Home Sellers Guide
There are a number of steps to selling any house. Experience has taught us that
every home sale is unique. Yet every sale " from putting the house on the
market to settlement day " shares a common process.
Long & Foster's Home Sellers Guide is designed to help you understand the
selling process beforehand. This inside know-how will help you make smart
decisions every step of the way and set aside any worries you may have from
Of course, this short guide cannot answer all your questions. For specific
answers to your specific situation, we encourage you to contact Beth Sheehy.
We will be happy to share our expertise. After all, we want you to get the best
selling price in the shortest time. Every advantage is yours when you do
business with Long & Foster, The Real Edge in Real Estate®.
Putting Your House On The Market
The first step toward putting your house up for sale is to meet with a real
estate Sales Associate at your home. This is what we call the "listing
Clean Up, Fix Up, Or Toss Out
Today, the home that stands out among similarly-priced houses is the home that
sells. Why? Because it makes a good first impression that lasts right to the
You may not be able to improve the market value of your house (finish basement,
remodel kitchen, etc.), but you can improve its marketability. And usually this
can be done with more elbow grease than hard cash. The key is to put yourself
in the buyer's shoes. In fact, if you drop by some open houses (you may soon be
a buyer yourself), you'll pick up some pointers. Then practice making your
house as appealing and uncluttered as the home you wish to buy.
Leave The Selling To Us
While the home seller is actively getting the house ready to show, the listing
broker is actively spreading the word that the property is available. Generally
speaking, the listing is promoted to two groups: the real estate community and
the buying public.
Many home sellers are surprised to learn that approximately 56% of all buyers
come from referrals between brokers and their vast network of contacts.
Approximately 17% of buyers come from inquiries stimulated by "for sale" signs
in yards. The remaining 27% of buyers come from a combination of the real
estate company's reputation and image, open houses, and advertising or other
promotional efforts. Obviously, the most productive source of buyers is working
closely with other brokers, and this is where your listing broker begins.
Signing On The Dotted Line
A buyer makes an offer by submitting a written and signed offer to purchase,
which will become the sales contract when ratified by everyone's signature.
Once the seller and buyer sign the paper, they are bound by the contract
The "presentation of a contract" begins when the selling broker registers the
offer with the broker's own office and notifies the listing broker of the
offer. The listing broker then arranges a presentation appointment with the
home seller, and with the selling broker in some areas. (The buyer doesn't
attend the presentation.)
Either the selling broker or the listing broker presents the terms of the offer,
depending on local customs. The listing broker acts as the home seller's
advisor. Part of the presentation is determining that the buyer is qualified
financially to make the purchase. (Should either the seller or buyer be out of
town, the contract is presented via telephone and confirmed later by FAX.)
Processing The Case, Etc.
The listing or selling broker (depending on local custom) oversees a contract
through to closing and helps to place the financing, process the case, arrange
various inspections and review financing and "points".
At this stage, all contingencies will be satisfied and removed. The buyer will
select a settlement and/or a title company, and the listing or selling broker
will notify those firms and provide the vital information.
A number of professionals come into the home selling process during this
period, including a home inspector (if requested by the buyer), well and septic
inspectors, termite inspector, appraiser and attorneys. A mortgage approval can
be made at application in many cases subject to verification of the information
provided. However, on the chance that the financing falls through, the seller
should keep the property in showable condition.
Buyer's Final Inspection
The purpose of the walk-through inspection prior to settlement is to determine
if conditions in the contract are satisfied. The time for the buyer to inspect
and note defects for correction by the seller is during the contract
negotiation and prior to signing the sales agreement. Repair or replacement
items should be noted in the contract. Most resale homes are sold in "as is"
condition, however, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing items should be in
It is up to the buyer to perform the inspection, not the seller who may or may
not be present. The buyer should be accompanied by the selling broker and/or
the listing broker. The home seller should be sure utilities are on so that
equipment can be operated.
Signing Papers And Transferring Keys
The big day is here! Tonight you can pop open the champagne, but today there
will be a lot of paper signing and a poignant passing of the keys (don't forget
the garage keys, and the electric garage opener, too).
At the settlement will be an attorney or title company representative, the
buyer, listing and selling brokers, and all owners. The home seller should
bring all warranties on equipment (or leave them in the house) and any
instructions on equipment maintenance or operation.
The attorney will have searched the title, and obtained old and new lender
instructions. First, all unresolved walk-through deficiencies are resolved.
With the buyer, the attorney explains the deed of trust, deed of trust note,
and settlement sheets. The buyer signs all three, and pays the balance of the
down payment and buyer's closing costs.
With the seller, the attorney explains the deed and settlement sheets and gets
the home seller's signature on them. The seller pays appropriate closing costs.
Different Mortgage Strategies
When it comes to paying for a home, buyers today have an almost unlimited
number of financing options.
