How to Sell Your Home: A Guide From a First-Time Seller

Sale prices were rising, and I wanted to move closer to the city center. It was time to sell the adorable condo I’d bought in 2013. I knew about home buying. But how to sell your home? I was a bit in the dark.

Thinking of selling your home and want to learn from my experience? Here’s what I went through, step by step, to sell my condo.

Step 1: Call My Realtor

I reached out to the same realtor who helped me buy my condo. He and one of his junior brokers came to the house, walked me through the details of how to sell your home and took in all the renovations I’d completed.

He made a list of recommendations to help the condo sell faster and at a higher price. It was pretty simple stuff: paint the ceilings, declutter the closets and thin out the furnishings. My realtor then had to do some research and get back to me with “comps,” or figures on recent sales of condos like mine in my area. This would help us set a price.

Step 2: Have Work Done

I hired a contractor to paint a few walls and the ceilings. My boyfriend and I sorted everything we owned and took a heap of furniture and boxes to storage. Storage space is a big selling point, so we reduced what we had in our closets to make our already generous storage look even bigger.

Step 3: (Have a Realtor) Set a Sale Price

My realtor helped me set a sale price and gave an estimate of my net proceeds. With commissions and county, title and attorney fees, I would net 91 to 92 percent of the gross sale price. Not too shabby!

Step 4: Take Listing Photos

My realtor used a professional service to take my listing photos. With my partner and me out of the condo for an hour, they took incredible photos that highlighted the open floor plan and renovations (like a new kitchen and bath). While this was an added expense, it was well worth it. Eye-catching photos catch eyes, and this leads to more interest and more potential to nab your target price. So my advice: Don’t skimp on photos!

Step 5: Post the Listing and Schedule an Open House

We listed the house on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. For the open house that Saturday, we headed out to breakfast. Over the two hours we were gone, 18 prospective buyers came through. We had three offers that day — two at full price, one lowball. We went back to the two full-price offers and asked for “highest and best” by 7 p.m. This turned into two offers at $5,000 over the listed price.

Step 5: Accept an Offer and Begin Closing

I accepted an offer with a simple digital signature. Next, the buyer scheduled the inspection and appraisal. Following the inspection, the buyer had a few minor requests — including having the air conditioner serviced — which I happily agreed to perform.

Then it was time for the lawyers to finalize the paperwork and set a closing date. The buyer deposited good faith (“earnest”) money in escrow, and within 30 days we had closing scheduled.

I gave my lawyer power of attorney to represent me at closing, which meant I could stay anonymous in the sale process.

Step 6: Close

The day prior to closing, I reviewed a closing statement showing all the fees, which required some explaining by my lawyer. I signed off on a final copy of the closing statement, and the next day my lawyer texted me to say that the sale was closed — and congratulations! My proceeds were wired directly into my bank account and settled the same day.

While there was some back-and-forth over paperwork and a lot of signatures required, it was a fairly easy process. Be sure to ask your realtor what’s common in your market. My condo going from listing to sale in four days was incredibly fast, even for Chicago. Together, you and your realtor can devise a strategy that will show your home in the best light so you can attract as many buyers as possible and in the shortest period of time.

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