top of page

I Wish I Knew This Before Selling My First House

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

Row of houses in suburban neighborhood
Here's everything I Wish I Knew Before I Sold My First House

There are some things we do all the time, like grocery shopping.

Other things come naturally and feel intuitive, like riding a bike.

But some things are weird, messy, and leave many of us with a lot of questions.

Selling your house is one such thing that's likely to have you asking a million and one questions.

Here are a few things I wish I knew before selling my first house.

Hopefully, my experiences will help answer some of your questions, and better prepare you for selling your house.

Buyers Will Ask You To Help With Closing Costs

Before I sold my first house, I had no idea buyers would ask for me to help pay their closing costs.

When a buyer asks a seller to put money towards their closing costs, it's known as seller concessions.

  • Buyers may ask sellers to give a credit towards repairs

  • Help put cash towards their down payment

  • Or contribute some money towards their other closing costs

These costs don't necessarily come out of the seller's pocket. But they will show up on a settlement statement in some way or another as credits to the buyer.

I've received offers asking me to contribute over $10,000 in buyer closing costs, and I've been presented offers with no mention of concessions.

It's the luck of the draw. The only thing you can do to manage the amount of concessions a buyer will ask for is to note a cap in your listing.

For example: "Seller will contribute up to $5,000 in closing costs."

But, if you do this, you run the risk of negotiating against yourself if someone was going to request no, or less of a contribution.

Buyers Will Ask You to Make Repairs

Before I sold my first house, I had no clue buyers would ask me to make repairs to the property.

What threw me off is that I had just fully remodeled/renovated the property, and yet, almost every offer came with a request for repairs.

Let's face it; no matter how excellent condition you believe your house to be in, it won't be perfect. It's incredibly likely buyers will ask you to make repairs, small or large, before you sell.

I've had offers include repair requests as small as installing carpet on the stairs, and I've had offers where they wanted me to replace the roof.

Your mileage will vary here, but be prepared for people to ask you to perform some work on the house, and set aside a budget for it.

If you don't want to make any repairs, you can offer a price reduction equal to the amount of work they're requesting, and hope the buyer goes for it.

You'll Get A Lot of Showings, But Not A Lot of Offers

Getting showing requests is exciting after you list your house, but it's important to remember that not every showing will result in an offer.

I remember calling my agent after almost every showing asking if the interested party was going to write up an offer.

More often than not, the answer was no.

Just be patient, and the offers will come.

You don't want to wear out your agent by calling them after every potential buyer finishes their tour. If something important happens, such as:

  • The buyers are interested in putting in an offer

  • The buyers left you some vital feedback

  • Anything else that needs to be brought to your attention

Your agent, so long as they're good at their job, will call you and fill you in.

Not All Offers Are Created Equally

You must understand that not all offers are created equally. There are many significant differences to consider when choosing which offer to accept.

Let's discuss them all in detail, starting with the financing type.

Cash Offer / No Financing

Cash offers come with no financing strings attached. Your buyer will not have to get approval from a lender, and they will not be bound by an appraisal to determine the maximum sales price.

Investors most commonly make cash offers for properties that need rehabilitation, so it's unlikely you'll receive a full price cash offer for your house if it's in top of the line condition.

Back in 2017, about one in four homes sold for cash, according to the National Association of Realtors. However, most of those sales were to investors and buyers of distressed properties.

FHA Financing

When a buyer uses an FHA loan, the property has to meet what's considered the minimum property standards.

Generally speaking, these standards are put in place to ensure buyers are purchasing a safe home and that all the major systems are in working order.

Some examples of things that may prevent an FHA loan from closing are:

  • Electrical issues

  • A roof having more than three layers

  • A missing water heater

  • Foundation issues

If a property does not meet the minimum standards, the deal isn't necessarily over. You may be able to perform repairs that will bring the property into compliance so the loan can close.

VA Financing

VA loans are powerful tools for buyers who qualify (VAs).

These loans also require a property to meet minimum property standards before the deal can close.

Some examples of the minimum property standards include:

  • Crawl spaces are free and clear of debris

  • Lead-based paint being safely remediated, if it's detected on the property

  • The property provides adequate space for living, sleeping, cooking and dining, and bathrooms

Similar to an FHA loan, a property can be brought up to the minimum VA standards so the loan can close.

