A Step-by-Step First Time Seller's Guide

Putting your home on the market can be a stressful process, even if you have done it before. Today's buyers are constantly changing, as are the ways to market a home. Media marketing has taken the place of listing books and in-person showings. Buyers now expect in "in-person" experience, online. To download our more detailed Guide to Selling Your Home, please click here.


Step 1: Creating Your Sales Team

When it comes to selling your home, involving a realtor early on in the process is crucial. A professional real estate agent will provide you with the expertise and guidance you need to prepare you house for sale, resulting in a quick and profitable sale. When choosing a realtor, it's important to base your decision on their skills and not personal relationships. A realtor is not just a salesperson, but a strategic partner in the home selling process. They have the skills, experience, and network to market your property effectively and find the right buyer.

Even if you're not planning to sell for another year, beginning the process of finding a realtor and discussing your sale will help pinpoint the most cost effective preparations. It doesn’t cost any more to consult a realtor early on in the process, and it could save you money.

Once you've chosen a realtor, clear communication is vital. Be upfront about your expectations and make sure both parties have a good understanding of what matters most to you. This will help your realtor tailor their approach to your specific needs.

Step 2: assessing your home

When preparing to sell your home, it's essential to view the property from a buyer's perspective. This means identifying and understanding the features of your home that may be attractive to potential buyers, as well as those features that may be a deterrent.

It can be challenging to assess your own home objectively. A realtor can provide valuable feedback on necessary improvements and potential problem areas. For instance, they might suggest repairing broken items, repainting certain rooms, or decluttering.

While making improvements to your home can increase its value, it's crucial to strike a balance. Over-improving can lead to unnecessary expenses that may not yield a return on investment. Focus on improvements that will enhance the functionality and appeal of your home without going overboard.

Pricing your home correctly is key to a quick and successful sale. Your realtor can provide guidance on this based on their knowledge of the local market. They can help you set a price that encourages interest but does not undervalue your home.


Step 3: Preparing the Interior

Preparing the interior of your home before selling is crucial. It can make a significant difference in the sale price and the speed of the sale.

The first step is to remove all personal items from your home. This includes family pictures, religious items, and anything else that can distract a buyer from seeing the home as their own. When a buyer walks into a home, they should be able to envision themselves living there.

Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the most important rooms in a house, and they can make or break a sale. These rooms should be kept free of clutter and squeaky clean. Counters should be cleared, the fridge should be free of magnets and notes, and all appliances, sinks, and faucets should be cleaned until they sparkle. Bathrooms should be clean, clutter-free, and presentable. Invest in some new towels and a new coordinating shower curtain to freshen up the space.

Bedrooms should also be staged. Keep the closets neat, with an inch between each hanging item. Remove any stored items from the floor and tidy up the shelves. If the bedspread and curtains are showing wear or are dated, consider replacing them.

Living spaces should be free from clutter and personal items. Furniture should be arranged to encourage conversation and highlight the best features of the room. Don't forget to add a green element, such as a plant, to each room.


Step 4: Preparing the Exterior

Curb appeal is not just a trade buzz-word. It is extremely important, as this is the first impression that a buyer will get of your home. When pictures of homes appear in the MLS or on commercial sites such as Zillow or Realtor.com, it is almost always the exterior pictures that appear first. If buyers are not impressed by that first picture, they will pass over your listing. If they are driving by and the property is in disarray, they won’t bother to see the inside.

Prepare the exterior of your home as carefully as you would the interior. Does your front door need a fresh coat of paint? Is your garage door in good shape? If the front door or garage door needs painting, it can make your whole house appear less valuable to buyers. Sometimes a few hundred dollars worth of work, like cleaning gutters or fixing doors and windows, can bring many thousands of dollars in profit. Are the windows dirty? Are there any items cluttering up your yard? Garbage cans, equipment, toys, etc. should not be visible from the street. In some situations, having the whole house painted is a worthwhile expense, especially if the paint is worn or outdated. Are there any rotten boards that need to be replaced? If there is a deck, is it cleaned and staged with deck furniture?

Landscaping is important because it is crucial to a first impression. Minimalist and simple landscaping is best. Be sure that all bushes are neatly trimmed and the lawn is mowed. Plan ahead and provide the care your lawn needs to look fresh and healthy. Buyers generally don’t want to inherit a lot of weeding and yard work. Hiring a lawn care service is easiest, but a bag of fertilizer can go a long way!


Step 5: Marketing

Marketing in today’s world is more than a sign in the yard. It involves exposing your home to as many qualified buyers as possible, though a variety of venues

Professional photography is one of the most important elements of marketing. Noamount of marketing can overcome bad pictures. Pictures offer the first impression of your home and determine if a buyer will investigate further. These pictures will be entered into the local MLS and distributed to sites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Homes.com and others. The photos provide the foundation for all advertising and marketing.

Quality brochures are an important first impression. If the brochure is well-made and available for passers-by on the signpost, it will keep them - and any friends or relatives - thinking about your home. 

