There are a number of steps to selling any house and you've just taken the most important one - you've contacted an expert to help you. Experience has taught me that every home sale is unique, yet every sale shares a common process.
Putting Your House On The Market
The first step toward putting your house up for sale is to meet with a real estate agent at your home, this is called the "listing appointment." But beforehand, it's important to understand how brokers may cooperate to sell your house.
Listing Broker or Listing Agent
An individual real estate broker is whom the seller hires to represent the seller through a contract called a "listing agreement". The listing agent is associated with the listing broker. The listing broker is directly paid the listing commission and then splits the commission with the listing agent. (Although the broker and agent may be two different individuals, the term "broker" is used throughout the Guide for simplicity.)
Selling Broker or Selling Agent
In a "cooperative" sale, the house is listed by one broker and a buyer is provided by another broker. The selling broker receives the selling side of the commission. If the listing broker also produces the buyer, then the listing broker receives both listing and selling sides of the commission. A selling broker may have a signed buyer representation agreement with a buyer and, therefore, represent the buyer and not the seller.
Before the listing appointment both the home seller and the listing broker are busy while the home seller collects a list of documents requested by the broker, the listing broker studies recent neighborhood sales of homes comparable to yours, and also comparable homes currently for sale.
At the listing appointment, the listing broker will want to inspect the house and yard to become familiar with its special features.
Your listing broker will want to tell prospective buyers about the special features of your home and neighborhood. Be ready to be specific about schools, day-care, nearby Metro, and other desirable community features, as well as home features not readily apparent.
Remember, prospective buyers will be "comparison shopping" and keenly aware of subtle differences in houses for sale in the area. Be sure to tell your listing broker why yours is special, - from any home remodeling to afternoon sunshine.
Demand Sets Price
After conferring with the listing broker on market conditions, comparable nearby sales and listings, and available financing, the home seller will set the listing or "asking" price for the house.
A common definition of market value is: "what a ready, willing and able buyer will pay, at a price a seller will accept." Metropolitan area buyers are sophisticated. They've already been shopping, and when they see your home they'll be comparing features and financing.
There's a rule of thumb that says: "A house priced more than 5% over market value discourages offers." Buyers who can afford the price can get "more house" for their money elsewhere. Buyers who cannot afford the price simply won't look.
A fair market value will be determined by comparing the property with similar properties which have recently sold and (in some cases) with similar properties currently on the market. Experience in the industry has proven this "market analysis" approach is more accurate than the "replacement cost" or "potential rental income" methods.
Sample NET SHEET
Based on this sales price, the listing broker will go through a worksheet that estimates the "net cash" from the sale. Simply, this exercise subtracts anticipated charges paid by the seller from the sales price. A copy of the "net sheet" is left with the home seller. (An itemized list of typical selling costs is presented in the "Settlement" chapter, which is the stage when these charges are paid.)
No sale can be completed without financing. That is why it is generally to the home seller's advantage to appeal to the greatest number of home buyers by accepting the greatest range of financing plans. The listing broker will explain the basic differences between VA (Veterans Administration), FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and conventional financing, as well as explain "discount points."
What is a Point?
A point is one percent of the amount of the buyer's mortgage loan. For example, if a loan is $100,000, one point is $1,000. Lenders charge points to increase the yield on their loans. On all loans, home buyer and home seller may share the charges by mutual agreement.
Property Profile Folder
To enable the listing broker to prepare a folder of information on the property, the home seller needs to provide a number of documents and information specific to the location and jurisdiction. (This Property Profile is often left in the home for the convenience of prospective selling brokers.) Because the list is long, you can understand why it's best to collect the papers before the listing appointment. These materials may include:
A letter signed by the home seller and mailed to the lender by the listing broker to notify the lender of the intention to pay off the mortgage in order to minimize prepayment of interest penalties to the seller (Home seller should provide the broker with the lender's address, loan balance, assumability, years remaining on present mortgage, P.I.T.I. and the interest rate, if possible.)
Well and Septic Inspection
If property is on septic/well, current inspections by local health authorities are required while home is occupied. Listing broker will usually arrange after contract is ratified.
Order Lender Appraisal
Lenders usually require an appraisal to assure that the property is adequate collateral for a loan. Appraisal may be ordered before (paid by seller), but is more often done after an "offer to purchase" is accepted (paid by buyer).
Listing broker will ask home seller if any tax assessments or easements exist on property that must be paid or included in purchase contract and passed with the land when sold.
Property Taxes/Condominium Fees
Home seller provides record of property tax or condominium fee payments which buyer will reimburse a pro-rata share to home seller at settlement.
VA/FHA and most lenders of new mortgages require a termite inspection certificate that shows house is free of infestation. If home seller does not have a current certificate, then listing or selling broker (depending on area) will arrange inspection at home seller's expense. Sometimes a home inspection and radon testing will be ordered. Home seller should also provide all information as to the physical condition of the property, such as the presence of fire retardant plywood.
Home seller should provide record of past 12 months utility bills, including gas, electric, sewer, water, and trash where applicable. Most buyers will want to know history of utility costs.
If possible, home seller should provide listing broker with deed, house location survey, condominium bylaws or home owners association documents, subdivision map, house floor plan, previous title search abstracts, legal description of property (subdivision, section and lot), home warranties on major systems, if still in effect, and copy of home owners insurance policy for endorsement in purchase contract.
In anticipation of a buyer's offer, the home seller must be ready to supply listing broker with a specific list of the personal property that is included in the real estate property for sale. Examples of items to "convey" may include: draperies, drapery rods, remaining heating oil, firewood, washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove, microwave, disposal, swimming pool chemicals, awnings, storm doors and windows, screens, venetian blinds, shutters, window air conditioner, etc. Home seller should tag or remove items which do not convey.
When the home seller is ready to put the house on the market, the listing agreement is filled out indicating a specific period of time the agreement is in effect ("listing period"), and signed by the seller You've now hired a listing broker and listing agent.