Couple talking to agent about selling their first home.

How To Sell A House In 7 Steps

Lauren Nowacki9-Minute Read
November 27, 2020

When it comes to selling your home, you may feel daunted by an overwhelming number of questions. Should I sell it myself? Do I need a real estate agent? How do I choose the right one? What are the steps to getting my house sold? When is the best time to sell? Where do I even begin?

With so many questions and different paths to take, having a basic understanding of the key components of selling your home can help give you some peace of mind as you work toward making your next move. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.

Step 1: Make Sure You’re Ready To Sell Your House

Preparation is key to a successful sale. Therefore, the first thing you should do to ensure you’re ready to sell your house is take a thorough look at your current circumstances from financial, emotional and practical perspectives.

Are You Emotionally Ready To Sell?

Emotions play a big role in selling a home. After all, your home is most likely the place where you and your family have created many happy memories. However, emotions can often get in the way of a successful home sale.

It helps to focus on the end goal: finding the right buyer and closing the deal. Think of the process as selling a house, not your home. It will become easier to look at your property objectively as you remove personal items and start staging to attract buyers.

When you start showing your home, potential buyers and their agents may be overly critical. Try your best to react to those types of comments in a neutral fashion. Plus, your agent can use those insights as negotiating tactics or to improve your listing.

Are You Financially Ready To Sell?

Take a look at your current mortgage bill or other mortgage documents to find out what you owe your lender. Make sure to include any second mortgage or line of credit you might have as well.

Use a home value estimator to get an idea of what your home is worth and then subtract what you owe to get a rough idea of your equity.

Once you officially decide to sell your home, a real estate agent will be able to perform a comparative market analysis to give you a realistic idea of what your home is worth in today’s market.

Should You Sell Your Home Or Buy A New One First?

There’s no right or wrong answer for whether you should buy or sell first. Some people prefer to sell first so that they don’t have to carry two mortgages at a time. Others don’t like the idea of being without a home, which is hard to avoid if you sell before you buy.

If you’re open to doing either one first, look at your current housing market. If you’re in a buyer’s market, there’s a better chance that a seller will accept an offer on their home that’s contingent on the sale of your current home. If you’re in a seller’s market, homeowners will be far less likely to accept a contingency that forces them to wait around.

While you can always try to sell your current home and purchase a new one at the same time, it can be a challenging endeavor.

Step 2: Hire A Trusted Real Estate Agent

Finding a great real estate agent or REALTOR® to get you through the home selling process is critical. They’ll help you set the right price for your home, negotiate offers and walk you through every step.

Good agents 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 that, even after paying their commissions, it’s very likely you will take home more money at closing.

They get more by marketing your home on the multiple listing service, incentivizing other agents to bring buyers, commissioning professional photos, and implementing a number of other marketing strategies, including everything from online advertising to good old-fashioned phone calls. REALTORS® and real estate agents absorb the cost of many things into their commission, including paid online advertising, professional photos, staffing for showings and open houses, printing flyers and other promotional materials, and a litany of other costs of selling a house too numerous to list.

How do you find the right agent? We recommend working with a member of the National Association of REALTORS® who holds the designation of Seller Representative Specialist.

Step 3: Set The Right Asking Price

Pricing is the linchpin to a successful home sale, and the temptation to overprice is strong. Almost everyone believes their home is the exception and will fetch more than similar houses. But that is rarely, if ever, the case.

If you set the price too high, 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 since they will be using lower price points.

Overpricing is the main reason homes sit on the market for months, with the price usually coming down to where it should have been from day one. Check out the housing market trends in your area and work with your agent to determine a good price.

Step 4: Prepare Your Home For Listing And Sale

There are a lot of details to take care of before you list your home and show it to prospective buyers. To help you prepare yourself and your home, check out these tips.

Make Repairs

This is the time to fix all those little items that you’ve had on your to-do list for years. Have a latch that doesn’t work, a leaky toilet, or a faulty electrical outlet? It might seem small, but potential buyers may see them as a sign that the home hasn’t been properly maintained. This means more work for them if they buy it.

There is a big difference between making minor and inexpensive polishes and touch-ups to your house and doing extensive and costly renovations. Be careful about how much money you spend. Buyers will be impressed by a brand-new roof, but they aren’t likely to give you enough extra money to pay for it. It’s important to decide what not to fix when selling a house in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Declutter And Clean

Decluttering and cleaning help to minimize distractions that could take a buyer’s focus away from the things that really matter. Toss or sell anything you aren’t planning on taking with you. Clear out closets, garages, basements, storage areas and laundry rooms. Getting rid of clutter can help make the areas in your home look more spacious.

