stressful.

#21 – Know the tax ramifications

Home sellers looking over tax documents

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For most homeowners, there isn’t a tax on the profit when they sell the property that they live in – their primary home. As long as you’ve lived in a piece of real estate that you own for two of the last five years prior to the sale, you won’t owe anything up to $250,000 of profit if you’re single and up to $500,000 if you’re married. Real estate agents can help you understand this.

If you don’t meet that two out of five years criteria, then you’ll owe capital gains taxes on the property. Should you think that you might owe some kind of capital gains tax, talk to a real estate professional who specializes in that area.

#22 – Gather closing table documents

Realtor discussing closing documents with home sellers

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Documenting the sale of a home involves a lot of paperwork. All along the way, you’ll want to organize the documents you need.

Here’s a list of the main documentation you’ll need for a real estate sale, though there will likely be some things not on this list that your agent can tell you about.

  • Original purchase agreement for the piece of real estate.
  • Mortgage documentation.
  • Original appraisal of the home.
  • Property survey.
  • Documentation of your current mortgage.
  • Property tax records
  • Homeowners insurance documentation
  • Home inspection report (if one was completed)

#23 – Talk to a real estate attorney

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Depending on the regulations in your state, you may or may not need a real estate attorney at the closing. A real estate attorney is a significant expense, and you can expect to pay a couple of thousand dollars for one.

A real estate attorney will help you make sure all of the paperwork is in proper order. They’ll review the contracts that have been put together, and they’ll figure out any issues that might get in the way of the sale.

#24 – Prepare for closing obstacles

Home showing

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Once your home is under contract, you might feel like you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. While it’s true that this is the final stretch, it’s a good idea to be ready for potential obstacles that could get in the way.

  • Negative home inspection report.
  • Low home appraisal.
  • Failure of financing by the buyer.

A negative home inspection report can be a deal killer for buyers who have already come this far. There could be some major discovery, like termites or mold in the basement, that will totally turn off a buyer and make the deal fall through.

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A negative home inspection could trigger another round of negotiations. If you have competing offers, remember that you are required by law in most states to disclose any issues that are found with the home.

Most lenders require a home appraisal before they will put financing on a house. The only time this is a problem is if the appraisal comes in below the amount that is being asked to finance. The buyer will then have to either find a way to pay the difference in cash, or they might just walk away from the deal.

Couple with keys for a new home

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In any market, mortgage underwriting is the most stressful part of buying, especially for first time buyers. If new debt is added to the buyer’s credit, or if the buyer has another change to their credit report before the sale goes through, then they could suddenly find themselves without a bank to lend from. This will make the whole deal fall through, and there’s not much of a way to recover from it.

Most real estate deals go through without these kinds of hiccups, but be prepared for things like this to occur! It’s better to be prepared than to be sorry. Real estate agents see this all the time, and rest assured that you aren’t alone.

#25 – Close out the home sale!

Closing table at a home sale

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At long last, when the time finally comes to close on your home, it’s your responsibility as the seller to compile the documents that are necessary and to finish out all of the loose ends.

You are required by law in most states to disclose the full condition of the house, including any repairs that have been made to address those issues. There might be specific certifications or inspections that you need to provide to the buyer – think sewer, septic, or roof inspection.

As you close out the sale, make sure that you review the closing costs in detail. Again, you can expect to pay up to ten percent of the total sale price of the home in closing costs. Usually, these costs are covered out of the equity in the home.

Closing sale documents

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At the closing table, one of the last things you’ll do is to sign the documents. There will be lots of things to sign, and you should make sure that your agent or your real estate attorney explains anything that you don’t understand. It’s possible to do this separately from the buyer, or it might be done at the same time.

You’ll either hand over the keys to the home at the closing, or you’ll hold onto them and hand them over at a later date. It all depends on the terms you’ve decided on during your negotiations.

Final advice on selling your home

Agent with a home that just sold

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 Selling real estate can be a real challenge, but the best tip for you to remember is this one:

You only have to do this a few times in your entire life!

You don’t have to become a real estate expert in order to get a good price for your home. Real estate agents and experienced cash buyers are there to help you make it work for you. Real estate is just like any other field – it’s all about knowing your way around.

You’ll get a better deal and an offer earlier if you work with top agents or if you work with a trusted home investor. Realtors can help guide you through the process or find an agent that feels like a good fit.

It’s hard to make a big mistake with this process, so let the pressure fall off your shoulders. You don’t have to do it all.

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