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Home Selling Basics

Welcome to the Home Selling Basics section of FindLaw's Real Center, with general information about choosing a real estate agent, sales tax exemptions, and other basics of selling a home. A real estate agent can help you compare your home to similar units in order to get a rough estimate of its market value, prepare your home for sale (including repairs and upgrades), advertise your home, help you fill out paperwork, and evaluate offers. Some states require the use of an agent to help with the closing documents, but it's often a good idea to do so anyway. If you are considering selling your home, the articles and resources in this section will help you get started.

Selling Your Home in Nine Steps

Selling one's home is no doubt a highly complex and time-consuming undertaking, particularly if you decide to sell on your own (without an agent). While there isn't one exact way to sell your home, there is a general order of operations. The steps include the following:

  1. Get to know your local market - Check current interest rates (more people buy homes when they're low); go to open houses; talk to real estate agents; and whatever else will help you understand the nature and cycles of your local market
  2. Compare your home with similar units - One of the best ways determine the value of your home is to look at the offer (and selling) prices of comparable homes (or "comps") in your neighborhood
  3. Understand tax implications - If the proceeds profit of selling your home exceeds $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples), you may be subject to capital gains tax
  4. Decide whether to hire a real estate agent - A real estate agent will take a 5 to 6 percent commission, but could more than make up for it in peace of mind and a higher selling price
  5. Get your house fixed up - After an inspection, you will have a better idea of what needs to be fixed or replaced; remember that the cost of repairs is often less than the reduction of a home's value by not doing the repair
  6. Fill out paperwork - Your real agent (if you have one) will help you figure out which documents and forms need to be filled out, including disclosure forms
  7. Advertise your home - Your real estate will help you position your home in the marketplace, including a listing on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
  8. Evaluate offers - If you get multiple offers, you can narrow them down to the most favorable ones; and remember that a high offer is not necessarily the best offer in all cases
  9. Close the sale - Once you and the buyer are "in contract," meaning you have accepted an offer, you will set a closing date and the buyer will get the necessary funds in order

Deciding Whether to Use a Real Estate Agent

You are free to sell your home any way you like in most states, as long as it's legal; but it's often a good idea to hire a real agent. You may be able to recoup more money from the sale if you do it yourself, but there is quite a steep learning curve to selling a home and you may not have the available time required. Also, an agent's experience may help you negotiate a better price anyway.

If you sell your home without an agent -- "for sale by owner" -- be prepared to spend a great deal of time and energy on the process, including research into real estate laws and procedures. In a buyer's market, where there is a glut of homes on the market but few buyers, you may want to consider hiring a real estate agent.

Click on one of the links below to learn more about the basics of selling a home.

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