Couple talking to agent about selling their first home.

A Complete Guide To Selling Your House

Lauren Nowacki8-Minute Read
UPDATED: April 26, 2023

Deciding to sell your home is a big decision. It can be an emotional process, as the house you’re selling is probably one where you and your family have made memories. It’s also a big financial decision, as you have to decide whether you can sell your home for a good price and whether now is a good time to buy a new home.

Once you’ve decided that you’re both emotionally and financially ready to sell, it’s time to dive in. As you make your way through the checklist for selling a house, you might feel a bit intimidated. To help make the process easier, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to selling a house.

How To Sell Your House: Step-By-Step

Are you ready to begin the process of selling a house? Let’s get started.

1. Hire The Right Real Estate Agent

Hiring the right real estate agent or REALTOR® to help you sell your home is critical. The person you hire will be by your side each step of the way. When you hire a great real estate agent, you can sell your home knowing you’re getting the most value from your asset.

The real estate agent has some key responsibilities during the selling process. They help you prepare your home for sale, price your home, negotiate offers and talk you through every step to the closing table.

A good agent will deploy honed negotiating skills throughout the process and, therefore, tend to get more for your house than you would on your own – so much more than that, even after paying their commissions, it’s likely you’ll still take home more money at closing.

While it’s possible to sell your home without a REALTOR®, you then have to take on many responsibilities like marketing your home to bring in buyers, getting professional photos, reviewing and negotiating offers and much more.

Selling your home?

Work with a real estate agent who knows your local market.

2. Determine A Realistic Price

Pricing is the linchpin to a successful sale, and many buyers must overcome the temptation to either overprice or underprice their homes.

When you underprice a home, you’re setting the bar low. Even if there’s a bidding war that drives the price up, you still end up taking home less than you otherwise would.

And when you overprice the home, you run the risk of turning off potential buyers. Many won’t even consider seeing a house in a desired location if it's priced above what the market might suggest. Even worse, buyers may not even see your home when they search online if it's outside their budget.

Setting the right asking price for your home can ensure it sells quickly and doesn’t sit on the market for months. Your real estate agent can help you with this step. They will likely research comparables in the area to determine your home’s value in the current market.

For additional help with setting a sale price for your home, consider using a Rocket Homes℠ property report.

3. Decide What To Upgrade Vs. Leave As-Is

You may think your family home is perfect as it is, but prospective buyers may not feel the same. Before you list your home for sale, you’ll have to go through and decide what to upgrade to sell versus what to sell as-is.

As you’re making your way through the home, be as objective as you can. You may also want to enlist the help of your real estate agent during this step. They can provide a third-party perspective and advise you on home improvements that add value.

Just make sure that projects you spend money on will actually increase the value of the home or help it to sell. Otherwise, you’re just cutting into your bottom line.

4. Stage And Photograph

One of the most powerful ways to make potential buyers want to purchase your home is to stage it like a pro. It can be as simple as cleaning, decluttering and removing personal items. On the other end of the spectrum, it could require a clean sweep that involves storing belongings off-site, redecorating and even renting furniture and art to make your place show well.

Staging helps potential buyers envision your house as theirs. To do that, they need to see the details of the home, not the personal belongings of your family in each room. The goal is to get them to linger in each room so they can absorb its features and see its benefits.

Once your home is staged, it’s also worth getting professional photographs for your listing. Good photos can make all the difference in a buyer coming to see your home. You could have the most beautiful home in the world, but if the photographs don’t entice people to come to look at it, you won’t sell it for what you otherwise could.

5. List Your House

Once your home has been staged and photographed and you’ve settled on a listing price, it’s time to officially list your home.

During this process, your real estate agent will create an online listing that includes details about your home, along with professional photographs. Your agent will then post the listing on the multiple listing service (MLS), which other agents will be using to find homes for buyers.

Once the home has been listed, your agent will use other marketing strategies to ensure that people find it. Marketing strategies your agent might use include yard signs, flyers and direct mail, video tours of coming soon listings, social media and open houses.

6. Schedule Showings And Tours

After your home has been listed and potential buyers have had the chance to see it, your real estate agent can schedule showings and open houses for people to see the home in person.

While the listing and photos are important in getting people interested in the home, most people aren’t going to buy a home without seeing it in person. Because of that, it’s critical to give home buyers the chance to tour the home.

