How do I sell a house?

My mother is going to be moving in with us soon. This is a permanent move (she’s getting too old to be on her own any more) so we’re going to need to sell her house. I’m still living in the first house I bought, so I’ve never been through this as a seller before.

So, what do I do?

I imagine step 1 is going to be to contact an agent, and step 2 is going to be to let them figure it all out, or something along those lines. Right? How do we choose a good agent?

Any other advice is appreciated as well. She lives about 250 miles from where I live, so we’ll have to do a lot of this long distance as well.

Interview a number of agents from the area and pick the one that you are most comfortable with, as opposed to the one that offers to list it at the highest price. If you know someone that can recommend a particular agent you should consider that person too. Be warned that depending on the area, condition of the house etc. that it may take a while to find the right buyer. Be patient.

Given the state of the market, I’d hire the agent who wants to sell it at the lowest price. That’s the agent who is serious about doing business, and the agent who will get the house off your hands.

But yes, hire an agent and then do what they say.

Any agent should tell you about staging the house. Not necessarily making it look magazine-pretty, but doing a LOT of decluttering, moving some furniture out to make the rooms look bigger, repainting, maybe recarpeting - you want the place looking fairly neutral for prospective buyers.

Would the place be on the market while she’s still living there? or will she move first and sell later? If the former, keeping the house show-ready can be tougher of course. We were lucky in that the last time we sold a place, it was during the crazy real estate build up in 2002 so we just had to clean things up in the morning and vacate the house for a total of 3 days. Harder to keep up with that if the place doesn’t sell quickly.

If your mother isn’t local, I guess I’d ask around among her friends to see who they might have had dealings with. Harder to pick someone when you don’t have firsthand suggestions, of course.

Ask whatever realtors what their take on the market is - what “comps” there are (other houses that have sold), how long places are generally taking, and what marketing plans they have.

Beware actually of taking the one who suggests the lowest price - they might want to push the place through at less than market value, to make a quick sale and pocket a quick commission. Also the one with the highest price - might be unrealistic.

I beg to differ: I think the OP should completely clear the house and get it thoroughly cleaned. I do agree with considering repainting, though.

It sounds like you’ll need a few days in her town to make arrangements. (interviewing agents, etc.) Be sure to add “Engage lawn/snowremoval service” to your list.

In the meant ime, look the addres up in to see what the reasonable expectations might be.

Cleaning: absolutely. Forgot to mention that.

Re clearing the house out: get the agent’s opinion on that - I’ve heard conflicting suggestions. Some say the place should have some furniture in it because it gives a better sense of scale and rooms manage to look smaller without it. Others (including the agent who listed my mother’s house) suggested removing all the furniture because people like to be able to visualize their own stuff in the rooms.

So I don’t know what the “right” answer is. It may vary according to local tastes. If the place will be inhabited during showings, then removing some furniture is a good compromise. That’s what we did since we were living there at the time - we got rid of several pieces of furniture from pretty much every room.

We interviewed three agents: one admitted that his specialty was in land, not houses; the second was pissed off that we were considering other agents; the third was squarely in our market, with extensive background in selling condos. She sold ours in two weeks.

A good agent will not SWAG what your house should be listed for. She will look at comparables that have sold recently and suggest a price. After doing our own math, we thought our agent was low, and requested a higher listing price. She wasn’t thrilled with that, but it worked out for us.

A buyer will probably demand an inspection of your property. Don’t agree to fixing anything that is not either an obvious problem (such as water leaks) or a code violation, unless the sale hinges on your doing so.

Be prepared for a long haul, if the property is not updated or has obvious problems.

Everything I’ve read/seen lately does point to having some furniture in the house, so people can picture “a table” in the dining room and “a bed” in the bedroom. I guess it’s easier to picture your bed in the bedroom if there is a bed in the space already.

Make sure all the personal items are gone. If you need to hang wall art, make sure it’s something plain and not a family portrait.

De-clutter and clean like they said above.

Oh, and make sure that it’s specified somewhere in the paperwork that the furniture left for staging does not come with the house. Unless you want to get rid of it. Then make sure it’s included in the price for the house.

Take a weekend and watch HGTV - I think 60% of their programming is about buying and selling homes!

The house is in good condition, but it is kinda small and it is in an economically depressed area in WV. I looked online and there is a similar house listed nearby for 50k, so I figure it’s worth somewhere between 40k and 50k. The house isn’t worth much, so I don’t see the sense in trying to hold out for top dollar for it. There’s not a lot of money to be made by waiting.

The carpets, paint, etc. are all in excellent shape. The house is about as good as it’s going to get. I may need to spackle and repaint a bit due to nail holes from pictures, but that’s no big deal. My mother will be moving first and then selling, so there’s no issue with her living there while we are trying to sell it. The house will definitely be clutter free. My mother’s a bit OCD so there’s never been a clutter issue anyway. :stuck_out_tongue:

Unfortunately, the house is about 250 miles away from where I live. It’s in WV and I live near Gettysburg in PA. Doing things long distance is going to be a bit of a pain. My mother’s mental faculties are starting to decline a bit so I don’t know if she’ll be able to help much in picking out an agent. I’d hate to pick an agent at random but everyone I know out there, including my mother’s friends, have all been in the same house for decades.

