Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Ah yes, you’ve decided to sell your house and move somewhere new.
Whatever your reason may be for deciding to sell, here’s the ultimate checklist for selling your house and preparing for the inevitable move to your new home.
Decide How You Want To Sell Your House (Or Rent it)
First and foremost, decide how you want to sell the property. You have a few options to choose from.
So take some time to consider which makes the most sense for you.
For Sale By Owner (FSBO)
Selling For Sale By Owner is less traditional but can save you 6% on real estate commissions if you’re able to pull it off.
Be aware, going the FSBO route will put all the work on your shoulders. Everything from:
Preparing the house for sale
Staging and cleaning
Properly pricing the property
And managing closing
We don’t recommend selling FSBO, but if you opt to sell this way, you’ll want to read our in-depth guide about the process.
Real Estate Agent
Hiring a real estate agent is by far the most common way to sell your house.
Agents may come with a hefty price, but they bring:
Experience with negotiating
And, of course, your realtor will handle all the work necessary to list and sell your property. At least they should if they’re any good.
If you chose to list with an agent, be sure to read our guide to working with real estate agents to make sure you find the right one.
iBuyers are a relatively new way to sell your property.
iBuyers are often companies, sometimes individuals, who can make you a direct offer to purchase your property with ease and convenience.
Direct home buying companies often:
Often cash for the property
Can close quickly
And buy as-is
Choosing an iBuyer may be the right option for you if you want to sell your house quickly without all the hassle, but you are okay with taking a lower offer.
You guessed it! We also have a guide to selling your house to an iBuyer.
For Rent By Owner
Instead of selling the property, you can also consider keeping the house and turning it into a rental property.
If you can get the property to cash flow every month, you may be able to turn it into an asset that puts money in the bank.
Consider this, though. If you’re moving long-distance, it can be challenging to manage a property from afar, and it’s often expensive to hire a professional property management company.
Organize And Tidy Up The Property
Now that you know how you want to sell (or rent) the property, it’s time to start preparing for the sale and the move.
Organization is key here, as it will allow for everything to flow nice and smoothly.
Start planning out how you’re going to pack everything and tidy up your house, so everything is in its place.
It’s much easier to pack in an orderly way when your house is already in order.
Determine Your Property’s Value and Asking Price
Before you can list the house for sale, you have to know how much you can list it for. You can do this in a few simple ways.
First, pull up a website like Zillow, Redfin, or Realtor.com and look at what similar properties in your area have sold for.
This is what’s known as “Pulling comps.”
You’ll want to make sure:
Bedroom count is the same
Bathroom count is the same
General style is the same
Same or similar state of repair
Same or similar amenities
And the square footage is within 300 sqft of your property.
Unless you live in a cookie-cutter neighborhood, it might be hard to find a perfect, exact match.
Find at least three of the closest matches you can, add the values up, then get the average price per square foot each one sold for.
Then you can multiply the average price per square foot of the comps sold for by your property’s square footage, and you’ll have a good idea of what your home can sell for.
Hire an appraiser
If you want the most accurate valuation for your property, you can go straight to an appraiser.
Appraisers follow a standard process for valuing properties. And banks will always use the valuation an appraiser came up with vs. your own or a real estate agent’s.
You’ll have to cough up a few hundred dollars to do this, though.
Get a BPO or CMA
Last but not least, you can ask your realtor for a BPO (Broker’s price opinion) or a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis).
As long as the real estate agent doing the analysis is skilled and knows the market, this should also give you an accurate representation of your home’s value.
Determine How You’ll Handle Your Move
Now the heavy lifting begins.
Decide if you want to do all the moving yourself or if you want to hire movers.
If you want to hire movers, your part of the process will be super easy.
Head to Google
Type in “Movers near me”
Then call up your favorite options and hire someone
If you go the DIY route, you’ll want to move on to the next step below.
Start Packing, And Store Boxes Out of The Main House
Next up, it’s time to start packing your boxes. Where can I get boxes, you ask?
Lots of places! You may even be able to get all your boxes for free if you’re willing to put in a little leg work.
Go to your local office supply store, or any store that gets regular shipments, and ask if you can take the boxes they will throw away anyway.
Ask around enough, and you may not have to pay a cent for boxes.
Make sure you have plenty of packing materials such as tape and insulating materials to keep fragile items safe.
You’ll want to leave your hoard of boxes outside of the main house to keep them out of view of potential buyers.
The garage seconds as a great box storage facility!
Secure Your New Residence
If you haven’t done so already, you probably should make sure you have a place to move to after you’ve sold your house.
Where do you want to go?
Buying a new house?
Moving into a rental?
Moving in with family?
Whatever it is, make sure your living situation post-closing is solid, so you have a smooth move.
Schedule A Deep Cleaning
To you, your house may be spotless. A haven of pristine cleanliness, and maybe it is.
But, the most likely scenario is your house could use a professional deep cleaning. You’ll need more than a spritz of Clorox and a wipe down.
Hire a professional cleaner to give your house a once over.
Make sure those walls don’t have fingerprints.
Get those windows squeaky clean.
And good god, make sure any animal hair is cleaned up.
Luckily, when you hire a cleaner, you won’t be the one scrubbing like your life depends on it.
Interested buyers want to see a clean home they can imagine themselves living in.
