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How to Sell a House: A Comprehensive Handbook for First Timers

If you’re selling a house for the first time, you know it can quickly start to feel overwhelming. 

There’s finding a trustworthy realtor. Making updates and improvements. Keeping the house clean for showings. Making more updates and improvements. And finally, waiting for all the buyer’s paperwork to go through so you can finally sit around the closing table and sign the papers. 

The good news, however, is that selling your home doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s a primer on how to sell a home for the first time. 

First, find a great agent

If you’re a first-time seller, you’re definitely going to want to work with a real estate agent rather than sell the home yourself. 

Why? For one thing, homes sold by agents sell for more than homes sold by owner—on average, the agent-assisted home in 2018 sold for $250,000 as opposed to $190,000 for owner-sold homes. So if you’re trying to save on an agent’s commission by selling the home yourself, you may want to reconsider.  

For another, there are lots of mistakes that can be made when trying to sell a home on your own. From legal issues, like disclosures of lead paint, water damage, or unpermitted work, to headaches like wasting time with buyers who aren’t serious, you can end up with more trouble than you bargained for. 

When you do start the search for an agent, there are a few ways to go about it. You can get recommendations from friends or family, do a Google search, use a real estate website like HomeLight or Zillow, or look on other review sites. 

Whichever route you go, however, you’ll want to make sure you look at the agent’s data first. How many homes have they sold in the past 12 months? Do their homes sell, on average, above or below market value? How long is their average days-on-market? 

Make sure to interview at least three agents before committing. 

Price your home correctly from the get-go. 

One mistake many first-time home sellers make is to price their home too high, thinking they’ll get negotiated down to fair market value. 

However, rather than encourage higher initial offers, pricing a home too high can actually scare buyers away. 

After all, buyers generally know their budget when they start the home search process, and if your home—which, if priced correctly, would be within their budget—is listed for more than they’re willing to spend, there’s a good chance they won’t look at it at all. 

A home that’s clearly priced above market value can also signal to buyers that you, as a seller, will be unreasonable or difficult to work with. 

Your agent will give you the best guidance as to pricing your home correctly, but you can also use tools like a home value estimator to help. 

Focus on the updates and improvements that will increase your home’s value. 

When it comes to home improvements, not all are created equal. 

Believe it or not, in many cases, updated light fixtures and a deep cleaning can add more value to your home than fancy upgrades like a chef’s kitchen or in-ground pool. Part of that is because of the mass appeal: lots of buyers don’t need a chef’s kitchen, nor do they want to deal with the maintenance required for an in-ground pool. 

Your agent will know what buyers are looking for in your area and neighborhood specifically, so he or she can help direct you as to what you should focus on. 

Selling a home is a big job, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By working with the right agent, you’ll be able to move through the process smoothly, and find yourself at that closing table in no time.