We've identified some of our most frequently asked questions in the steps to selling a house. Our advice is below; we hope you find it helpful.

The first in the steps to selling a house in our opinion is doing your homework and hiring a fantastic agent. If you do that, your agent will guide you through the rest of these steps, but in the meantime we’ve tried to hit the highlights below:

What is the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker?

A real estate Agent is licensed by the state of Michigan to sell property in the state of Michigan and must place their license under a real estate broker in order to sell real estate.

A real estate Broker is licensed to perform all of the duties of an agent, plus has additional education. Brokers hold a separate license to own and operate a real estate brokerage. A real estate brokerage can only have one primary Broker whose responsibility is to oversee, and is ultimately responsible for, the actions of real estate agents who have their licenses under that Broker.

Associate Brokers hold the same license as a primary Broker, but do not wish to own and operate their own brokerage business.

How do I select a real estate agent?

  • We recommend first and foremost, looking for an agent who has at least several years of ACTIVE experience.
  • Second, check Zillow for the agent’s number of transactions for the last 12 months. You want to know they are a mover and a shaker in real estate, not just paying the license fee.
  • Third, check the agent’s website for knowledge and relevance. Is it a canned site with templated text, or is there evidence the agent knows what they are talking about and how to manage the internet?
  • Google prospective agents for reviews. Zillow reviews are particularly important because what is posted on Zillow stays on Zillow. Agents are unable to omit or edit reviews there (you can read ours here). Keep in mind, real estate is complicated with many parties involved. Rarely will an agent have solid 5-star reviews across the board, but overall, they should have stellar reviews.
  • Super important is checking out the agent’s website and their blog. You need to click with your agent personally. If they don’t have a custom website or a blog we think you should keep looking.
  • Lastly, invite them over for an interview. Agents all have access to the same comparables when it is time to determine price, but an agent who is truly interested in you and your personal goals will take more time asking questions about your situation than they will in selling themselves.

There are a lot of “nice” agents out there, but nice doesn’t necessarily get the job done. You need a negotiating rock star, a marketing genius, a pro-active hustler who is responsive AND who is also nice. If you don’t live in my area, call me. I will personally interview agents in your area and find you a rockstar agent in your area. There’s no reason to accept sub-par performance.

What exactly is staging?

The second step to selling a house is staging it for sale.

Staging” is a broadly used term to describe preparing a home for market. There are vast differences in staging abilities. Most agents offer to “stage a home for market” but few are professionally trained to do it and the results are often mixed or worse.

The purpose of staging is to make changes in the home so that the home both shows and sells at it’s highest potential. True staging is far more than suggesting a “declutter” or to paint a room. It’s strategically highlighting the best features of the home through various methods.

Is staging actually necessary?

Staging is completely voluntary, but if you want the highest price possible, it’s highly recommended. Even vacant homes benefit from staging. If you want to sell your home as-is, that is perfectly fine, too, just let your agent know. Almost every home will sell as long as it is priced accordingly. Be aware, though, if you are unable or unwilling to show your home at it’s best, be choosey about the photographs your agent publishes. Contrary to what I see on the MLS, more is not better in this case. You only want your agent to publish the pictures that flatter the property. Skip storage rooms, messy laundry areas and crammed closets. Do we really have to address toilet seats? … Thank you.

What does staging my home cost?

It all depends on the seller’s intention and budget. Bringing in a professional staging company, renting furniture and doing renovations can be expensive. An accredited Staging Professional, such as myself, can make almost any home show better without spending any money and I advise smart and inexpensive improvements. I wrote more about staging your home here.

Do I have to have a 'For Sale' sign?

Third in the steps to selling a house is marketing.

It isn’t mandatory that you do, but when people begin showing up in nice cars with little groups of people piling out of them, your neighbors are going to know your home is for sale anyway. We can all spot a real estate agent from 50 yards. Your neighbors will also look up your listing on Zillow or Realtor.com and find all of the information anyway, so you might as well put the sign on the lawn and get as much value from the agent’s marketing as you can.

My agent said smartphone photos are perfectly fine to use in marketing my home. Is this true?

No. Find a new agent.

Can I buy a house before I sell mine?

Fourth in the steps to selling a house is financing.

That depends on your financial situation. The first thing to do is sit down with a great lender and have a strategy meeting with a thorough review of your finances.

