How To Sell Your House

Learn the steps to sell a home, from price-setting to handing over keys

How To Sell Your Home

The Balance / Alice Morgan

Selling a home is a big undertaking. You’ll need to assess the market, decide if you want to use a listing agent, get your home in tip-top shape, and much more. Where do you start? No need to panic. In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know. Learn how selling a home works, whether you decide to do it yourself, hire a listing agent, or go the instant-buyer (aka “iBuyer”) route, which involves a real estate company paying cash for your home before eventually reselling it.

Key Takeaways

  • The local housing market will affect your sale price, how long it takes to sell your home, and what to expect in negotiations.
  • You can sell your house on your own, with the help of a real estate agent, or by contacting an instant buyer.
  • Preparing to sell a house involves many steps, such as making repairs and improvements, cleaning, decluttering, depersonalizing, and staging.
  • You’ll need to list and market your home to get it seen by buyers and their agents.
  • Once you receive an acceptable offer, you enter the closing phase, which averages 30 to 45 days.

Understand the Housing Market

When selling a home, most homeowners want to get the highest price possible in the shortest amount of time. A key to achieving both goals is selling at the right time.

Buyer’s vs. Seller’s Markets

Homes typically sell at higher prices and more quickly in seller’s markets—when there are plenty of buyers but a shortage of homes for sale. Why? Under these conditions, buyers are often willing to pay more, bidding wars ensue, and there’s pressure to make offers quickly to beat out the competition. On the other hand, in a buyer’s market, there are plenty of homes for sale and a shortage of buyers. As a result, the buyers have more leverage and often get a better deal.

So what determines whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market? There are many factors at play, including current events and the interest rates set by the Fed. It can be confusing to the uninitiated, but that’s where real estate agents come in and provide guidance.

“There’s a level of uncertainty from the Federal Reserve to Wall Street, and the real estate market is no different. The market in Nashville is much different from the market in Los Angeles. As a result, it’s important that you speak with someone who has an understanding of what the market is doing in your local area/community, “ Peter Cunha, owner of Open Doors Realty, told The Balance by email.

DIY Housing Market Research

If you plan to sell your home without the help of a real estate agent, here are a couple of places you can look for insights.

National Association of Realtors (NAR) Existing Sales Report: The NAR releases the Existing-Home Sales Report each month and it shares national data on:

  • Sales volume trends: See the current volume of homes sold in the U.S. and how it compares with the previous four years. Higher sales volumes signal a seller’s market, and lower volumes hint at a buyer’s market.
  • Median price trends: See whether the median home price in the U.S. is higher or lower than in recent months and years. Higher relative prices allude to a seller’s market, and lower prices often signal a buyer’s market.

Zillow Market Reports: While national data can give you a general overview of the housing market trends can vary greatly from one city to the next. To get local data, Zillow offers detailed reports for most U.S. cities that include:

  • Typical home values
  • Year-over-year changes in typical home values
  • A five-year overview of typical home values
  • Median sale-to-list ratio
  • Percentage of sales over list price
  • Percentage of sales under list price
  • Median days to pending

Further, the company’s Home Value Forecast Report by ZIP code includes home-value predictions for one month, one quarter, and one year into the future.

With these resources and others like them, you can gain a better understanding of the price you can expect to get for your house and how long you may wait for it to sell. Additionally, you can determine how today’s price compares with the past five years and what to expect in the coming year. All of this can help you decide if now is the time you want to put your house on the market.

Ways To Sell Your House

If you decide you want to go ahead and sell your home, what comes next? You need to choose how you want to go about it. Here are the three main options.

Hire a Real Estate Agent

You can go the traditional route of hiring a real estate agent, known as a listing agent, who will act on your behalf to sell your home. According to the NAR, 86% of home sellers were assisted by real estate agents in 2020.

Real estate agents handle the bulk of the work involved with selling houses. They’ll take photos of your house (or have them taken), list it for sale, market it, take calls from interested buyers, schedule showings, host showings, communicate with buyers and their agents, negotiate for you, and more. All this might sound expensive, but the upside is that they get paid when the house sells—you don’t have to worry about paying them upfront out-of-pocket.

