Home buying and selling is a big deal — and knowing how and when to start the process can be daunting. To help, Redfin agents have demystified the process and created a step-by-step infographic to guide you through the process. (click the image above to enlarge)
At Least Six Months Out:
Assess your situation and get your financials in order. Are you planning to stay in a home for at least five years? Have you saved up for your down payment and closing costs? This is the time to make sure you’ve filed your taxes and have a paper trail for major financial transactions from the past year. Discuss your financials with several mortgage brokers to shop for the best rate.
- Make a list of your cash accounts, 401(k), stocks and other investments.
- Identify and set aside your down payment.
- Move funds around early.
- Pull your credit report and look for errors.
- Pay down credit balances to a third of your credit limit.
- Don’t open new lines of credit or buy any big ticket items.
Start looking for homes online. According to the National Association of Realtors, 92 percent of homebuyers use the Internet as part of their home search, so it’s likely that you’ll do some of your searching online. Narrow down your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Ask the questions that will help set parameters for your search on Redfin.com: Are you set on buying a home in a particular school district or neighborhood? How many bedrooms do you need? Do you want a single-family home or are you open to a townhouse or condo?
Get pre-approved. It’s best to choose a local lender and get a pre-approval letter before you begin house hunting in earnest. You never know when your dream home will hit the market, and you want to be ready to make an offer. Don’t be tempted to just go with your current bank; it’s best to shop around to find the best rate.
Three Months Out:
Sign up for Redfin saved searches and Instant Updates. These tools will help you identify homes you want to see in person and will give you an idea what’s on the market. Set search parameters on Redfin.com (such as location, price, number of bedrooms, school zone, etc.) and then select “email me new listings” so you get email alerts any time a home comes on the market within your parameters. Redfin updates every 15 to 30 minutes, so you’ll always get the most up-to-date information about homes that fit your search criteria. Download the Redfin app to receive push notifications on your smartphone and tablet, so you can stay on top of your home search even when you are away from your computer. You can schedule a same-day tour request from your phone with a few taps on the screen.
Find a real estate agent who’s on your side. Homebuyers may spend as much money on a real estate agent as on a car, but many will choose an agent in less than an hour. Don’t be that person. Do your homework online and then ask to interview a few agents in person. Not sure what to ask? Check out 15 questions to ask when hiring a real estate agent. At Redfin, our agents are paid salaries and benefits and are also given customer service bonuses for providing excellent service to our clients. This means that they’re solely focused on helping you find the right home for you at the right time — no pressure, just customer service. Redfin surveys our clients through the entire home-buying process and posts every review online, so you can see what other homebuyers have said about each of our agents. Working with a Redfin agent can also save you thousands of dollars at closing, as we give back a portion of our commission — the Redfin Refund — on every house sold.
Attend open houses and go on home tours. Check out the Redfin home tour checklist to get the most out of each tour. You might not think, for instance, to make sure water spouts drain away from the house or to turn off any music playing so you can gauge road noise and airplane traffic. Redfin customers who completed a home purchase with Redfin in 2013 went on an average of six home tours. Since you can see up to six homes on each tour, that means they could have seen as many as 36 homes before making an offer.
You can also sign up for Instant Updates from the Redfin mobile app and receive notifications about nearby open houses for homes you’ve added to your favorites. The notification will include the time and the address of the open house for homes within a half-mile radius. You can adjust the radius for notifications anywhere from 0.25 to four miles. You’ll also be able to find additional information and driving or walking directions on the listing’s details page .
Stay strong. You may be waiting for a home that matches your criteria to hit the market or you may have lost out on a few offers. The home search process can be grueling, but keep your eye on the prize!
Two Months Out:
Submit or resubmit your pre-approval application. Most mortgage pre-approvals are good for 60 to 90 days. If your search extends beyond that, resubmit your application to last another 60 to 90 days.
Make an offer! You’ve found the home you want to call yours. Submit your offer as soon after touring the home as possible. Speed is of the essence in a competitive market with limited inventory. Talk with your agent about the terms of your deal and the competition you face.
Three Weeks Out:
Enter mutual acceptance, close the deal. It’s not quite time to sit back and relax. Buyers should be prepared to deposit earnest money, review the seller disclosure forms, review the ownership history and title and schedule a home inspection. Buyers also have to secure final loan approval from their lender and schedule the final walkthrough. All of this must take place before you can close.
Line up an inspector. You’ll want to have a licensed, skilled inspector conduct your home inspection. Your agent should have some recommendations, but another great place to look is the Redfin Open Book. Every service provider who works with a Redfin customer is profiled in our Open Book review system. For the providers who get outstanding reviews from Redfin customers and agents, we go through an additional screening process to ensure they share our values. If they do, we put our badge on their profile and they join the ranks of our “Redfin Certified” service providers. You can also use Redfin Open Book to find local lenders, attorneys, stagers and handymen.
