So you’re a property owner in Washington state, and you’re looking to sell your home. What do you need to know?
The process of selling a home in Washington involves many steps, from finding a real estate agent, to (sometimes) contracting a real estate attorney, to preparing your home to sell on the local market by scheduling repairs, to researching average market prices, meeting with potential buyers, and finally, of course, selling the house.
That might seem like a lot, but with the right realtor by your side, you’ll only need to focus on the more important details. If you haven’t reached that step yet, read through this guide to everything you need to know before selling your house in Washington.
1. Assess the Home Market
The first thing you need to do before you create a listing for your home is what kind of home market you’re entering that listing into. Is it a fair market for home sellers out there, or would it be advantageous to wait a season and sell when home prices rise?
Even if you don’t have a real estate agent yet, or don’t plan on selling your home through an agent, you can get what’s called a market analysis. This type of document surveys current market values of properties similar to the property you are trying to sell. The scope can be as broad or as local as you need.
Knowing what to expect in this regard is essential before you begin the process of getting your home ready for listing.
2. Order a Home Inspection
Inspections are common for all properties listed for sale in Washington and mandatory for commercial buildings. Before final purchase, many buyers will ask sellers to have a professional home inspection done.
What does that entail? First, the inspector will conduct a visual examination, walking from room to room and looking closely at things like baseboards, vents, fire alarms, and window seals. A seller can’t “fail” an inspection per se, but they can get hit with a lengthy list of suggested repairs that will run up a steep price.
Whether you follow those repair requests to the letter is up to you. Either way, it’s important to get perspective on what your home looks like through outside eyes.
3. Create a List of House Repairs with Prices
A professional inspector will generate a list of repairs that, if followed through, will leave your house ready to list.
But you don’t have to hire an inspector to come up with your own list of fixes and points of improvement. Everyone who lives, works, sleeps, and eats in a home knows the door you need to jiggle a few times to open, the light you need to tap a few times to turn on, and the pipes that take a few extra minutes to warm up in the winter. Use that experiential knowledge to your advantage.
Walk through your home with buyers’ eyes. Where you see a lovingly worn kitchen table, a potential buyer might see a used-up piece of junk. Everywhere you have memories of use, a buyer will only see a flashing dollar sign, saying “money, money, money.”
Understand just how much money you’re talking about in total with these fixes. You might need to cut costs by fixing only some and leaving other problem areas for the buyers. But potential buyers always need to be informed.
4. Decide How You Want to Sell Your House
The Washington real estate market has many points of entry. That means you don’t have to follow the straightforward path of visiting your local real estate office, hiring an agent, and beginning the selling conversation. Here are a few more ways you can create a listing for your home:
Sell Directly with a Professional Home Buyer
There’ll be more on this below, but it’s interesting to know that more and more sellers are turning to direct sales. Cut out all the agents and listings and high costs and contact a buyer directly. Selling a home is easier without involving a buyer’s agent or attorney – the cost is less, and you’ll know your home is in good hands with a homeowner that you trust.
Hire an Agent at a Local Real Estate Office
Yes, real estate agents are “middlemen” who take a cut in the form of a commission. But if you’ve ever worked with a good agent, you know that they earn every cent of that commission through the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a good property sale.
Agents take care of all the hard work for you, from setting prices to meeting with potential buyers, negotiating with a buyer’s agent, preparing disclosures, and even advising you on the mortgage.
Offer Seller Financing
If traditional financing is out of reach for your potential buyer, consider something called seller financing, which means exactly what it sounds like – the seller of the house finances the sale rather than the buyer.
You cannot have a mortgage if you choose to do seller financing (or your mortgage lender must allow it), but it can be a cheaper and quicker way of selling your home. Often the selling party will hire an attorney, and the buyer will hire an attorney as well, as these transactions can get sticky.
5. Explore a Direct Home Sale
It’s worthwhile to zoom in on direct selling. Traditionally, sellers will contact a real estate agent and hire them for the duration of the sale process. Getting an agent smooths out the whole process. They’ll handle disclosures, the money, the mortgage, and all the other hard stuff, which might earn them that costly commission in your eyes.
But if you think you can handle the tricky bits yourself and cut out the middleman (and save yourself the cost of that commission), check out direct selling.
