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How to Sell a House, Step by Step

Apr 29, 2024 2:00:00 PM / by Matt McGee

What you’ll learn in this article

1. Setting a timeline: Selling a home is typically not a fast process. The speed with which you need to sell will determine a lot of the decisions you make. 

2. Hiring a real estate agent (or listing your home yourself): You can sell your home by yourself, but we suggest you hire a professional and rely on their market knowledge, marketing systems, and negotiation skills to sell the home on your timeline and for the most money possible.

3. Get your home ready to sell: Put your pride aside. No matter how much you love it, you’ll probably need to make some repairs and improvements to make the home appealing to buyers.

4. Price your home correctly: Proper pricing is a must to attract buyers. Get this wrong and your home may sit on the market unsold, costing you time and money.

5. Market your home: There’s a lot more to marketing a home than listing it in the MLS and putting a sign in the front yard. Your agent should have an aggressive marketing plan to expose your home to potential buyers.

6. Review and negotiate offers: Rely on your agent’s experience to understand the pros and cons of all offers that come in. The one with the highest purchase price may not be the best offer.

7. Inspection, appraisal, and negotiations: Depending on the results of the home inspection and appraisal, the buyer may have additional requests or demands before buying the home. This might require continued negotiations until both you and the buyer are satisfied.

8. Sign paperwork and close the sale: On closing day, you’ll sign all the paperwork and hand over the keys to your home. Your home is sold!

Whether you hire a Realtor® or try to sell your home without an agent, the process can be long and complex. 

You’ll want to get the home ready to impress would-be buyers, price it correctly, do professional photos that show the home in its best light, and market it aggressively so it sells on your desired timeline. 

And all of that happens before the showings and open houses, before you get offers and negotiate, before an inspection…we could go on and on.

In fact, let’s do exactly that. Let’s walk you through each step of the process so you understand how to sell a house.

1. Establish your timeline

There are many factors that will determine how long it takes to sell your house: the state of your local market, the home’s condition, the time of year that you’re selling, and more. If your home needs extra work—i.e., cleaning and repairs—plan on extra time during these early stages of the home-selling process. If you need to sell your home for a certain price that might be more than what the market supports, your home may sit unsold for longer than normal. 

“That’s the usual question I get—‘How long will it take to sell my house?,’ says David Liberatore, a luxury real estate specialist in the Sarasota, Florida, area. “If it’s not priced right, it will sit on the market for ages and you’ll have tons of price drops.”

Although there are exceptions, most home sales take from 45 days to several months from the time they’re listed until they close. Let that be your guide as you think about when to put your home on the market. Your agent can let you know if extra time might be needed due to current market conditions, the condition of your home, or even the listing price. We’ll get more into that in just a moment.

2. Hire a real estate agent (or list it yourself)

You can sell your home without a Realtor, but make sure you understand the pros and cons of that decision. While many homeowners think they’ll save money by not using a Realtor, that’s not guaranteed. The complexities of selling a home, and the risk of something going wrong, are likely why only 7% of homeowners sold their homes by themselves in 2022-23, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). 

We recommend you work with a real estate agent to increase the likelihood that your home will sell on your timeline and for the maximum value. Start by identifying the qualities you want in an agent, and then interview at least 2-3 agents before choosing one to help sell your home.

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Redy is a great place to start your search because top agents will compete and pay for the privilege of listing your home. With Redy, you can easily compare a curated list of agents and their proposals—their background, experience, and their upfront cash reward—all in one convenient location. 

3. Get your home ready to sell

Rare is the home that’s in pristine, ready-to-sell condition. So don’t take it personally when your agent suggests some improvements. Remember, their goal is the same as yours: To sell your home on your timeline for the most value possible. 

Your agent will suggest you make all obvious cosmetic repairs you can, such as replacing damaged window screens or light fixtures. They may also recommend you fix major issues that will impact the sale, such as a damaged roof or HVAC system that needs repair. New carpet and paint are other common improvements that can make your home more appealing. 

Once any needed repairs and improvements are complete, plan on decluttering the home. Many agents also recommend bringing in a professional home stager to help make a great first impression later in the process when open houses and showings begin. According to the NAR, 44% of listing agents say that staging leads to higher-value offers from buyers.

The final step here is professional photos. Yes, today’s smartphones are amazing and take beautiful photos, but there’s no substitute for a professional’s skill. The NAR reports that 100% of buyers use the internet to search for a home, and they find photos more valuable than any other type of content. This is not an area where you want to skimp or take shortcuts. 