3-D models and floorpans give buyers the opportunity to understand the layout of your house. A bunch of disconnected pictures is not enough in today’s online world. 

Social media campaigns that target selected areas and demographics can easily reach your future buyer. This is especially helpful in advertising open houses or newly on market. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, use of social media has increased dramatically. Over 80% of Americans have a social media profile, with Facebook being the dominant platform.

Placement on the MLS and commercial sites like Zillow is important since most buyers go online for their initial searches - even before selecting an agent. Once again, photographs and the wording used in the description of your property can make or break a prospective buyer’s impression.


Step 6: Showings

You have one shot once a buyer steps into your home. It is important to make a good first impression!

At this point, your home becomes a house for sale. It is sometimes hard to make this transference, but once you see your home in this light, it will be easier to prepare it for sale.

Open houses are a chance for neighbors and casual shoppers a chance to see your home. Even if they are not interested in buying, they often tell others about it. 

Scheduled, in-person showings through the MLS are the most common way forpeople to view your home. Your agent can schedule them as close to or far apart as desired. In- person showings allow buyers to be able to experience your house as their new possible home.

A secure, programmable lockbox allows agents to show your home only when the lockbox is programmed to allow it and records which agents have brought people into your house.

The day before showings, touch up landscaping by mowing and making sure no weeds are cropping up in the lawn or beds. Make last-minute de-cluttering inside, and do not cook anything that will smell up the house! Remove all medicines and valuables and either put them in a safe or take them with you. Clear out any ant traps, mouse traps, poisons and bug sprays unless you want the buyer to think you have a pest problem!

Before you leave on the day of showings, make sure everything in your home is put away. Make one last pass with the vacuum and wipe down all surfaces. Have the thermostat set at a comfortable temperature and leave lights on to brighten up each room. If you have pets, bring them and their beds and bowls with you.

Never be present at showings! Except in extremely rare circumstances, buyers and their agents should be allowed to view your home without being watched. Having the owner present prevents buyers from being able to imagine the home as theirs. Don’t loiter near your house, either. It will make buyers uncomfortable.


Step 7: Receiving Offers and Negotiating

Your work is done - now comes the fun part! This is the goal that preparations and marketing was designed to meet.

Review all offers with your agent. Your agent is required by law to present all offers. This can be done all at once at a designated time, or individually as they come in.

Single-offer negotiations occur when only one offer is received. In this case, you will need to maximize your profit and convenience while not causing the buyer to walk away. An agent with excellent negotiations skills is critical to your success.

Multiple-offer negotiations are also common in today’s market. It is important to carefully compare competing offers. Often, the offer that looks like the best isn’t as good as it looks. Other than the money, is the buyer truly qualified? Will it close on time? Are there other contingencies? In addition, many agents will publish a “highest and best“ deadline for offers and then just pick the best. There is no reason to just pick an offer at the deadline. As the seller, you are in control! Negotiations with top offers can continue.

Personal letters written to you will often accompany offers in competitive situations. This can be very dangerous for you as the seller. If the letter reveals anything about the buyers’ race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, height, weight or marital status, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of being sued for discrimination. Even if you did not discriminate, if you didn’t choose their offer they might sue for discrimination. And if you did choose their offer, a competing offer might sue. So, it is best to not accept those letters. In fact, there is no way to know if they are even telling the truth!

You are bound by the terms of the contract once each party “bottom lines” the agreement, even if you get a better offer the following day. The only way to cancel is by exercising a contingency, and most of those are at the option of the buyer.

*Dave is one of only a few Master Certified Negotiation Experts in Michigan and one of only three in Washtenaw County.


Step 8: Inspections and Appraisals

There is no licensing process or requirement for home inspectors in Michigan. Anyone can call themselves a home inspector!

A home inspector is hired while the sale is pending, and they can be anyone the buyer chooses: uncle, sister, childhood friend. Just remember that you have a right to know who the inspector is and you always have the right to deny entry to anyone. After all, it is still your house! The inspector does not have the right to cause damage during the inspection but you will need to give the buyer a reasonable accommodation to inspect areas like the attic, crawlspaces and other difficult to access places. If the appliances are included in the sale, don’t leave dishes in the dishwasher or clothes in the washer or dryer. The inspector will run them to see how they work. He or she will also inspect the faucets, furnace, air conditioner, electrical system and check to see if the windows and doors operate properly.

Other inspections could be ordered, depending on your location or the type of loan the buyer has. Some these include pest inspections, septic system inspections, sewer line inspections, well water testing or radon testing. In fact, the buyer can inspect almost anything that would be part of the purchase.

The “inspection contingency” is usually a “contingency“ in the sales contract. That means that the buyers can reject the sale if they don’t like the results of the home inspection. They can also choose to renegotiate with you or ask for repairs to be made. This is an important part of the process and having an agent who can tell the difference between a real issue and attempt to just lower the price is critical. Even legitimate problems can be negotiated in your best interest instead of favoring the buyer.

