Selling Steps

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1. Make your house look like you don’t live there
Give your house the un-lived in look. Scrub, paint and depersonalize. Let buyers easily imagine themselves living there -- which is hard to do if all they see are mementos of you and your life. Don’t let anyone see your overstuffed junk drawer.
You may have thought you were saving money by putting off repairs, but you weren’t. Now’s the time

1. Make your house look like you don’t live there

Give your house the un-lived in look. Scrub, paint and depersonalize. Let buyers easily imagine themselves living there -- which is hard to do if all they see are mementos of you and your life. Don’t let anyone see your overstuffed junk drawer.

You may have thought you were saving money by putting off repairs, but you weren’t. Now’s the time to fix all the little things that bug you -- leaky faucets, loose railings, pealing paint. Put in brighter lights and landscaping. Everyone is wise to the trick of baking bread or brewing potpourri to make the place smell nice, but do it anyway.

Pat Vredevoogd Combs, president-elect of the National Association of Realtors, says pay attention to your front door: “Most people don’t use their front door, but that’s where your buyers are going to come in, even if it’s the last time they walk through that door.”

2. Consider an inspection

If there’s a problem, get an early heads up and fix it. Your buyer will want their own inspection anyway, though.

3. Choose the method for selling your house

Your parents would've just asked friends for a real estate broker, but there’s no one right way to sell a house anymore. Realtors can be a trusted guide through this tense process. But some want to avoid paying the hefty 5-7 percent commission.

Today you can negotiate with a traditional full-service broker or pick someone else’s services ala carte. Ask exactly what exactly you’ll get. Some discount brokers might not hussle to sell your home, but will put it on the Multiple Listing Service or MLS. Selling yourself is more work, but many online listing services offer packages and guidance. For an extra fee, you get on the MLS, which may mean paying a buyer’s agent’s fee.

4. Set the price

You or your realtor will analyze the local real estate market, looking at recent prices of similar homes. You may be in for a surprise if you’ve rationalized a big movie room or deck would “pay for itself.” (Kitchen and bathroom improvements are the best investments.) The price will depend mostly on the local market.

5. Market your house

You or your realtor has to get as many potential buyers as possible aware of your house. Your options include newspaper ads, online listings, yard signs and open houses.

Houses are staying on the market longer as the housing market cools. You may have to adjust your price down or add incentives to the buyer, such as paying closing costs. Or you may add a warranty to the house for about $500 to pay for certain repairs in the first year.

6. Consider the offers and accept one

When someone offers enough money, you’ll need to assess whether it’s enough and whether you think you the buyer will come through. How big is their downpayment? Do they have too many conditions? Typically buyers get to back out if they can’t get financing or the home inspection turns up big trouble. Others want to wait till their house sells. Lately some require that they be able to find homeowner’s insurance.

At this point, you’ll need some help, whether that’s a realtor, real estate lawyer or title services company.

7. Close the deal

If all goes smoothly, about a month after the contract, you’ll sit down with the buyer’s representatives and sign the contracts. In a matter of days you’ll get your money, the equity you’ve built up in the house, minus any commissions.

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