Real estate agents provide various services that may not be immediately obvious to the home seller. Done properly, these services can make all the difference between a transaction that fails to deliver what you want, and one that achieves top dollar. However, no one is more invested in the sales process than you. If you are prepared to learn the ins and outs of pricing, marketing and contract documentation, going it alone may be the right choice for you. The advantage is you don't have to pay a broker's fee to sell the house, so you get more of the money from the sale.
Establish a Price
Effective pricing sells homes, so figure out what's happening in your local market. Check the list prices of comparable properties in your area online through agency listings and property comparison sites, such as Zillow and Trulia. Use the information to extrapolate the likely range of selling prices for your home. CNN recommends keeping within 10 percent of the median sales price for similar properties. Otherwise, you risk pricing yourself out of the market. For an authoritative valuation -- one that takes into account the specific features of your home -- hire a professional appraiser.
Get Sale Ready
Houses in top condition achieve top dollar, so fix up anything that's damaged, faulty, scuffed or dirty. Agents offer a third party opinion on your home’s overall appeal, so enlist a friend to give you a reality check. Major problems, such as faulty electrical systems or a leaking roof, deter buyers. Decide whether you’ll fix them up, or list your property at the lower end of its price range to reflect the property’s condition. Problems you can’t fix, such as a busy road or a poor school district, erode the property’s value, so be realistic when you set the price.
List and Market
Private sellers can't access the Multiple Listing Service, a national listing database that reaches 90 percent of buyers, according to CNN. However, some real estate brokers will list your home in the MLS for a flat fee of a few hundred dollars. Reach local buyers by erecting a lawn sign and distributing fliers around your neighborhood. Word-of-mouth, classified advertisements and listings on specialist sale-by-owner websites expand your reach. Whatever method you choose, listing requires certain essentials, such as accurate and high-quality photographs, room measurements and pricing documentation. Include the legal statements and disclosures required by your state.
Accept an Offer
Before you accept an offer, check your buyer’s mortgage preapproval to ensure he has the resources to proceed. Be prepared to go back and forth over the price. Most buyers will offer less than what the house is listed for. If you’re not confident about haggling, hire an attorney to do it for you.
Hire a Lawyer
Hire a real estate attorney to draw up the sales contract and closing paperwork. Laws are different from state to state, and even from county to county within a state. Using a generic contract risks violating local laws, and may not preserve your seller’s rights. Be prepared at this time to furnish your property records, lien documents, building permits and the like to the buyer’s appraiser and title insurer, and to make arrangements with your own lender for paying off your mortgage. Closing typically takes place six to eight weeks after you accept the buyer’s offer.
A former real estate lawyer, Jayne Thompson writes about law, business and corporate communications, drawing on 17 years’ experience in the legal sector. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in International Law from the University of East London.