If, at first glance, you thought this post was a sign suggesting that you should sell your house in Spokane, WA... maybe it was! I imagine that every Realtor in Spokane that saw this said, "Yes please" - and I was tempted to make the title "Sell Your Home In Spokane (please)!" because some days that is how we all feel! Our inventory is very low right now here in Spokane, so almost every conversation I have with other Realtors seems to involve a comment about wishing for more inventory! We have plenty of buyers that are looking, but the options are limited and the good ones are gone the first day they are listed! If you've been on the fence about listing your house and needed a little push, consider yourself pushed! (*The above commentary about our Spokane Seller's market was made late June of 2016 - if for some reason I have not updated it, please check with your favorite, local, Spokane Realtor for current market conditions!)
Having said that, this is actually a quick 'how to' guide to give you an overview of the process of selling your home in Spokane, WA. So, without further ado, I present:
Having said that, this is actually a quick 'how to' guide to give you an overview of the process of selling your home in Spokane, WA. So, without further ado, I present:
Jon Biron's Guide to Selling Your Home in Spokane, WA
- Decide to sell:
- This may seem like an obvious step that does not need to be discussed, but bear with me, I think it is a very important step. It also may seem counter intuitive - I am trying to encourage you to sell your home, but the first thing I start with is, "Are you sure you want to sell?" I would love to help you sell your home, but only if it is the right move for you right now!
- Your home is many things to you - most significantly, it is your home! You most likely have significant emotional and physical attachment to your home. You have memories that were formed in your home, you have invested your energy, money and effort into making it your home!
- If you are too emotionally invested in your home sale, you may find it difficult to keep a clear head during the process. There are many steps involved in selling your home. Throughout the process, it is likely that obstacles will arise that will make you question your decision to sell. You will navigate these more smoothly if you are confident in your decision to sell.
- Where are you moving? Why? If it is time to move (move on/move up/move out) focus on where you are going! As mentioned above and outlined below, the process of moving can be long and sometimes tedious. It will help you stick it out until the end if you keep you end goal in sight! Are you moving your family into a bigger home? Downsizing now that the kids are gone? Closing one chapter in your life (here in fabulous Spokane) to open a new one somewhere else? Set YOUR goal in front of you and keep it there. Don't sell just because your neighbor made a ton of money on his home! Sell because it is the right thing for you. (By the way, if you neighbor told you he just made a fortune on the sale of his home and you are at all dubious - or even just curious, your Realtor can let you know what the actual sale price was! Believe it or not, some people inflate their stories a little bit!)
- If you need help deciding whether or not to sell, this is a good first step to involve your Realtor. I meet a lot of people that, when they find out I'm a Realtor, tell me they "don't need a Realtor yet because we are still deciding whether or not to move".
- Now I know that I have a bias here! I'm a Realtor... hopefully I think talking to your Realtor is the best first step you can take!
- And I know (from personal experience) the fear of being "talked into" doing something just because it is in someone else's best interest. I openly admit that this is a valid concern.
- This illustrates the importance of having a Realtor that you trust.
- If you feel like the Realtor you are talking to is just trying to pressure you to list, you might want to find a new Realtor!
- I talk to a lot of people that, after discussing their situation, decide it is not a good time for them to sell. I count this as a win for both of us. My goal is to build clients for life who refer me to their friends and family. If I talk you out of listing now, but you refer me to a friend that does need to sell and then, later, when it does make sense, I help you sell your house too, that is worth way more to me than trying to force you through a process you are not ready for!
- While we are not financial advisers and can't offer legal advice, we can help you look at the market, estimate the value of your home (from a neutral perspective), consider the costs that will be involved in selling and offer you a glimpse of what your options for buying would be. If you are thinking about moving to a different area, there is a good chance we know someone in that area and can refer you to someone that can help you figure out what your options are in that area as well.
- Sometimes just talking to someone else that has an outside perspective and a professional view of the industry can help make your decision clear. After a short meeting to discuss options and expenses, you may decide that your home is "just fine" after all, or that you want to have your house on the market yesterday and let's get this thing going as quickly as we can!
- Realtor or FSBO:
- Should you sell your house yourself? (FSBO or For Sale By Owner) Should you hire a Realtor?
- This question deserves a guide all to itself! And I will write one soon enough, but in the interest of keeping this guide focused, I'll keep this section brief.
- If you are a DIY type, are really good at marketing, enjoy legal research, you can save some money on the transaction by finding your own buyer and having a closing attorney help draft up the paperwork.
