Sell Overview

If you’re ready to sell your home (or even if you’re just thinking about it), make sure you do your homework before you get started—especially if this is the first home you’re selling. Moving from a buyer to a seller brings a new set of responsibilities and challenges. But if you’re prepared, you’ll know what to expect along the way, what to avoid, and tips to sell your home quickly.

Selling Process

Selling your home requires a good amount of research and preparation. There may be home improvements to make, real estate agents to find, a move to plan, and many other key steps in between. We’ve broken the selling process into three key sections:


Getting Started

Maybe you’ve outgrown your current space…or you want to move into a better neighborhood…or you simply want to move closer to your work…whatever the reason for moving, there are a few to-do’s before the “For Sale” sign goes up:

Determine affordability

Look at what you owe on the home (your unpaid principal balance) and what the home is worth today (see below for help estimating). Then factor in all the other costs associated with selling your home, such as: any needed home improvement costs; closing costs; moving costs, etc. Make sure you are aware of the financial consequences of selling your home (and moving to a new one) before you take the next step.

Review market conditions

Analyze your local market, including the current inventory of homes for sale, recent sales, and housing prices. Are homes moving quickly, or are they staying on the market for a long time? Are you prepared for a quick sale or do you need time to find a new home? Helpful sites like Trulia and Zillow as well as local real estate firms are a good starting point for this information.

Decide how to list

Select how you’ll market and list the home (e.g., with a real estate agent or for sale by owner). There are pros and cons to each, but unless you are experienced at selling homes, it usually makes financial sense to get professional help—homes sold by agents typically sell at a higher price and spend less time on the market. An agent will also help you determine the best pricing for the house, they’ll market the home, and they’ll be your advocate throughout the process.

Prepare your home

Inspect your home—inside and out—for needed repairs, cosmetic updates, and general maintenance. Don’t make the mistake of not thoroughly inspecting your home to look for areas of improvement.


Tip: Potential homebuyers may struggle to look past unique landscaping, brightly-colored walls, or lots of personal touches (family photos, memorabilia, etc.). You want to make the home as attractive as possible to as many buyers as possible—think neutral, simple, and free of clutter. You also may want to rearrange the furniture (staging) to better showcase the home’s assets.

Listing Your Home

You’ve done your homework, your home is ready to sell, and now it’s time to list! Here are a few things to think about:

Have a (marketing) plan

Work with your agent (if you are not selling your home on your own) to develop a detailed marketing plan for attracting buyers to your home. This will include listing the home on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) to maximize exposure to other agents and buyers as well as other advertising tactics (open houses, virtual tours, flyers, etc.).


Show, Show, Show

Make sure you’ve also got a plan when the home goes on the market. Potential buyers may be touring the property at various times—and sometimes without much notice—so you’ll need to ensure the house stays clean, valuables are locked away, and pets are safe.


Tip: If your home isn’t getting buyers’ attention and has been on the market for a while, it may be time to look at other options, such as reducing the price or adding other incentives (e.g., paying closing costs) to entice buyers. Each market is different, but the longer the house sits for sale, the harder to sell it usually becomes. Some homeowners may even decide to take the home off the market and relist at a later date. You may also want to think about leasing your home for a period. Talk to your agent to review the best options for your situation.


Selling Your Home

Congratulations—you’ve got an offer on the table (or maybe you have several!). Now you move into the final step of the process:

Review offer(s)

Examine all offers carefully—even if they seem too low. There’s usually always room to negotiate. Additionally, don’t focus on price alone. Some buyers may have other terms that are just as attractive (short closing, fast inspection period, etc.)!

Once you’ve found an offer that best meets your needs, you can either accept it or make a counteroffer. Your counter may include an increase to their offer price or a change to other terms outlined in the contract (inspection period, closing date, etc.). Your agent will work with you to determine a fair price and reasonable terms and will negotiate with the buyer’s agent.


Finalize the contract

Review the sales contract thoroughly with your agent. Once you and the buyer agree on the sales price and other terms, each party will formally accept by signing the sales contract. While each contract is different, typical terms outlined in the agreement include: inspection period (if applicable), closing date, and other seller/buyer contingencies that must be met before closing.


Tip: Most contingencies benefit the buyer. For example, buyers can walk away from the contract if the inspection turns up too many issues or if the appraisal is lower than expected. Make sure you understand all the details before signing.


Closing on your new home takes place after all terms and conditions of the contract have been met. This is the last step of the process and one of the most important! As the seller, closing is when you receive the proceeds from the sale and transfer ownership to the buyer. You’ll use those proceeds to pay off your current mortgage (if applicable) and any other costs from the sale will be deducted.

Each closing is different—and every state has their own laws—so talk to your agent about your responsibilities on that day.