Cleaning is critical after you’ve finished decluttering your home inside and out. Really scrub and polish every single area from top to bottom, removing dust and dirt in every crevice. Don’t forget to look up, too. Remove cobwebs om the moldings, replace burnt-out light bulbs and dust and polish every surface. Doing a thorough job ahead of time will make it easier to keep the house in show-ready shape.

Stage Your Home

One of the most powerful ways to make buyers want to purchase your home is to stage it like a pro. It can be as simple as cleaning, removing extraneous items and repainting. Or it can 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. Your goal in staging is to think like a buyer and entice them to linger in each room so they can absorb its features and see its benefits.

Step 5: List And Market Your Home

Your agent will take a variety of approaches to get buyers exposed to and interested in your home. Here are some of the main tactics:

Home listing: Before your home officially hits the market, your real estate agent will create an online listing for your home. This includes all the details about your home for buyers to see. A well-crafted online profile can really make your home stand out from the crowd.

Multiple Listing Service (MLS): The biggest tool in the real estate agent’s arsenal is the MLS. This is a private database used by licensed agents to find homes for buyers. If you work with a real estate agent, they will get your home listed on the MLS and syndicated to all the popular home search websites.

Yard sign: Your real estate agent will make sure you have a visible sign in your front yard to let potential buyers know that your home is for sale. It’s a great way to attract house hunters who are actively looking in your neighborhood.

Flyers and direct mail: Your agent may create property flyers to market your home. These flyers can be attached to a yard sign or left at open houses and showings to highlight the key information about your property. It’s a great way to stay top of mind with interested buyers.

Video tours: Some agents create video tours to allow buyers to see what your home has to offer before they visit it in person. Remember, your home’s first showing is online so it’s critical to make the best impression possible.

Social media: Many real estate agents will share your property on their social media pages and with their network of buyer’s agents and other professionals. This is a great way to generate a lot of additional exposure for your property.

Home showings and open houses: Many buyers will want to see the home in person before they purchase it. Home showings and open houses provide them the opportunity to walk through each room, test out light switches and faucets and get a better idea of the look, size and feel of the home, which you can’t do through pictures.

Step 6: Negotiate An Offer With A Buyer

When selling a home, negotiating is by far one of the most important parts of the process. Your agent will serve as your expert negotiator and will work on your behalf to make sure your best interests are represented. They will hopefully save you a lot of money in the process.

Whenever you’re in a negotiating situation, it helps to remain flexible and open. This includes maintaining realistic expectations. It’s rare that you’ll get everything you want while negotiating. Think about what you’re willing to give up and what are absolute deal breakers.

If you receive a low offer, don’t take it personally. Instead, try to understand the buyer’s motivation. You may learn something important, even if you ultimately reject the offer.

The next step is to make a counteroffer. Consider the buyer’s position and work with your agent to find a middle ground by reducing your asking price or explain how you arrived at your current asking price. You might also negotiate other terms to counterbalance a low offer – e.g., seller concessions, home warranties, closing dates, post-closing occupancy or quick closing/occupancy.

Remember that the longer it takes to sell your home, the less likely you are to receive your asking price. The longer you have to drag out the process, the longer you’ll pay the mortgage.

The negotiating part of the process can be tricky, but with an experienced agent by your side, you’ll be able to choose the right buyer for your home.

Step 7: Close On The Sale

Once you accept an offer, there are still a few steps to complete before you make it to the closing table and hand your house keys over to the new owner.

The buyer will need to get an appraisal done on the home. A home appraisal is an important step for both buyer and seller. A buyer cannot borrow more than the appraised value of a home. If the appraisal comes back lower than the offer, there are a few options. The buyer could pay the difference in cash, you could renegotiate the sale price, or both parties may need to walk away from the deal.

Another important step the buyer will need to take is to get the home inspected. If the inspection goes smoothly, closing should be a breeze. However, if the inspection uncovers issues with the home or any red flags, the buyer may want to renegotiate to a lower price, ask you to make the necessary improvements or walk away from the deal.

Once everything has been completed and you’ve arrived at 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. This may depend on local laws or personal preference.

Once you close on the home, you’ll be on your way to your next exciting adventure. If you’re ready to start the process of selling your home, get matched with a local Rocket HomesSM Partner 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.