Seller’s Step by Step Guide from Listing to Closing
If you haven’t ever sold your home before, becoming familiar with the process will help you understand what to expect and how to avoid problems. Here’s an overview of the entire process to answer your questions.
1. Signing a Listing Agreement
Once you find a real estate agent you want to work with, you’ll sign a “listing agreement” giving the agent the right to market and handle the sale of your house. The most common agreement in Florida is an “exclusive right to sell listing” The listing agreement typically covers the following terms:
- The real estate agent commission that you (the seller) will pay and the duration of the listing
This typically ranges from 5-7% of the house sales price, and is split between your real estate agent (the sellers agent) and the buyer’s agent. In all cases, the listing agreement will cover a set amount of time, such as 180 days. Since your agent is paying for all the marketing of your home out of pocket, this gives the agent time to work all marketing options to expose your home to the most qualified buyers.
- Listing price
Your agent can recommend the appropriate selling price by comparing prices of similar homes (“comps”) that have been listed in your immediate area, based on data found in a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and your agents knowledge of the neighborhood and local community.
- Items included or not included in the sale
For example, you may plan to leave behind a built-in dishwasher (which is therefore part of the property that the agent is contracted to sell), but exclude a refrigerator that you plan to move to your new home.
2. Pricing your Home
Seller’s ultimately want to sell their home for top market value and may even have a number in mind. But how do you determine if that number is reasonable? You may be concerned that:
- If you list your house too high, few buyers, if any, will see it.
- If your price is too low, you could end up leaving thousands of dollars on the table.
Studies show that homes priced more than 3% above the market value take longer to sell. Kelly Jo will provide you with the guidance to come up with a fair market value price. After your initial consultation, she will do a thorough inspection of your home and document all the desirable features. You will need to decide what items are staying in the home and what items you will be taking with you. Of course, buyers won’t pay for the sentimental value you place on your house, but special features such as hardwood floors, a newly renovated kitchen or bathroom, or a beautiful backyard patio can have an impact on how quickly a property sells and for what price. A competitive market analysis is then completed by comparing your home to similar homes in your area that have recently sold.
Sellers may also always hire a licensed appraiser to get a professional assessment.
3. Sellers Disclosure
Florida law provides that, with some exceptions, you (as a home seller) must disclose any facts or conditions about your property that have a substantial impact on its value or desirability, and that others cannot easily see for themselves.
To assist sellers in making all relevant disclosures, Kelly Jo will provide you a standard Florida disclosures form, which covers many common property characteristics about which buyers want to know. This is separate from the standard contract that is used in most residential real estate transactions to bring about the purchase and sale of the home.
The categories covered on the standard Florida disclosure form include, for example:
- whether any actual or potential claims, complaints or court proceedings affect the property
- whether the property is subject to the rules of a condominium or condominium association
- whether any disputes have arisen regarding the property’s boundaries
- whether the property contains any past or present sinkholes (a frequent hazard in Florida)
- whether the property contains any environmental hazards such as asbestos, lead, mold, Chinese drywall (another hot-button problem in Florida), and others
- whether any infestations or damage have occurred from wood-destroying organisms such as termites and carpenter ants, and
- whether there are any problems with essential components of the home, such as the roof, plumbing, electrical wiring, major appliances, HVAC, and more.
Florida statutory law also requires that you present the buyer with a property tax disclosure summary (Fla. Stat. § 689.261). This summary may be included within the standard disclosure form described above or as a separate document, as long as it contains the language required by the statute. The language essentially states that a buyer cannot assume that the amount of property taxes currently paid by the seller will remain the same after the sale.
A few federal regulations also govern real estate disclosures in every state. For example, if your home was built prior to 1978, you must disclose any known existence of lead-based paint.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you must also provide an EPA-approved pamphlet addressing lead-based paint hazards. Further, you must include language in the real estate contract entitled “Lead Warning Statement” declaring that you have met all notification requirements. Kelly Jo will be with you every step of the way to successfully navigate you through this process.
Now is the time to gather up the warranties, guarantees and other user manuals for items that will remain with the home. Doing this in advance will avoid a last minute scramble at closing, especially since you will be packed and ready to move.