  • Take care of most of the work required to sell your house

  • Often can help you sell your house more quickly and at a higher price

  • Receive expert guidance on the market, your pricing, negotiations, contracts, and the whole home-selling process

  • Typically receive 2.5% to 3% of the sale price in commissions (after splitting with the buying agent)

  • Not all real estate agents provide the same level of service—seek out an experienced, reputable professional

  • May ask you to make repairs to get the home sale-ready

For Sale by Owner

The next option is to do it yourself, which is referred to as the For Sale by Owner (FSBO) route. NAR reports that 10% of home sales in 2021 were FSBO. Without an agent, you’ll do everything yourself, from taking pictures and creating listings to vetting potential buyers and showing the home. While this can involve a lot of legwork, it saves you the commission you’d pay an agent out of the sale. However, you’ll also lose a potential expert advisor.

  • Save the seller’s agent commission

  • Retain complete control of the selling process

  • Can be good if you have real estate experience

  • Requires a lot of work and time

  • May slow down the time to sale

  • Often results in a lower final sale amount

  • No expert guidance

  • May need to make repairs to get the home sale-ready

Sell to an Instant Buyer

Instant buyers (also known as “iBuyers”) are companies such as Opendoor, Redfin, and Offerpad that offer sellers near-instant offers on homes. Home sales through iBuyers accounted for an estimated 1.3% of the total U.S. single-family home market in 2021.

To opt for this approach, you contact an instant buyer and request an offer. The company then assesses your home and decides whether it wants to make an offer. If it does, offers are usually provided within days, and the whole deal can close within weeks.

Unlike house flippers, iBuyers aren’t looking for distressed homes that need rehabbing. Instead, they often look for average homes at fair market prices that could use a few upgrades.

  • Sell your home quickly and remove much of the hassle

  • Save on commission

  • Skip showings

  • Choose your close date

  • Can opt out of repairs

  • Won’t get a top-dollar sale price

  • Service charge

  • Not all homes receive offers

  • Repair costs may be deducted from your net proceeds

Prepare Your Home for Sale

Ready to move forward with the sale? Then, it’s time to get your home prepared. Here are a few tips.

Assess Repairs

One of the first things you’ll want to do is figure out what needs to be fixed up before the sale. Make a list of all the repairs and improvements, from large home systems such as your roof to smaller things such as leaky toilets and scratched flooring. All of these can add up to deter buyers or cause them to try to negotiate a lower price.

Bruce Mohr, senior investment advisor and credit consultant at Fair Credit, recommends getting a pre-sale home inspection a few months before listing your home. Mohr told The Balance by email that doing so will give you plenty of time to identify issues and get them fixed so they won’t slow the sale.

The cost of a home inspection often ranges from $300 to $500, but can vary depending on your location and the inspector you hire. That said, if you don’t want to take on repairs and improvements, you can go with an instant buyer and have those costs deducted from your offer.

Clean and Declutter

Next, clean your home from top to bottom. While in the process, declutter and organize. Go through drawers, cabinets, closets—and yes, even the garage. You want the home to feel spacious, clean, and clutter-free. “If the house is dirty, few buyers can look past the dirt to see their dream home,” Glen Whitten, a broker at Ohio Property Group, told The Balance via email.

Experts also recommend depersonalizing the home. “A highly personalized home makes it difficult for buyers to imagine themselves living there,” Whitten said. Remove personal belongings such as photos, diplomas, awards, funky furniture, political references, etc.


You may want to rent a storage unit where you can keep extra belongings that aren’t necessary to daily life while showing your house.


After repairs are addressed, it’s time to think about staging. “The prevailing statistic is that staged homes bring 3%-5% more money and sell 12-20 days faster (highly dependent on your local market),” Whitten said.

How can you use staging to appeal to your buyers? Some people rent furniture to create the intended impression, but it could even be small touches like placing fresh flowers in the living room and a bowl of fruit in the kitchen. Cunha said, “Some landscaping to improve curb appeal can also go a long way.”

