Home Sellers Guide: Steps For Selling a House in Nashville
Selling your home will likely be the biggest single financial transaction of your life. This is a time to be informed, thoughtful, and deliberate. Making the right decisions now can earn you thousands of dollars that would have been lost in wasted fees, unnecessary repairs, poor market timing, and other easily-avoidable mistakes.
Many first-time home sellers ask us how to sell a house successfully which is why we put together the Felix Homes Ultimate Sellers Guide. This guide to selling your home is designed with thoughtful home sellers in mind. Careful reading and planning, along with the use of a few well-constructed checklists, will help make that sale of your home a hassle-free and profitable experience. And it can put more money in your pocket!
This guide is designed to outline every part of the home selling process and provide you with tips when selling your home.
Selling Your Home? Here's How To Prepare It For The Market
Whether you have been a careful homeowner who keeps up to date with every repair, or you’ve been unable to keep up with all but the most urgent maintenance issues, selling will mean you'll have to get your home ready for listing photos, private showings, and open houses. This entails giving your home a little TLC before even thinking about listing it on the market.
As a general guide, most basic home repairs done prior to selling your house promise to return most of their costs. Much of the money you will invest in repairs now will save you time and money at the negotiating table. And these fixes make the difference between attracting motivated buyers or not getting any bites at all.
Here is a quick guide on the items that will hurt your ability to sell the home if you don’t address them. Get your home in showing condition by examining the rooms and systems in your house that are listed below. If the problem exists in your home, check the rating, which indicates whether that problem will impact your ability to sell your home.
HIGH : Begin these home repairs as soon as you decide to sell.
MED : These are recommended fixes that are not crucial but buyers will appreciate the effort.
LOW : These repairs can go unaddressed without affecting your ability to sell.
- Water damage / water leaks - HIGH
- Roof damage - HIGH
- Electrical (arcing, improper grounding, breaker trips) - HIGH
- Plumbing (leaks, items not to code) - HIGH
- Insect / pest control HIGH HVAC - heating, ventilation, air conditioning not working - HIGH
- Plumbing (non-working spigots, ugly or dated fixtures) - MED
- Doors (paint scratched, hard to open / close) - MED
- Appliances (non-working) - MED
- Windows (don’t open, or cracked) - MED
- Paint / wallpaper (scratched, aged, ugly or dated) - MED
- Concrete (discolored, minor cracks) - LOW
- Furnishings and drapes / treatments (old, worn, broken) - LOW
- Appliances (working but unattractive) - LOW
- Windows (hard to open / close) - LOW
- Electrical (outlet and switch number and location) - LOW
- Front yard touchup with fresh mulch and gardening - LOW
Ultimately, as the seller, you have the final word on which ones you choose to fix. Those items marked as “HIGH” priority could prevent your home from passing an inspection or worse yet, could prevent you from attracting interested buyers and getting a sale. It's always a best practice to spend a few weeks to prepare your home for the market prior to letting potential buyers through the front door. Unless you are selling your fixer-upper for cash in a motivated sales situation, you need to get these items repaired, or else the buyer will assess the cost of the fixes against the price of your home.
Some sellers are unaware that if you don’t solve these problems in advance, you may scare away any potential buyers who want to move into a home right away. These are often the highest bidding buyers, who have more money than time and more often than not are willing to offer a higher price compared to a buyer that is willing to get their hands dirty. If they are items that will come up in your inspection, you run the risk that the costs will come out of your pocket anyway during the closing process, reducing your profits. We recommend that all “MED” and “LOW” priority items need to be considered although they aren't nearly as critical. They are less likely to have a large impact on price but may delay the time it takes to sell your home as the buyer and seller will need to agree on minor repairs during the closing period.
Determining Who Will Help You Sell Your Home
The next step is the most important one. Choosing a top real estate agent will help the process go smoothly and leave you feeling confident that you made the right choices. Almost any listing agent can sell your house. An experienced agent can guide you on how to earn tens of thousands more for selling the same house all while helping the transaction go off without a hitch.
Having the right trusted guide with you along the way is important. You need someone to inform you but not to decide for you. So how do you get the right real estate agent? Don’t just go with a ‘friend of a friend’. Or that woman you met at church. You should interview several listing agents and look carefully as you make your decision. This choice, more than any of the others, will impact your profit and overall success of your home sale. You would never just roll the dice on a decision that could earn or cost you thousands of dollars, so take your time, look at all of the options available, and do a thorough job.
There are dangers in listing with a bad agent or in choosing the “For Sale By Owner” route. In either case, you could be dealing with incomplete information about comparable homes or real estate trends in your neighborhood. Even a small mistake could cost you thousands of dollars of lost income or cause your sale to drag out for an extended period of time...or possibly both.
