Selling your house doesn't have to be complicated. By taking a few minutes to understand the process, as well as all the legal and financial issues involved, you can make things easier on yourself.

The Real Estate Agent

While you can certainly sell your home "by owner," you'll be responsible for setting the price, marketing the property, and evaluating offers. This can take up a lot of your time, and if you're not experienced, you might make mistakes. A seller's agent can help you with all these details, as well as with things such as deciding what repairs are most important to help your home sell. The North Carolina Real Estate Commission maintains an online database of agents with active licenses in the state.

The Listing

When you contract with a seller's agent, the document will include things like sales price, your agent's responsibilities, and a listing type. A common listing type is the multiple listing, in which your home appears in your local Multiple Listing Service publication. This allows any member agent to see it. Another option is an exclusive right to sell listing which involves you paying your agent a commission no matter who finds the buyer.

When setting the sales price for your property, you'll want to consider a number of variables, such as current market conditions and recent sales prices for similar homes in your area.

Disclosure Requirements

As a seller, you're legally obligated to tell potential buyers about any known problems with your house. This includes the presence of lead-based paint in houses built before 1978. If you hide problems, the buyer can sue you for defects that are discovered after closing. Disclosures should be in writing, using the NC Real Estate Commission's Disclosure Statement.

The Offer

An interested buyer will submit a written offer with terms of the sale, such as purchase price and a closing date. You can refuse any offer that doesn't meet your needs, or you can submit a counteroffer with changes to any terms that you don't like.

The Purchase Agreement

The purchase agreement is your legally binding sales contract. It contains all your agreed-upon terms of the sale, including price, household items included in the sale, and the closing date.

Post-Contract Negotiations

Your purchase agreement will most likely contain contingencies, which are things that need to be worked out before the sale is finalized. This means you may still have to do a little negotiating, especially if your buyer's home inspection turns up any defects. Small defects may not be an issue, but for larger ones, like a roof problem, you may need to consider reducing your sales price or fixing the problem yourself if you don't want to lose the sale.

The Closing

The closing is where you finalize all the paperwork, pay any necessary fees, and usually hand over the keys to your house. You have the choice of attending or signing your forms a few days in advance so your attorney can represent you at the closing.

The Attorney's Role

Real estate laws can be complicated, so anyone planning to sell their home should consult with an experienced real estate lawyer to avoid legal problems.

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