4. Home Preparation
There is only one chance to make a great first impression on a buyer, so taking the proper steps to prepare your home properly can make a difference in how a buyer values it and the price a seller might get for it. At the very least the home should be thoroughly cleaned, clutter removed, well lit and aesthetic repairs made. Most homeowners know it is important to keep a home clean, bright and free from clutter while it is on the market for sale, but following this more detailed list may pay off by bringing higher offers.
Here are items that are recommended to be completed inside your home before the first buyer walks through the door:
- Open the draperies and shades to let light in
- Clean windows and screens
- Install higher wattage light bulbs creating a bright environment
- Dust all light fixtures and bulbs
- Thoroughly clean out the refrigerator and stove
- Clean and organize kitchen cabinets including the pantry
- Remove all appliances and clutter off kitchen counters
- Remove clutter on tables, counter tops and floors
- Make sure there are no unusual smells, like pet odors, smoke or cooking odors
- Have carpets professionally cleaned and if needed, replaced
- Remove throw blankets and excess pillows from furniture
- Remove excess furniture to create spaciousness
- Remove or lock up all valuables
- Remove personal photographs
- Remove any unique decor
- Make sure all switch plates are wiped clean of finger prints
- Replace shower curtain or curtain liners
- Clean and replace any discolored grout in bathrooms
- Clean and organize all bathroom cabinets
- Set your table with decorative place settings
- Clean and organize and declutter all closets
Items to complete outside your home to boost curb appeal:
- Keep yard mowed and free of leaves, etc.
- Use flowering plants to dress up walkway and patio areas
- Increase lighting on porch/entry way
- Pressure wash walkways and siding
- Remove any unsightly patio furniture
- Clean, shine, repair or replace all door knobs, knockers, mail box, and address numbers, etc
- Keep all toys put away when not in use
- Purchase a new doormat
- Make sure all screen doors operate properly without squeaks
- Make sure garage doors work properly and open easily
- Make sure the doorbell works properly
- Wipe all fingerprints off doors, and door jams
Some sellers choose to hire professionals to completing these tasks. Kelly Jo has an extensive network of trusted professionals if you need a referral.
Paint is the best and least expensive way to make your home more desirable than others on the market. When a buyer comparing homes in the same neighborhood, making an offer can come down to something as simple as paint colors, or the overall taste of the homeowner. This is why it is recommended that all rooms be painted a neutral color and you de-personalize your home. This creates a blank canvas for potential buyers so they can picture themselves living in the home. In addition to the walls, baseboards, doors and door jams should also be painted. If needed, painting the garage door and front door is recommended.
6. Advanced Repairs
Consider paying for a pre-sale inspection to avoid costly repair requests from buyers. An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas that will stand out to potential buyers. Repairing items that are needed in advance can save thousands of dollars. If not repaired in advance when the buyers inspection is completed, they may elect to ask you (the seller) for repair work, closing cost credits, or a reduction in the sale price due to flaws that were uncovered. You will then have three options: agree to all of the buyer’s requests, offer a modified solution back to the buyer, or decline to make any amends. In response, the buyer can continue to negotiate, accept the seller’s position, or as long as they’re within the due diligence period, end the transaction and recoup their earnest money without penalty. Completing any needed repairs in advance can avoid this situation.
7. Strategic and Aggressive Marketing
Selling agents have many choices when it comes to the marketing of your home. Listing your home on MLS is the most common and typically the first step. When you list your home with Kelly Jo she will design a personalized marketing strategy that will attract the attention of qualified buyers eager to get into a property like yours. She will keep you informed of the progress, feedback from each showing, opinions of pricing, and relevant new listings and sales.
- The Illustrated Properties Advantage
Listing your home with Kelly Jo means your listing with the #1 market leader in Palm Beach for the past 15 years. Illustrated Properties, now a division of The Keyes Company, is together 3000 associates strong. What does that mean to you? It means that even before your listing goes on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), it is broadcasted internally to 3000 associates in 58 offices. Your home may sell before it ever hits the market! Being part of this powerful company is an advantage that Kelly Jo leverages for all her clients.
- Professional Photography
A picture’s worth a thousand words—and in the case of real estate listing photos, it may well be worth thousands of dollars, too. Gone are the days where homeowners counted on in-person drive by’s to sell their homes. Over 80% of today’s buyers are busily scanning online listings to decide which properties they want to see in person, and may pass up an offering without photos that draw them in. In fact, consumer research indicates that a vast majority of buyers won’t even give a listing an initial click if it doesn’t have an enticing visual to match. As much as we enjoy the quality of photos taken with our smart phones, hiring a professional is essential. Once your home is ready, Kelly Jo will meet a professional real estate photographer and, in some cases a videographer, at your home to capture its beauty. Buying a home is an emotionally fraught process, and buyers are eager to glimpse the comfort offered between your home’s four walls before they commit any effort to see it in person.
