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Sellers FAQ


You can get some idea of your home’s value by searching the Internet. A number of web sites list accurate sold data from which the site managers calculate a range of value. These are not official appraisals. They do not factor in aesthetic issues, location peculiarities, curb appeal or many other issues that contribute to value in our unique marketplace. They work better in areas where there is a more homogenous housing stock, and in a flat market.

It is very important to set the asking price of your home based on current market conditions. The comparative market analysis prepared by your agent provides the background data on which to base your list price decision. Depending on the current market, you and your agent can weigh the pros and cons of listing within the high or low ends of your range, with the goal to net you the most for your home in the shortest period of time.

Choosing the right agent can make all the difference in a successful home sale. Your agent should be a local professional agent with direct experience in your neighborhood. You should have good rapport and feel comfortable with the person you choose. They should be able to articulate their strategy for your home sale, present you with a professional written market analysis, and be able to provide references from satisfied clients.

Your agent can help you work out what your net proceeds would be based on a hypothetical sales price. You will want to confirm your loan payoff amount, and any other liens such as property taxes that you may owe. Your city may have a transfer tax, there is a county transfer tax, and there may be other costs associated with the sale such as a termite (structural pest control) report.

Making a good first impression is critical when you are placing your house for sale. Please refer to our list of suggested improvements to get started. Our agents are experienced in all aspects of home sale preparation.

The state of California has several statutory forms that ask specific questions regarding the condition of your home. They include the Transfer Disclosure Statement, the Natural Hazards Disclosure Statement, the Lead Hazards Disclosure Statement, the Smoke Detector and Water Heater Statements of Compliance, the Earthquake Hazards Statement, and the Supplemental Statutory Disclosure Statement. We also recommend the 10-page Buyer and Seller Advisory, the 4-page Supplemental Disclosure Statement, the East Bay Advisory and a Structural Pest Control Report. These are great risk management tools for sellers and we can help you provide an accurate and complete disclosure package for your buyer.

We have extensive experience dealing with trust sales and probates and are very familiar with the disclosure exemptions and requirements of these specialized sales. We will work with your attorney, or with any number of decision makers to help assure a smooth transition for your family.

Our agents are highly trained in the art of the open house. We take extra care to prepare an attractive informational flyer, place directional signs and place appropriate advertising to generate as much interest as possible in potential buyers. We recommend you make your home as welcoming as possible and remove any valuables from the home for your safety.

We recommend the use of lockboxes to simplify and encourage the showing of your property. The newest lockboxes record the agents who have used the boxes, register the time at which they entered, and disallow showings except for during normal daylight hours. They are made extremely tough so as to make theft extremely difficult. Agents must frequently update their key codes so that if an agent’s key is lost, it is useless to someone who finds it.

Staging, or using hired furniture and a designer to enhance the appeal of your home has become popular in our area. It is popular because it has proven results in terms of generating offers from buyers who appreciate the stylish and spacious look created by staging professionals. Many people use a combination of their own furniture and staging props, or simply pare down their existing furniture and eliminate clutter to best accentuate the space of their home. We can assist you in determining it this would be beneficial in your situation, and recommend experienced stagers if you are interested in exploring this option.

It pays to invest time and effort into preparing your home for sale. Eliminating clutter, deep cleaning, and making necessary repairs are the first steps. Fresh flowers, sprucing up the garden and purchasing fresh towels and linens make a big difference also. Check out our complete Tips for Sellers page.

If a prospective buyer makes an offer lower than the seller is willing to accept, the seller may make a counter offer, or reject the offer. A number of factors influence the decision in this case, such as the length of time the property has been on the market, any recent price reductions, comparable sales, overall strength of the offer in terms of down payment and contingencies, and the seriousness of the purchasers. Some buyers like to bargain before settling on a price, others don’t. Your agent can help you decide whether it may be best to negotiate, or to wait for something better.

The most common way for realtors to show a house that is occupied is either to make an appointment or leave a message saying what time they will be arriving. It is not necessary for the owner of the home to be present. In fact, it can be beneficial for the buyer to be alone in the home with their agent so they can better imagine themselves living there.

There are many reasons why a home does not receive an offer. There could have been a change in the market, the price may be too high, the realtor (not Marvin Gardens!) may not have exposed it adequately to the market, or there could be something about the house that most buyers object to such as the condition or the location. Your agent can help you determine if there is something you can physically change about the property to make it more appealing, re-examine your marketing strategy, or reduce the price.

The standard purchase contract that most realtors use in California includes contingencies for a loan, appraisal, and a physical inspection and review of the preliminary title report. As the seller’s agent, we advise you on the average length of time these contingencies normally take, help you counter offer the buyer if they are asking for an unreasonable amount of time, and monitor their contingencies to make sure they are removed in a timely way. Occasionally a buyer’s contract is contingent on the sale of another property. In this situation, we investigate into the sale of the property in question, and confirm if it is in escrow and how the escrow is progressing, so that you as seller could make an informed decision.

Escrow is the time period that starts when the contract between the buyer and seller is agreed upon and signed by both sides, but before ownership is transferred. This is when the time periods begin for the contract contingencies. At the beginning of the escrow period the agent “opens” escrow at the title company, and the buyer makes their good faith deposit, which here in Northern California is typically held by the title company.

Now the buyers begin the loan process, the appraisal is ordered, and they have their home inspection. The title company does its preliminary title search to confirm the address and location, and searches the county records to determine what outstanding liens and easements are recorded against the property. The title company orders the payoff demands from the mortgage holders, and collects money from the proceeds of the home’s sale to pay off any outstanding property taxes or city and county transfer taxes.

When all the terms of the contract are satisfied, the buyer and seller each sign the closing papers at the title company, (usually not at the same time or with attorneys such as they do in the Eastern party of the country). The buyer brings the remainder of their down payment and closing costs to title in the form of a cashier’s check or wire transfer. When the loan papers are signed they are sent back to the bank, which then funds the loan amount for the property to the title company. When the title company verifies the funds are in their account, they notify the county to record the deed in the name of the new buyer. This is when escrow is “closed.” The title company then makes a check or wires the sellers’ proceeds to the sellers’ account.

Real estate agents can advise about real estate matters, but do not give legal advice. Having an attorney and an accountant available to you to ask personal legal or tax advice is a good idea. In some areas of the country it is standard practice to have an attorney handle all the paperwork and be present at closing. In California, realtors handle all the paperwork on standard forms provided by the California Association of Realtors, and we do not have group closings where the buyer, seller and their respective attorneys attend.

Selling your house “as is” means that the buyer is accepting the condition of the property in its present condition, even if there are defects. Many buyers are willing to accept a property that needs work. The important thing is that all known defects are disclosed to the buyer and they have an opportunity to thoroughly inspect the property to their satisfaction.

We provide an informational guide with details on the taxes associated with selling a home, but we recommend that you consult with an accountant before selling your house so that you understand the tax consequences of the sale. Besides property taxes that you may owe and the city and county transfer tax, you may also have some capital gains tax. If the property is your primary residence and you have lived there two of the last five years, you may have a $250,000 exemption (or $500,000 exemption for a couple), provided you haven’t already used your exemption within two years.