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Frequently Asked Questions
Most frequent questions and answers
I am a licensed Realtor in the state of West Virginia and my office is located in Downtown Charles Town, WV. My focus is on the Eastern Panhandle including Jefferson County, Berkeley County, and Morgan County.
Although most sellers can handle routine real estate purchase contracts, some experts say it is a good idea to be represented by an attorney, particularly if you are selling on your own. You should choose one with expertise in real estate transactions. Before hiring someone discuss all the details of the transaction, including all legal costs you will incur.
A good attorney will assist you in completing the deal swiftly and with confidence.
Besides the costs related to making repairs and improving the overall appearance of the home, as the seller you will also need to pay the following:
- A real estate commission, if you use an agency to sell.
- Advertising costs, marketing materials, and other fees if you sell the home yourself.
- Attorney, closing, or other professional fees.
- Title insurance
- Excise tax for the sale.
- Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, homeowner association fees, and fuel tank rentals.
- Any other fees normally paid by sellers in your area, including points, survey, and appraisal fees.
To get a better handle on all costs, ask a real estate agent. Agents deal with this information daily and can give you a pretty good estimate of the closing costs you can expect to pay.
Yes. Once furniture is removed from the home, you will notice all kinds of imperfections you never paid attention to before – rips in the carpet, holes in the walls, and dinginess. In an empty house, everything stands out. What you see is what potential buyers will also see. So you may need to paint, tear up old carpet, and replace the kitchen floor.
To get rid of the “empty house” feeling, leave a few pieces of furniture behind – simple things like a lamp, chairs, and a table will do.
Pay special attention to maintenance. Someone will need to dust and vacuum, leaves will need to be raked, and the grass cut.
In the winter, consider having the heating system shut down and drained to save money.
But keep the electricity running because lights will be needed to show the house.
Watch out for that musty smell, particularly during the summer months, that settles in from having the windows sealed and locked. And beware of pests such as mice, squirrels, ants and bats.
One of the most important things to consider is price. You may want to reduce the price of your home or, at the very beginning, set it at a low price that will generate more buyer interest.
Cash is often an incentive, both for the buyer as well as the agent. You could offer the buyer a $1,000 to $2,000 decorating rebate upon closing the deal. It is also not uncommon to offer the selling agent a $500 bonus. However, some brokers – who supervise agents and run real estate offices – may prohibit such incentives, as do some Realtor boards. Check to find out.
Other common incentives: paying for the property inspection and warranty policy and getting your home preliminarily approved for FHA and VA loans, thereby making it more attractive to a larger number of buyers. Contact a lender who writes FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed loans.
This is a tough decision, but the answer will depend on your personal situation, as well as the condition of the local housing market.
If you put your home on the market first, you may have to scramble to find another one before settlement, which could cause you to buy a home that does not meet all your requirements. If you cannot find another home, you may need to move twice, temporarily staying with relatives or in a hotel.
On the other hand, if you make an offer to buy first, you may be tempted to sell your existing home quickly, even at a lower price.
The advantage of buying first is you can shop carefully for the right home and feel comfortable with your decision before putting the existing home on the market.
On the flip side, the advantage of selling your existing home first is that it maximizes your negotiating position because you are under no pressure to sell quickly. It also eliminates the need to carry two mortgages at once.
Talk with your agent for advice. Discuss the pros and of each and whether certain contingencies written into the contract can ease some of the pressures.
The best time to sell is when you are ready, or when you must. That is, when you have outgrown the space in your current home, or you prefer to trade down to something smaller. Perhaps your martial status has changed, which necessitates a move, or you need to relocate for a job.
Market conditions also play a role, as do seasonal conditions. For example, your chances of getting top dollar for your home are more likely in a seller’s market, when demand outweighs supply, than in a buyer’s market.
Local and national economic factors also may dictate when to sell.
Appraisals & Market Value
Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine a home’s value.
Your real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpricing your home or underestimating its value.
A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.
You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home’s potential worth.