There is a lot of furniture in the house that I haven’t figured out what to do with. My mother has a beautiful living room set that we just don’t have room for in our house (and it doesn’t go with the style of our house, or I’d take it and ditch the stuff that we have), and I think leaving it there may make the living room look better. The kitchen table and chairs as well as the dining room table and chairs might do best to stay with the house as well. We don’t have room for them and they have to go one way or the other. We’re taking all of the bedroom sets so those rooms will be empty. I’ll have to think about the furniture in her rec room in the basement. It may be best to leave that there as well.

Thanks for all of the replies so far.

Spending a few days in town isn’t going to be easy. I will have to hire a lawn care service. Didn’t think about that. Thanks.

It came up as $66,700. There’s no way in hell it would sell for that price. For 70k you can get a house two streets over with a much larger living room, a fourth bedroom, a 2 car garage instead of a single carport, and a yard about twice the size.

Prepare a list of any known problems - roof leaks, crack in foundation, corner of the septic field gets wet, anything. Make sure the customer gets a copy and acknowledges receipt in writing. That ensures that their offer includes those deficiencies, and they can’t come after you later. In fact, failure to disclose has legal ramifications.

You can sell the furniture with the house if the buyer is interested - I know I really wanted the couches that were in this house when we offered on it.

The house has to be CLEAN for showings - it has to look clean and it has to smell clean. If you can get to it, doing something as simple and cheap as replacing electrical and plumbing fixtures can really make a house look upgraded instead of dated (no offense, but I’m going to assume your mom’s house looks dated since older people’s houses almost always do). Maybe get someone else’s opinion on how the house shows - you might just see Mom’s House, not a house on the market.

If you can afford it, hire your own inspector to inspect the property and give you a written report (that can be made available to serious buyers). We had a set of buyers who brought in their own inspector, and it was a scam - they got what we suspect was a family member to pretend to be an inspector and came back with ridiculous, non-existent problems with our house to try to bring the price down.

Get familiar with the real estate market in the house’s area if you can - you should know what is realistic as an asking price and how long things take to sell and what comparable houses look like. I went to lots of open houses when we were about to sell our house, so I knew what was going on with the market.

Your agent should give you some advice like whether or not to do any repairs or updating (some things will make a house much more saleable, other things really don’t matter - she should know the difference); she should have open houses quite frequently; she should be in contact with you frequently, and she should be available to you almost 24-7 (or calls returned promptly). She makes money when you sell - if she’s not serious about a sale, you need to cut her loose and get a new agent, but that’s sort of jumping the gun.

Assuming they have a local multiple list board you can call up that local board and ask them who the top salespeople (ie local board sales award winners etc) have been for the last few years in the area where you are selling your house. Fair warning that a top sales person might not want to deal with $ 50,000 house, but you can ask these top salespeople who they might recommend. Most top salespeople are fairly well attuned to who the local achievers and hard workers are in the tiers below them.

You can also cruise the local board on the net and see who the most active agents are with the most listings.

I’m going to be a bit contrary the the current postings, and suggest you consider NOT hiring an agent.

I bought my house negotiating directly with the buyer, and we were both quite satisfied. Much more so than many friends who did use an agent. I’ve heard way too many stories from people who were unhappy & regretted ever having an agent.

The 250 miles distant may make it harder for you to sell this on your own, probably. But the $3,500 or so you save in commissions may help with that.

Actually, it’s not too bad. The kitchen floor looks a bit dated and the rec room in the basement is definitely 70s style, but otherwise the house looks fairly modern, much more so than most other houses in that neighborhood. I’d be tempted to replace the kitchen floor, but I’m not sure I’d get the investment back in the sale price of the house. The biggest things bringing down the price of the house are its small size and a drainage issue on the property which has been handled about as well as I think it can be, but I think it’s going to factor into some folk’s buying decisions. I will be sure to ask the agent what they think affects the selling price though.

Like I said, this is an economically depressed area. Starting homes go for about $30,000. Average homes are in the $50,000 to $70,000 range. Any agent who doesn’t want to deal with a $50,000 house is probably ignoring half of the market in that area.

If I were local I might consider that. Being 250 miles away though would make that very difficult.

I don’t really care about getting top dollar for this house, so the commission fee isn’t that much of an issue to me.

Thanks again to all for the replies.

Search the MLS system for other houses being sold in the area. You can see who the listing agents are and pick from one of them. They apparently know the area and it’s appropriate value. House values are based primarily on the square footage of the property. So a house that is selling $40-50k in the neighborhood may be a good benchmark for the price per squarefoot. Take that amount and multiply it times the square footage of your mom’s house.

Selling the house FSBO 250 miles away is suicide. Get an agent.

That’s what the inspector is for (paid for by the buyer), and the buyer signs a document agreeing that he is satisfied with the repairs, but disclosure of any known toxic problems is certainly required.

Actually, many (most?) states do require that the seller disclose any known defects with the property. We had to sign something when we sold our townhouse, stating that we didn’t know of any issues.

An inspector won’t be able to find every problem, e.g. drainage issues or other intermittent problems. An inspection does provide some assurance to the buyer, but doesn’t cover anything. They might buy the place, find out a couple of months later that every time there’s a heavy rain the entire basement floods, and come after the seller for a large amount of money for failure to disclose.