USDA Financing

USDA loans are another loan type available to buyers. USDA loans can only be used for properties that are in rural areas, and properties must also meet another set of minimum property requirements.

Some of the minimum requirements for a USDA loan are:

  • No cracks in the foundation

  • All exterior doors must have functioning locks

  • Roofs must have at least five years of life left, with no visible holes or leaks

Just like a VA and FHA loan, a property should be able to be brought up to the standards if it doesn't already meet them.

Conventional loan

A conventional loan doesn't come with all the strings attached, like the VA, FHA, and USDA loans.

Conventional lenders may require properties to meet their standards, but there's no general guideline that all lenders follow that I'm aware of.

If you were to receive four identical offers, one FHA, one VA, one USDA, and one conventional, it might be safer for you to go with the conventional offer as the lending requirements are less strict.

Closing Date

The closing date determines when the sale will be finalized, and when the title of the property will transfer to the new owner.

Whether or not an extended or shorter escrow period is better is up to you to decide.

Buyers using any type of financing will likely need at least 30 days to close. The banks have a lot they need to do behind the scenes.

Cash buyers can typically close much quicker. Sometimes in as little as 7 - 10 days.

Earnest Money Deposit

Earnest money acts as consideration for the purchase of the property.

Buyers may submit how ever much earnest money they'd like, unless a minimum amount is required, which is typical of homes being sold as a bank foreclosure.

Generally speaking, the larger the earnest money deposit, the better.

A $10,000 earnest money deposit is a lot more convincing than a $1,000 earnest money deposit.

After all, if a buyer fails to perform, but doesn't meet one of their contingencies, the earnest money is often not required to be paid back.

Requested Concessions

Lastly, you need to consider the seller concessions buyers are requesting, if any. Keep in mind; you can negotiate the amount of concessions you're willing to give.

Seller concessions typically come in two forms:

  1. Down payment/closing cost assistance

  2. Repairs requested after an inspection

Let's say you receive two identical offers, both for the full asking price.

However, each offer has different concessions.

The first offer asks you to contribute $5,000 towards the buyer's closing costs, and that's it.

The second offer asks you to pay $4,000 towards closing costs but also asks you to fully replace the roof, replace the electrical box, and all the electrical outlets.

Which offer is better?

It's Possible To Negotiate Your Realtor's Commission

When you hear realtor commission, 6% is probably the first thing to jump into your head.

But did you know you can negotiate the commission with your realtor?

An important thing to consider is that your realtor doesn't collect the entire commission for themselves.

When a buyer's agent is involved, they split the commission with them how they see fit.

You can negotiate with your realtor for a better commission, maybe somewhere between 5% and 5.5%, but any lower and they may not be happy.

If you're feeling up to it, you can try to negotiate a lower commission with your realtor should there be no buyer's agent involved.

When no buyer's agent is involved, your realtor gets to keep the entire commission, and they may be willing to drop their rate a percent or two.

They still get paid, and you save a little money. It's a win/win.

You Can Accept Backup Offers

After accepting an offer, you can continue accepting back up offers.

A backup offer might come in handy if the first contract you have falls through for some reason.

Many buyers may be hesitant to put in a backup offer, though, as it locks them into a property that is likely to sell to someone else.

Many people don't want to fall in love with a house they're unlikely to get. And that's understandable.

Another thing to consider is after you accept an offer for your house, it's status on the MLS will change.

The status will go from "active" to a form of "pending."

If you want to accept backup offers, the status will likely be switched to "pending - continue to show."

Likely, you won't receive a lot of showing requests though for the reason stated above.

The Longer You're on The Market, The Lower The Offers Will Get

You must make your listing as strong as possible right out of that gate.

  • You have to nail your price point

  • Stage it beautifully (If you choose to stage)

  • Have a killer listing description

  • And have incredible photos

The reason you need everything to be 100% ready before you list is that the longer your house remains on the market, the less likely you are to receive a full price offer, or at least an acceptable offer.

Every house on the MLS has a statistic called DOM, or days on market.

DOM denotes how long a particular property has been listed.

Put yourself in the buyer's shoes for a second.

Let's say you're looking for a house, and you stumble across the seemingly perfect fit for you online.

  • It's got everything you want

  • It's a fantastic price

  • But it's been listed for over a year

What's your first thought likely to be?