Get your keys! Attend the closing and bring a government-issued ID and payment for any overages. This a great time to celebrate — you did it!
Enjoy your Redfin Refund. If you bought your home with a Redfin agent, you’ll receive a refund of 15 percent to 50 percent of the buyer’s agent commission after your closing day. In many states, the Redfin Refund can be applied to your closing costs.
Six Months Out:
Find a real estate agent who’s on your side. Evaluate two or three agents; don’t just hire the one who promises to sell your home for the highest price. Ask each agent which homes she’s sold in your area, how she’ll market your home, what she charges in fees and how quickly her last five to 10 listings sold. Read customer reviews. Be wary of agents who will lock you in for six months with a listing contract. What’s most important is an agent who will fight to get the deal that’s best for you, not just the deal that’s easiest for her. Redfin agents are paid salaries and benefits and are given customer service bonuses for providing top-notch service to our clients. They’re not worried about making a commission, so they’re focused on giving you honest feedback about the price of your home and attracting the most buyers with the strongest offers. Redfin technology has enabled us to streamline the home-selling process, so we charge sellers 1.5 percent commission, rather than the industry average of 3 percent. This results in thousands of dollars in savings at closing.
Look at the calendar. Strategize with your agent about when to put your home on the market. Things to consider include your personal schedule, the academic and holiday calendar, time of year and day of the week. Homes listed in winter are 16 percent more likely to sell within six months, sell a week faster and sell for 1.2 percent closer to list price than homes listed in any other season. Check out our six tips to attract homebuyers this winter for tips to make your winter open house successful.
Figure out where you’re moving. Determine if you’re planning to buy a new home right away or down the road or if you’re just looking to rent your next place. There are many scenarios to consider, so talk to your agent and come up with the right plan for you.
Three Months Out:
Make repairs. Do you need to patch a small hole in the wall or fix some peeling wallpaper? This is the time to make those small fixes. Check the roof, electrical system, plumbing, foundation, drainage and windows and make sure that all are in good condition. These are the types of things that will reveal themselves in a home inspection, and may be deal breakers for some potential buyers.
Deep clean. Before you list your home, do a deep cleaning. Wash the floors, scrub the grout, scour the kitchen, dust the blinds, wash the windows and steam clean the carpets. Remove anything you don’t absolutely need (consider putting it in storage, PODS or stacking it neatly in your garage) and organize the rest. Leave some furniture to define the space for listing photos and tours. People can better visualize how big a room is when key pieces of furniture are left in place. For a cleaning checklist, read these 10 spring cleaning tips that will help you sell your home.
One Month Out:
Stage your home. Keep your home organized and free of clutter when people are touring it. Think about how to use lighting to show off key features of the home and remove any personal items on display. Ask your agent for advice or hire a professional from Redfin Open Book. Check out our 13 tips for home staging.
Get professional listing photos taken. A Redfin analysis found that for homes listed between $200,000 and $1 million, those with listing photos taken with DSLR cameras sell for $3,400 to $11,200 more. Redfin pays for professional photography for all clients as part of the listing package.
One Week Out:
List your home on Thursday or Friday. Most homebuyers look at homes online throughout the week and go out to see homes in person on the weekend. Average daily website traffic on Redfin is 20 percent higher on weekdays than over the weekend, and traffic on Fridays is 29 percent higher than Sundays.
Prepare for the open house. The idea of having complete strangers walk through your home can be unnerving, but Redfin has several tips to help put your mind at ease. You want to put away valuables such as cash and jewelry as well as personal items such as family photos and your personal calendar. No one needs to know when you’re out of town.
After Listing Your Home:
Ask your agent for homebuyer feedback. A good agent will share this with you automatically, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Once your home is on the market, tour requests should start rolling in. Your agent should call each buyer’s agent and ask for feedback on the place and its price. If your home is overpriced or needs a few simple cosmetic changes, the agents representing the buyers will usually let your agent know as a professional courtesy. Once you hear the same feedback from a few buyers, act on it.
Monitor your listing. The Redfin Listing Dashboard allows home sellers to track online and in-person traffic to their listing compared with that of nearby comparable homes for sale.
Evaluate and negotiate the offers. Your agent will present all of the offers received, advise you on counteroffers and guide you through negotiating prices and terms, if needed. You should consider all the terms of the offer, not just the final listing price, to make sure you get the best deal.
Enter mutual acceptance, close the deal. Sign the offer, negotiate and complete inspection repairs, and start packing!
Closing Day! Work with your agent, lender and the title or escrow company to ensure a smooth transfer of ownership to the buyer. Then it’s time to celebrate!