In a direct sale, the property owner directly transfers the property to the new owner without anyone passing the baton in between. It also saves you a lot of time. You can skip the appraisals, the bank approvals, the risk of last-minute denials on loans, and financing and re-financing conversations.
There is a downside to direct selling, and that’s a lack of competition. When you try listing your home through a real estate agent, that agent can pull on the vast resources that agencies have in store, which includes the ability to highly publicize home sales.
Agents can create feeding frenzies of open houses, scheduling as many as 30 walkthroughs in a single four-hour window. With direct selling, you’d be negotiating with one person. However high they can go on price, that’s as much as you’re going to get. Competition produces bidding wars, which can get more in your bank.
Balance the pros and cons of each method as you decide how to sell your Washington home.
6. Settle on a Timeframe
When selling a home, it’s important to work with your real estate agent, and in some cases, a real estate attorney to decide on a timeframe for the home sale.
The most experienced real estate agents will tell you that prices fall if the listing has been up for too long. On the other hand, the real estate market is finicky and unpredictable — the longer you are able to keep your Washington home on the market, the more potential buyers you’ll attract.
The bottom line is that you want the best price for your home. Creating a time frame for the house sale is basically like making an accountability plan. It’ll help you keep home repair costs in check, make sure the price doesn’t drop if the listing has been up for too long, and keep you in line with the real estate market analysis that your agent or attorney has prepared for you.
7. Plan Out Your Packing Process
Packing might seem like the easiest part of the home sale process because it’s the most personal. You might be imagining a breezy weekend where you leisurely stock up on boxes, discover long-forgotten mementos while rummaging around, and maturely get rid of extraneous possessions.
It’s possible that packing for your property sale and move will look like this. More often than not, however, packing is something homeowners leave until the last minute, hurriedly throwing everything in suitcases, boxes, and even trash bags just to get out in time for the new homeowner to move in.
Don’t put yourself through that! As mentioned earlier, the real estate market can be wild and hard to predict. Packing is something homeowners have complete control over. Take advantage of that by planning out a packing strategy well before you meet the right buyer, and the sale goes through.
8. Be Prepared to Negotiate Your Price, Because Home Sales Fall Through
So you’ve met the right home buyer, your agent is happy, and the price is right. Everything’s good, right?
Not necessarily so. It’s not uncommon for home buyers to get cold feet once they see the true price of a home. Not the listing price, but the price with tax and fees included after negotiations.
Many homes attract multiple buyers, and bidding wars can ensue. Sometimes buyers get swept up at the moment or even get egged on by their real estate agent during the bidding process. Once they see the true cost in the cold light of reality after the competitive drive dies down, they may back out, jeopardizing your home sale.
Be prepared for this, emotionally and logistically. Selling a home isn’t always for the faint of heart!
9. Understand the Home Market You’re Moving Into
If you’re selling a home on one end, you’re likely buying a home on the other. It’s as important for your agent on the selling side to understand average property prices and costs of that market as it is for your agent on the buying side to understand those prices and costs.
You can order a second market analysis when looking for your next home, whether it’s in Washington state or outside of it. Property values differ everywhere, as do property taxes. It’s important to know all the ins and outs of whatever market you’re moving into.
10. Prepare a List of Disclosures for Your Home’s New Buyer
No home sale is going to go off without a hitch. Houses are fragile spaces. Appliances within houses break, plumbing and electrical on the outside of houses falters, the structural integrity of all houses weakens over time, and so much more.
Don’t feel that your house needs to be in perfect condition. Buyers expect to inherit loose ends in real estate transactions. What’s important is to work with your agent on a list of disclosures that inform the buyer what’s broken, what’s just wonky, and where. If you want to avoid the wrath of their attorney, later on, be proactive by preparing a list of the property’s faults.
Finesse the Process: Call the Pros
Even if you read a library full of books on the process of selling your home, you might be overwhelmed once you start doing it.
Hiring a real estate agent can really help, but Kind House Buyers can do you one better. Our husband and wife team understands Washington real estate. We know how to walk you through every stage of the home selling process, and we’re specialists in direct home sales. For all your Washington real estate and property questions, call the dream realtor team at Kind House Buyers.