How to Sell Your House: The Definitive Guide

I'm Donny. I'm a world traveler, investor, entrepreneur, and online marketing aficionado who has a big appetite to compete and disrupt big markets. I thrive on being able to create things that impact change, difficult challenges, and being able to add value in negative situations.

sell your house

Buying a house is one of the most complicated processes in a person’s life. You have to gather enough money for your deposit, showcase your ability to handle financial responsibilities, and find a home in your price range.

The process can be overwhelming and even take years to accomplish.  When you’re ready to move on, this complicated action becomes even more difficult.

Selling your home can feel like walking through mud, as you try to get closer to your goal but get weighed down by all of the paperwork and little details you forgot to check.

To help this process seem less like walking through the woods, and more like a stroll in a flower field, we have outlined a guide for you to follow.

11 Steps to Sell Your Home in 2022

1. Figure out your finances

Before you can do anything, you need to figure out your finances. If you’re selling to downgrade your home to something more manageable, or expanding to fit in your growing family, then you need to know what you're working with.

First, you should figure out how much your home is worth and how much you have left to pay on the mortgage.  To find out this information, you need to retrieve the paperwork from your mortgage company.

Here they can tell you how much the home was originally worth and how much you have left to pay.  It's the “left to pay” aspect that we care about at this point in time.

Although gaining a profit from your home is preferable, you will ideally need to sell your home over the price of your remaining mortgage.

Once you’ve learned how much you have left on your mortgage, you can hire an estate agent to give you a rough estimate for your home.

These rough estimates are often free, but sometimes you can expect a fee depending on your location.  Knowing how much the home is worth, and how much you need to pay off, you can complete the following calculation.

Home Value - Remaining Mortgage Value = Profit.  The more money you have in the Profit section, the more freedom you’ll have in finding your next home.

2. Think about your next move 

prepare to move out

With this estimated profit you can decide if renting or buying is the best option for you. Depending on where you are in the country, buying a home is often the cheapest option in the long run.

In fact, 58% of median-priced houses are more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property.  And if you have already owned a house in the past, then you should have created a large enough deposit through selling your home to create a down payment for the next one.

However, price isn’t always the most important factor. If you’re elderly you may prefer to rent a room in a retirement village. These villages are designed with entertainment, safety features, and constant access to support suitable for those of an older generation.

If you decide to buy a home, are you going to buy something cheaper than your current property to give yourself more savings, or are you going to use the profit to purchase a larger home?

Knowing how much profit (or debt), selling your home will give you, you can decide the best options going forward.

3. Choose a real estate agent

hire real estate agent

Finding the best estate agent for your home means looking for these 3 things - their location and knowledge about your area, their success rate, and their attitude towards selling.

To some agents, the main goal is to give you the best price for your home. If they work on commission, this means they get the most amount of money from a person’s purchase too - creating a win-win scenario. 

However, if your main goal is to sell the home for a reasonable price before a certain date, waiting for the best payment won’t be helpful. 

There are many instances when time is more important than profit. For example, maybe you’re moving states and need the money quickly to start your new job.

Perhaps, you need the money to pay off a debt. Or you may be part of a chain, and you don’t want your new potential home to drop you as a buyer due to delays. 

Searching for an estate agent that follows the same attitude as you can help you avoid confusion and annoyance with their methods.  Of course, the agent’s success rate is paramount, as without a great history you cannot be sure if they will sell your home at all.

Look at the reviews from other sellers to gauge an understanding of how each estate agency manages its clients.  Lastly, knowing an area is essential to selling in the area.

If the estate agent gets all of their information from Google Maps, then they will miss out on the unique details of the area which can be great selling points.

A local bakery, a hidden public garden, a rock climbing center, and even a number of soft play centers can be great information to convince a buyer that your home's location is perfect.

4. Prepare your home for sale

prepare home for sale

Generally speaking, there are three ways to prepare your home for selling. You have to stage your home to look like a promise of a better life, keep it tidy, and lastly make the home look great from the outside.

These concepts are easier said than done, so let us help you break down what it means.

Stage your home well

To stage your home, you are creating a false reality. This means removing any of the less popular aspects of your personal aesthetic and replacing them with something more universally-liked.

To help a person visualize themselves in your home, they need to see something familiar that links them to the space. If you have a witchcore aesthetic that includes skulls, bottles, and crystals, then you might be Instagram famous but your home will only appeal to those within the witchcore subculture.

