The Selling Process
For Sale (By Owner)
We are not suggesting that you go this alone, by any means. When we speak of By Owner, we are referring to your role in this process. Your real estate agent is not a licensed attorney and, by law, cannot tell you what you should do or, in some cases, even how to do certain things. What your agent will do, however, is to fully explain your options and the possible results and outcomes of those options. In other words, your agent cannot answer the question “what should I do?” Instead, he or she will lay out all the things you could do, and you will choose.
Ultimately, it is you, the seller, at the helm making the decisions.
Are you interested in the selling process? If so, we present this simplified outline to help you understand. There are lots of details to selling a property; too many to list here, so when you talk with one of our agents, be sure to ask questions. The more you ask, the more you’ll learn. All of our agents want to do the best that they can for you. The business of our brokerage is earned on the reputation of our agents, so everyone wins when you have a great experience.
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The first step in the selling process after you’ve identified the agent you want to work with is to formally engage the brokerage. In Wisconsin, we do this by executing a state real estate agreement called the “WB-1 Residential Listing Contract – Exclusive Right To Sell”. The agreement gives us permission to bring all our resources to bear on selling your property. If you are interested, you can review this document before meeting with your agent, so we’ve included a link to it below. Print it out, mark it up with questions, and discuss it with your agent.
Most people don’t understand all of the things that go into selling a home, and that’s exactly why we are here. We understand every little detail, and have the years and years of experience doing it. Additionally, every agent in our brokerage receives frequent and updated professional training from the State and the Wisconsin REALTORs Association to maintain their credentials.
Download the WB-1 Residential Listing Contract – Exclusive Right To Sell from the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
You may have already had discussions with your agent about the value of your property and how long it will take to sell. In determining value, your agent will look at what are known as “comparable properties” or, simply, “comps” that are most similar to your property and its location. This can be a painstaking process that takes into account a lot of factors, because no two properties are ever perfectly comparable. Don’t worry, however; your agent is very well-versed in navigating the South Central Wisconsin Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and will come up with the best value possible.
Here is a real-world example. Consider a neighborhood that has several identical properties, because that’s how the developer did it. One property, in slightly worse condition than another identical property received $15,000 more than the better one only a month earlier. How is this possible? It turns out that it was across the street and down several houses which, at face value, is even more confusing until you find out that the school district line runs right down the middle of the street and the house in worse condition was in the more desirable school district. The listing agent played that up to potential buyers. Of course, this may only be a benefit to a younger family with children.
What is also important about the comparables process is that buyer agents are doing exactly the same thing. They will be advising their clients on how a property stacks up against the competition, and finding the best value for them. So it works out best when everyone is in the same ballpark. Of course, your agent knows all of this, and knows exactly how to position your property in the best light.
Your agent has a keen eye when it comes to what will sell and what is challenging. In reality, anything will sell – at the right price, and since you are likely interested in maximizing the sale price, it is our duty and responsibility to advise you on what we think is the best way to do that.
The obvious and least expensive repair to your property is paint. There is nothing with a bigger-bang-for-the-buck than a coat of fresh paint. Your agent will give you some great advice on what current trends are and what you can do to spruce things up. You may have also heard that the two most important things to buyers are the kitchen and bathroom. This still holds true, so when it comes to return on investment, these two areas will produce the biggest results.
There are many, many areas of your property that may need attention. Your agent will help you assess them all, and advise you on their importance to the sale process. Depending on market conditions, you may need to do more or less than what you think. In a “hot” seller’s market, you’ll have to do less because people just want to get in. In slower seller’s markets, you’ll have to do more.
Don’t Panic! Your agent will walk you through it all.
Staging for Showings
Perhaps one of the most difficult things about the sale of your property are the showings. In addition to scheduled open houses, showings can come at random times during the day, and any day of the week. Of course, you and your agent will establish any “no-show” days and times per your requirements; however, like anything for sale, the more it can be seen, the better chance it has to get sold.