Consider Timing

Finally, consider the timing. Homes often sell more quickly and at higher prices during certain months. For example, more buyers tend to enter the market in spring and summer than in fall or winter. More buyers mean more competition, which can help you get a higher sale price.

Set an Asking Price

Once your house is ready to list, it’s time to figure out the magic number: your asking price. This is not something you want to wing. “The most common reason a home fails to sell is that it’s priced too high,” Brett Rosenthal, a Realtor at Revolve Philly Group in Pennsylvania, told The Balance in an email. “Almost every home sells when it's at the appropriate price.”

Home Pricing Strategies

If you hire a real estate agent, they’ll help you understand the market and price your home competitively. Furthermore, they can help you adjust your strategy based on your goals. For example, Cunha recommended the following three pricing strategies:

  1. Price as high as the seller wants and see if a buyer bites: Remember that if the buyer is using financing, the appraiser will need to be in line with this price. This listing philosophy is why many sellers lower prices so the home is more marketable.
  2. Look at comps and use a realistic number that you feel the home will sell at: This will hopefully yield a handful of offers. You can then determine which one makes the most sense.
  3. Price the home slightly below what you would consider market value (by 2%-3%): This will yield the most offers, with the intent of creating a buyer frenzy. You can then review all offers and choose the best for the seller.

If you’re selling your own home, you’ll need to do some research. A good place to start is looking up the median price of homes in your area that are similar to yours. These are called “comps.”

Also consider your costs, the market conditions, and your priorities. If it’s a seller’s market and you aren’t in a hurry, you may price it higher than someone in a buyer’s market who needs to sell fast. Keep in mind: Buyers will often come in with offers under the asking price unless the market is in a frenzy.

Pre-Sale Appraisals

Consider getting the home appraised. If your buyer is getting a loan to buy the house, their lender will require an appraisal and will only finance up to the appraised amount. While this will come at an additional cost, often ranging from $300 to $600, it could save you from problems down the road.


If you’re going the instant-buyer route, the purchasing company will make you an offer so you won’t have to worry about setting the price. However, it’s still good to do some research to find out the current fair market value of your home.

Market and List Your Home

With your pricing strategy ironed out, it’s time to spread the word that your house is for sale. How you go about that will depend on how you plan to sell it. If you’ve hired a real estate agent, they will take care of this part. If you’re looking for an instant buyer, you can typically request offers through their websites. On the other hand, if you are DIYing it, you’ll need to do the legwork.

So where can you list homes for sale? Here are some ideas.

Multiple Listings Service (MLS)

The first place real estate agents look to find homes for their buyers is their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). To get on the MLS as an independent seller, you’ll need to enlist the Flat Fee MLS listing service of a company or real estate agent. Instead of paying the hefty 3% commission, you pay a smaller fee solely to get your home listed. For example, offers an MLS package that costs $399.95 and lists your home on the MLS and for six months.

Home Listing Websites

Aside from the MLS, you can reach buyers directly through popular home-selling websites such as Zillow (which also posts listings to Trulia) and However, Zillow now separates FSBO listings from MLS listings, which makes them less visible—but it’s still a good place to be due to the high amount of traffic (approximately 249 million people per month). If you list your home on the MLS, it can be syndicated to Zillow, Trulia, and

For Sale By Owner Website

Another site to check out is It’s been around since 1999 and as the name suggests, it specializes in homes sold directly by their owners. The site gets more than half a million visits per month, so it can help your listing get exposure. Plus, it’s free.

Social Media

Social media sites such as Facebook, NextDoor, and Instagram can help you get the word out. You not only can create posts for the newsfeed, but can also list your home in marketplaces when available—such as in the Facebook Marketplace.


Craigslist is another place you can raise awareness about your listing online for free. Many people still house-hunt there. However, it does tend to attract scammers in addition to legitimate buyers, so you may start getting spam texts or emails.

Local Advertising

Look into local advertising options such as placing an ad in your hometown paper, posting fliers around town, and hosting open houses. And don’t forget to put a big “For Sale” sign in front of your house.

