Whether you have too much or too little house and want to sell, the process can be complicated. Specific laws in Washington govern transactions there, though the process is similar nationwide. Learn as much as you can before you begin so you can avoid problems later.
Finding a Broker
While some people want to handle home sales from beginning to end, most prefer to work with a professional. Brokers can help with listings, show the home, organize paperwork and more. The Washington Real Estate Commission offers help finding a broker, including a search that will let you verify if a person or firm is licensed.
Listing a Home
There are several arrangements you can use if you decide to work with a broker. Under an "open listing," anyone can sell the house, although real estate firms don't like such deals. Under an "exclusive agency listing," you can sell the house yourself, but otherwise only the firm you sign has the right to sell it. An "exclusive right to sell" agreement, the most common used, guarantees your agency that only it can sell the house for a set period of time.
Your actual listing will describe the property, the size of the home and lot, amenities and added features, and the quality of neighborhood. Reviewing sales prices for neighboring homes can help you set an asking price. You also can check listings on similar houses in other neighborhoods.
In Washington, sellers must complete disclosure forms that check off any flaw that might change a buyer's mind about the house — right-of-way disputes or problems with the heating system, for example. The buyer can rescind any signed purchase agreement if he sees something he doesn't like in the disclosure, but at the same time the owner can get in legal trouble for not disclosing problems.
You have a potential buyers, but there's a big gap between what they want to pay and your asking price. No problem. In fact, buyers typically expect you to make a counteroffer. In addition to price, offers can incorporate appliances, furnishings or repairs.
Once price is settled, detail that and other crucial points such as earnest money and financing in a purchase agreement. This document outlines the sales process from offer through closing, and it's legally binding. Review a sample document to get an idea of what to expect.
Occasionally an inspection will turn up a problem with the property, but this doesn't mean the deal is off. You and the buyer can reopen negotiations if you still want to complete the sale. Possibilities include lowering the price or agreeing to pay for some repairs.
Now that you're ready to close, you and the buyer sign all paperwork and you turn over keys, plus pay any fees or taxes owed. Don't forget to bring a photo identification with you.
Real estate laws in Washington are complicated, and each situation is unique. This article is intended only as a general overview. For legal advice specific to your transaction, contact an attorney.