Home Selling Process: Start to Finish

Wondering how to sell your home quickly and for the highest possible price? Planning and preparation are key to your success. We outline the main steps for a successful home sale below. Follow these steps from beginning to end and you'll have success in any market. Learn more about what to expect at each stage of the selling process by reading our guide below. 

Initial Consultation and Market Analysis

During our first meeting we'll meet at your home to learn about your needs and goals. We'll tour your home together, brainstorm marketing strategies, and recommend simple cosmetic improvements that will help you sell quickly and for top dollar. We'll also outline the key steps and timeline for your customized marketing plan. 

Either at our meeting or shortly after our meeting we'll also complete a market analysis for you. The market analysis takes into account all of the following:

  • Recently sold listings in your area. 
  • Current listings with accepted offers. 
  • Current listings without accepted offers. 
  • The momentum of the market in your neighborhood. 
  • The time of year and its impact on pricing. 

Then we'll have a discussion about the market data and pick a price point for your home. We recommend picking a price point that's likely to attract multiple offers. With multiple offers in hand, we can negotiate with all parties in order to bid up the price and get you your desired terms. 

Keep in mind many sellers are able to substantially increase their home's market value by working with a professional stager and implementing a few simple cosmetic improvements. You can substantially increase your home's value, too. 

Check out our our blog to learn more about getting started with the home-selling process. 

Staging your Home

The number one way to increase your home's selling price is to work with a professional home stager. At Mad City Dream Homes, we give you all the consultation time you need with Debbie Lea, the best stager in Madison. 

By working with an expert, you'll increase your home's mass appeal and transform it into a showcase listing with eye-popping photos. Remember, buyers form their first impressions online. You'll get more showings, more offers, and the highest price when you work with a professional to stage your home. 

We recommend staging your home's featured space first. Then we'll take professional photos of this space and use the photos to launch your "coming soon" marketing. This allows us to start finding buyers for your listing as you finish preparing your home for sale. 

The great news about staging is that it doesn't involve a dramatic remodel of your home. It's about using what you already have in ways that help your home look its very best. During this part of the process our stager will also recommend a few simple cosmetic improvements. 

View our short article and video to learn more about the benefits of professional home staging. 

Making Cosmetic Improvements

In most cases it's not worth your time and money to implement large remodeling projects, but there are a few simple cosmetic improvements that almost always have a high return on investment. Four big ones are:

  • Replacing wallpaper or old paint with a fresh coat of neutral paint. 
  • Replacing dated or worn flooring with a modern and inexpensive product. 
  • Updating old light fixtures with new and affordably priced fixtures. 
  • Hiring a company to give your home a deep cleaning. 

Other common improvements include touching up nicked up doors and trim, replacing dated medicine cabinets with inexpensive mirrors, and installing new cabinet pulls in place of original cabinet hardware. 

The key is to focus on inexpensive improvements that have mass appeal and provide a high return on investment. We can help by recommending products and contractors for virtually any type of project. Check out our directory for our list of recommended contractors who do great work for a fair price.  

Visit our blog for a list of 12 painting projects that will help you sell your home quickly and for top dollar. 

Documenting Features and Improvements

A great way to demonstrate your home's value to buyers is to document your home's features and improvements. A simple way to do this is itemize all of the upgrades you've invested into your home. We recommend listing the professional contractors, name brand products, and approximate cost for each improvement. 

We'll use the information you provide us to create marketing materials about your home's features and upgrades. These marketing materials will help buyers see the value in your home. We'll also share these materials with the appraiser hired by your buyer's lender. This information will help the appraiser justify the contract price for your home - so your listing stays on track and doesn't get derailed by a low appraisal. 

View marketing materials that promote your home's upgrades and features here

Coming Soon Marketing

Once you've staged a featured space in your home, we'll obtain professional photos of that space and use the photos to launch your coming soon marketing. A coming soon listing maximizes your home's exposure to the market by advertising your property well before you're ready for showings to begin. 

We'll place your coming soon listing on the MLS, Zillow, and classified ad websites. We'll use your professional photos to create visually appealing ads on social media. We'll post a for sale sign in your yard, and depending on your location, send out postcards to your neighborhood.

All of this marketing creates pent-up demand for your listing. You'll have buyers lined up to see your home as soon as you're ready for showings to begin. 

Rolling out Your Full Marketing Plan

Once you've completed all of your staging, we'll schedule a second photo shoot and obtain professional photos of every room in your home. Then we'll complete your listing with a full set of property photos. We'll also roll-out many other aspects of your marketing, which typically includes the following:

  • A full-motion video tour for your listing. 
  • A book about your neighborhood and home. 
  • A slide show that promotes the benefits of living in your location.  
  • A professionally-rendered floor plan of your home. 
  • Promotion of your upcoming open house. 
  • Full MLS syndication of your listing. 
  • A plan for promoting your listing with Google. 
  • And much more...