Again with his or her keen eye, your agent will help you with the process of “staging”, which means determining what things are in your house, and where they are located. If you’re like most people, you’ll find that you need to put away a number of things to reduce visual clutter. We understand that to you, many of these things are precious and just part of your life. In the real estate sales world, things appear differently, and a calm, uncluttered space is what’s called for.
This is one of those sensitive topics where you need to trust your agent’s years of experience and knowledge and work with him or her to present your property in the best possible light for a real estate sale. None of what gets decided is any statement about you or your tastes; it’s just the way things are when you’re trying to sell a property.
The Negotiation Process
Congratulations! You just received an Offer To Purchase from a potential buyer. Now what? This is the point where you and your agent will strategize on the situation. Is the offer over list price? Under list price? How strong is the offer; that is, how many contingencies are there? Are there any special requirements or demands for repairs (also a contingency) being made? Are they trying to force a quick decision with a close-in binding date? Should you wait for other offers? Should you counter-offer?
As you can begin to see, the myriad of things that you’ll be faced with when an offer comes in can be daunting. No worries, your agent has years and years of experience dealing with all of these things and there is likely nothing in the offer that he or she hasn’t seen before, and probably over 100 times. Your agent will calmly walk you through all of the possibilities and give you a clear sense of the decisions to be made and when to make them. This is a multi-dimensional negotiation, as you’ll be working with price, timing, and actions (also known as “cures”) to fix something.
If things go well, you may get two or more offers within a short period of time. This is good news as your agent will likely suggest that you send all the potential buyers a “WB-46 Multiple Counter-Proposal” which, in effect, puts all of your buyers on notice that there are two or more bidders for the property. That WB-46 is an opportune time to propose changes to all of the offers at once, and gives each of the buyers time to sweeten their offers either in price or terms.
Note, however, that it’s not always the “sweetest deal” that makes a sale. It is entirely your decision to choose the buyer, and you may have external knowledge that sways you in one direction or another. For example, one potential buyer may have included a letter with their offer (not uncommon), with their desire to be in that particular school district because of its facilities to work with special-needs children. You have a lot of latitude here, except that you may not make a decision that violates fair housing laws on discrimination.
As always, your agent will help you navigate these seemingly treacherous waters.
At the Closing Table
Hooray, you made it to the closing table! While closing can be a daunting experience for most people, you are in good hands. You’ll be supported by your agent or a closing specialist from the brokerage if your agent is unavailable. And the Title Officer who performs the closing has likely had many years of doing closings, and knows the complicated process inside and out. Title Officers are usually exceptionally great at explaining every little bit of the closing process, and what the seemingly myriad of closing documents are all about.
Fortunately, as the seller there won’t be a lot that you need to do; the burden of title commitment is focused on the buyer and the buyer’s lender. And before you got here, the title officer would have been in touch with you through your agent about any title issues. It’s rare, but it can happen, and it usually gets cleared up quickly, so don’t be alarmed. Things that pop up on occasion usually have to do with lot lines, shared driveways, shared wells, and the like. Even if there are surprises, your agent and the title officer are well-equipped to help you solve the problem.
What the title company does is provide the buyer and the buyer’s lender with title insurance. While possession of real estate seems straightforward, on rare occasions, something can arise that puts the title in jeopardy, threatening ownership and the lender’s security interest. Title insurance is there to protect against such things. It begins with a thorough “title search”, where the title officer has done an exhaustive search of all the legal documents pertaining to the property you are selling. They are looking for liens, judgements, and other encumbrances that can “cloud the title”, and will work with you to clear such things, or they will issue insurance to protect against the risks before the transaction completes.
Once everything is clear, the closing is pretty much the buyer giving you money and you giving the buyer the keys. Of course, there’s a lot more to it, and your agent can explain the process in detail before you get to the closing table. You’ll walk away with some documents and a check. Any brokerage fees and title fees will have been taken out of the proceeds already, so that check represents your net income from the transaction.
Now, it’s time for you to get on with what’s next. Congratulations on a successful transaction!