- Internet Marketing
In addition to listing your home on MLS, it will also be listed across multiple websites and social media platforms for maximum exposure. It will be featured on Illustrated Properties website and linked to the top notable real estate websites including Realtor.com, Trulia.com, Zillow.com, etc. Social Media Marketing has swept the country like wildfire and experienced Realtors® use this powerful tool as a significant advantage.
- Targeted emails
Using email marketing is the most profitable and measurable means of marketing. Email marketing is a targeted, shareable, credible, measurable, and cost-effective. Working with a Realtor® with an expansive network within the community is a valuable advantage.
- Direct mail, Open Houses & Print Advertising
Just listed cards designed and mailed to specific targeted buyers and to neighbors. Many sellers wonder why this would be mailed to neighbors; most people want their friends and family to live close and will pass along the card. A brokers open house is held to showcase your home to targeted brokers with potential buyers. If desired and permitted, Sunday open houses for the public will be scheduled. Although many of the traditional print advertising is no longer offered in print, rather it is available on line, ad space may be purchased in other publications.
- Luxury Affiliations
Kelly Jo is not just a local real estate specialist, but also a global Realtor® uniquely positioned to market million dollar plus estates far beyond the local media. Through invitation only luxury affiliations with Christie’s International Real Estate, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, and Luxury Portfolio International, Kelly Jo’s clients have the exclusive opportunity to showcase their property in over 90 countries. This global visibility helps bring luxury home buyers and sellers together from all over the world. An advantage for luxury buyers and sellers alike.
8. Successful Showings
Private showings and open houses provide opportunities for buyers to view your property and get a sense of what it is like to live there. Ideally, you will want them to be impressed by what they see – and motivated to make an offer. When it comes to scheduling, Kelly Jo will coordinate with you to select days and times that are as convenient as possible. Obviously, your flexibility will enable more buyers to see your property. Weekends, in particular, are popular for viewings.
Don’t worry about all the details. Kelly Jo will take care of all aspects of showing your home and will attend each showing. She will make every effort to minimize any inconveniences. Since there is only one chance for a good first impression with a potential buyer, keeping up with these tasks are essential:
- Make sure your house is neat and clean.
- Vacuum and dust prior to each scheduled showing
- Keep all kitchen counters and sinks clear and wiped down
- Keep all valuables locked up or remove them from your home.
- Buyers are more comfortable if they can view the property without you there, so, if possible plan to be away during scheduled showings.
- Remove your pets
- Ensure the walkway leading up to your house is clear.
- Bathrooms should be kept spotless
- Wipe out bathtubs, showers and sinks after each use
- Keep all personal items in bathroom off counters, ideally put away neatly in a cabinet
- All beds should be made
- Laundry should be kept in clothes hamper or covered baskets
9. Review Offers and Negotiation
A buyer who wants to purchase a particular Florida home will make the seller a written offer, specifying the price, proposed down payment, and any contingencies, such as a satisfactory inspection report, buyers’ arranging financing or selling their current house, and insurance.
You may reject an offer outright, accept it as, or respond to a buyer’s offer, with a counteroffer. A counteroffer accepts some or most of the offer terms, but suggests changes to others, such as a higher price or a closing date that’s sooner than the buyer proposed.
A legally binding contract, typically called a purchase agreement, is formed when you accept a final offer (agreeing to any changes from the original offer), and notify the buyer of its acceptance. Your agreement will contain key terms of the sale, such as the agreed-upon price, contingencies, financing terms, dispute resolution, and closing date.
When selling your home, there are few things more exciting than receiving an offer. As your listing agent, Kelly Jo will be with you every step of the way. She is your advocate and will negotiate the highest price and terms on your behalf. You can count on her to:
- Review offers with you and explain everything clearly.
- Give you her professional assessment as to the quality of the offer.
- Advise you on whether to accept the offer, reject the offer, or make a counter-offer.
- Prepare a counter-offer, if necessary.
- Skillfully negotiate with the buyer on your behalf.
