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Selling Your Home

The process of selling a home is similar to buying a home and often done at the same time. It's a big task, to be sure, and often involves a multitude of home improvement projects, research, and plenty of patience. Working with a real estate agent usually makes the process go much more smoothly, although you will end up paying a portion of the selling price to your agent. Everyone's situation is unique in some ways, but there are some basic steps and fundamental truths that every home seller should consider. FindLaw's Selling Your Home section will help you get started.

Researching Your Local Market

You could have the nicest house in the neighborhood but still be subject to both the local market and larger, nationwide trends. For instance, a home that has been improved in a number of ways may lose much of its value if the surrounding homes have been neglected or if there is an uptick in local crime. If you plan on buying again after selling your existing home, you will want to do similar market research for that home as well.

Generally, your ability to sell a home substantially increases when:

  • The economy is strong (particularly when home prices are rising)
  • Interest rates are low (which encourages more people to take out mortgages)
  • It's during a time of year when people are most likely to move, such as springtime or late in the summer

One of the best ways to determine your home's value is to look at what similar homes nearby -- referred to as "comps" (comparable homes) -- are selling for. You may want to attend open houses at other properties, talk to neighbors, and look online. But keep in mind that what really matters is the price at which these comps actually sold, not necessarily the asking price.

Do You Need a Real Estate Agent?

Even if your state doesn't require you to hire a real estate agent or attorney before selling your home, it's often a good idea to do so. Selling a home is a complicated and time-consuming process even without the help of an experienced agent, but agents also are better able to fetch a good price. After all, their commission (usually 5 to 6 percent) is based on the selling price.

A real agent can use her expertise and experience to suggest home improvement projects, ideas for "staging" your home prior to showing it, and other best practices for marketing your property. Your agent also can show your home while you're at work, complete the necessary paperwork, and help you negotiate offers.

If you decide to go it alone, make sure you have plenty of spare time and at least some experience in finance and knowledge of real estate law.

Getting the Home Ready to Sell

Even you think your home is ready to hit the market, you should have it professionally inspected. This will help you avoid surprises, since prospective homebuyers also will have it inspected prior to closing. Some of these fixes can be done yourself; but you also may need professional termite treatment, plumbing, or other specialty work. Not everything needs to be fixed or improved, though, so long as any deficiencies are clearly spelled out to potential buyers.

Closing

The contract becomes active once you and the buyer have settled on an offer, usually after a series of counter offers. Once the paperwork is signed, you'll set a closing date on which the property legally transfers over to the new owner. While these contracts are legally binding, there are ways to give yourself some wiggle room, such as including contingencies in the contract.

Click on a link below for more in-depth information about selling a home.