Here's a run-down on the main types of financing. Interest rates are intended
for illustration only. Ask your Long & Foster Sales Associate or loan
officer from Prosperity Mortgage Company, a Long & Foster affiliated
company, for current market rates.
Words To The Wise
Below is a handy guide of terms that sellers need to know.
A person acting on behalf of another, called the principal.
Agreement of Sale
Known by various names, such as "contract of purchase", "purchase agreement",
"sales agreement", or "binder", according to location or jurisdiction. A
contract in which a seller agrees to sell and a buyer agrees to buy, under
certain specific terms and conditions spelled out in writing and signed by both
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Includes quoted interest rate on the loan plus all additional service and
finance charges associated with the loan. Includes all costs of financing;
those paid at the time of closing and those paid over the term of the loan. The
APR is usually slightly higher than the note rate.
An expert judgment or estimate of the quality or value of real estate as of a
The valuation placed upon property by a public tax assessor as the basis for
Bill of Sale
An instrument which transfers title to personal property (chattels); a "Deed"
transfers real property.
Certificate of Title
A document signed by a title examiner or attorney, stating that the seller has
a good marketable and insurable title.
Closing Statement (Settlement)
The computation of financial adjustments between buyer and seller as of the day
of closing a sale to determine the net amount of money which buyer must pay to
seller to complete purchase of the real estate and seller's net proceeds. Also,
"settlement sheets", "HUD-1".
Payment to a real estate broker for services performed.
To deed or transfer title of property from one person to another.
A formal written instrument by which title to real property is transferred from
one owner to another. Also, "conveyance".
Deed of Trust
Like a mortgage, a security instrument whereby real property is given as
security for a debt. However, in a deed of trust there are three parties to the
instrument: the borrower, the trustee, and the lender (or beneficiary).
The money given to the seller by the potential buyer (usually held in escrow)
upon the signing of the agreement of sale to show that buyer is serious about
buying the house. Also, "deposit".
The interest or value which owner has in real estate over and above the debts
against it. (Sales Price - Mortgage Balance = Equity.)
Funds, property, or other things of value left in trust to a third party. The
escrow may be released upon the fulfillment of certain conditions or by
agreement of the parties.
What was formerly personal property which is now permanently attached to real
property and goes with the property when it is sold.
Protects against damages caused to property by fire, windstorms, and other
Between a homeowner (as principal) and a licensed real estate broker (as agent)
by which the broker is employed to market the real estate within a given time
for which service the owner agrees to pay a commission. Also, "listing
The highest price which a buyer, ready, willing and able but not compelled to
buy, would pay, and the lowest price a seller, ready, willing and able but not
compelled to sell, would accept. Basis for "listing price", or "asking price".
The actual amount for which a piece of property is sold. Also, "sales price",
A lien or claim against real property given by the buyer to the lender as
security for money borrowed.
A written agreement to repay a loan. The agreement is secured by a mortgage,
serves as proof of an indebtedness, and states the manner in which it shall be
paid. Also, "deed of trust note".
Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Most residential mortgage payments
include the above and are therefore referred to as P.I.T.I. Also, "carrying
Sometimes called "discount points", a point is one percent of the amount of the
Penalty for the payment of a mortgage note or deed of trust note before it
actually becomes due.
This word has several meanings:
(A) to denote the most important;
(B) a capital sum lent on interest;
(C) one who appoints an agent to act on their behalf;
(D) either party to a contract.
The operation of real property, including the leasing of space, collection of
rents, selection of tenants, and the repair and renovation of the buildings and
To allocate between seller and buyer their proportionate share of an obligation
paid or due. For example, a prorate of real property taxes, fire insurance, or
A person with a real estate license and associated with a specific real estate
A map or plat made by a licensed surveyor showing the results of measuring the
land with its elevations, improvements, boundaries, and its relationship to
surrounding tracts of land. A survey is often required by the lender to assure
a building is actually sited on the land according to its legal description.
As generally used, a document that indicates rights of ownership and possession
of a particular property.
A summary of the public records relating to the title to a particular piece of
land. An attorney or title company reviews an abstract or title to determine
whether there are any title defects.
Protects lenders and homeowners against loss of their interest in property due
to legal defects in title.
Title Search or Examination
A check of the title records, generally at the local courthouse, to make sure
the buyer is purchasing a house from the legal owner and there are no liens,
overdue special assessments, or other claims.
State tax, local tax (where applicable), and tax stamps (in some areas)
required by law when title passes from one owner to another.
Ask your Long & Foster Sales Associate for a copy of the "Understanding the
Role of the Real Estate Agent" (LF1192, for use in the state of Maryland
only);"A REALTORS® Role" (LF1193, for use in the state of Virginia only); or
"The Agency Disclosure Brochure" (LF1195, for use in the District of Columbia