If you are here, you are likely thinking about selling a home or some Real Estate here in Tallahassee. You may be looking for advice on where to start. The process can be overwhelming and cause sleepless nights, especially if you do not feel like there is someone in your corner watching out for you. We believe in providing a person selling a home with as much information as possible. We also want to help guide them through the various and complicated options available to them. For us, it is always people over property. We do not believe negotiating a sale should be a zero-sum game. We believe all parties should walk away from the transaction happily. We have answered many questions on our FAQ page.
The Process of Selling a Home
The process of selling a home involves a lot of moving parts and players that must communicate well with each other, and unfortunately, those who prey on ignorance. It is important for you to be able to have someone to help you sort it all out and protect yourself from charlatans and lawyers’ fees.
1) Hire a Professional, Full-Time Realtor.
Of course we are going to recommend that you hire a Realtor. (You didn't expect otherwise, did you?) Research and experience tells us that having professional representation impacts the outcomes in Real Estate matters. If you are like most people selling a home, getting the best price is your top goal. It likely is not your only goal. You may have timelines to meet, another house to find, or a myriad other things specific and unique to you and your family. You also want honesty and integrity. There are many excellent Realtors in Tallahassee, but there are a small number of agents that we wonder how they have kept their licenses. Pick an agent who will help you meet your goals, and not just say what they think you want to hear.
Some agents put in a stiff cancellation fees or similar disincentives to hold them accountable. Some will keep any deposit forfeited by the buyer in the event of a contract termination. Some Real Estate Agents do not split the commission evenly with the agent who brings the buyer. DO NOT let them do this to you. Anyone familiar with gaming theory knows that not treating other players ‘fairly’ leads to them ‘getting even’ with you when they can. There are some agents that have bad reputations with other agents and their homes do not sell as smoothly as others. Do NOT get caught in the crossfire and end up punished by a buyer’s agent for something unrelated to you. Just because an Real Estate Agent spends thousands a month on marketing does not mean that you will benefit from that investment. They are looking for their own clients that are selling or buying a home. Read the contract carefully and do not be afraid to ask the agent to justify or change their terms.
2) Get ready for the beauty pageant.
As we have mentioned before, there is no such thing as too clean or too pretty. Try to make your home as close to those staged pictures in glossy magazines as you can.
In the age of the internet, pictures have become your first showing. They need to be high quality and show your home in a flattering light and there must be many of them. We have found putting up additional photos increases the chances of a sale. In Tallahassee, the appliances usually stay with the house, unless specifically excluded in the sale.
When there is a showing, make sure to clean up and make the house as light and bright as you can, and then leave. People buying a home get nervous when the person who is selling the home hovers, even if they are being helpful.
Talk to your agent about showings and how you want them handled but be prepared to be flexible. We have some more helpful hints on our page about "Preparing Your Home To Be Sold".
3) Negotiate an offer.
We have a couple rules when it comes to negotiating.
- The answer is always no if you do not ask. So, if you get the low-ball offer, it may be an investor, or it may be a buyer telling you that they feel you are way overpriced. Take all offers seriously and send a counteroffer even if you ‘know’ they will reject it.
- Generally, your first offer is your highest. If you have ten showings and no offers or ten days without a showing, you are probably priced too high. There are exceptions to these generalizations.
- We do not believe that negotiations should be a zero-sum game with a clear winner and loser. Selling a home is stressful enough without trying to win something that is not even a contest. We believe in negotiating a win-win and we have the experience to think outside the box and do that.
- We believe in people over property and this means we will do everything we can to make you comfortable and happy with the negotiated terms.
- We will present ALL offers. Unless you tell us, in writing, that you do not want to see contracts below a certain amount or from a certain brokerage, we are going to send all offers to you for review and signature. Even if you are rejecting the offer, we ask you to sign to verify to the other agent that we have presented your offer and it stunk.
- Everything in Real Estate is negotiable. Everything in Real Estate can be solved by money.
4) Handling Inspections and Repair Requests.