Marketing Tips

All the above can help you get the word out if you’re working independently to sell your home. However, to get the best results, you’ll need to take high-quality photos. “Hiring a professional photographer is highly recommended as they have the lighting equipment and correct lenses to take the best possible photos of your home, “ Cunha said.

You also should carefully craft your home description so it speaks to potential buyers about the things they care about most (for example, proximity to shopping and restaurants, safety, good neighborhood, quality schools, etc.) It shouldn’t be a dry description, but one that entices people to contact you for a closer look. “Many sellers want to list every detail of the home so buyers don’t miss anything. The reality is that you should focus on the best features of your home, as that will set your home apart from others,” Cunha said.


If you’re not sure where to start with your listing, browse some of the existing listing descriptions on Zillow or Trulia and take notes.

Take Calls and Show the Property

Once you list your property, calls should soon follow. If you have a real estate agent, they’ll field the calls for you and contact you to schedule showings. If you’re selling the home yourself, you’ll be receiving the calls, scheduling the showings, and hosting the walk-throughs. A few tips on showing your home:

  • Ensure the house is clean and tidy on the day of the showing
  • Put any staging items in place
  • Know which questions to answer and which you should defer to your buying agent (such as pricing questions, why you’re selling, etc.)
  • Highlight the benefits and positive features of the home

If you’re using an instant buyer, you won’t have to worry about this part. However, the buyer will likely schedule an inspection.

Review Offers and Negotiate

After the showings, some potential buyers may feel they have found “the one.” If they do, you’ll likely receive an offer. Offers are legally binding documents that present homeowners with a proposed sale price and accompanying terms.

Depending on the method you choose, you or your real estate agent will review any offers you receive. But what should you look for? “Many sellers will only look for the highest offer and later run into issues because of anything from appraisal to home inspection issues,” Cunha said. “It is very important to look at the offers holistically, with price, terms, conditions, timing, and both the buyer’s and seller’s flexibility.”

If you decide to accept an offer, you can respond and move forward. If not, you can ignore the offer, deny it, or submit a counteroffer. Offers and counteroffers usually include a time frame in which the parties must respond or they will expire.


You can negotiate not only the sale price of the house but other things, such as personal belongings that are included in the sale, repairs, and closing costs.

Closing and Transfer of Ownership

Once you’ve accepted an offer, it’s time to go through the closing process. Common steps include:

  • A title search (buyer side)
  • A home inspection (buyer side)
  • Repairs or price reductions (depending on contract contingencies)
  • Loan origination (buyer side)
  • Appraisal (buyer side)
  • Loan approval and disbursement (buyer side)
  • Final walk-through (buyer side)
  • Title and homeowners insurance (buyer side)
  • Closing-day paperwork and disclosures
  • Payment and giving the keys to the buyer

The whole closing process typically takes about 30 to 45 days, according to Rocket Mortgage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the most profitable way to sell my house?

In many cases, hiring an experienced and skilled real estate agent can help streamline the selling process and get you the best price for your home. According to the NAR’s 2022 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report, the typical for-sale-by-owner home sold for $225,000 compared with $330,000 for agent-assisted home sales. While representing yourself in the sale saves you the commission, it requires a large investment of time and effort, and can make it harder to get the most competitive sale price for your home.

How do I prepare my home before I sell it?

To prepare your home before putting it on the market, you’ll want to deep clean, declutter, and depersonalize, along with making any necessary repairs. It’s also a good idea to take steps to increase its appeal through staging and landscaping.

What is the most common reason a property fails to sell?

Homes fail to sell for a variety of reasons. Hugo Parra, founder and owner of Colorado Cash Buyers, told the Balance by email, “Common reasons houses don’t sell include sellers pricing them too high, inspections revealing serious problems, or market conditions that are unfavorable for sellers.”

What brings down the value of a property?

Many factors can bring down the value of a property, such as damage that requires repairs, home improvements not built to code, an increase in crime in the area, declining school quality, businesses leaving the area, and a cooling market.

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