They don’t want to see a jungle gym of spots, stains, and streaks.
Find And Hire A Professional Stager
After you’ve had the property deep cleaned, it’s time to stage your property.
Yes, it’ll cost you a few thousand dollars, but staging is likely to help your house sell for a higher price.
Believe it or not, staged homes sell for more than their non staged counterparts.
Spruce Up Your Curb Appeal
Think of curb appeal like exterior staging. Curb appeal is what makes you stop and say:
Wow! Look at that house! I’d love to live there.
Go the extra mile to make sure your front yard looks like it came out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
Don’t leave old cars sitting in the driveway
Remove any junk or toys that may be in the yard
You can even plant some flowers or shrubs to help spruce things up
Don’t underestimate the power of good curb appeal.
Order A Pre - Inspection
When preparing to sell your house, ordering a pre-inspection is a great idea.
99 out of 100 buyers will order an inspection, and more often than not, they will ask you to make repairs to the property before they move forward with the purchase.
A pre-inspection helps you understand all the repair items you may be requested to make from any interested buyers.
Fix Any Important Items Called Out on Your Inspection
Would-be buyers often use inspection reports to negotiate down the agreed-upon purchase price.
For example: If the inspection calls out outdated plumbing, electrical, or an old roof, those are big-ticket items!
Buyers could ask for thousands of dollars in concessions, but the repairs may cost you significantly less if you do them yourself before a buyer’s inspector even has the chance to catch them.
Determine Which Title Company You Will Use
Next up, you have to choose what title company you’re going to use to close the sale.
Title companies handle all the fussy paperwork, such as:
Recording documents with the city/county
Title searches and insurance
Making sure the title of the property transfers from the seller to the buyer
A title company we’ve used here in the Bay Area is Old Republic Title. We had a great experience with them and can offer up our recommendation.
Post Your Listing Everywhere Online
Now that you’re ready to move and prepared your house for sale, it’s time to list your home for sale officially.
Now all the hard work you did cleaning, staging, and fixing any major issues will have a chance to shine.
If you hire a real estate agent, they will handle all the listing stuff for you.
But if you went the FSBO route, you’ll have to do it all.
Make sure you have a fantastic, compelling listing description that gets potential buyers excited.
You’ll also need stellar photos that show off your house in the best light possible.
These are some of the larger sites you need to be on.
Schedule An Open House
Now that your house is officially listed, it’s time to start holding open houses.
Never held an open house before?
That’s okay. Check out our in-depth article on how you can successfully hold an open house.
They may take a bit of work, but it could be worthwhile to get the extra exposure.
Review Any Offers You Receive
After listing your house, you should start to receive offers so long as you’ve priced it right and prepared it beautifully.
Not all offers are created equally, and some should be given more consideration than others.
A full price offer with $20,000 in requested repairs isn’t as desirable as an offer $10,000 under your asking price, but with only $5,000 in requested repairs.
To get a deeper understanding of selecting the best offer, you can read our detailed article on how to pick the best offer for your house.
Check Your Buyer’s Pre-qualification
Before settling on an offer, make sure you verify your buyers are pre-qualified.
The last thing you want is to accept an offer and then find out the buyers have little to no chance of being approved for a mortgage.
You can double-check your buyers are pre-qualified by requesting they provide a letter from their lender.
Accept The Offer You’re Happy With
After reviewing all the offers you’ve received, it’s time to pick which one makes the most sense for you.
Sign any paperwork required to bind the deal, then inform all parties involved it’s time to move forward towards closing the deal.
Receive Buyer's Earnest Money Deposit
You’ve still got a long way to go once you accept an offer.
You could take a passive role in the process, but this isn’t recommended.
In our opinion, you should be on top of everything that needs to be done to make sure the sale closes. It is, after all, your house!
One of the first things you’ll want to do is make sure your buyers send in their earnest money deposit. Earnest money can also be referred to as a binder deposit or trust money.
The earnest money will most likely be sent to and held by the title company holding closing.
If the buyer fails to perform on their contract, you can keep their earnest money.
Make Sure Buyers Order Their Appraisal
Next up, if the buyer is using bank financing, make sure they get their appraisal ordered.
Ordering the appraisal is something the buyer's bank should do, but again, take a proactive approach to make sure it gets done.
Waiting on delayed appraisals can hold things up.
Verify Buyer's Order Their Inspection
If your buyer requested an inspection period, which they most likely did, verify they have ordered and scheduled their inspection.
Allow about an hour or so when the inspector is scheduled to review your property to do everything they need.
Inspections are a common part of the process where sales fall apart, but:
If you took our advice
Had a pre-inspection
And repaired any significant items that came up
You shouldn’t have any surprises.
Remember, buyers are likely to try using the inspection results as a negotiating tool to get a price reduction or ask for repairs.
Address Repair And Replace Agreement
Once the inspection is completed, the buyers will most likely submit a repair and replace agreement for you to approve.
Unless you specifically state the house is to be sold “as-is,” buyers will expect you to meet their repair demands.
Paperwork will need to be drawn up explicitly stating what needs to be repaired, how, and by when.
It will be your responsibility to make sure the necessary repairs are completed.
If you have no desire to perform the repairs requested, you could offer a price concession instead.