My guess is, "Why has this house not sold yet? What's wrong with it?"

The longer your house sits on the market, the more likely you'll have to accept a lower offer, as the buyer starts to gain more negotiating power.

Once You Sign The Contract As A Seller, You're Obligated to Sell

I've spoken extensively on this blog about what contingencies buyers can use to back out of a contract after signing.

But are there any contingencies sellers can use to legally back out of the deal?

Unfortunately, not really. You're at the mercy of the buyer failing to do something.

As a seller, one of the few things you can do is wait out the contract should the buyer fail to close by the specified closing date.

Another way you may be able to back out is if the buyer fails to provide their earnest money deposit by the specified date.

Lastly, if a seller fails to apply for a mortgage, as stated in the contract, you may be able to back out of the deal.

Your Agent Does A Lot More Than You Think

Your real estate does a lot more work than you think. At least they should!

After listing your house, the real work begins.

  • Your agent will handle a plethora of phone calls

  • Negotiating to get you the best price

  • Helping schedule and coordinate inspections

  • Helping coordinate the appraisal

  • And negotiating repairs and concessions

Realtors have to jump through a ton of hoops to make sure they:

  • Handle all the paperwork correctly

  • Follow all the rules and guidelines placed on them by the National Association of Realtors

  • And they have to consistently take continuing education courses to stay on top of everything

Your agent should be doing much more than just sticking a sign in the yard, and then collecting a commission.

Make sure you tell them how appreciative you are of their hard work.

The Appraiser Has The Final Say

  • No matter what you do

  • No matter what you say

  • No matter how much you think your house is worth

The appraiser has the final say.

It's the appraiser's job to provide a third party, non-emotional opinion of a property's value.

They do this by using what's called a uniform appraisal report, which takes into account the sales prices of recently sold homes around the subject property.

Appraisers do their best to select accurate, comparable home sales.

However, appraisers are still human, and they can make mistakes.

If you feel an appraiser has valued your property lower than it should be, you can contest the appraisal. But it is very challenging, and you need to make a solid case.

Ultimately, the appraiser will determine the maximum loan amount any lender will lend on for a property, and if an appraisal comes back much lower than the contract price, it could stop the deal in its tracks.

Get A Pre Inspection And Fix Anything Important

You may scoff at the idea of spending money to get a pre-inspection, but trust me, you'll want to!

Neglecting to get a pre-inspection cost me the sale of one of my properties due to some plumbing and electrical stuff I was unaware of.

Before listing your house, order a professional inspection, and review the results with your realtor.

Your realtor will be able to point out the things that matter, such as:

  • Plumbing issues

  • Electrical issues

  • Roofing issues

  • Foundation issues

Problems with these systems are more likely to cause buyers to panic and back out of a deal.

Yes, you may have to spend a bit of money, but I highly recommend having issues involving these systems repaired before your listing goes live.

By doing so, you'll reduce the chances of any buyers backing out of the deal using their inspection contingency.

If you think the inspector will just gloss over stuff, I promise you; they won't!

Buyers Will Want A Solid Home Warranty

Let's be honest; how often do you pay for a warranty or an extended warranty?

If you're anything like me, the answer is a big fat


However, buying a house is a different story. And when something goes wrong, it isn't cheap!

Your buyers will most likely request you provide a home warranty.

A warranty will help buyers fix any issues that pop up during their coverage period for a small service fee.

  • Electrical issues

  • Plumbing issues

  • Roofing issues

A home warranty may cover it.

Even if buyers don't directly request one, it may be in your best interest to offer one up anyway.

It'll help your listing look that much more enticing.

A good home warranty will run you somewhere in the ballpark of $500 but can be paid for out of escrow at closing.

Don't Be Afraid To Counter an Offer You're Not Happy With

You don't have to accept an offer as it is if you're not happy with it.

Most buyers are probably expecting a little negotiation anyway.

Your most likely negotiation points will be:

  • Purchase price

  • Repairs you'll make

  • Any seller credits/concessions

They always say the person who speaks first in a negotiation is at a disadvantage. Consider the buyer having to make the offer first as them "speaking first."

Which means you have a bit of an advantage in the negotiation. As we discussed above - You will slowly lose your position the longer your house sits on the market.

When you receive an offer you like, but want to see if you can get a little more out of the buyer, have your agent write up a counter offer.