Opening Your Home for Showings 

If you're like most home sellers, you want to receive multiple offers for your listing. With this in mind, we recommend allowing at least 3 to 7 days of showings so all interested buyers have an opportunity to see your home. We also recommend a weekend open house.

We'll show your home to our buyer clients. Many other real estate agents will also request showings for their buyers. Our showing line will contact you each time there is a request to show your home, and you'll have the opportunity to approve the request before each showing is confirmed. 

All buyers who tour your home will be accompanied by a real estate agent. Each agent will use a key that's placed in a lock box outside your door to access your home. 

During this period of time it's important to maintain your home in its fully staged state. Make sure your home is squeaky clean when your leave for work each day. Open up all of your curtains and blinds so your home is filled with natural light. 

If you have pets, you'll need a plan for housing them during this period of time. Many sellers choose to have their pet stay with a friend or relative. You'll also want to remove all pet toys and dishes from view. 

Negotiating your Offer(s) to Purchase

Once you have offer(s) on the table, we'll help you negotiate with all of the buyers that have submitted an offer. Some of the key aspects of the negotiation include:

  • price
  • closing date
  • items included in the sale
  • earnest money 
  • pre-approval and financing terms
  • inspection and testing contingencies
  • appraisal contingency

During this part of the process we help you negotiate all of these terms to your advantage. We also help you select a solid buyer who's committed to having a clean transaction and proceeding to a smooth closing. 

Once you have a signed offer to purchase, we document all of the important contingencies and deadlines for you. We track each contingency for you and make sure each one is completed on-time. In addition to handling many other details, we collect your buyer's earnest money, order your title work and schedule your closing for you, too. 

At this stage we will also change the status of your listing from "active" to "accepted offer". MLS rules require this. Because of this, your showing requests will dramatically decrease. 

Your Buyer's Home Inspection & Testing Contingencies

Most offers to purchase include an inspection contingency. This contingency allows the buyer to inspect your property with the assistance of a licensed home inspector. The inspection usually lasts 2 to 3 hours. Typically it is attended by the inspector, the buyer, and the buyer agent. Home owners are asked not to be present during the inspection, so the buyer and home inspector can openly discuss any issues that are found. 

The focus of the inspection is on defects - things that could adversely affect the value or lifespan of the home or the health and safety of the occupants. Defects typically involve items related to electrical, plumbing, roofing, furnace, and water intrusion issues. When defects are found, we help you negotiate how each defect is to be addressed prior to closing. 

Some offers also involve a radon test. The radon test is conducted over a 48 to 72 hour period. If the radon levels are found to be high, we help you negotiate how the high radon levels will be mitigated prior to closing. 

Your Buyer's Appraisal

If your buyer is financing their purchase with a mortgage, the lender will order an appraisal of your home. A licensed appraiser will visit your home, take measurements, and notes. Then the appraiser will view the recent sales data in your area in order to render an opinion of your home's value. 

A low appraisal could potentially derail your buyer's financing. Fortunately there are some things you and your agent can do to help your home appraise out at the contracted price. These include:

  • Stage your home.  Appraisers form impressions just like buyers. On the day of your appraisal your home should be 100% staged and squeaky clean, too. 
  • Document your home's features and upgrades and make this information available to your appraiser. Make sure the appraiser knows about all of the improvements you've made during your period of ownership. 
  • Be present during the appraisal. Unlike the inspection, you can be present during the appraisal. When you meet the appraiser, educate him on all of the important features and upgrades in your home. 
  • Share other important information with the appraiser, such as how you came to choose your list price and how many offers were submitted for your listing. 

Loan Commitment, Final Walk Through and Closing

If your buyer is financing their purchase, the lender will issue a loan commitment after the appraisal has been received all underwriting has been completed. This is reason for celebration. This means the loan has final approval and you can count on closing! 

Just before closing your buyer will conduct a final walk through of your home. Both the buyer and buyer agent will attend the walk-through. The purpose of the walk-through is to ensure nothing in the home has been damaged and that the home is still in good working order. 

You'll want to leave all important appliance manuals behind for your buyer. The home should also be clean and in broom-swept condition. All surfaces and appliances should be clean. You'll be wrapped up in the details of your move, so we recommend hiring a cleaning company to take this work off your plate. 

On the day of closing, bring your photo ID, your keys, and garage door openers with you to the title company. You'll give the keys and openers to your buyers once all of the papers have been signed. 

Congratulations are now in order, and it's time to celebrate :)

Sign up for email updates