- If the above doesn't apply to you or if you prefer to hire a professional to do what they do best, interview a handful of agents to see what they offer - and what they charge for their services. It may well be worth it! Speaking for myself and many of the agents I have met here in Spokane, we work very hard to get you the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time!
- A good Realtor will expose you to a much bigger audience than you are likely to be able to reach yourself, will represent your best interests in a transaction (important if your Buyer is represented by a Realtor), knows the nuances of your local contract language and can refer you to many, if not all, of the other professionals you will need to complete your transaction.
- As with the decision to sell, I recommend you evaluate your options here, make a decision, and stick with it! Don't "try" one way to see how it goes! If you "try" a Realtor, you will likely end up in a contract that would be costly to break. If you "try" to sell your house yourself, you may end up in a contract for less than your house is actually worth. If you find out after you sign a contract with a Buyer, you may be stuck selling at that lower price!
- This is not a matter of right and wrong, it is what is right or wrong for you! It is your investment, sell it your way!
- Get your house ready:
- If you are selling your home yourself, there are many resources to help you with this step. If you are using a Realtor, see what they recommend for curb appeal, staging and whether or not you should make repairs or upgrades to you home before listing.
- One important reason that I made the choice to represent both Sellers and Buyers is that I can help my Sellers with what real Buyers are looking for, looking at and what they are - or are not - interested in. Ask your Realtor what their Buyers are looking for and let them look at your house from the perspective of their Buyers.
- Make your decisions about preparing your house objectively. Would your home be more appealing with all the bathrooms completely remodeled? Most likely! Will the time and money you would spend on those remodels be worth it if you could have sold it without doing them? Possibly!
- As with deciding to sell and deciding how to sell, decide what needs to be done, make a plan to get them done as quickly as possible, and implement that plan immediately!
- Outside of major things, having a clean, tidy home is always beneficial. Particularly important is your front porch! In Spokane, we use a bluetooth enabled device to access the key to your house. While our phone is communicating with the lockbox, our clients are standing on (or near) your front porch deciding what they think about your home! Is there wood rot around the door frame? Does the porch light have 537 dead insects - and counting - stuffed between the glass? Is your doormat so worn out it says WE CO E? Buyers will notice this! "Yeah, but can't they just change the doormat when they move in?" Yes, they can - and will - but if you put a little effort (Less than $20 buys some great options on Amazon*) into this one spot, that they probably won't even notice, your potential buyer's feelings about your house will be considerably enhanced!
- Plan your timing:
- There are many variables to this, but assuming that you are moving out of the house you are selling, you need to have a plan for what you will do when your house sells!
- You could buy your next house first. If you can afford to carry two mortgages (or if you own your home outright and can afford to take on a new mortgage before this house sells), this option will reduce a LOT of stress for you!
- Simultaneous Close. Some Realtors will cringe just seeing those two words so close to each other! Others welcome the challenge. Ask your Realtor how they will help you navigate this and what the potential problems may be and decide if you think you can pull it off!
- Be homeless. As glamorous as that sounds (ha), there are options for selling your house and then choosing another one once your home has closed.
- There are endless variations on these three themes, but those are the three main categories!
- A lot of people think seasonally when it comes to Real Estate. In my experience (and from the much greater pool of experience the Realtors I work with provide) this is simply not true. Consult with your Realtor about the timing of selling your home, because there may be some benefit in considering the time of year for your property. However, for the most part, trying to time the (Real Estate) market is similar to trying to time the (Stock) market. If you are ready to sell - get your house out there and sell it! On a similar note, I recently helped a Seller sell her home that was rented. Her plan was to wait until the tenants lease was up and they moved out before she listed her house. I told her that it was possible that we could find an investor that was looking for a house that was already rented (proven rental income and a current, good tenant, paying rent) and sure enough, we got it sold and closed months before the lease would have expired!
- Phase 1:
- What! We are finally going to talk about actually selling your house! Yes, now we are ready!
- Discuss with your Realtor (or decide based on your research) how much you will list your house for and all the terms you are willing to accept. There is a long list of items here that I will not go into for the sake of keeping this guide brief, but you should discuss the details of the home, any items you are excluding from the sale, what types (if any) of financing you are willing to accept, and many more! This process may take days, depending on how well you know your own home! Hopefully some of it has already been taken care of while you were preparing your home for sale, but at this stage, you should have everything laid out and ready to go.