There will more than likely be wiggle room for you somewhere.

If You Do A Remote Closing, You'll Have To Get Documents Notarized, Which Can Be Expensive

If you live far away, out of state, or simply don't want to attend the closing in person, that's no problem at all.

Your title company can set up a remote closing for you, where they'll send a notary to meet you at your house or a location of your choosing to sign the paperwork.

I signed some closing documents at a Starbucks.

One thing to keep in mind if you decide to do a remote closing is that you will have to pay for the notary.

The notary fees may be paid directly out of escrow, or you may have to pay out of pocket.

Either way, there will be a lot of documents you need to sign, and where I live, each notarized signature costs $15.

I've paid over $100 in total for notary fees on my remote closings.

Agent Incentives Don't Work Too Well

What exactly are agent incentives?

An agent incentive might look something like this:

  • $500 bonus to buyers agent for a contract within two weeks of listing

  • $250 bonus to buyers agent with a two week escrow period

The problem with agent incentives is simple.

It's the buyers who have to want to see your house, not the agent.

And most home showings are prompted when a potential buyer sees a home they're interested in and requests a viewing with their agent.

It probably won't hurt for an agent incentive to be added into your listing, but it likely won't do too much to help you get a contract.

Make Sure Your Buyers Are Pre-qualified Before Accepting Their Offer

Pre-qualifying your buyers is essential.

A buyer who has been pre-qualified has already made an effort to connect with a mortgage lender, and has some level of certainty they'll be able to qualify for a loan.

Make sure your agent requests a pre-qualification letter be submitted with every offer.

Then go the extra mile to call the lender and verify your buyer is pre-qualified at least up to the amount they offered for your house.

If you're not receiving a lot of offers, you may have to take an offer from someone who is not pre-qualified.

In this scenario, make sure your contract states the buyer is required to attempt to secure financing within a short amount of time.

You don't want to be tied up by someone who won't be able to perform.

Make Sure Your Agent Offers a Fair Commission Cut to the Buyers Agent

Before I sold my first house, I didn't realize the listing agent decided how much of the commission they're going to pass along to the buyer's agent.

When it comes to being a listing agent vs. a buyer's agent, the buyer's agents typically do significantly more work for their clients.

A listing agent does not have to drive clients around all day long viewing multiple properties, while a buyer's agent may find themselves doing quite a bit of that.

It's only fair the buyer's agent is offered a reasonable commission, and if your listing agent doesn't provide one, buyer's agents may steer their clients away from viewing your house.

As Long As You List At The Right Price, You Can List During Any Time of The Year

It's no secret that spring is the hottest time of the year for the real estate market.

However, this does not mean you have to wait until spring to sell your house.

So long as you:

  • List your house at a fair price

  • Use stellar photos

  • Have a compelling listing description

You should receive offers for your house even in the middle of winter.

Although you may not get as much foot traffic in the off-peak seasons, buyers looking for homes off-peak are likely to be motivated.

If you weren't truly motivated to buy, would you be out in the bitter cold and rain looking at houses?

Probably not!

Does All This Sound Like A Huge Headache?

Selling a house is a huge deal, and there are so many moving parts to consider.

Everything from:

  • Reviewing what's the best offer

  • Deciding if you want to make any repairs pre-listing

  • Verifying your buyer's ability to perform

It all adds up to what can be a daunting task for many people.

If all of this sounds like stuff you'd rather avoid, we get it.

Here at Contenza Properties, we make you a simple, direct offer to buy your house in its as-is condition.

We never ask you to:

  • Do any repairs

  • Pay us any fees

  • Stage, clean, or prepare the house in any way

We buy houses in their as-is condition, so you can sit tight while we do all the hard work.

If you'd like to get a direct offer for your house, use our simple form below to submit your information.

One of our friendly representatives will get back to you as soon as possible.


About The Author

Jordan Reid - Founder of Contenza Properties

Jordan Reid founded Contenza Properties in April of 2018 to help homeowners solve their real estate problems quickly.

Since then, Jordan has helped multiple homeowners facing difficult situations such as divorce, property liens, and unwanted property inheritance.

Jordan believes in putting people first, and numbers second, which helps him reach the best possible solutions for the homeowners he works with.

Currently, Jordan and his team at Contenza Properties offer their professional home buying services in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Knoxville, Tennessee.


bottom of page