Step by Step Home Seller's Guide

This step by step home seller’s guide was written to give you insight to the timeline and work involved in selling your house.  Whatever your reason, you’ve come to the conclusion that you need to sell your home. This section will give you an overview of what to generally expect when selling your home in Austin.

LISTING YOUR HOME

Since you are seriously considering selling your home, the first question you may have is: “How much is my house worth?” There are three factors that equally contribute to the list price for your house:

  • The current housing market
  • Your home’s condition
  • The listing agent

You only have control over only two of these three factors: the condition of your home and the listing agent. The most important decision you can make is selecting the right agent because they  should be able to help you manage the other two factors: the current market and the condition of the house.

SELECT THE RIGHT AGENT

It’s been said that if you know three people in Austin, one of them is licensed real estate agent. As with any profession, there are great ones, mediocre ones, and of course, incompetent ones. A great agent will help you navigate the housing market and prepare for probabilities. A great agent will guide you through getting your house ready and provide suggestions related to improving the condition of your house. A great agent will know market statistics, and historical performance of homes similar to yours and will accurately identify how yours is different and adjust the pricing appropriately.

But even a great agent may not be the right agent for you. Of course, there are basic things you should expect from your agent, however, please consider these other significant topics:

  • The listing strategy – Does the agent have a detailed, written timeline? Is it a property specific plan or a more general approach?  How effective does it seem? Can this agent recommend a licensed contractor, handyman, stager, and even a cleaner? Will the agent oversee the improvement projects of your house, or do they leave that up to you?
  • The agent’s experience and track record – Has the agent represented many sellers in your neighborhood?  How long before these homes sell and for how much, relative to the current market?
  • The agent’s connections – Does this agent have a good reputation among his or her peers? Can this agent reach out to the community and start marketing your home via private networks or pocket listings before it gets put on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?
  • Image and professionalism – Do you want this agent to represent you in front of other agents and prospective buyers? Do you want your house to be perceived based on the impression this agent makes on people?

SIGNING THE LISTING AGREEMENT

After you have considered all the different factors listed above, and you’ve decided on the agent you want to work with, the next step is signing a listing agreement. The listing agreement commits you to an exclusive arrangement with the agent for a set period of time. I generally list homes for 3 months, as this is plenty of time to get your house sold.  However if you have a luxury home, or put showing or marketing restrictions in place, it may take longer.

During our meeting to sign the listing agreement, or shortly thereafter, I will provide you with a Seller’s Disclosure to complete, as well as any other addenda required by Texas law.  I will also order reports on your behalf:

  • Property Inspection Report – Depending on the condition of your home, I will recommend having it pre-inspected.  Performed by a licensed home inspector, this report will reveal any issues that need to be addressed.
  • Pest Inspection Report – If the property inspection uncovers any issues with wood boring insects or other pests, I will order a pest inspection report to discover the situation, so we can deal with it accordingly.
  • Austin Energy Audit – Homes older than 10 years, or homes that haven’t had an energy audit performed in the last decade are required to have one before transfer of ownership.

Usually these reports are ordered by the buyers, and are part of their due diligence.  Most likely, buyers will order them anyway during the option period.  However, when a buyer gets these reports, they own the information, and are not required to disclose it to you, generally using it as a leverage point in negotiations.  I prefer to know what we are up against, so I can anticipate problems, calculate list price, and minimize issues that cause buyers to back out of a contract

PRICING YOUR HOME

Pricing your home for a fast sale that nets the most, is much more than looking at some numbers on a website.

It starts with property knowledge.  Visiting as many homes in the area as possible to know trends, styles, and upgrades.  But it is also much more than that.  Of course it is essential to know where the local market is heading when pricing your home. Market conditions vary, based on everything from supply-demand issues to buyers’ attitudes and of course location. What is the economic outlook?  Is there job growth or job security in the area? Are interest rates heading up or going down? What kind of a loans are available? Are there homes similar to yours currently for sale? Are buyers feeling optimistic and willing to tie up their assets with a home purchase? These are just some of the issues that come into play in the housing market.

In addition, the market is seasonal, especially in Austin where the school calendar drives most peoples home buying decisions.

  • From late January to late February (late winter to early spring) just like the weather, the housing market starts to warm up, as families recover from the holidays and start thinking about moving.
  • In March and May (spring to early summer) the market is very active, as this is typically the best time to sell your home.  Parents often look to specific school districts in anticipation for enrollment in the next school year.
  • From June to August (Summer)  there tends to be a slow down as people leave town for family vacations and trips.
  • The months of September to October (Late summer to early fall) usually sees an uptick in sales activity as people come back from vacation and want to get into a home by the year’s end.
  • At the end of the year from November to January (winter holidays) only serious buyers who need to move are active.  Many people take their homes off the market this time of year.  While your competition is whittled down because other sellers do not want to deal with moving during the holidays, prices tend to be a little lower as buyers during this time are usually looking for a relative bargain.

