In This Article:
You’ve decided to sell your house! That's no small undertaking. You’re no doubt feeling a little overwhelmed. It takes careful thought and planning to get to closing day.
Whether you choose to do a For Sale By Owner ("FSBO") or hire a real estate agent, there is a list of tasks to complete to get your house ready to sell. Take some time to set yourself up for success with some of these suggestions before posting the sign in the yard.
Let’s talk about what the process looks like, what decisions you need to make, and the to-do list to get your home prepped and ready to sell.
Photo from Canva
1) Decide if you want to do a FSBO ("For Sale By Owner") or use a real estate agent.
Among a long list of to-dos, there are a lot of decisions to make. The first, and the biggest, is whether or not you want to do a For Sale By Owner or use an agent to sell your home.
Hiring an Agent
Real estate agents are licensed to help you price, advertise, and close on your home. They are trained to help you with marketing and financial decisions. Most importantly, agents know the legal ins and outs of negotiating, contracting, and the documents needed to close on your home.
For Sale By Owner
If you’re familiar with the buying and selling process and know motivated buyers are lurking in your area, even before the property even hits the internet, you could consider a FSBO (For Sale By Owner). Homeowners who want to avoid real estate agent commissions often consider taking on the DIY selling process during a strong sellers market when there’s more opportunity to negotiate a favorable deal.
If you decide to sell your own home, be sure to use a real estate attorney or a title agent to assist you with the legal details of closing. Educate yourself beforehand about the process, be willing to work with buyers that come with an agent, and check the financial qualifications of any potential buyers before you start dreaming about the big closing.
Learn more about For Sale By Owner:
Whichever route you choose, agent or FSBO, be sure to download our free home selling ebook, which is packed with great information and practical steps.
back to top
2) Learn the market.
Since the pandemic, the standard real estate cycles have been turned upside down. Sustained housing shortages and higher interest rates have radically affected when buyers buy and when sellers sell, so although much of the popular “when to sell” advice still holds true, it’s more important than ever to discuss with your agent (or learn local trends yourself) the best time to list your home, taking into consideration the military population in your area. As you know, they move regardless of a typical or non-typical selling season.
Photo from Canva.
Here’s what you need to know.
Real estate markets, more specifically, military real estate markets, have a steady cycle to keep in mind.
Think of PCS seasons. Generally speaking (like PCS moves), the beginning of the year is slow. It’s not until spring that activity usually starts to pick up. And come summer, home buying reaches its peak. Real estate climbs, and the market maintains momentum until late July/early August when it slowly tapers with the arrival of a new school season with fall on the horizon.
There’s a second spike in the real estate market as those leaves begin to turn, but it’s not long. Halloween initiates the end of the real estate season. It doesn’t revive until the new year begins—save a few sales associated with off-season PCS movers.
What’s the best time to list your home for military home searchers? Early spring! If it makes sense for your situation, list your home when eager buyers start scouring the market. Early birds start researching to learn about the neighborhood as early as January, but most will seriously look in February and March for a May or June closing.
Remember, preparing your home to sell takes plenty of time and a lot of work. So start prepping during the winter to maximize your home’s best-selling features.
Related: What You Should Be Doing Now to Sell or Rent Your Home Later.
3) Prepare your property to sell.
Here's the fun part. Getting the house ready to put in front of buyers feels like a long list of chores (spoiler alert: it is!), but it’s a necessary to-do list to make your sale successful.
Photo from Canva
- Curb appeal. Replace or remove dead plants, overgrown landscaping, broken railings, or mailbox. Touch up exterior paint on the house, railings, trim, or front door.
- Paint. Apply neutral color to the interior of your home. Not only does this step help freshen dinged walls, but it creates a blank slate for potential buyers to envision their lives.
- Make small updates as needed. If your home needs updating, consider changing the countertops, fixtures, or adding a fresh coat of paint.
- De-clutter. Remove everything from sight that you can live without daily.
- Stage your home. Staging your home is so important. Time and time again, studies show that correctly staged homes sell faster and for more money than those that aren’t. You might think that homebuyers don’t want to see your stuff in their potential home, but they appreciate the ability to see how the space can be used.
The National Association of Realtors’ 2023 Home Staging Profile notes that 81% of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.
- Rent a storage unit. Fill it with everything extra you have around your home—even the stuff filling your garage.
While these small updates are beneficial to help sell your home, it’s best to exercise caution when taking on more extensive renovations before a home sale. Why? The last thing you want to do is over-improve your home and risk reducing your profit when it sells.
back to top
4) Price your home.
Determining a price for your home requires extensive knowledge of your local area. Things like the market, comparison to other properties listed nearby, city developments, and purchase history for your property and those comparable, are all factored into setting a sale price.
Take a look at 5 Tips for Setting Your Home’s Price.
If you go with the help of an agent, they will help you determine the fair market value of your home and price it accordingly. However, should you choose to do a FSBO, you’ll need to research and dig through the market yourself.