To everyone else, this unfamiliar design will make them seem disconnected from the rooms and they won’t be able to visualize themselves living in the space. 

Staging your home to create a more universally enjoyed aesthetics will allow more people to create a connection to the space.

Tidy up

Tidying up doesn’t mean getting the duster and the vacuum cleaner out (although you should clean the home before every visit). It means removing any clutter in your home and giving everything a fresh lick of pain.

You want your home to look as though the next occupant could move in without any changes. Broken tiles should be fixed, the walls should be freshly painted, and the area should be clear of clutter.

If a potential homeowner can see areas that need fixing up, they will ask for a lower price on the building or will reject the home due to the amount of work needed.

The easiest way to make your home seem “move-in ready”, is to keep the area clear. If potential buyers see that you have a problem with storage, then they will be concerned that their items won’t fit in the area too.

They will also have a hard time picturing the space correctly, as the size will seem smaller than it actually is.  Lastly, a potential buyer will know that there are hidden problems with any home.

However, 60% of buyers admit to hiding issues with their home, while 65% admit that although they show the problem, they downplay how serious it is. 

Second-time buyers know that most of the problems will be hidden. If they can see problems straight away, they will be concerned about what they can’t see.

Watermarks suggest leaks, items on the floor suggest it hasn’t been cleaned in a while, and if the tiles are cracked what is the oven like?

Remember curb appeal 

Curb appeal is when your home looks great from the outside. Someone walking past your house, while on the curb or pavement, looks at your building and thinks it's pretty or impressive.

To make your home look good on the outside, you should have the walls cleaned, and repaint the surfaces.  In particular, you should concentrate on the windows.

Windows draw our attention, and if you can see a chip in the wood or flakes on the paintwork, your home will look uncared for. 

5. Set a timeline

Selling your home will take a long time. For the lucky ones, the process can take just 2 months, but for most people, it can take  6 months to a year to sell your home. 

Part of this process is doing the clean-up work we mentioned before. You don’t want an estate agent to value your home until you are happy with how it’s being presented.

Change your oven, fix your lights, paint the walls, and re-carpet the floors.  Although all of this costs time and money, it will add value to your home.

So first you should estimate how long it will take you to tidy up your home. Your weekends and evenings may be taken up by this DIY task.

Once you’re happy, start researching and searching for real estate agents that match your attitude to the selling process.

The estate agent will take photos of your stage area, and tell you when the first viewings will take place. From that point on you will need to keep your home in top condition until the house is sold. 

You should also estimate how long you’re willing to live in this pristine manner. If you reach the end of the timeline, you may want to investigate why your home is taking so long to sell.

6. Get a pre-sale home inspection

pre-sale home inspection

Pre-sale home inspections are optional assessments created by an engineer. They evaluate your home to see where the structural or mechanical issues are in your home.

In older homes, you are likely to find faults in the wiring and plumbing, as the pipes are getting old or the wires are no longer strong enough to handle your electrical usage.

These inspections cost a couple of hundred dollars, but you can add the results to the estate agent’s listing information to give buyers an upfront understanding of the building.

It speeds up the process and shows buyers your honesty.

7. Get professional photos

Get professional photos

Professional photos created by real estate agents will showcase your property in the best light.  They will have the equipment to place the camera in the corner of the rooms, thereby showing more space in the area.

They will also know where to angle the cameras to show the height of the rooms and their potential.  You may think that taking a photo is a simple job that doesn’t need a professional, but in reality, the first thing a potential buyer will look at are these images.

If you can’t produce a realistic but beautified version of your home, you will be less likely to draw interest.

8. Set a realistic price

Set a realistic price

A realistic price for your home is created using multiple factors. Generally speaking, they can be broken down into two concepts - First, how much are the homes in the same area?

Then what aspects of your home are better or worse?  For example, if the homes in your area are worth $500,000, but your home is smaller and needs a lot of repair work then you cannot expect the same price. 

Another example is a similar home in a different area. It may be worth more or less than yours due to the location difference.  Your real estate agent and mortgage broker will create a realistic price for you.

However, you should look at the listings in your area too. If you know a neighbor has a stronger home to sell, but they've valued their home at a lower rate than yours, then potential buyers will see your home as overpriced.

