Seller's Frequently Asked Questions
These FAQs are intended to be a general discussion of common real estate issues, and are not intended to be taken as specific advice that applies to your individual situation. Many real estate issues are determined by laws that change from state to state. You are encouraged to talk to your agent to find the exact answers to the questions based on your facts and circumstances.
Are there important factors to consider when selling a home?The most important factors in selling a home are price and condition. The first step is to properly price the home. Then, go through the house to see if there are any cosmetic defects which can be easily repaired. It is very important that the home gets exposure through open houses, advertising, good signage and of course a listing on the multiple listing service (MLS).
Are there standard ways to determine how much my home is worth?Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine your home's value.
Your real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpricing your home or underestimating its value.
A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of your home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.
What should I do to get my house ready?The way you live in a home and the way you sell a house are two different things. First and foremost, remove clutter from counter tops, walls and rooms. Clutter makes it difficult for the buyer to see their possessions in the rooms or on ther walls, however don't strip everything completely or it will appear stark and inhospitable. Then clean all rooms, furnishings, floors, walls and ceilings. It's especially important that the bathroom and kitchen are spotless. Make sure the appliances and fixtures work.
The second important thing to consider is "curb appeal." People driving by a property will judge it from outside appearances and make a decision then as to whether or not they want to see the inside. Sweep the sidewalk, mow the lawn, prune the bushes, weed the garden and clean debris from the yard. Clean the windows (both inside and out) and make sure the paint is not chipped or flaking. Also make sure that the doorbell works.
Should I make repairs?Minor repairs before putting the house on the market may lead to a better sales price. Buyers often include a contingency "inspection clause" in the purchase contract which allows then to back out if numerous defects are found. Once the problems are noted, buyers can attempt to negotiate repairs or lowering the price with the seller. Any known problems that are not repaired must be revealed as a material defect. You do not have to repair the problem, only reveal it and the house should be appropriately priced for that defect.
What are my obligations to disclose?Items sellers often disclose include: homeowners association dues: whether or not work done on the house meets local building codes and permits requirements; the presence of any neighborhood nuisances or noises which a prospective buyer may not notice, such as any restrictions on the use of property, including but not limited to zoning ordinances or association rules.
Most standard form purchase agreements have inspection provisions that allow contingencies regarding condition of the home. Provided sellers accept inspection contingencies, the home must meet certain condition requirements.
Sellers do not have to disclose the terms of other offers. You may disclose the existence of other offers, so that all parties are aware that they should be submitting their best offer.
Are there standard contingencies in an offer?Yes - generally, the two basic contingencies in a purchase contract are financing and inspections.
Should I be flexible in granting contingencies?That often depends on if you are in a buyer's or a seller's market, the condition of your home, the price you hope to get, how motivated you are to sell, as well as the quality and quantity of the offers you are getting.
Any contingencies that are negotiated are written into your contract. Both the buyer and seller can place requirements on the table during the negotiation phase.
A frequently seen contingency is regarding the sale and closing of the buyers home before they can purchase yours. Whether this requirement is reasonable, or even achievable, depends on the individuals involved. Financial capabilities usually play a major role in negotiations. Few people can afford to own two homes simultaneously, except for some all-cash buyers.
Is it possible to sell for less than my mortgage?A "short sale" is for home sellers who are upside down on their mortgage. The home's value is less than the amount of the mortgage. A hardship must exist, then sometimes home owners can negotiate with lenders and split the difference between the sale price and loan amount, which still must be paid. A short sale is often complicated. If the loan has been sold into the secondary market, the lender will have to get permission from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to negotiate a short sale. Fannie Mae, the secondary market giant, has a policy of looking at each loan individually. If the loan was a low-down-payment mortgage with private mortgage insurance (or PMI), the lender needs to involve the mortgage insurance company that insured the low-down loan. Once all these issues are resolved or negotiated, the house may be sold.