I take these seasonal trends into consideration when pricing your home. Overpricing and buyers will look over your property.  Come in too low, and you leave money on the table.  Properly pricing your home when you first come in on the market will generate the most interest, and get the most showings resulting in offers.

PREPARING YOUR HOME

I have great success eliminating buyer objections before they arise by making improvements and repairs.

Selling your home is just like selling a product.  Just like jewelry, or cars, or even clothing, you want to highlight the features and best parts, in the best possible way, to appeal to as many people as possible.  Completely preparing your home for sale can be the difference between multiple offers in the first two weeks and languishing on the market.

Sometimes it is as easy as removing clutter, personal items, and having a thorough professional deep cleaning.  Alternatively it may be as drastic as repainting the entire house.  My team will evaluate your options and provide suggestions as necessary.

To learn more about how I prepare your home for a fast sale for the most money, please visit my Pre-Listing Preparation page.

MARKETING YOUR HOME

After your home is properly prepared, with my team of designers, contractors, landscapers, and stagers, I hire the best professional photographers, videographers, and graphic designers to make the collateral.  Printed booklets (not just flyers), property specific web pages, floorplans, and high-end videos are all produced for the launch into the MLS.

Additionally, the first week your home is on the market, I invite all the agents to a catered broker’s open, as well as an all day open house during the weekend with a hosted espresso bar for the general public.

But it doesn’t stop there.  I pay for additional exposure with highly effective targeted Facebook and Google ads to reach not only people looking in Austin for a home, but reaching people all over the world who want to move to Central Texas.

Showings are made during open houses and by appointment.to minimize disruption to your day to day activities.

To learn how I go above and beyond the average luxury agent, please read all the things I pay for to market your home.

NEGOTIATING THE CONTRACT

When a qualified buyer is serious enough, they make an offer with his or her agent. The buyer’s agent then presents the offer to the listing (your) agent, and they are required by Texas law to present it to you, regardless of the terms. Rarely does an offer get accepted as presented, instead there are usually terms that need to be revised, and this is addressed through the counteroffer process.

With the proper pricing and preparation, occasionally there may be more than one interested buyer, which would result in a multiple offer situation.  Experienced agents in Central Texas are familiar with this scenario, and if this situation were to happen, I prepare a custom spreadsheet for you outlining the terms of each offer, offering guidance to the best offer (which isn’t always the highest sales price).

Another situation to consider is accepting a back-up offer in the event that the initial contract falls through.

ESCROW

Upon acceptance of the terms of the purchase contract, and the execution of it, the escrow process begins.  In Texas, buyers can purchase a negotiable option period to have inspections and perform their due diligence.  This option period allows the buyers to terminate the contract for any reason, but not without financial compensation to you.

A mutually agreed upon Title Company holds the buyer’s Earnest money until the end of escrow, when it is generally applied to the purchase price.  Also the Title Company prepares the paperwork for the transfer of title, and may provide Title Insurance if requested.

The Earnest money is the assurance that no funds or property will change hands until ALL of the instructions in the transaction have been followed. The escrow holder has the obligation to safeguard the funds and/or documents that are in its possession, and to disburse funds and/or convey title only when all provisions of the sales contract have been fufilled.

During this process, there are many important milestones in the contract that need to be observed:

  • Buyer’s Earnest money is given to the escrow company
  • An option fee is delivered to the buyer and additional inspections, if any, are performed.
  • A survey is ordered if requested.
  • An appraisal is performed if there is a loan involved
  • If there is a loan, the buyer goes through the lender’s approval and underwriting process
  • If your property is a condo or townhouse, the homeowner’s association provides a package of HOA documents and transfer paperwork

After all the contingencies of the contract are removed, the escrow company contacts your mortgage holder (if required) and any other lien holders to request a final pay-off amount. The escrow company then prepares the settlement statement detailing your pay-off and other closing-related expenses for your review. You will then meet with the escrow officer to sign the required paperwork, and traditionally the buyer meets with the same escrow officer separately to finalize their paperwork which may include loan documents.

CLOSING THE SALE

Once the buyer has completed their paperwork the escrow company sends them back to the lender (if needed) for final review and funding. Once escrow receives all the funds from both buyer and lender typically the same day, the sale is recorded with the county and your ownership has been conveyed to the buyer. That day, all keys and garage door remote controls need to be turned over, as the house is now the property of the buyer.