First Time Home Sellers
So many websites and agents focus on first time home buyers, but rarely does anyone focus on answering the questions of those homeowners who are looking to sell a home for the first time. In our experience deciding to sell your home comes with just ask many questions as buying one did in the first place. Not knowing what to expect or what questions you should be asking from the start can leave you stressed-out and frustrated as you go through the process of listing and (hopefully) selling your home.
The First Steps
If you've never sold a home before, enlisting the services of a real estate professional in your area should be your number one place to start. Choosing the right agent for the job will provide you with a number of benefits that should outweigh the costs of the services being provided by the agent. Your agent will be able to help create a pricing strategy that will bring in the greatest number of qualified buyers in the first week or two your home is on the market. He or she will also help you to prepare your home for the sale including, but not limited to staging, professional photography and recommendations on what (if any) improvements or other repairs could be made that will allow your home to look it's absolute best to buyers once it's listed. Once you have completed these steps, your home should be ready to list.
What To Expect Once Your Home Is On The Market
Once your home has been listed, there are a number of things you should plan for in the days and weeks that follow. First, you should (almost) always plan on leaving the home for any and all showings that take place provided the home is being shown by a licensed real estate agent (you definitely don't want strangers without agents in your home alone). Just as you did for the home's photo shoot, you will want to make sure both the interior and exterior of the home are looking their best. On the outside, this means cutting the grass, trimming the shrubs, making sure the path to the front door is clear and the front porch is straightened up. On the inside you will want to turn on all lights, turn your ceiling fans on low, open your blinds and curtains and clear off any clutter on the counters and any dishes out of the kitchen sink. Some seller will also go a step further by lighting scented candles or putting on soft music to create a warm and calming atmosphere for the buyers while they are in the home. Anything you can think of that would make you feel more comfortable in a home and allow you to picture yourself living there in a positive way should be done before each showing.
You will want to make sure that your agent is following up with EVERY group that comes through your home shortly after each showing has taken place to get any feedback they can about what the buyers thought of the home, how they thought it showed, what they liked and what they didn't and finally, what they thought of the price. While this step is probably the most overlooked in the listing process by many agents, it can prove to be the most important step of all in enticing an agent or their buyer(s) to make you an offer, figuring out what you can do to improve your home's desirability for future showings and deciding whether a price adjustment might be needed at any point. Without this third party perspective, sellers can find their homes sitting on the market for weeks or months while they try to figure out what it is that's causing their home not to sell.
Contract To Close
Inspections: Once you receive and accept an offer, your main responsibilities will be making the home available for any and all inspections the buyer wishes to have done during the inspection period, which is Arizona is the first 10 days after contract acceptance unless otherwise specified. Once the buyer has completed all inspections of his choice he will have the option to accept the property as is with no repairs requests.
Appraisal: Once you are past the inspection period and the buyer has agreed to move forward, the next step will be for the buyer's lender to perform an appraisal of the property to determine whether the home is worth at least the agreed upon purchase price amount in the contract. (If your buyer is cash for the purchase, an appraisal will not be necessary, although the buyer may still choose to have one completed). This is a step that is required by the lender who will be providing the financing to the buyer to verify that they are not loaning on a property that is being purchased for more than its current market value based on the appraiser's research and opinion. Lenders do this to protect themselves from loaning more money on a property than they can expect to get back should the buyer default on their loan and the home as to be sold to pay back that debt. When the results of the appraisal come back to the buyer and their lender, they will either let you know the good news that the appraisal came back "at value" with no repairs needed, or if the value comes in below the agreed upon purchase price they the buyer will have the option to cancel, bring the difference in cash to closing, or ask you to reduce the price to meet the appraised value (which you can agree to do, but you don't have to). Keep in mind, when if the appraisal comes in above the purchase price, the buyer and lender will almost always just say it came in "at value" which is the only requirement. The buyer and lender are not required to tell a seller is the appraisal came in over the agreed upon purchase price and they do this intentionally so that a seller won't become frustrated by feeling like they should have gotten a higher price for their home. Don't let this discourage you because this is always how it is done and even if the buyer lets you know it came in over the purchase price, the contract price still stays the same and you will need to proceed forward as planned based on the price you accepted when you negotiated the offer.
Buyer's Final Loan Approval: After appraisal the next step will involve just the buyer and lender as they work to make sure the lender has all of the necessary information and documentation from the buyer to provide final approval on the buyer's loan. Once this is complete the sale will be ready to close. If the buyer's lender is for any reason unable to approve the buyer's loan, the buyer will have to cancel the contract due to what is called an "Unfulfilled Loan Contingency" which based on the terms of the purchase contract does allow them to receive a full refund of the earnest money once the contract is cancelled. In our experience, this is the least common time for an issue to arise in the sales process provided your agent was diligent reviewing the buyer's pre-qualification letter that should have accompanied the offer on the first day, but it can still happen due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances (i.e. - buyer's job loss, a drop in the buyer's credit score, etc.)
Signing Your Closing Documents: After loan approval has been obtained by the buyer, you should receive a call or email from the title company to set up a time for you to come in and sign your paperwork to complete the closing of the sale on your end. Be sure to ask the title company what you will need to bring with you to the signing (typically a driver's license will be sufficient).
Final Walk-through: The final step in the sale from your end will be allowing the buyer to do a final walk-through of the property. At this time the buyer will come through the home with their agent to make sure everything looks as it did on the day they wrote their offer and that any and all repairs that were agreed upon have been completed in a workmanlike manner. Provided nothing has changed with your home and you have made all repairs you agreed to, this should be a quick and easy step which will usually only take about 30 minutes anywhere from 1-3 days before closing.
Closing: Once the buyer has completed the walk-through, the title company will schedule a time for the buyer to sign their closing documents. Upon completion of the buyer's signing, the title company will send the final signed closing documents to the buyer's lender for approval allowing the buyer's lender to "fund" the loan which is to say that they will send the funds for the buyer's home loan to the title company and authorize title to "record the deed" which is the final step that make the sale of your home official. Once the deed has recorded, you should expect to receive your proceeds from the sale by the next business day in the form or a cashier's check or wire transfer, whichever you specified to the title company earlier in the transaction. And that's it, your home sale is complete!
If you would like to discuss the home selling process in more detail at any time, please contact us and one of our agents will be able to answer any questions you have.