4. Price your home correctly

Arguably the most important decision you’ll make is the list price of your home. The final decision on this should be yours, but you should rely on your agent’s market knowledge and research to determine the price. Your agent should show you several homes similar to yours that sold recently and/or are on the market now. Those “comps,” as they’re called, are your guide for setting the price of your home.

“Getting the list price correct is absolutely critical,” according to Sheri Hardy, a top agent in the Marietta, Georgia, area. “A good agent does a comprehensive market analysis before recommending a price and isn’t afraid to ask a local appraiser how a bank may value the property. Then after having all the information in hand, the agent and seller should choose a pricing strategy that best addresses the seller's objectives.”

Pricing a home correctly is both art and science. Overpricing will scare away qualified buyers, keeping your home on the market longer. And the longer a home remains on the market, the more buyers will wonder what’s wrong with it. Underpricing, on the other hand, can lead to leaving money on the table. 

5. Market your home: Open houses, showings, and more

Once your agent adds your home to the local MLS, it’s available for buyers and their agents to see. 

This is when your agent will begin aggressively marketing your home. Since 100% of buyers use the internet during their home search, your agent’s marketing plan should focus heavily on online tactics including social media, email, and online ads. They’ll also put a “For Sale” sign in your yard and may use other offline tactics such as postcards and open houses. Be sure to discuss all of this with your agent before the home hits the market so you understand how the home will be marketed. 

All of this marketing should attract interest from buyers, who’ll schedule showings to get a first-hand look at your home. This is where all of the repairs, improvements, cleaning, and staging you did will come into play. Your goal is to enable buyers to envision themselves living in the home as they walk through it. 

6. Review and negotiate offers

If you and your agent did a good job of getting your home ready to sell, pricing it, and marketing it, buyers will begin to submit offers to buy it. This is where an agent with experience and strong negotiation skills are a must.

You might think that the highest-priced offer is the best, but that’s not necessarily true. Think about the bigger picture and consider these questions:

  • Does the buyer’s desired closing date fit your timeline?

  • Is the buyer pre-approved for a mortgage and are they using a reputable lender? Or are they paying in cash? Your agent can help you understand how the buyer’s financing might impact a successful sale.

  • Does the buyer’s offer include contingencies, such as needing to sell their own home before they can buy yours?

The answers to these questions can determine whether you should accept an offer, or which offer is best if you get more than one.

Your agent will go over the pros and cons of each offer. You’ll have three options with each offer: reject it, make a counteroffer, or accept it. 

7. Offer accepted! Inspection, appraisal, and negotiations

After you’ve accepted an offer on your home, the buyer will likely want to order a home inspection. This is when the buyer’s preferred home inspector walks through the home and assesses its condition; the buyer may accompany the inspector, too. They’ll examine the home’s structure (floors, walls, ceilings, roof, etc.) as well as its systems (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc.) to identify problems they may want fixed before completing the sale.

If the buyer is purchasing the home with a loan, the lender will also require an appraisal. A licensed appraiser will come to the home to analyze the property. The appraiser uses this walkthrough of the home, plus an analysis of the sales of similar homes, to give the bank an opinion on what the home is worth. The bank orders an appraisal because it wants to make sure the amount it’s lending to the buyer is in line with the home’s value.

Depending on the results of the inspection and appraisal, your agent may continue to negotiate with the buyer’s agent until both sides are satisfied. Compromise is the name of the game now. It’s important that your agent represents your interests during these negotiations, but also that they not push so hard that it encourages buyers to cancel the contract. 

8. Sign paperwork and close the sale

Once all negotiations are complete, you and the buyer will make separate arrangements to sign all of the paperwork—and there’s a lot of it! 

Your agent will let you know what to bring to the closing, including the amount of any fees you need to pay. And be sure to bring the keys so your agent can hand them over to the buyer’s agent. 

Once all the paperwork is signed and keys handed over, your home is sold—congratulations!

Simplify the process with Redy

We get it. This is a lot to think about. Selling your home is not easy.

But Redy can make it easier. 

When you use Redy to find the right listing agent, your preparation happens in a low-pressure environment—your home. You’ll get a curated list of agents on your phone or laptop to review their proposals all in one convenient location, including their upfront cash reward. Redy is the only platform where real estate agents pay you for the privilege of selling your home.

Get started today by creating a property profile on Redy, and let the best agents come to you.

Matt McGee is a writer and editor who's been immersed in the real estate industry his whole life. Matt's dad was an agent for nearly 50 years, his sister is an agent, and his wife has been a Realtor® since 2004.

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