A bank appraisal is usually ordered when the buyer arranges financing. This is another situation where the price is often renegotiated after the sales agreement is signed. You are not required to accept a lower appraisal. This is another point where an agent’s negotiating skills are important. 

A final walk-through is conducted by the buyer, usually within the 24 hours before the closing, to be sure that the house is in the same condition that it was when the purchase agreement was signed. 

*Having an agent who can tell the difference between a real issue and an attempt to just lower the price is critical in the negotiation process. Dave is a licensed builder with previous experience as a residential remodeler. (Michigan Residential Builders License #2101196465)

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step 9: closing

Closing on a home involves banks, governments, lawyers, title companies, agents, buyers, sellers and a lot of coordinating among them all.

The closing process should go smoothly with everybody walking away happy. If you and your agent have stayed on top of the process up until now, the chances of that happening increase considerably. All money paid out or received by both parties will be documented on a combined statement. The total amount of the sales price will be credited to you and then the expenses will be taken out.

The closing time and place in Michigan usually takes place at the title company, but can also be at a lawyer’s office or other location (even a hospital room), if necessary. Some documents are required to be signed in the presence of a notary. The buyer and seller do not need to be in the same place or sign at the same time. Either party both could conclude the transaction while out of town.

For a more detailed description of the closing, click here for our Seller's Guide.


 You and your realtor-team have successfully navigated a complicated process involving banks, lawyers, governments, title companies, buyers and their agents and the coordination among them all. Now you are all set to start the next chapter of your life!


Patricia T.
Bryanna G.
Shannon E.
Jason C.
Shane E.
Zack R.
Jennifer P.
Lora V.
Sarah P.
Cynthia P.

Dave made selling our home (which we thought would be very stressful) quite easy. He is very friendly and knowledgeable. His years of experience in selling real estate was obvious. He gave us great tips on purging items that we didn't need and suggested ways to stage our home so that it would look nicer during showings. He was always available to answer any questions we had. This was a great help since m...

— Patricia T.


As first-time buyers, my husband and I had so many questions throughout the process for which Dave was so eager to help. Dave is extremely knowledgeable, patient, and transparent about real estate and the housing market. What we liked most about working with Dave was his down-to-earth nature, understanding of houses (he also has a builder license or some equivalent), and his willingness to show us as man...

— Bryanna G.


Dave was fantastic to work with! I appreciated that he actively encouraged me to look at houses I knew I wouldn't get (because I hadn't sold my previous home out of state yet). This allowed me to look at many neighborhoods and types of houses so that way when I could buy, I could do so with confidence. Now I'm in the perfect house!

— Shannon E.


I could not imagine going through the process of buying a home with anyone other than Dave and Linda. They had so many incredible qualities that made them superb to work with. First, they work tirelessly. If I was interested in seeing a particular place, we saw it that same day, with no problems. Even when I was only moderately interested, they made the appointment happen. When we had questions or wanted...

— Jason C.


Dave was an amazing asset to have with all of his experience, not only as a real estate agent but also as a general contractor and master negotiator. We never felt neglected by Dave even though our budget was on the lower end. He was always communicative and engaged in our housing search. Though finding the right house did have its ups and downs, Dave was there every step of the way. His sense of humor a...

— Shane E.


First time selling, second time buying with Dave. Patience and experience are his best qualities. He never seems rushed or disinterested when viewing homes or getting your house ready to list. He also has a great deal of knowledge about home construction, which is very helpful when assessing homes for purchase. This was our first time working with Linda, his wife, and we found that she had a vault of kno...

— Zack R.


We bought our house with Dave a few years ago. We interviewed a few agents at that time and he was by and far our favorite. When it came about that we needed to move across the state and sell our home, there was no other option in our minds for a realtor. Dave came back and very clearly explained this side of the process. A fantastic experience as both a first-time buyer and seller.

— Jennifer P.


Dave and Linda are the most effective real estate agents we have ever worked with. We've bought and sold multiple houses in multiple states, so we really are speaking from experience. The two times we've been clients of theirs, we've been taken care of in every way. Dave and Linda have a talent for working hard without ever making you feel like you're asking too much (and we often were). We can't recomme...

— Lora V.


I have worked with Dave and Linda twice - once as a buyer and once as a seller. In both instances, it was a pleasure to have them as my agents. Neither buying nor selling was particularly easy due to circumstances outside of their or my control. However, they were supportive, informative, professional, and kind. I would highly recommend them!

— Sarah P.


Thank you for all you did to make the sale of our home a very pleasant and exciting experience. We wish you all the best as you help people in making their dreams come true!

— Cynthia P.

Work With Us

The process of buying a home can be emotional, time-consuming and stressful. Since we are both licensed Realtors, we offer twice the support of a single agent. Whatever the reasons for your move, we know this a very important event for you and we look forward to helping you successfully negotiate the change. Contact us!