THE SELLER’S CHECKLIST
a guide to selling your home.
You’ve decided that someday soon you’ll sell your home & start a new chapter – how exciting! Whether you’re ready to make a move next month or next year, there are a few things we’d like you to know up front so your selling experience can be as smooth as possible!
Let’s break down the process step by step, and at the end we’ll discuss a few pitfalls and things to watch out for.
First Things First!
The very first and most important thing on your checklist (even before doing any repairs or beautifying your home) is to chat with your Trophy Point Realty agent & determine two things: 1) whether selling the best fit for you & your family, and 2) your goals. There are a lot more factors to selling a house than just the money (although that is a big factor for most people)! What’s your desired price & timeline? Do you want to ask buyers to give a seller rent-back after close? Will you prioritize getting the highest price above all else or would you be willing to flex on price if it means a sure-fire closing (looking for the all-cash, short contingencies, big earnest money, etc.)? Knowing what you’re after will only help the process. The more you know and fill your agent in, the more we can do for you! Once we know your priorities and goals, we can narrow down which (if any) handyman jobs, staging, cleaning, etc. will need to be done to get your home ready to sell according to your goals.
We have inside access to great resources within our team, so here are some things we can also help with that may open up an option that would’ve been closed to you without our resources:
1. Arrange short-term furnished rental accommodations (we have inside access to a premier furniture and staging company)
2. Find awesome agents wherever you’re moving to (if outside the Savannah area) and work together with those agents
Make Your House Shine
Once we create a strategy for you according to your goals, we’ll need to ensure any necessary repairs, cleaning, staging, painting, etc. is taken care of so we can get the best photos to market your home. The vast majority of all properties for sale are listed through the MLS (Multi-Listing Service – it’s what all Savannah-area agents use to search for properties), so this will give you the best chance to be seen by buyers quickly. Your agent will also use our team’s wide network & a few different marketing tools to get the word out about your home. When you list with TPRG, your listing gets uploaded to about 3,000 websites (including all the big names) for maximum exposure. But before we market it, we need to know it’s ready for pictures & ready to be put on the market. We will likely need to get a few documents from you to have a strong listing that appeals to buyers:
1. Community Association Disclosure
If you have any HOA-type memberships or fees, then you’ll need this document. It outlines for potential buyers what those fees and rules are, and ensures to them that there are no outstanding balances or infractions on your part. We can help fill this out if you don’t know all the information – many sellers don’t, and we want as accurate info as possible on the disclosure.
2. Seller’s Disclosure
Most listings have a seller’s disclosure because it tells potential buyers what you know about your house – what you’ve updated, what might need repairs, what should be good for another 10 years, etc.
3. Lead-based paint disclosure
This is only required for houses built prior to 1978, since that’s when the law was passed banning lead-based paint. This disclosure is simply a legal requirement that asks if you know of any lead-based paint in the house. If you haven’t tested for it and nobody disclosed it to you when you bought, then you have nothing to worry about.
It is almost always better to take our time and do it right than to rush into a quick listing. We only have one chance to make a great first impression when we come to market – let’s take our time and make it count!
Open Houses & Showings
Alright! You’ve gotten your house listed – it’s on the market & buyers are dying to see your home. We want your home to sparkle for as many people as possible. When potential buyers come to look at your home (through an open house if you choose to have one, and when other agents schedule showings), your agent will likely ask for you to prepare your home. This includes:
– Putting away personal items like family photos & little knick-knacks.
– Plugging in some scented wall plugs throughout your home.
– Ensuring your home is clean.
– Turning on all lights & opening all blinds.
– Keeping any moving boxes in the garage and out of the way.
– Arranging furniture to maximize the space & make it look as open as possible.
– Decorate with neutral colors & objects so it appeals to the most people.
This will ensure that those potential buyers can quickly envision THEIR family’s photos & knick knacks in your home. It really sells the idea of the potential buyers’ families loving life in your home, and therefore makes it much easier for them to pay top dollar for your home.
You’ve got a bite! Awesome! Your agent will be the one receiving offers from other agents in order to protect your contact information & keep things straightforward. When they get an offer, it usually includes a few parts & they’ll walk through every part with you so you & your family are set up for success. Here are the key parts to every standard contract:
1. Purchase & Sale
This is the document most people pay attention to first, since it holds the price the buyer is offering, when they want to close, how much money they are willing to put up as an earnest money deposit, as well as any special asks they are making.
2. Financing exhibit
This outlines how exactly the buyer is planning on paying for this home. It also tells you how many days are in the financing contingency period, aka how many days the buyer will have to get approved if they’re using a loan. Lastly, it lets us know how many days are in the appraisal contingency period, aka how many days the buyer and their agent have to get the appraisal back and determine their next move if the appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price. The appraisal is done by a certified appraiser to determine a home’s market value. Our agents really know what they’re doing, so they will keep this appraisal step in mind as they set an asking price with you and as you consider which offers to accept so that we don’t run into issues with the appraisal.
