Are you feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of selling your home? The process can be daunting. It can even be difficult to know where to begin. But when you break the process down into actionable steps, it becomes much more manageable. 

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to sell your home as quickly and smoothly as possible. You’re just eight steps away from starting the next chapter of your life. 

Step 1: Plan For Any Financing Needed For Your Next Home

If you will need financing to purchase your next home, it's wise to begin the mortgage pre-approval process even before listing your current home for sale. 

With pre-approval, you can have a mortgage loan officer review your finances to confirm whether you qualify for a home loan and how much you might be able to borrow. Not only does this help guide your homebuying budget, but it also shows sellers that you are a serious buyer.

Step 2: Choose A Real Estate Agent (or Go FSBO)

Will you hire a real estate agent to sell your house? Or will you try the “For Sale By Owner” route, commonly known as FSBO (pronounced fizbo)?

Both options offer benefits and potential downsides. Deciding between listing with an agent and going it alone early in the process can help inform your decisions in the steps that follow.  

The Pros and Cons Of Listing Your House With A Real Estate Agent

While you might sell only a few houses in your entire life, productive real estate agents sell houses every month. Here are the benefits of using a real estate agent to list your home for sale:

  • You can rely on their knowledge, experience, and skills to potentially sell your home faster and/or for a higher sales price than you could get on your own.[1] 
  • Licensed agents have access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service).[2] The MLS is the local database of properties for sale. Agents can post their listings to the MLS, which immediately notifies other local agents of the listing. Then those other agents can contact their buyers, which can dramatically increase exposure.  
  • An experienced agent can have a marketing plan ready to implement. They may also cover the expense of advertising the listing on your behalf.   
  • Established agents have a built-in network of industry professionals to help facilitate the sale, as well as potential buyers who may be interested in your home.
  • A skilled agent can negotiate to help you get favorable terms on the sale. 

Here are the potential downsides of using a real estate agent:

  • Real estate fees can be expensive. Depending on your market and your chosen agent, the cost may be around 5-6% of the sales price.[3]
  • Choosing an agent can take a little time. It’s a good idea to research local agents, read client testimonials, and even interview multiple agents before choosing one. 

If you don't already have an agent in your corner, a PNC Mortgage Loan Officer may be able to help you find one and explain eligibility for a cash-back rebate.

The Pros and Cons Of Listing For Sale By Owner

Here are the benefits of selling your home on your own:

  • You can save on the real estate agent fees, potentially saving yourself thousands of dollars. However, in many American markets, it is customary for sellers to cover all real estate agent fees, including the cost of the buyer’s agent.[4] So you may still need to budget for that expense or be prepared to wait for a buyer who is willing and able to represent themselves (or pay their agent’s fee in addition to all the other homebuying expenses). 
  • When handling the listing process alone, you’ll have complete control over every detail of the listing.  

Here are the potential downsides of going FSBO:

  • You might not be able to reach as wide a pool of potential buyers as a real estate agent can with their industry connections. 
  • Most homeowners don’t have the market information or skillset needed to maximize profitability on the sale of their home. 
  • Managing a listing can be time-consuming, requiring you to respond to inquiries (of various credibility) at all hours of the day. 
  • FSBO listings may attract the attention of buyers who are looking to take advantage of inexperienced sellers to get a deal. 

Step 3: Get The Property “Market Ready”

Preparing a property for the market may include the following:

  • Making any necessary home repairs. 
  • Decluttering the home so that the home feels organized.
  • Removing oversized or excessive furniture so the rooms appear larger. 
  • “Depersonalizing” the space by removing family photos and memorabilia so that buyers can imagine the house as their own. 
  • Updating dated fixtures so the house appeals to today’s buyers. 
  • Making inexpensive upgrades that are likely to create a positive return on investment by increasing the home’s sales price. 
  • “Neutralizing” the home by using paint colors and decor that appeal to a wide range of buyers.  
  • Deep cleaning the entire property. 
  • Refreshing the landscaping. 
  • Staging the property with additional furnishings and decor as necessary.

If you have chosen to hire a real estate agent, your agent can help guide this process. They can explain what local buyers are looking for and share tips for quickly increasing the property’s value.  

Step 4: Determine The Listing Price

Pricing your listing correctly is crucial. Asking for too much could lead buyers and buyer’s agents to conclude that you are not motivated to sell and could be difficult to work with. With so many buyers looking for homes online, setting a price that's too high could mean that your listing gets filtered out of your potential buyer’s search results.

Meanwhile, asking too little could potentially result in leaving money on the table. 

The Danger Of Over-Pricing 

Some home sellers want to start with a higher asking price, either to test the market or to leave room for negotiation. But this strategy can backfire, and lowering the price after a few weeks might not be enough to make up for this common mistake. 

Here’s why: When you price too high, you don’t generate as much interest in the listing as you would have if you had priced the listing closer to the property’s actual market value.[5] Then the property sits on the market, effectively losing the benefit of being the exciting new listing on the market. The longer it sits, the more buyers start to wonder if something is wrong with the house. A price reduction, at this point, can be viewed as further “evidence” of a fault with the property.  