9. Review and negotiate offers

Review and negotiate offers

When your home enters the market you will likely get offers that don’t match your original suggestion. Your estate agent or attorney can help you understand the offers at play and which ones to go with.

If there is a lot of competition in your area, you may be given offers above your asking price, but in slow-paced areas, the offers may be lower.

You need to decide for yourself if the price matches your needs. Go back to the Figure Out For Finances section of this article and ensure that whatever offer has been made to you can at least pay off the mortgage of the house.

If the offer suggested doesn’t match your needs, you can always counteroffer. These types of negotiations can include agreeing to the price but needing the transaction to happen quickly (one month), or it could be an agreement with furniture included.

If you receive multiple offers you should consider the following information to help narrow down the lucky new homeowner.

  • The offer itself - How much a person offers you should be taken into consideration, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration.
  • How are they paying? - Cash can be hard to transport, but you will get the finances quickly. Financing is easy to showcase but means communications between banks and lenders.
  • The person’s credit history - If the people trying to buy the home have a bad credit history, then they may struggle to complete the mortgage deal, making it a longer process than necessary.
  • Are they in a chain? - If those trying to buy your home are in a chain, this means they are selling their home to someone else in the process. The person they are selling to might also be selling their home, which means you all rely on each other to complete the mortgage process. 

If someone in the chain fails, then the whole process collapses. The fastest and most secure deals are with no-chain offers (coming from their parent's house, renting, or can buy upfront), or small chain offers.

The longer the chain, the harder it is to sell your home.

  • Suggested closing date - Lastly, when do they think they can close the deal on your home? If time matters to you, then a quick sell might be more important than a large financial payout.

10. Accept the offer and close the deal

accept real estate offer

Once you accept an offer, your home will be removed from the market by your real estate agent. Your mortgage advisor, real estate agent and an attorney will be in communication with the lucky buyer’s professionals. 

They will be given a formal request for the down payment and must produce a sufficient payment plan for the process to be accepted. This can be a mortgage loan or a direct payment.

Due diligence and underwriting

In the due diligence process, your attorney will ensure that the buyer’s finances have been inspected. If the buyer cannot make their offered payment, it will be found out at this stage.

The reason could be due to a cap from the mortgage broker, which means a lowered offer might be presented. Or it could be due to an issue with the buyer’s finances in general, in which case the potential buyer’s offer will be completely rejected and you will need to start the process again.

During this process, you don’t need to do anything. Everything is in the bank's hands.

Sign title and escrow documents

Once everything has been approved, you will be given a title and escrow document to sign. To do this, you will need to bring proof of your ID (normally a driver's license or passport as they contain photo evidence).

With a legal witness, you will sign the documents. Once completed the public records will show that you no longer own the house. The home is now in the name of its new owners.

You will then be sent the finances from the purchase as appropriate. Normally this means sending a portion to your mortgage loan company to close down that account and then the remainder to your debit accounts.

11. Close the sale and move out

close real estate sale

When you’re looking at the details of your offer, you need to ensure everything is correct. Your attorney will go over the details themselves, but it doesn’t hurt to look over the fine print too.

Review the settlement statement

First, you need to check the settlement statement when you’re closing the deal. This will include the jobs your estate agent participated in for your house to sell. 

Generally speaking, these costs will include taxes, the agent’s commission for the sale, the pre-listing inspection we spoke about earlier, the appraisal fees, and the home warranty.

If the estate agent prepped and staged your home for you, then this will also be included. In the settlement statement, you will see who is responsible for paying these fees.

Most will be paid for by you, the seller, but some states require the buyer to pay for other items on the list.

Receive your home sale proceeds

When you receive your payment from the sale, it will typically be sent to your mortgage lender first. This way you don’t accidentally spend a large sum of money, forgetting your mortgage needs to be paid.

However, once the mortgage has been paid the rest will be sent to your banking account. If you don’t have a mortgage then the whole amount will be sent there.

If the amount doesn’t cover your mortgage, then once the payment has been made you can sit down with your lender and discuss a new plan.

This could mean reducing the monthly payments but extending the amount of time needed to pay your debts.

Determine if you’ll owe taxes on the sale

In most states, you can avoid paying capital tax gains by waiting to sell your home until 5 years have passed since you bought it. In those 5 years, you need to live in the home, otherwise the scheme will not work.