If you get multiple offers on your home, we will prepare a spreadsheet so you can get a side-by-side comparison of the various offers. Interested in what may constitute a strong offer aside from the purchase price? This will have a lot to do with your priorities & goals, so here are some things to consider:
1. How much closing cost assistance the buyer asks for
The negative side here is that if a buyer is coming in above-ask to get some closing costs from you, the appraisal becomes riskier. With multiple offers, it’s typically best to pick an offer with no closing costs, even if it is a bit of a lower net proceeds to you.
2. Closing date
Earlier is usually better for most sellers, but it varies situation to situation. However, if a buyer using a loan is telling you they can close under 30 days, they’re not being very realistic.
3. Earnest money deposit
This is a good-faith deposit that the buyer puts into escrow. You will receive this deposit if they do not fulfill the terms of the agreement (but that’s rare).
4. Due diligence period
During this period, the buyer can back out for any reason or no reason at all and will get their earnest money deposit back. This period is when inspections are done.
5. Option payment
This is basically a non-refundable earnest money deposit. Recently, buyer’s have begun to include option payments in order to make their offers stronger. It’s typical to see an option payment between $200-500, though most buyers are still not willing to do this.
6. Special stipulations and other contingencies
Before this strong seller’s market, it was typical for buyers to ask for termite bonds and home warranties (these cost on average $500 each). Now, it is much less common. Sometimes you will also see a special stipulation stating that the sale is contingent on the buyer first selling another property – this is one to watch out for, and your agent will explain what that means if you receive an offer like that. There are many different special stipulations and contingencies but these are the most common.
7. Financing and strength of pre-approval
Not all pre-approvals are the same. We like to see local, trusted lenders write pre-approvals whenever possible, and we also like to call lenders who write them to assess the lender. Are they responsive? Do they feel good about the strength of the buyer?
The strongest type of pre-approval is called an underwriting approval. It means that the buyer has already gone through the underwriting process. These are rare to see, but if you see one, you can feel good about the buyer!
VA and FHA loans are nothing to be afraid of – we assess these pre-approvals just like any other and their likelihood to close is not any lower than a conventional loan. The VA or FHA appraisal process does involve an inspection by the appraiser, but as long as your house is in good shape, there will be no concerns. Things like chipping paint, rotting wood, or improperly installed water heaters are the major things that trip up a VA/FHA appraisal. The only downside is that a VA/FHA appraisal sticks with the property for 6 months, so if the appraisal comes in low and you terminate, then any other VA or FHA offer you receive for the next six months will be tied to that appraisal. (Conventional or cash will not.)
Cash is obviously king – but we want to make sure we see proof of funds if it’s a cash offer!
We also look at the lengths of different contingencies in the financing exhibit because the buyer’s earnest money is tied to these. For example, if the buyer receives a loan denial before the end of the financing contingency, they are entitled to get their earnest money deposit back. It is typical to see financing contingencies of 21 days and appraisal of 25 days, though a buyer will often shorten these to make their offer more appealing to you. Note: by law, there is no end to a VA or FHA appraisal contingency – which is one of the few downsides to those kinds of offers.
Buyers can also promise to make up for a lower appraisal in a special stipulation called an appraisal gap. We will typically want to see some proof of funds to support this.
Moving Towards Closing
Once you sign on an offer, or if you made a counteroffer and the buyer signed it, congrats! This is when we’ll officially be “Under Contract”! The date that the offer was accepted is known as the “Binding Agreement Date”, which starts the clock for all contingencies and deadlines stated within the offer.
Our team will send the full contract to the closing attorney and the buyer’s lender so they can start their process of title work and loan documents to get us to the closing table smoothly and on time. They will likely reach out to you for information towards the beginning of the Under Contract period. Communicate with them in a timely manner to ensure the process stays on track.
Your agent will continue to be in touch with the buyer’s agent and share updates as they come with the buyer’s inspection. The buyer will likely ask for some repairs after the inspection – sometimes those repairs are bigger or smaller, but you have your agent to walk you through the repairs and help you decide which repairs you are willing/unwilling to do. Of course, your agent will discuss these repairs with the buyer’s agent as well to negotiate so you get as much money as possible out of selling your home.
We’ll also work with you to prepare logistics for closing. Usually, we’ll need to figure out a time that works for you for closing, and we’ll ask you for utility information so that the buyer can have all the info they need to transfer utilities smoothly.
Closing Day and Beyond
The day of closing is easy – you’ll go to the attorney’s office and sign a bunch of documents. Closing typically takes between 30 and 60 minutes. Then the money moves as needed and you’ve officially sold your home!