Interview real estate agents with these insightful questions
Before asking any questions, research several agents, and top real estate agencies. Are they using innovative technology that saves them money and time, allowing them to pass those savings on to you? Do they have a good knowledge of your neighborhood and give you their advice on what makes it unique? Can you locate individual agent sales numbers over the past 12 months? How does their buying and selling philosophy match with yours? How much will their commission be and are there any hidden fees you should prepare for? Once you have done your research, you are ready to reach out and interview a couple of the top candidates.
How much will it cost me to sell my home?
The top answers should include a clear explanation of the seller agent’s fee, the buyer agent’s fee, and closing costs. Ask if there are any hidden or technology fees. Sometimes buyers ask for inspection fees, contingency costs, and abatement costs to come out of the sale of the home. The best answer will also include an educated estimate based on a wide array of factors including the current market, similar homes in your area, and seller saturation. It's important to understand what your net proceeds will be on closing day so that you can prepare for your next move.
How much communication can I expect?
A top agent should contact you weekly throughout the sales process, even if there hasn’t been a lot of activity during the week. After every showing your real estate agent should contact you with any feedback they receive from buyers and their agents. You should also receive a list of information regarding any significant developments related to your home or neighborhood.
How will you market my home other than MLS?
From traditional means of advertising your home sale such as open houses to more innovative approaches like social media, top real estate agents should be able to list off a number of channels they plan to leverage to get you the highest price. The right agent will tell you what makes your property unique while will allow them to write a better listing description and get your home sold. See a comprehensive list of the top Marketing your home.
Can I see your recent sales?
Your agent should readily provide other listings that have sold recently. These listings should be in a similar area and include stunning, high-quality photos and a stellar description free of any spelling mistakes. Your real estate agent should be able to provide drone photographs for free, especially if you have a large property or if your neighborhood adds to the appeal of your home.
What comparable homes are you using to value my home?
The right answer should include at least 3 to 5 homes that have several traits in common with yours. Comparable homes will have similar square footage, have a similar number of bedrooms and bathrooms, be in the same neighborhood, have been built around the same time, and have similar upgrades and amenities.
How many homes have you sold in the past twelve months?
Experience is not measured by how long you’ve been a real estate agent, but rather how many transactions you have successfully closed. Agents who have completed at least 12 transactions in the past 12 months should be able to guide you through the sales process successfully. High sales numbers, especially over the past year, are generally better and can point to an active agent who knows the area and can help make a deal happen. Once you verify the number of transactions the agent has completed, ask to speak with a few of their past sellers or use their online reviews as a guide to ensure the home selling experience they provided was exceptional.
Will you ask me to drop the price of my home?
Your agent should include a description of how they will work with available data to set the right price for your home. Ask too much and you may risk your home becoming a stale listing. List too low and your home sale could leave money on the table. Agents you interview should provide you with a free comparable market analysis which will help guide you to the right price. More details can be found later in the home sellers guide in the section, Pricing Your Home.
Understanding The Costs Of Selling A Home
Before you set the listing price for your home, the first step is to know the costs that come with selling your home. Set a fair price that not only fits the market but maximizes your earnings after closing. After all, the real estate agent commissions are just one expense home sellers accrue. Here are the major expenses a home seller can expect and their typical costs.
A seller’s agent or listing agent typically receives 3% of the final sales amount. That said, real estate agent commissions are by law negotiable, and not all agents charge a 3% commission. In fact, an emerging new trend gaining popularity is listing with a one percent commission realtor such as Felix Homes. At Felix Homes, our agents use cutting-edge technology and proprietary tools to save some work for the agent - allowing them to pass the savings on to you. By charging only 1% on the sale, these agents help put thousands of dollars back in your pocket.
Many buyers are under the false assumption that using an agent is free for them. The home seller is the one who is responsible to pay for the buyer's agent. A buyer’s agent typically receives 2.5%-3% here in Nashville and the exact amount offered to the buyer's agent is specified in the sales contract.
In Tennessee, it is typical that the seller pays for the title insurance policy. This policy can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500, depending on the price of the home and the county in which the home is located in.
Selling a home is a complex legal and financial transaction. Sellers and buyers depend on an escrow or closing company to oversee the legal transfer of property and hold onto the money to keep both sides honest and make sure the transaction is completed fully and properly. This typically costs $300 to $400.
Pricing Your Home Accurately
Determining a fair price for your property is just as much art as it is a science. This is where the right agent can offer a valuable perspective. The best real estate agents will show you the math behind what value they suggest, not just a couple of comparable homes with scribbles written on the back.
