Whether you've outgrown a starter home or are downsizing an empty nest, selling your home has legal ramifications. Getting to know the process now will let you avoid problems later. Though the steps in selling a home are similar nationwide, Georgia law is unique in some areas. Find out what you need to do before you begin.
Is an Agent Necessary?
While it's possible to sell a home on your own, the "for sale by owner" option can get tricky. Without professional help, something as simple as showing the home to potential buyers can be a challenge. A broker can help guide you through the process. The Georgia Real Estate Commission offers tips on finding an agent and has a database searchable by name.
How to List Your Home
There are several options for listing your home. If you pick an open listing you can work with a few agents. Under an exclusive agency listing you're tied to one firm but you can sell the home on your own. An exclusive right-to-sell listing—the most common type—means your broker is the only one who can sell your house. Your agreement with your broker spells out the type of listing and the details such as the length of the listing.
A look around your neighborhood to see what other homes are selling for can help you decide how much to ask for yours. Also look at similar houses in other parts of town. These days sellers sometimes underprice homes to attract more potential buyers, which can drive up the price.
Under Georgia law, sellers have to reveal problems ranging from structural issues to abandoned mines or wells. Sellers also have to tell the truth if they're asked about something they're not necessarily required to disclose, such as the fact that someone was murdered in the house. A buyer might sue you later if you fail to disclose important information. Review a sample disclosure form for an idea of what you'll need to reveal.
Make Me an Offer
Just because someone makes an offer on your home does not mean you have to accept it. In fact, buyers and sellers usually go back and forth with offers and counteroffers. Amenities and repairs often are negotiated as well.
The Purchase Agreement
Once you've accepted an offer, a purchase agreement details such specifics as price and closing date. This document legally commits you to selling the house.
A home inspection occasionally turns up issues after a purchase agreement is signed. You still can resolve things with the buyer, though. Possibilities include lowering the price or agreeing to cover some repair costs.
At closing, the keys change hands and documents are finalized. You'll also have to pay any taxes or fees that are due. Remember to bring your driver's license or other identification with you.
This article provides an overview on selling a house. Consult a Georgia residential real estate attorney if you have specific questions.