- If you are not using a Realtor, use caution, but be prepared to offer as much information as you possibly can about your home. Maybe not on the sign in your yard or on the Craigslist ad, but you should be able to make available, upon request, any information that would help a Buyer make a decision about whether or not to buy your house. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that if you don't put any information out there, they will call you and your smooth salesmanship will convince them they want the house! If it's more than they can afford, if it has less bedrooms than they want, if it doesn't have A/C but that is a crucial feature, calling you is not going to change their mind about it! You will waste your time with calls that go nowhere and there will be a lot of people that simply won't call. They will assume that it is too much, not enough bedrooms, etc because they don't want to waste their time with a phone call! Just put the info out there and let the buyer decide! Your salesmanship can come into play when you try to convince them that your DIY installed tile is better than any professional would have done! (No, no, you're right, it is better, you won't have to convince them at all!)
- Your Realtor will take over and do a lot of the heavy lifting here - order the yard sign, input your home in the MLS, put a lockbox on your door (I'll need a key here), prepare marketing, and so on! If you are interested in the "so on", give me a call and I'll walk you through what I do in this phase, but any good Realtor (IMO) will have their strategy and will implement it here. Once it "goes live" in the MLS, Congratulations, you listed your house!!
- Phase 2:
- No, seriously, even if your house sells the first day (like many are doing right now - June '16) that first night will feel like an eternity! I don't care if this is your first home sale or you are a serial flipper, that first night seems the longest! How many people are looking? Did I list too low? What if I get multiple offers? What if I get no offers? Relax! Or, at least try to! If you have to, binge watch a new series on Netflix until you drift off to sleep! Try not to call your Realtor at 4 am to see how things are going!
- After that first night (and assuming your house isn't already sold) you will go through many phases of excitement and doubt. During this phase, no matter how brief or long, keep good communication with your Realtor. Ask him/her/me what feedback other agents have been giving. Is it priced well? Is the foul stench in the downstairs bathroom turning buyers off? Work with your Realtor in this phase.
- A word of observation here. There is a phrase in Real Estate that you may hear Realtors use. Something along the lines of "He 'bought' that listing".
- This phrase, more or less, means that the agent promised the house would sell at a price he/she knew it would not so that the Seller would choose them over the competition. Once the house does not sell, they suddenly suggest that you drop your price until it gets down to the point where it will actually sell.
- None of us have a crystal ball. We've all priced a house too high at one point or another. Probably priced a few too low as well! Just because your Realtor approaches you about adjusting your price if it is not selling, it does not mean they "bought your listing".
- If, however, you had 5 list agents offer you a price opinion and the one you went with was 20% higher than everyone else, and 2 weeks into the listing, they want you to drop your price considerably... it might be a good sign that it's time to have the, "You promised me that you would sell my house for...." conversation!
- Assuming that you are working with an amazing agent, view your relationship as a partnership and draw from them everything you can. Ask questions, stay informed, and work together with them. I hear A LOT of times - both Sellers and agents - are frustrated with the other party. Sellers can easily feel that their agent has forgotten about their property and isn't doing anything to promote it. Agents feel that their Seller is not willing to do anything to improve the chances of their property selling. Since I am addressing you (a Seller) [but I guess there might be some agents reading this], I will say, from an agents perspective, please ask questions and communicate with us if you are frustrated! If there are things that we are suggesting based on feedback, understand that we don't think you are a bad person because of it, we want your house to sell as much as you do!
- Eventually (if not immediately) you will get one or more offers. This brings us to...
- Phase 3:
- You got an offer!
- Or, "You have multiple offers!"
- Either way, you have a decision to make! I'll start simple. If you have one offer, you can:
- Accept it! Sometimes, you will get an offer that is, figuratively, "so good you can't refuse". It may be the only offer you've gotten and you have been on the market for a year! It may be in the first week, but it is for considerably more than you were asking, cash, and will close in 10 days, with no inspection! Or, it may just be exactly what you were asking for (or close to it) and there is nothing else on the table. You can sign the offer, send it back and you are done with this phase! (If this happens, skip to "Phase 4")
- Counter-Offer! You might find the offer to be reasonable, but less than you were hoping for. You are willing to take less than you were asking, but not that much less! You can Counter-Offer with something more than the Buyer offered, but less than you initially were asking. I've seen Counter-Offers that were essentially the same as the initial asking price and kind of scratched my head. If you aren't going to move off your asking price, it probably would be easier to just respond with an email to that effect, rather than draft up a Counter-Offer, but that's just me! If you do Counter, the Buyer may Counter back. You can go back and forth with the Buyer for as long as both of your Realtors can handle it! This negotiation ends when either an agreeable price (and terms) is met - or when it is decided that consensus can't be reached by the two parties!