In making this determination, there are several pieces where you and your agent need to come to an agreement. Your agent should be able to help guide you to choose the right list price by providing a free comparable market analysis (CMA). This information examines sales history for houses like yours in your area. What is a house that is “like yours”? It is a home that has many similar qualities to yours including:
- Similar square footage +/- 300 sqft.
- Number of rooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Same area (subdivision)
- School district
- Construction year (if your home isn't brand new, then the agent should not be using new comps in their analysis)
- Lot size
- Finished areas (basement, patio)
- Garage size / parking details
- Appliances / add-ons
Getting a home value report is an important first step in this process. This helps set the parameters for the asking price for your home and will help you sell for top dollar. These initial estimates will make sure you don’t over or undervalue your home. Both of these mistakes can cost you time and thousands of dollars when you sell.
It is rare that a house that is exactly like yours sold on your street in the last six or twelve months. It is far more likely that there will be a handful of houses with many similar qualities that have sold in the nearby area over the past year. This is why setting your home price isn’t exactly math. It is important that your real estate agent is making adjustments between homes to make sure they are comparing “apples to apples”. For example, if the comparable property has fewer bathrooms, then your real estate agent should explain how they adjusted for this difference in the home value report.
Gathering and sorting through this information is where a free Home Valuation Tool like the one at Felix Homes is valuable. Our automated and comprehensive tool is an important first step that puts all of the information in one area to help you make this important pricing decision. Remember that this and other instant online estimates are only that: estimates. They guide you and your agent to an approximation of what your home may be worth and give you a price range to start your conversation. This number is NOT the final decision. You and your real estate agent need to be partners when it comes to determining the best price.
Your agent should offer a free in-person home valuation to help narrow down their estimated range. This is because the final factor is personal. When determining what to sell your home for, top agents may have you reflect on your motivation to sell.
- Have you already moved into a new home?
- Is your next move or purchase contract dependent on selling this house?
- Are you willing to delay listing your home if the best time to sell?
- Do you want to sell as quickly as possible or are you in a position to take your time?
Answering these questions will help determine the best listing price. Be sure to stay involved in this discussion with agents you interview. You don’t want your sale to be clouded by thinking you could have gotten more from buyers if you had been patient. Be confident and comfortable with the final number. Now you are almost ready to sell your home!
Staging Your Home
In the process of moving, or even during daily life, your home can become a disaster zone pretty quickly. Papers on tabletops, smelly clothing on the floor, an unkempt property, or even dirty bathrooms can detract from the visual appeal of your home in the eyes of buyers. Sure, some buyers can sort out what is valuable, but you don’t want them to have to work that hard.
Preparing your house to be viewed by strangers who want to buy it is a big production. And, as in a movie or a play, the step of getting it ready to be seen is called “staging.” While for some of us, it is enough just to walk through the house with a critical eye, many people have grown accustomed to how our house looks. We can easily overlook the sort of clutter that turns buyers off. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Using this handy guide will help you catch and repair those places where your eye misses what critical buyers will see. Paying attention to each of these details could speed up the selling process and may even increase your final sales price. As a bonus, you will find that addressing these makes your home more pleasant to live in while it is on the market.
- Paint rooms using neutral colors.
- Add only a splash of color in large neutral spaces.
- Put fresh flowers in two or three locations.
- Add light by opening curtains or buying lamps. Make sure that all of your lightbulbs are functional.
- Circulate fresh air to ensure there are no odors, especially if you have pets.
- Tidy everything - and keep a checklist handy for the kids.
- Put all personal belongings out of sight including family photos.
- Hide or lock away valuables.
- Remove evidence of pets.
Additionally, you should inspect each room from two unique angles. First, look at it from the doorway. This is your room’s first impression, and you know how important those are. Then, examine your room by looking in the mirror, if your room has one. This can reveal that your mess wasn’t hidden as well as you thought it was.
A final tip: If you have moved out and the furniture isn’t available, or if you still live there and rooms are bare, your agent should offer to provide virtual staging for free. By adding realistic images of furniture, plants, or even tasteful art, a vacant space may look more appealing to a potential buyer, especially given that 92% of home buyers start their search online.
When preparing to sell your home, it is important that you do everything you can to make the space appealing. The less work the buyer has to do to see the potential of the house, the more likely you are to get a successful sale.
Marketing Your Home
Today there are more ways than ever to effectively market your home with the goal of getting a great offer. A robust online presence is the first step, but a mix of digital marketing and tried and true approaches will help interested buyers find your home.