- Prepare all the necessary documents, and work closely with the buyer and his or her agent, to make sure the transaction goes through smoothly.
- Communicate with you throughout the entire process.
Once a purchase agreement is signed by both buyer and seller, the transaction will go into what’s called “escrow.”
10. Escrow Period
Escrow is the time period between signing the purchase agreement and closing on the house. You, the seller, will choose an escrow or title agent, a neutral third party, to serve as intermediary and supervise the process (preparing title reports, processing loans, removing buyer contingencies, and so on). Kelly Jo will be in communication throughout this process with you, the title company, and the buyers agent to ensure the process is moving forward. Once the purchase agreement is signed by all parties, the seller chooses a “settlement” or “closing” agent or officer, who will begin the title search and oversee all the final details of a real estate transaction.
The buyer typically has a lot more to do during this time period than the seller. By the close of escrow, the buyer will need to finalize financing, remove all contingencies, have the house appraised (typically required by mortgage lenders), all withing a specific timeline. Issues often come up that require negotiating, such as who will pay for repair problems identified in an inspection report. The buyer may insist that you pay to remedy a defect or lower the purchase price. Kelly Jo will orchestrate this process clearly communicating with all parties.
11. Offer Contingencies
The standard home purchase contract will have several conditions that must be met before the closing will take place, covering issues like financing, inspections, insurance, and more. These conditions are called “contingencies.” They’re important to give the buyer an out if, for example, financing falls through or other unforeseen events or discoveries that create barriers to finalizing the deal.
As the home seller you do not have to agree to any contingencies, but if the amount the buyers will pay for you home is acceptable to you the seller, then some consideration should be given. Kelly Jo can advise you and answer any questions and address your concerns.
The contract will build in a certain amount of time between the contract signing and final “closing” of the deal called the escrow period. During this time period, the buyer and the seller will be working hard to meet or remove the various contingencies, for example, by securing a loan and scheduling inspections, and will advise the other party of progress being made. If either of you fails to meet or remove a contingency, the other party can either call off the purchase or renegotiate around the issue.
It is common for a buyer to include a contingency for a professional inspection prior to closing. The inspections must be completed by a certain date, which is called the inspection contingency date as indicated on the contract.
Based on the outcome of inspections, buyers may elect to ask you as the seller for repair work, closing cost credits, or a reduction in the sale price due to flaws that were uncovered. You then have three options: agree to all of the buyer’s requests, offer a modified solution back to the buyer, or decline to make any amends. In response, the buyer can continue to negotiate, accept the seller’s position, or as long as they’re within the due diligence period, end the transaction and recoup their earnest money without penalty. If the inspection is not completed before the inspection contingency date the seller is under no legal obligation to renegotiate.
13. Financing completion
If your buyer is financing the purchase of your home, they will be working within an agreed upon timeline to finalize the financing agreement with their lending institution.
By the close of escrow (known as the closing or settlement), you and the buyer should have fulfilled all the terms of your purchase agreement. At the closing itself (sometimes a meeting of the parties, other times conducted in separate locations), all final documents and funds will be exchanged between buyer and seller. The buyer pays you the purchase price, and you give the buyer a deed and other transfer documents and clear title to the house or condo. You pay off any outstanding loans on your property and pay commissions to the real estate agents (per your listing agreement).
The closing normally takes place on one day, though it’s possible to go over several days.
Sellers do not usually need to be present at a Florida closing so long as all costs are paid and documents are signed. Typically, the buyers will sign the final documents at the office of their title company or escrow agent and pick up the keys. Then the buyers will record the new deed their name at a local government office, and the home is officially theirs.
Schedule Your Personal Consultation
Selling you home can be a complex process, but you can be confident working with Kelly Jo. As a local expert, you can rely on her sound advice and guidance to help you every step of the way. Her aggressive approach to marketing will get as many qualified buyers as possible into your home until it is sold and will be in constant communication keeping you informed of her progress. She has the experience to work through the sale process efficiently, stepping in when there are problems, negotiating for the highest price, dealing directly with buyers’ objections and complaints, keeping everything on track, and facilitating the contracts and escrow to a successful, smooth close.
Curious as to what your house is likely to sell for in today’s market? Please submit the form below or call Kelly Jo at 561-906-0336, email at email@example.com for a no-obligation Personal Consultation.