- Ignore - or decline - the offer completely. Some offers - I've written a few myself - are so considerably lower than what you are asking that you simply can't accept it, and don't want to waste time trying to find middle ground. While I always caution my Sellers not to completely ignore a "crazy low" offer, this is one of your options!
- The above options apply to a single offer. But what if you have two offers? Or, in this market, it is not out of the question to have 5 offers. What then? I'll leave it to your Realtor to help you if and when this happens, but the principle idea is still the same as with one offer. You get to choose how you respond to any or all of the offers. If you have multiple offers to deal with, you are in a great position! Your Realtor should be able to help you navigate this process and walk away with the highest and best offer! It is still your choice though! While not likely, it is possible that all of those multiple offers are for much less than you had the house listed for. If this is the case, you can still say "no" to all of them! I would not necessarily advise this! If 5 people all feel your house is worth less than you are asking and are willing to write an offer to that effect, you might need to accept that and process accordingly! It is quite possible (however unlikely) that your avant-garde "Weeds on Grass" social commentary is not as appreciated by the community as you had hoped! (In case I lost you, if your lawn is more weeds than grass, but you insist that it is art - in the form of social commentary - and expect that [or some other unusual feature of your property] should net you more money than your neighbors "obnoxiously" well manicured lawn netted them, I am gently - if not sarcastically - suggesting that the five offers to the contrary might be on to something! This example is pure fiction and NOT based on anyone that I am currently or have in the past represented!)
- I'm not really sure how to help you here if you are not working with a Realtor and your Buyer is not either. If this is the case, you probably have some relationship with them, so hopefully you can settle things amicably. Or, if you met them on Craigslist, you might want to brush up on your negotiating skills, or take them out to a nice dinner and discuss it over dessert.
- This phase will be complete when you and a Buyer come to an agreement on the terms of a deal and have "Mutual Acceptance", or a "Signed Around Deal" We now move into...
- Phase 4:
- Escrow. Or, "Under Contract". Or, any of a number of other ways of describing it, this is the phase where you wait for the Buyer to get all their ducks in a row and provide any necessary documentation to them. Although not limited to this, a good way of describing this phase is the Buyer's "Due Diligence (and loan getting)". Unless you have sold to a cash buyer, a good chunk of this phase is the Buyer's Lender doing their due diligence on your property and the Buyer to make sure they can recoup their investment should the need arise.
- The first thing that you will deal with in this phase, at least here in Spokane, is the inspection. I'll go over this in more detail in another guide, but this is a second negotiation with the Buyer where they may ask for repairs based on their inspection and you will be able to choose how to handle that request.
- After the inspection part, while largely uneventful for you, this is also a good phase to stay in touch with your Realtor - and make sure they are in touch with the parties involved in the transaction (Selling Agent, Lender - if possible, Closer, etc). Lenders may want you to sign something, there may be a question about some part of your property (during the appraisal), or any host of other, relatively small things that could hold up the deal if you don't know someone is waiting on you for something. Relax, but be dilligent.
- Also, if you are moving out (and haven't already done so) this is a good time to finalize those plans and get a good game plan together. Again, tons of variables here, so work with your Realtor on what to expect as things progress for your individual sale.
- Once all of the Buyer's Lender's conditions are met, and all of the details are sorted out, you will sign, the Buyer will sign, the loan will fund (again, assuming there is a loan) and the closer will record the sale at the courthouse. Once it is recorded, you have sold your house! Congratulations!! There are actually a lot of details I could get into about the closing process, but for the sake of this guide, you have your money, the Buyer has their new house and you are DONE!
Thanks for reading this guide! I hope that you found it helpful! It would be most helpful to me if you would comment below with any feedback about it! Is it too long? Not detailed enough? Liked the goofy little bits of humor throughout, or wish it was more factual? Positive or corrective feedback is always welcome! I solicit it from my clients and I'll solicit it from you. Please let me know how I am doing!
I do plan to continue filling out the parts I 'glossed over' with more in depth articles. I wanted this to be (relatively) quick so you can see all the steps in one place.
I am a full time Realtor, and I am always eager to help real people in real situations. If you have an unusual situation - or even a very normal situation - and would like to ask specific questions, feel free to reach out directly to me! I would love to help you sell your house in Spokane!
*I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you purchase a doormat after clicking on the link, Amazon will pay me. At least that's what they told me!