It’s when they see a home in person that buyers will really be able to picture themselves living there. They can also go through the home and see how their furniture might fit, test the light switches and faucets, and get a better idea of the feel of the home, which they can’t get through just pictures.

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

7. Review And Negotiate Offers

If everything goes well, you’ll start receiving offers after your showings and open houses. Now you’re in the phase of reviewing and negotiating those offers, which is one of the most important parts of the selling process.

When choosing the best offer, it’s important to consider factors such as:

During this process, you may also decide to make a counteroffer. A counteroffer can help you find a middle ground between a buyer’s offer and what you were hoping to get for the home. And remember, the price of the home isn’t the only thing you can negotiate. You can also negotiate concessions, home warranties, closing dates, post-closing occupancy and more, especially to counterbalance a low offer.

Negotiating offers is another step in the process where your real estate agent will provide value. Not only will your agent have plenty of experience negotiating offers and will be able to do it well, but they will also know what’s reasonable to ask for in the current market environment.

8. Consider Working With An Attorney

Depending on where you live, a real estate attorney may be a good idea – or even legally required. Real estate attorneys can help with various tedious parts of the home selling process, including preparing and reviewing contracts, understanding encroachments, handling the title process and overseeing the closing of the home.

Some states require a real estate attorney for each transaction, so if you live in one of those states, you’ll definitely need to hire one. But even if you don’t live in a state that requires a real estate attorney, you might decide to hire one if you want a bit of extra help with the selling process or have an especially complex situation.

9. Review Closing Costs And Taxes

Once you’ve accepted an offer, you’re that much closer to finalizing the transaction. At this time, it’s important to get your finances in order for the home closing. You should review your closing costs, which may include real estate agent commissions, title insurance, concessions and more.

It’s also important to consider whether you’ll have to pay taxes on your sale. Capital gains taxes are often required when you sell a valuable asset, including a home, for more than you bought it. The first $250,000 (for single people) or $500,000 (for married people) of profit is exempt from taxes if you’ve owned and lived in the home for at least 2 of the past 5 years.

If you don’t qualify for the exemption, you’ll pay capital gains taxes on your entire profit. And if your profit exceeds the exemption, you’ll pay capital gains taxes on the amount above $250,000 or $500,000, depending on whether you’re single or married.

10. Gather Paperwork And Close

At this point, the only things left to do are gather your paperwork and officially close on your home. Some documents you’ll need for the closing include your:

Once everything has been completed and you’ve arrived on closing day, you’ll likely sign the documents at the office of a third party, like a title company or attorney’s office, depending on where you live. You may have a separate closing from the buyer or close together in the same place at the same time, depending on local laws or personal preference.

Selling your home?

Work with a real estate agent who knows your local market.

How To Sell A House FAQs

Selling a house is a major undertaking. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the seller process.

How much does it cost to sell a house?

The cost of selling a house averages around 10% of the sale price. Common expenses associated with selling a home include home repairs, staging, real estate commissions, seller concessions and closing costs.

What should I not fix when selling my house?

Generally speaking, you should avoid fixing anything that won’t either increase the value of the home or make your home more likely to sell. An exception would be anything that may be a safety hazard or anything you and the buyer agree upon in the sale contract.

How long does it take to sell a house?

The amount of time it takes to sell a house depends on many factors, including the quality of the home, the current housing market and the complexity of financing. According to a December 2021 report, the average time to close at that time was 49 days. However, in a fast-moving market with a desirable home, you may have an offer within days of listing the home.

What happens to the money I make when I sell my house?

If you still owe money on your mortgage, the proceeds of your home sale will first go toward paying off your remaining loan balance. Depending on how much you paid for the home and how much you sold it for, you may also owe some capital gains taxes on the sale. Any money left after expenses, your mortgage and taxes is yours to keep.

Is it a good time to sell my house?

The best time to sell a house is often spring since that’s when many people want to buy a home, but it depends on your local housing market. Your real estate agent should have a good idea of the best time to sell a home in your area.

The Bottom Line

If you’re planning to sell a home soon, you may feel overwhelmed by all there is to do. The good news is that with a step-by-step guide as we’ve provided here, the process can go a lot more smoothly. If you’re ready to start your selling journey, get connected with an expert real estate agent today.

Lauren Nowacki

Lauren is a Content Editor specializing in personal finance and the mortgage industry. Her writing focuses on reporting the best places to live in the U.S. based on certain interests and lifestyles. She has a B.A. in Communications from Alma College and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.