How to Sell Your House

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Looking to get your house sold? Just throw a “For Sale” sign up in the yard and wait for those offers to pour in. Your home is in the competitive San Diego real estate market, so it should be a breeze to find a buyer and get a deal done while making top dollar, right? Who needs to know anything about how to sell your house!

Well, you do, actually. At the very least, you need to know how to find a great real estate agent who is an expert at selling houses. But, if you really want to follow the path of least resistance to a sale—and a good sale at that—it’s best if you go into the process being somewhat informed about what it takes so you can quickly move on to the next stage of your life.

Here are the steps you’ll want to take.

1. Find a stellar real estate agent.

It’s so important to work with a great agent when you go to sell your house that we said it twice. Is it tempting to try to sell your home without an agent? Sure. No one is excited about laying out money for the agent’s commission when it cuts into your profit. But the reality is that homes that are sold with the help of an agent take in significantly more than those that are listed for sale by owner (FSBO)—and they sell faster.

According to the most recent numbers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), “FSBOs accounted for 7% of home sales,” and the “typical FSBO home sold for $200,000 compared to $265,500 for agent-assisted home sales.”

But, that doesn’t mean you should go with any old agent. Working with an experienced agent is key. All you have to do is take a look at the NAR’s top three “most difficult tasks for FSBO sellers” to see the value a top-quality real estate agent brings to the table:

  • “Getting the right price: 17%
  • Understanding and performing paperwork: 12%
  • Selling within the planned length of time: 5%”

Knowing how to sell your house means seeking out a real estate agent who comes highly recommended. Ask for referrals and then check references and do a good search online to make sure they are who they say they are and there are no red flags.

  1. Price your home to sell.

This is a crucial part of the home sale process. Overprice your home and you could be forced to watch while other places around you sell and yours sits on the market with no takers. Underpricing your home could also prove costly (literally!), but, the truth is that sellers tend to think their home is worth more than it is, not less.

The time you’ve lived there and the memories you’ve made are obviously important to you, but they’re not going to factor in to how much someone is willing to pay to buy the place. Your real estate agent will use a combination of factors to determine the best listing price, including running a comparative market analysis (CMA).

“This free report compares your home to other homes near you that are comparable in size, have similar features, are currently on the market, or have sold in recent months,” said Dave Ramsey. “The comparison allows your agent to more accurately predict what buyers will pay for your home. With this information in hand, you can work with your agent to set a competitive price that’s based on fact, not emotion.”

  1. Hire a home inspector.

More than likely, the buyer will get a home inspection while they’re in escrow. But you can eliminate unpleasant surprises by getting one before you list. Identifying issues early in the home-selling process lets you work the cost of repairs into your budget on the front end so they don’t wreck your deal later.

  1. 4. Get your house market ready.

This is a biggie, and there are several sub-steps that exist underneath the umbrella. It should also be noted that getting a house ready to list could take a matter of days for a home that is updated and already in great shape, or several months for a place that needs a lot of work. Your real estate agent can help you determine what needs to be done in your home and how to go about it, but here is a general outline:

Prioritize updates—You probably don’t want to sink six figures into your San Diego home for sale just to put it on the market, but you can make it more appealing to buyers by focusing on key areas that need a little love—which will help you get top dollar. The trick is knowing where to put your money for the best return on investment. The Cost vs. Value Report is a great source to help you determine the smartest updates for you money.

The report outlines 22 different remodeling projects and the ROI they provide in markets across the country. Of course, you’ll want to run plans by your real estate agent first in case there are local trends that influence what you do and how much you spend.

Declutter! Decluttering is a crucial step in getting your home ready to sell. Clear off those counters, downsize the knickknacks, and start emptying out those closets. Potential buyers want to see your house, not your stuff. Everything else is a distraction. Remember that they are going to open all the doors, drawers, and cabinets, so get in there and get everything cleaned out. You’re moving anyway, right? Might as well get that stuff boxed up now.

Stage your home. Staging is a great place to spend a little money because of the potential upside. “On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than nonstaged homes, which is nothing to sneeze at,” said

Staging may be as easy as the aforementioned decluttering, a new coat of paint, and a good carpet cleaning. Or, your real estate agent may recommend swapping out some or all of your furniture to entice buyers. According to, this type of staging generally costs $300­–$600 for the initial consultation, and could run $500–$600 per month for each staged room.

Up your curb appeal. At the very least, you’ll want to get your front yard cleaned up so prospects don’t have a reason to pass on by. Your San Diego real estate agent may also recommend you paint your front door, put down a fresh layer of mulch, and bring in some fresh flowers for a pop of color—all easy, low-cost fixes that will give your home a fresh look from the street.

Depersonalize! Yes, buyers will fixate on your collection of animal heads mounted to the wall in the den or the dozens of bobbleheads that line the fireplace mantel. While these may be some of the things that help the house feel like home to you, they may turn off potential buyers.

Do a rigorous deep cleaning: Windows, blinds, floors—everything needs to sparkle and shine when selling your home.

Have pictures taken. Now that your place is camera-ready, it’s time to take professional photos. Resist the urge to DIY them with your iPhone. Pros know all the right angles, and there is documented proof that buyers will eliminate homes from contention over poorly shot photos.

  1. 5. List your home

Now it’s time for the magic to begin. If your San Diego home for sale is listed for the right price and it shows well, your agent should start getting calls. Before a showing, you’ll want to:

  • Pick up anything that’s out of place, fluff the pillows, make the beds, and drape that throw perfectly over the couch.
  • Open all the blinds and drapes and turn on all the lights, especially if you don’t have a ton of natural light in your home.
  • Get out of the house! Showings when the current owners are there can get awkward (The same goes for open houses.).
  • Take your pets with you, and be sure to scan the home one last time before you leave to make sure there isn’t a bone or ball left behind. Not only is it unsightly, but it could also be a trip hazard, and the last thing you need is a lawsuit over a broken ankle.

6. Negotiate the contract

San Diego is one of those markets in which homes often sell for, or over, the listing price, but that’s not a given for every home in every neighborhood. In a negotiation, you’ll be happy to have an effective real estate agent on your side. But, the offer price is only part of the equation when your sell your home.

“While your real estate agent may recommend you take the highest offer, look closely at other aspects of the offer,” said Bankrate. Things like: whether the buyer is paying in cash or financing the home, the type of financing, and how much the buyer has set aside for a down payment can help you determine the strength of the offer.

Your agent will likely also negotiate a number of terms on your behalf, which can include everything from the projected closing date to any contingencies involved in the deal to special provisions regarding repairs or personal property.

7. Pay the closing costs and sign your paperwork

You’re there! It’s time to settle up. Unless you have negotiated for the buyer to contribute to the closing costs, you’re looking at five to six percent of the purchase price of the home. You’ll typically present funds in the form of a bank check or cashier’s check at the closing table. Then, you’ll sign the final papers, and turn over the keys. Congrats on your sale!

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