Either way, don’t forget cost factors that affect your asking price, like renovations, home staging services, and improving the all important curb appeal.
Photo from Canva
Pro Tip: If you do a FSBO, be objective. Remember, your memories don’t add value to the property. Try to put your emotions and feelings aside so that you can accurately determine the fair market value of your home.
5) Create a listing.
Now that your home is ready to sell, it’s time to create a listing! This is your opportunity to get your home in front of potential buyers everywhere and make it shine. Follow these tips.
Take quality photos of your home. Images are everything when it comes to your home listing!
To give you a little perspective:
- 98% of home buyers shop online.
- 58% of home buyers found their home on a mobile device.
- 89% of home buyers who used the internet to find properties found photos very useful.
Once your home is prepped and staged, hire a professional photographer to capture your home at its best. Or learn the ropes so you can take amazing photos yourself. Remember to take them when the space gets lots of natural daylight, make sure the camera is landscape oriented, and use a wide-angle lens.
Write a captivating description. While photos undoubtedly take the cake when it comes to your listing, your written description hooks potential buyers. This is your opportunity to convey the quick facts and major selling points that will make your home a contender among house hunters.
Include in your description:
- Location. Where is the property concerning the nearest military installation? How far are the best restaurants, downtown, nearest city, attractions, etc.?
- Keywords. Words like beautiful, turnkey, spacious, backyard paradise, open floor plan, and more, are known to help homes sell.
- Description of the local culture. Bring the viewer in on the neighborhood. What kind of community, amenities, and people come with purchasing your property.
- Include contact information. For obvious reasons, you want to be accessible by potential home buyers. Not only should you include an accurate phone number and email, but it’s crucial that you answer or return calls promptly (especially if you’re working with a buyer’s market!).
More home listing information:
6) Market your home.
A home listing won’t do you much good if it isn’t seen by potential buyers! Thankfully, you’re no longer dependent on only a sign in the yard and an ad in the Sunday newspaper. Most advertising is online today.
Photo from Canva
Whether or not you use the services of an agent, here are just a few ways to create a successful online advertisement.
- List with MilitaryByOwner. If you live near a military installation, one of the best ways to get your property in front of the military audience and reach PCSing service members is to list with us (Remember, you can create a listing on MBO whether or not you use an agent!). Check out our advertising packages here.
- Use social media. Use social media to further advertise your home. Post your online listing on your Facebook, then ask your friends to share it on their news feeds.
- Put up a yard sign. Finally, put a sign in your yard (get that MBO sign in our ad packages above!) and flyers around town. Most buyers begin their search online, but you can’t deny it’s hard to miss a "For Sale" sign sitting in someone’s yard.
- Create a virtual tour. Create a virtual tour of your home using the photos you took and one of the many programs available.
7) Review offers and finalize contracts.
Your hard work has paid off, and attractive offers have reached your inbox. Now it's time to start negotiations with your buyer.
You know that most buyers will need financing to purchase your property, and there’s a good chance that if they’re military affiliated, they’ll want to use their VA loan benefit, so prepare to wait for the appraisal and (most likely) the home inspection process to unfold. The VA loan doesn’t require a home inspection, but most buyers prefer to have a professional report detailing the property's health before signing a contract.
Once the appraisal and home inspection information returns, you and your buyer can start negotiating—not just the final sale price but for things like closing costs, which repairs you’ll make, closing dates, and any other detail that might be important to either party.
Learn more about a home inspection by reading Home Inspections: What Sellers Need to Know.
8) Close on your home.
You've made it this far! If you have a qualified buyer, the closing process (about 30 to 45 days) will continue, and everyone is on their way to the next chapters of their lives. Before finally signing, you must understand and execute the contract’s closing costs, fees, contingencies, escrow, taxes, and more.
Depending on everyone’s location, you may or may not all sign the paperwork and transfer keys in the same room on the same day. But chances are, with military members often in different locations, someone will electronically sign or use representation to close the deal.
If you're doing a FSBO, you might consider hiring a closing agent. The laws vary from state to state, so having a licensed professional on your side can be incredibly helpful.
We've laid out what to expect at closing right here: 18 Steps Home Sellers Should Expect at Closing.
Although not technically part of closing, taxes are very much a part of a home sale. You must understand your obligation to the IRS after you’ve received payment. You’re likely looking at a capital gains tax come April, but there are exemptions and exclusions related to a PCS or deployment.
The Effect of Capital Gain Tax Exclusions on Military Home Sellers uncovers everything you need to know.
Hopefully, all goes well with your closing process, but what happens if the contract falls through? Basically, you’ll either start from scratch with a new buyer, work with the current buyer to negotiate different terms if there was an issue, or possibly wait until they’ve cleaned up any problems with their lender.
There’s no denying it, getting your home ready to sell is hard work. But with a little organization, a little help from the professionals, and some guidance from your friends here at MilitaryByOwner, you should be well on your way to a successful home sale!
back to top