Let us be frank here, it is the unknowns in selling a home that causes anxiety. We strongly encourage sellers to consider spending the approximately $400 for a home inspection prior to listing the home. We have a list of inspectors we use most and one of them will do pre-listing inspections for a discount. Even if the buyer has submitted and agreed to an ‘as-is’ contract does not mean that they will not try to negotiate repairs. Our rule for as-is contracts is that we DO NOT ask for any repairs unless the inspector finds something not obvious or something unforeseen. That does not mean all buyer’s agents advise their customers the same way. Even if there is an issue, you do not have to be on the hook to repair it. Most loans do not require repairs. In Tallahassee, it is usually the insurance companies that say they need a new roof to lower their risk (and the premium). The buyer may accept a credit or reduced home price and agree to handle the repairs themselves after closing. Sometimes money can be held in an escrow account after closing for certain big-ticket items needed by insurance or loans. If you do not live in the home, you will be required to provide utilities during the inspection process. Most importantly, DO NOT try to cover up any issues. It is better to lose a buyer than to lose a court case and damages.
5) The Appraisal.
After the housing market correction, there have been many more rules put in place to make sure the banks are not selling loans that cannot be recouped in the event of a mortgage default. There is usually a rotation of local appraisers.
6) The Title Search and Insurance.
The title agent, who transfers ownership from you to the new buyer on closing day, should be reaching out to you a couple weeks before closing to get your mortgage information. The agent may have you sign a form that allows the lender to give them your exact payoff amount for the closing date. A survey is required for title insurance (which is usually a buyer’s expense). If you have your old survey and have not made any changes to the property lines, the title company will likely be able to use it to issue a new title policy and save the buyer a couple hundred dollars. This can be something you offer in lieu of money during negotiations. If during the title search, the title company finds a lien or ‘cloud’ on your title, they will send you an email telling you what they found. It will be your responsibility to take care of it before ownership can be transferred to the buyer. It is during this time that the buyer will obtain homeowners insurance. If you have any part of your property in a flood zone, it is a good idea to provide a copy of the premium (dec page). Flood zones make buyers nervous and providing them with a realistic cost and likelihood of flood will help lower some anxiety. If you have a copy of the elevation study (often required for flood insurance) this document will be valid for the life of the property and can be used to save the buyer some money in closing costs.
7) Final Walk Through.
On the morning of, or the day before closing, the buyer will complete a walk-through before final acceptance of the house. At this point, the house should be clean and vacant. Leave the utilities on until closing day and let the utility company know the name of the buyer who will be calling to set up service in their name. If you have not already, make sure any negotiated repairs are completed professionally and receipts provided to your agent. Leave any spare keys, garage door openers, and manuals on the kitchen counter. Make sure all water valves and faucets are turned off. If you have any systems hooked to apps on your phone, cancel the subscription or account.
8) Closing for the Home Seller – O Happy Day!!
In the days of COVID-19, we were seeing fewer closings where the seller and buyer sit down together at the same table. This is a bummer because usually the buyer and seller have interesting conversations and the person selling a home can pass along useful information that may not have been delivered previously. (Like the number of trick or treaters or community quirks.) The home buyer usually has quite a few documents to sign (if there is a loan) and the seller only a handful. If there is not a traditional closing, the seller can stop by the title company and sign the documents that need their signature prior to the buyer. It should only take about 5 minutes. The seller will then get their proceeds after the buyer signs their documents. The proceeds are available immediately and can be wired to your account or you can pick up a check after the closing.
Please remember to bring a photo identification with you to closing. Your signature will need to be notarized and the closing agent will need it to verify you are who you say you are.
Please remember that all closing costs should be paid with a cashier’s check or money order. They will not take personal checks. You can also wire your money, but please do so carefully. We have had more than one person disappointed when they wired money to the wrong account and it was gone forever. Real Estate agents and closing agents are common targets for hackers. It is easy to hijack an email and send incorrect account information. The only way to know for sure is to call the title agent and ask her to verify the account numbers.
In Florida, if you are married and selling a home that was your homestead, the spouse will be required to sign something. Even if the spouse is not be on the deed, they may be asked to sign. If one spouse will not be available for closing, the other spouse can sign for him/her. The title agent or your mortgage holder will have a power of attorney drafted that allows this to work.
Involve us as early in the process as you feel comfortable. Selling a home and moving is a HUGE investment of time, energy, and emotion and the more we can talk with you and get to know you the better we will be able to help you when the pressure is on. Read through what we have posted here and get a feel for how we work. We can help you prep your home with suggestions for staging, repairs, and professionals to get your home ready for showings.