If you qualify to buy before you sell, your lender should add to your pre-approval letter: “not contingent upon the sale or closing of any other assets.” If your pre-approval letter does not state this in some fashion, your ability to purchase may be questioned. The lender will help you determine if you qualify to buy before you sell.

Aside from the broker’s professional fees, which vary, the cost of selling your home is dependent on many factors, some unique to your property. You should get an approximate net from your agent in advance. Here in Michigan, there are some fees that are nearly certain:

  • Title insurance is required in the State of Michigan. There is a seller’s cost and a buyer’s cost, but we’re concentrating on the seller’s side. The title insurance is governed by the state of Michigan, but on a $250,000 home the seller’s cost is $1,241.75. You will find an online calculator for title insurance provided by First American Title here: http://facc.firstam.com/Summary
  • Transfer tax is tax to the state of Michigan and is $8.60 per $1,000. Of the sale price. $250,000 sale the transfer tax is $2,150. It’s considerable.
  • Any municipal assessments or liens individual to your property.

May I be present during showings?

Fifth in the steps to selling a house is managing your showings.

You may, but I strongly advise against it. The National Association of Realtors reported that one of the most common causes of a lengthy market time is the seller’s being present during showings. When the sellers are present, the buyers are uncomfortable; they can’t speak freely with their agent and typically leave the showing as soon as possible. It’s a bad idea.

Let the agent do their job. Grab the pets, kids, and go to the park or mall during showings. The buyer needs to be able to feel the space and even sit down for a few minutes if they’d like to. Homes sell faster if you give the buyer their space.

Do I have to have a lockbox on my door?

Yes, you should. If you require agents to go to your agent’s office to pick up a key, your listing will be passed by for inconvenience and we just covered the downside of staying home for showings. You should make it as convenient as possible for a buyer to take a good, long look at your home. They’re being asked to pay a fair amount for it.

How do I handle showing my home with my small children?

While you should strive to show your home at the time requested for the convenience of the BUYER, we understand that sometimes it just isn’t possible. In this case, we have the ability to restrict showings to certain hours; the kids’ bedtime, for example.

How do I handle showing my home with my dog?

It’s best to remove your pets during showings. However, if that isn’t possible, and you have a friendly dog that loves the safety of his crate, it’s ok to leave them during the showing. However, if you have a dog that isn’t friendly or who barks, you have to make arrangements. Having a family member or neighbor take the pets for you during your showings are other options, but you have to make arrangements for them.

Are open houses effective?

That depends on the objective. The last time I checked, our MLS reported less than 1% of homes were sold via an open house. However, open houses are effective in generating more buyers for the agent holding them open; it’s a good stream of new business.

With professional photography and a tour or video of the property available 24/7, buyers can view the entire home 24/7. If they want to see more, they will request a private viewing at their convenience. However, open houses aren’t typically detrimental if you want your agent to hold one.

Timing - How many days does it take to close from the day we accept an offer?

The sixth step in selling a home is managing the process.

Unless an offer is cash, it takes approximately 45-50 days for the title commitment and mortgage to be approved. A cash offer can usually close inside of two weeks.

How much is the buyer's earnest money deposit?

The amount of the deposit is negotiable between the Buyer and Seller. The rules regarding the proper handling of the earnest money deposit are governed by the State of Michigan. The deposit check is typically written and held by the Buyer’s Agent’s brokerage. The state mandates that the deposit be cashed immediately, held in the broker’s escrow account, and credited toward the purchaser’s costs at closing.

Does the seller get to keep the deposit if the buyer's mortgage falls through?

Check the terms of your specific purchase agreement, but most purchase agreements have several contingencies in which the buyer’s deposit is completely refunded. For example, most purchase agreements have a mortgage contingency. If for some reason the Buyer’s mortgage is denied, their deposit is refunded without penalty. Most also have an inspection contingency, typically 7-10 days from the date of acceptance. During this period, the Buyer can withdraw without forfeiting their earnest money deposit if they comply with the terms of their inspection contingency. There’s also a title insurance contingency. The property has to be free of liens and encumbrances in order to close. Other contingencies are frequently written into purchase agreements.

Do you have a question about selling your home?

Just fill out the form below, and we'll get right back to you. Don't want to fill out a form? You can go ahead and click here to send us an email instead.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.