Housing Resources Guide
Business Directory
Published 2003

Selling a house

By Julie Yurek

There's no way to sugarcoat it ­ the bottom line in selling a house is obtaining the asking price.

The seller wants to get enough money to cover the mortgage. The buyer is willing to pay an acceptable price. The name of the game is negotiation.

Starting the process

First of all, the seller must decide what price to ask for, or at least have an idea of how much money is needed from the sale of the home.

To do that, home owners may call a real estate agent, or hire an appraiser, if they plan to sell the house themselves.

The agent or appraiser walks through the property with the owner, pointing out the selling points of the home.

Agents or appraisers may also show the owner where small home improvements, such as a coat of paint, can be made to increase the likelihood of selling.

Sellers may choose to sell the house themselves, to avoid the costs of real estate agents and commission. Usually, this option is used when the seller has a buyer in mind or when there is no selling deadline.

The average rate for commission is between five and seven percent, which comes out of the seller's sale price.

By avoiding the commission, the seller may ask a lower selling price, which passes the savings onto the buyer.

The seller may still walk away with the same amount of equity because he or she is not marking up the price to cover that real estate commission.

However, selling a home may be time consuming. Acting as the agent, the owner will have to place advertisements, book appointments, screen inquiries, be available to show the home, negotiate the offer and counter-offers, as well as collect and coordinate all legal documents.

Using a real estate agent also includes some work on the owner's part. Those who choose to sell the house through a real estate agent may consider the following questions:

· How long has the agent been in the real estate business?

· Is the agent a full-time agent?

· How many home sales did the agent take part in last year?

· What was the average sale price of the homes the agent sold last year?

A real estate agent should know the lowest offer the owner would accept, what the owner's general schedule is for showing the house, and be open with the owner about any offers he or she has received.

The agent should keep the owner informed of any changes made in the marketing of the home. He or she should also explain the home-selling process to the owner in detail.

Think like a buyer

Owners who wish to sell should imagine being a potential buyer, walking through the home, checking for necessary improvements.

Repairs or small improvements may be needed or recommended before showing the house to any interested buyers.

Check the home's curbside appeal. A home that's visually appealing and in good condition will attract potential buyers driving by.

Home owners should make sure the lawn is free of debris, shrubs are trimmed, and the garage door is closed.

Do the shutters, window casings, front door, or whole house need a coat of paint? Are there cracks in the sidewalk or driveway that should get fixed?

If it is winter, keep the sidewalk clear of snow and ice. If there will be a night viewing, make sure the outside lights are on.

As for the interior of the house, simply cleaning the house from top to bottom can be enough, if there are no major problems.

Shampoo carpets, clean windows, showers, and tubs, and wash floors. Clean the refrigerator and the oven; people may peek and get an idea of how well the owners have kept up their own home.

A coat of paint can make a room look clean and new again.

Cleaning out the clutter of cabinets and closets will make them seem larger.

Sometimes a hammer and nails will be needed to improve the salability of the house. Take care of the little maintenance tasks that have been put off.

Repair leaky faucets, oil doors, and make sure windows open and close easily.

If there are leaks, find the source and fix it. The owner may have to repair the wall or ceiling, but it will be well worth it. Fix any cracks, too.

Make sure any appliances that are being sold with the house work, as well as checking to see if there is plenty of light available when showing the house.

Open the curtains and turn on lights. Light some candles for added warmth and scent. Bake some bread or cookies for an inviting smell.

By taking the necessary steps to improve a property before the sale, it will increase the chances it will sell quickly.