This can create a cycle of price reductions and lower buyer interest, potentially resulting in a lower sales price than the seller would have seen from pricing correctly from the beginning. 

How To Determine The Asking Price For Your Home

Using recent sales of homes similar to your own can help you determine the value of your home, which can help you set your list price. 

If you’re using a real estate agent, your agent can “run comps” (find comparable sales) to see how much similar homes are selling for under current market conditions. Then your agent can adjust the sales prices of those homes to account for material differences, like location, home size, lot size, year built, and condition. The result is an estimation of your home’s likely value. 

From here, you might decide to list the property at that value or to come down to a value that sits at the top of common online search filters.[5] For example, if your MLS filters use rounded hundred-thousands, you might price your $805,000 home at $799,000 to make sure it is visible to buyers with a $800,000 max filter set.

Step 5: List The House For Sale 

With the house market-ready and your listing price set, you can list the house for sale!

If you have a real estate agent, they can post your listing to the local MLS as well as a multitude of home search sites. If you are selling on your own, you need to decide which sites you want your listing to be visible on.  

A listing post may include:

  • Listing photos. With so many buyers looking for homes online, your listing photos are often the first impression prospective buyers get of your home. Investing in professional listing photos can help you make a strong first impression and generate more interest in your listing. 
  • A virtual tour. A virtual tour can be a simple video walk-through of the home, or it can be an interactive 3D model. 
  • A floorplan. If available, floorplans can help buyers understand the home’s layout at a glance. 
  • A listing description. The listing description is a written summary of the home’s highlights. A well-written description can help buyers imagine what their life in the home could be like. 
  • Property details. The property detail section includes information on the specifics of the lot and structure, such as the year built, heating source, roof type, and appliances included. 
  • The listing history. Some online listing platforms pull up the sales history of the property, which could include the date you purchased the property, the price you paid, and any other available sales or listing data.
  • Property tax information. Some platforms incorporate information about current tax assessments to help buyers understand how much they should budget for property taxes on the home. 

As soon as your house is listed for sale, you (or your agent) can begin marketing the listing. The online listing platforms might be your primary marketing tool, but you can also consider other marketing methods, such as:

  • A yard sign.
  • Social media.
  • Brochures.
  • Neighborhood fliers.
  • Personal calls, emails, and texts to potential buyers.
  • Online advertising.
  • Print advertising.
  • An open house.
  • A broker’s open (similar to an open house, only reserved for licensed real estate professionals rather than the general public).

It is worth evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing as you go. Tracking the number and quality of buyer leads coming from each marketing method can help you determine what is working and what’s not. Furthermore, you can use feedback from those who tour the property to decide if any changes are necessary to better fit your buyers’ needs and wants. 

If you have a real estate agent, set your expectations regarding communication during the listing period. Explain how often you want to be updated, what you want to know, and which method of communication works best for you. Be mindful of your agent's schedule when setting these expectations as your agent is likely working with other clients as well. 

Step 6: Prepare Your Moving Plans

At this stage, you have likely given a lot of thought to your next chapter. Before listing your home for sale, you may have an idea of where you planned to move. Now is a good time to set those plans in motion.  

If, for example, you plan to upsize or downsize locally, and you’re using a real estate agent to help you sell your home, you can use the same agent to help you find a new home and get an offer accepted. If you’re relocating to a new area, your local agent may be able to refer you to a buyer’s agent in your new market. You might start looking for temporary housing in your new area, or you might be comfortable buying a home sight unseen based on the amount of information available online. 

Step 7: Consider Offers As Received

When you receive an offer, you have three available responses:

  1. Accept the offer as written. 
  2. Deny the offer outright.  
  3. Counteroffer. This means adjusting the terms of the buyer’s original offer so that it works better for you. Then the buyer has the option to accept, deny, or counter your counteroffer. 

As you review offers, consider other terms in addition to the price. The type of mortgage loan used, proposed closing date, necessary repairs, and requests for closing cost assistance can all impact your selling process and your bottom line.  

Step 8: Prepare For Closing and Moving

When you accept an offer, you enter the contract period. This time between contract and closing gives the buyer and seller time to complete the tasks necessary to successfully transfer ownership of the property, including:

  • Having the property inspected to confirm its condition,
  • Having the property appraised to confirm its value,
  • Checking the title to make sure the current owner has the right to sell,
  • And having the buyer secure their new home loan.

If you have a real estate agent, they can coordinate these tasks with the professionals involved, such as the home inspector, appraiser, title representative, and buyer’s agent. Otherwise, you can personally monitor the progress of your deal to closing.

You may have lots of paperwork to sign before the deal can officially close. Then, on closing day, you can collect any proceeds from the sale of your home before turning over the keys and starting your next chapter!   

PNC Is Here To Help

Whether you need a mortgage loan for your next home purchase, or your buyers need a loan to complete their purchase of your home, PNC Bank is here to help. Our wide range of loan options, competitive loan terms, and friendly, professional service make the mortgage application process as seamless as possible. Apply online today