If you match that criteria, then between $250,000 and $500,000 capital gains can be ignored by taxes.  To make sure you don’t make a mistake in this area, you should talk to an accountant or your attorney to confirm the taxes you need to pay.

Transfer utilities

You don’t want your utilities to be shut off during the moving period, nor do you want to be charged for a late fee due to the transferring process.

Banks and most companies don’t process documents on the weekends, which means if your house is officially released from you on a Friday, that data might not reach the utilities until Monday.

During that time, the house will still be under your name, and if you haven’t paid for these additional days, you could be charged with a late payment fee.

To make sure  black marks don’t end up on your name, you should consider closing the account the next business day after the transfer.

Some utility companies have a special process for moving houses, which can allow you to set up the move a month before it officially starts.

This way on moving day, the accounts automatically switch without worry. Talk to your utility company to see if they offer this service.

Change your address and forward your mail

At least two weeks before you move, you should place an address change with USPS. This will automatically redirect any of your mail to your new address on moving day. 

Once you’ve moved, you should start changing your address on all of your documents. Start with legal documents such as driving licenses and passports, then move on to your lenders such as banks and insurance companies.

From there, you should look at all the posts you receive through the mail via a re-direction and change your address one by one.

Next Steps

Now that you’re all moved into your new home and your previous one has been sold on, you might think the process is over. Sorry to say it, but it’s not.

You should keep all of your financial information in a safe place like a filing cabinet or an actual safe. This is because your tax returns could come back stating that you haven’t paid your due amounts.

The same goes for all of your financial information. Ideally, you should keep your financial information for 7 years, and only then allow yourself to dispose of it.

This is because there is a statute of limitations that stops companies from suing you for debts older than 7 years.  To make sure that your financial deals have evidence to prove everything was completed correctly, you should keep your details for this length of time and organize the paperwork in an easy-to-search location.

Summary

With the information above, you shouldn’t become lost or confused while selling your home. When your estate agent or attorney brings you forward to the next stage of the process, you will already be ready for what that may entail.

The most important thing you can do, as a seller, is to get your home in order. That means repainting the walls and removing any weeds to create greater curb appeal, as well as removing clutter from inside your home to create a spacious and welcoming environment.

Preparing for potential buyers is the most hands-on you will be during this process, so take the job seriously. The better your home looks, the more it will sell for.

FAQ's

Have more questions? Don’t worry, we have more answers.

What don’t I need to fix before selling?

You shouldn’t fix anything that will cost more time and money to correct than it would add value to your home. For example, small electrical issues such as a light switch that no longer works will cost more to fix than leaving it be.

This is because the electrician will need to remove the wall protecting the light switch, fix the appliance, and then re-plaster the area.

This will cost more in the long run, than simply admitting that one light switch doesn’t work.

What is the fastest way to sell your house?

The fastest way to sell your home is to have a low asking price. The price has to be low for your area and low for your home’s value.

In the advertisement, you should explain why you’re selling so low, so potential buyers understand there are no hidden faults in the home.

If you don’t want to reduce the price, you can use multiple estate agents to get your home viewed by multiple potential buyers.

However, some agencies will not allow you to do this, so check their schemes before attempting this strategy. If you ignore this restriction the estate agents may fine you.

How do I sell a house myself?

To sell your house without an estate agent, you need to complete all the same information we mentioned before, but instead of listing the property on the agent’s website, you need to find your own source.

This could mean listing it in a local newspaper, on social media, or through any other distribution avenue, you are aware of.  You will still need legal advice to help you get through the documentation process, but selling without an estate agent is entirely possible.

How do you price your home to sell?

First, you should look at comparable listings. These are homes in your area that are similar to your own. If any had been sold in the last 6 months, you can use these homes as a guide for your own.

The area itself should only be within half a mile radius of your house.  Next, compare the details around your home such as railroads, shops, activity areas, and so forth.

The more connectivity there is around your home the more valuable it becomes.  Now look at withdrawn listings and expired listings. There are houses that didn’t sell.

You may notice that their prices were much higher than their neighbors or that their price was the same but the interior didn’t match the quality of similar homes.

Pooling all of this information together, you can create an estimated price for your home.

I'm Donny. I'm a world traveler, investor, entrepreneur, and online marketing aficionado who has a big appetite to compete and disrupt big markets. I thrive on being able to create things that impact change, difficult challenges, and being able to add value in negative situations.

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