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Home Selling Basics

Welcome to the Home Selling Basics section of FindLaw's Real Estate Center. Here, prospective home sellers can find general information about choosing a real estate agent, sales tax exemptions, and other basics of the home selling process. A real estate agent can help you assess your local housing market and get a rough estimate of your home's market value. A seller's agent is also called a listing agent. A listing agent can help you prepare your home for sale. This includes home staging and decluttering, advertising your home to prospective home buyers, and helping you land on the right listing price according to the real estate market. Some states even require the use of a realtor to help with closing documents.

Whether you are a For Sale by Owner (FSBO) seller or you are planning on hiring a realtor, the articles and resources in this section will help you get started.

Selling Your Home in 9 Steps

Selling one's home is a highly complex and time-consuming undertaking, particularly if you decide to sell your home 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, as more people buy homes when they're low; go to open houses; talk to real estate agents; and try to sell when it is a seller's market.
  2. Compare your home with similar home prices - One of the best ways to determine the value of your home is to look at the asking prices and sale prices of comparable homes in your neighborhood.
  3. Understand tax implications - If the profit of selling your home exceeds $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples), you may be subject to capital gains tax. When calculating your gain, make sure to account for closing costs and major home improvements
  4. Decide whether to hire a real estate agent - A real estate agent will take a 5 to 6 percent commission on the sale of your property, but can more than make up for it by getting you a top-dollar offer that you wouldn't have been able to get otherwise.
  5. Get your house fixed up - First and foremost, make sure to deep clean your home before any walk-throughs. In addition, you should depersonalize your home by putting away any personal items or family photos. This way, prospective buyers can picture themselves in this new home. After a home inspection, you will have a better idea of what needs to be fixed or replaced. In general, the cost of repairs or renovations is often less than the reduction of a home's value incurred by not doing the repair. Upgrades can include a fresh coat of paint, a new front door, front yard landscaping, and maybe some new countertops. When selling a house, the exterior of your home is almost more important than the interior. First impressions are huge and curb appeal will get you more prospective buyers.
  6. Fill out paperwork - A realtor can help you determine which documents and forms need to be filled out, including disclosure forms. Realtors who are members of the National Association of Realtors have access to countless real estate transactional documents and templates that they can personalize for your home.
  7. Advertise your home - Your real estate agent can help you determine the selling price of your home. An agent can also position your home in the marketplace, including a listing on Zillow as well as on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
  8. Evaluate offers - If you get multiple offers, you can narrow them down to the most favorable ones. Remember that in some instances, the best price is not necessarily the best offer.
  9. Close the sale - Once you and the buyer are "in contract," you will set a closing date and the buyer will place the necessary funds in an escrow account. On the closing date, the necessary funds will be transferred out of escrow and into the seller's account. The agents' commissions will be dispersed from the account as well.

Deciding Whether To Use a Real Estate Agent

You are free to independently sell your home, but it's often a good idea to hire a real estate agent. You may be able to recoup more money from the sale if you do it yourself, but you may not have the available time required. An agent's experience may help you negotiate a better price and sell your house fast.

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. 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. You also might wish to consult a real estate lawyer to make sure the process goes off without a hitch.

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

Learn About Home Selling Basics

  • Selling a Home - The Basics An overview of the process and legal issues involved with selling your home. Learn the basics about selling your home, tackling common legal issues, the advantages of working with a real estate agent, and more.
  • Sell a Home FAQ A collection of commonly asked questions about selling your home. Find answers to your questions about when you should sell your home, whether you should make repairs beforehand, and more.
  • The Home Sale Tax Exemption Under the 1997 Taxpayer Relief Act, individuals can exclude up to $250,000 of capital gains from taxation and couples can exclude up to $500,000. Learn about the “use" test, the home sale tax exemption, and more.
  • Do You Need a Real Estate Agent? There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to using a real estate agent to sell your home. Learn about whether a real estate agent is required by law, how to sell a home independently, and more.
  • Can a Homeowner Legally Refuse to Sell a Home to a Potential Buyer? Rejecting a potential buyer's offer is perfectly legal as long as you do it for the right reasons. This article explains some legal reasons to refuse an offer, as well as other reasons that are prohibited under law.
  • Top 10 Reasons to Have a Real Estate Agent Help You Sell Your Home A real estate agent can help you get the best deal on your home in a relatively short amount of time. This article explains ten ways a real estate agent can help you sell your home and more.

Learn About Home Selling Basics

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