Your house should first be listed on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). This is the bare minimum. Every house should be listed here, because it is a database that agents use to get the latest listings and for comparative price information. As you talk with your agent, think about the practicality of each marketing technique. Your agent should be able to provide a custom marketing strategy specific to your home and situation. A good marketing strategy should include the following channels:
- Real estate agent’s website
- Direct mail
- Yard sign
- Networking / word of mouth
- Zillow as well as other real estate websites
- Open house
Of course, these are not all created equal. Your agent will be a partner in choosing the most efficient marketing methods. One of the most common methods of marketing is hosting an open house. You and your agent should discuss the right schedule for when to invite others to walk through the house. This can be especially helpful if the home is attractive to several buyers and creating a sense of competition can increase overall interest and result in a successful sale.
Negotiating And Handling Offers
Once your home goes on the market, everything is different. There are three potential scenarios that will impact your next decision. Your agent should have already explained their strategy for handling each of these scenarios.
- It’s hot! - Offers roll in. You could even get an offer before you officially list your home on the market! Make sure your real estate agent has a strategy for a “multiple offers” situation. This is by far the best way to get the highest price for your home.
- It’s cold! - Silence. Or maybe a few low offers roll in. Hang tight and stick to your gameplan. You discussed this possibility back when you were choosing your real estate agent.
- It’s just right! - According to plan a fair number of offers come in, with at least one matching or exceeding your initial list price.
As you start this process, be sure to stick to the following advice to help the outcome end the best way possible - with a happy seller and a happy buyer.
- Disclose the necessary issues.
- Ask the questions you are thinking - there is no such thing as a stupid question.
- Respond quickly to inquiries and make sure your agent is responsive and a good communicator.
- Be patient.
- Be willing to meet halfway (on small expenses especially).
- Be very cautious with contingencies (don’t overcommit to sell your home) and be careful of the real estate agent that will simply tell you things you want to hear.
- Always counter before rejecting an offer.
It is important to note that the highest offer may not always the best offer. You should have a good plan for dealing with multiple offers and follow it. Following your negotiation plan can earn you thousands of dollars.
Closing The Deal
When the drama of bidding and counteroffers is over, there is the final act of closing the deal. Some of these steps are related to the work you did during the bidding process, but they bear repeating. Your agent should help you navigate and negotiate each phase of closing:
During this time the buyer will be taking a close look at the home and property to make sure the systems all work as planned. This isn’t a measure of distrust, it is just being cautious with a major investment. This can include termite or other pest inspections, systems like electrical and water, and a thorough look at your foundation and roof. Make sure that your real estate agent is experienced when handling this negotiation as the buyer will likely submit a “wish list” of repairs that don’t necessarily need to be completed in order to sell.
The appraisal contingency is when the buyer and their mortgage company hire an appraiser to estimate the fair value of the home. There are two scenarios once the value comes back: either the home appraises for the purchase price or slightly over in which case nothing happens, or the home appraises for less than the purchase price. If this happens, then either the buyer makes up the difference out of their own pocket, or you go back to the negotiating table and try to meet somewhere in the middle.
While the buyer should have had everything lined up from the beginning, there are occasionally financing issues that need to be worked out. Make sure that your agent only accepts offers if the buyer is already pre-approved.
As you navigate the inspections, you may have the urge just to agree to all of the demands to finish the process. Remember to be patient and lean on your agent for advice. Again, your agent can be helpful in determining which are reasonable requests and which don’t make sense. Agreeing to all of them will have two bad outcomes. It will take away from your overall profit, and it will add time before the completion of the deal. Don’t offer to fix every detail!
You’re almost there. You’ve set an asking price, prepped and marketed your home, secured a buyer, and made it through the closing process. There’s one final step. Moving out. Whether you have already moved, or if it is a couple of weeks away, use this checklist as a guide for what to think about the last time you walk out the door.
Tips for the seller
- Change of address form to post office
- Change of address notification with active date to all magazines and newspapers
- Notification of change of ownership to all utilities
- Cancel / change homeowner’s insurance
Tips for the buyer
- Gather the following forms on one countertop:
- Manuals for appliances that are staying with the house
- Home-related receipts
- Information from upgrades including paint colors and brands
- Alarm codes
- Extra keys
- Set the HVAC to a temperature that is comfortable but efficient for the time of year
Once this is all done, do a final walkthrough. Then set the keys in the agreed-upon location, say farewell, and close the door securely behind you.
See how your home advisor can save you $8,100 in closing costs.
Thinking about selling your home but want to save money on realtor commissions? We’d love to talk through how Felix Homes can help.