When you are ready, contact us in the way you would like to be communicated with – whether it be calling, texting or IM through our social media accounts. When you reach out, we will do two things:
- Setup a time to see the house and meet all of the people involved in the process (spouse, parent, child, sibling, etc.).
- Collect contact information and some basic information about your goals.
When we meet, we will be asking a bunch of questions about your situation, your wants, and needs so we can know how to achieve your goals. Because each family is unique, we like to talk to all the stakeholders at one time – we can even meet during the evening or weekend if that works best for you. Years of experience has taught us that when there is a stakeholder not involved in the beginning, things will go sideways at some point.
Buyer’s Perceived Value and The Price.
When we meet, we will have an honest conversation with you about the strengths and weaknesses of the condition of your house. We will help you decide what the priorities are and where best to spend money for a return on listing price. This can be a tough conversation to have, and we have lots of experience delivering information sensitively.
Incentives and Commission.
Research shows that offering buyers agents financial incentives can help sellers reach their goals. Research has also shown that the experience of the agent matters to the seller’s bottom line. Good agents are more than worth the commission they earn to handle the paperwork, negotiations, and emotions that come with selling a home. Most of the time, we negotiate our commission at 6%.
What You Can Expect From Us..
Your Actual Input, Not Our Assumptions
The best way to know is to ask, and we will ask a lot of questions. Surveys tell us what people selling a home want and look for in an agent, and we could assume you are like everyone else. However, we know it is probable that you have unique priorities and requirements. We will listen to you. We will work for you and never force our opinion, or the buyer’s or buyer’s agent’s opinion, of how things should be for you or your family.
We Will Find a Buyer for Your Home
Our marketing plan and media posts are designed to find a buyer for you. Our listings have an extensive syndication reach, and we invest in ads to reach buyers looking in your neighborhoods. You home will be shown in the best positive light in photos, and online, and we will negotiate for you with your priorities in mind. Your home will also be marketed to the buyers we are working with personally.
We Will Work to Sell Your Home Within Your Specific Time Frame
We will discuss with you all the things that will impact the pricing and speed of a sale. Marketing is a huge factor, and this is our expense for you. We also value your input in the marketing. You have loved your home and can help us show buyers how they will love your home too.
We Will Help You Price Your Home Competitively
We want your home to sell in your time frame. We will complete a thorough market analysis, and home condition review, and will be honest with you about what to expect at various price points. Pricing is a balancing act, and unlike many Real Estate agents, we will not list an overpriced house. Typically, properly priced homes in Tallahassee will receive an offer by the second weekend on the market.
We Will Help You Find Ways to Fix Up Your Home to Sell It for More
We will provide many suggestions for ‘free’ things to do to enhance the look and presentation of the property. We can also suggest local professionals – stagers, repairmen, contractors, etc.
We will Guide You Through Paperwork, Inspections, and Closing
It may not be very glamourous, but this part is particularly important.
We Educate Ourselves So We Can Help You
Beyond the required continuing education classes, we also read peer-reviewed journals, trade magazines, other agent’s blogs, and Facebook posts by agents and customers. We believe in focusing on what works and not wasting time and money for anyone.
A Final Thought - Reputation matters.
We are low-keyed and not pushy. We are Full-Time Realtors, focused on making customers happy. This is our career, and we take it seriously, and we serve our community of Realtors and Tallahassee in part by serving on committees and helping to educate the public and politicians on affordable housing and the challenges home buyers and sellers face in Florida. We have your best interests at heart and want to earn your future business and the business of your friends and family. We will keep you updated anytime we hear anything involving your transaction and will keep files on a shared drive you can access for up to 5 years after closing. While there are Real Estate Agents in our marketplace that live on drama, we tone down the emotion involved in the process by offering people selling a home perspective and alternatives.
We offer several checklists and put timelines on a shared calendar. We also have a list of professionals that we have used before and can trust to provide you with excellent customer service and communication. We know we are patient, helpful, and knowledgeable, but do not just take our word for it. We are also happy to share a list of local people who have worked with us in the past and would be happy to talk to you about their experience with us. There is also a lot of information on this site to guide you through the process even if you choose to work with another Realtor.