A certified appraiser who is trained to provide the estimated value of a home determines its appraised value. The appraised value is based on comparable sales, the condition of the property, and several other factors.
Market value is the price the house will bring at a given point in time, once you and the buyer establish a “meeting of the minds” on price.
The list price is your advertised price, or asking price, for a home. It is a rough estimate of what you want to complete a home sale. A good way to determine if the list price is a fair one is to look at the sale prices of similar homes that have recently sold in the area.
The sale price is the actual amount the home sells for.
They can certainly be held accountable, particularly if they had prior knowledge of a material fact or should have known about it.
For example, if the seller has to use pans to collect water after a heavy rain, it is the agent’s responsibility to question the seller about the integrity of the roof, and then relay this information to potential buyers. However, if the seller deliberately hides a defect from the agent for which the agent had no prior knowledge, then the agent is not accountable.
Experts say agents are not home inspectors, but they are expected to use their best judgment when something appears suspicious.
Disclosure could protect you from a lawsuit. Today, home sellers in most states must now fill out a form disclosing material facts about their homes. Material facts are details about the home’s condition or legal status, as well as the age of various components.
If your state does not require a written disclosure, the real estate laws probably require sellers to disclose any known problems with the home they are selling.
The following examples include details that would qualify as material facts that must be revealed by sellers about their homes:
- Damage from wood boring insects
- Mold or mildew in the home
- Leaks in the roof or foundation walls
- Amount of property taxes paid annually
- Problems with sewer or septic systems
- Age of shingles and other roof components
- A buried oil tank
- Details about any individual who claims to have an interest in the property
- Information about a structure on the property that overlaps an adjacent property
Some things are not material facts and do not have to be disclosed. They include personal information about the seller and the seller’s reason for moving.
Among those things that may or may not be material facts: whether a death took place in the home or whether a home is considered haunted.
Working with a Realtor
Interview at least three local agents who sell homes in your community. Ask them about the following:
- The worth of your home. The agents should inspect the home and prepare a written comparative market analysis.
- Marketing plans. These are a must. Make sure to ask about regular newspaper ads, the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – which gives your home maximum exposure to all local agents – and Internet marketing through the agent’s Web site.
- Length of the listing agreement. Ask each agent what the typical time for a listing agreement is, and how the current market affects the length of the listing agreement.
- Number of listings. Find out how many listings the agent now has and how many he or she normally sells.
- Get references. Ask for the names and phone numbers of recent home sellers. Call them and ask if they were satisfied with the level of service delivered by the agent.
Most home sellers hire real estate agents to list and sell their homes. Most of those who do not are known as For Sale By Owners, or FSBOs. They market and sell their homes themselves.
However, a small number of people sell without marketing their homes. They include homeowners who transfer property to family members or landlords who directly offer tenants the first right to purchase property before they place it for sale on the market.
In the end, most FSBOs eventually hire an agent because the agent will handle all the details of a successful home sale – including the contract, forms, and disclosure statements – and expose the home to the widest range of prospective buyers through the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
To begin with, think local. Select someone who is very familiar with your neighborhood and the properties for sale in it. Then, if you are selling, say, a condominium, choose an agent with expertise selling apartments to potential homeowners.
Because you will want the widest possible exposure for your home, you also will want a real estate firm that works with other agencies to get your property sold. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) used by REALTORS® , licensed members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, is still the most common and effective form of cooperation used today.
Beyond these parameters, select an agent who is competent, efficient, and ethical.
Perhaps the agent who first sold you your home would be a perfect candidate. If not, ask family, friends, and neighbors for recommendations, or choose a firm headed by an individual who is known in your community.
Yes. There is no standard commission. They are not set by law and vary depending on service, customer needs, and company policy. In general, agents charge between 4 percent and 8 percent for full service. Some agents prefer not to offer sellers the option of paying a fee for an individual service.
If you insist on overpricing your home, an agent may well insist on a higher commission to cover the added marketing expenses and time that are needed to sell it.
Think of a commission as a point you must negotiate and evaluate.