Before putting your home up for sale, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the legal and financial details involved. This way you can be prepared.
A Seller's Real Estate Agent Can Help
Many people find all the details involved, from setting a price to deciding whether to accept an offer, overwhelming. This is where a seller's agent can help. A seller's agent's loyalty is only to you, the seller, and he or she will keep your best interests in mind throughout the process.
The Wisconsin REALTORS Association offers a Find-A-Realtor database on its website, if you need help finding a good agent.
Choosing a Listing
Your listing will include a price and a description of your property. In setting the price, two of the most important considerations are the recent sales prices for similar homes and the market conditions in your area.
If you're contracting with an agent, you will also need to choose a listing type. Agents like the Exclusive Right to Sell listing, which guarantees them a commission no matter who sells the house, including you. You may be most familiar with the Multiple Listing, in which your agent sends your listing information to your local Multiple Listing Service to publish, providing exposure to all member agents.
Disclosing the True Condition of Your Property
As a seller, you must disclose any defects (problems) with your home to potential buyers. The Wisconsin REALTORS Association has a Real Estate Condition Report form that covers all necessary disclosures. For homes built before 1978, you must also disclose the presence of lead-based paint, according to federal law.
If you're lucky, you'll receive multiple offers and can pick the best one. Even if you only receive one, you are not obligated to accept it. You can wait and hope for something better. If you think an offer is good but not quite right, you can make a counteroffer, suggesting new terms for those you don't like. Offers and counteroffers must be in writing.
Creating Your Purchase Agreement
Once you and your buyer have agreed on terms, the document containing those terms becomes your purchase agreement. Once signed, it is legally binding.
Some of the terms in a purchase agreement are actually contingencies, meaning the final sale is contingent on those items being completed. An important contingency is the inspection. If it turns up serious defects, it could void the sale, depending on how it's written. Often the buyer will still want the house, but you will have to make concessions, such as lowering the price or paying for repairs.
Closing the Sale
When all contingencies have been taken care of, it's time to close the sale. This is where you and the buyer sign the final paperwork and often when you hand over the keys. You will not usually have to be at the closing yourself if you sign your paperwork in advance.
Getting Legal Advice
Remember, selling your home is a legal transaction, and real estate law can get confusing. Talk with an experienced attorney familiar with Wisconsin's residential real estate laws to make sure you do it right.