Ultimate guide to selling
your house fast
If you need to sell a house quickly, odds are it’s because something unexpected has happened. Perhaps you get offered a job in another state or need to move so you can care for an aging parent. Maybe you’re getting divorced and downsizing, or it could be that you’re remarrying and so you need a larger home.
If you own an investment property, you may decide it’s time to sell–or perhaps you have nightmare tenants who’ve forced your hand. Other people need to sell a house fast when they inherit real estate they don’t want or need (say, a family home across the country), or for financial reasons (such as when your mortgage is underwater).
Regardless of the reason, when you need to sell your house ASAP, the stress adds up. Brokers may say they know how to sell your house fast, but you wonder whether they can deliver on their promises.
When you need to sell a house quickly, what’s your best option? The traditional real estate process is not known for moving quickly, especially if the market is already saturated with homes for sale.
Compare the real estate listing process with other strategies for selling a house ASAP in a slow market and decide what’s right for you when speed is essential.
Our guide covers, in detail, three unique ways to sell a home fast:
1. Using a real estate agent
2. Putting it up for sale by owner (FSBO)
3. Accepting cash offers from home buyers
You’ll learn how each method works and the pros and cons, to get a feel for your options. Then, our guide explains all the preparation you’d need to do before putting the home on the market, as well as the marketing efforts that will help sell the home. And since no real estate transaction is complete until the deal closes, we explain what closings look like in each scenario.
By the end of the guide, you’ll have an informed perspective on three ways to sell your home quickly, and will understand what actions you need to take.
Here's what we cover:
1. Consider Your Options
Real Estate Agent
Many home sellers work with a real estate agent to sell a home, relying on the agent’s expertise to price, advertise, and sell the home. When agents know the area well, they can price the home competitively so you are more likely to get a fast (and fair) offer.
Agents bring expertise and handle all the work for you, so you don’t have to put your life on hold to sell a home quickly.
For many home sellers, the trade-offs are worth the typical real estate agent commission of 6 percent. However, agents aren’t created equal and an inexperienced real estate agent could sabotage your sale by pricing the home too high or too low.
What’s more, fast sales are never guaranteed as it all depends on the market. A real estate agent can do everything possible to make your listing pop, but you still have to wait for an interested buyer.
In the meantime, you can expect disruption in your day-to-day life due to showings and open houses to attract potential buyers.
The traditional real estate agent takes on average around 6% of the sell price.
In FSBO, or for sale by owner, you manage the real estate listing process yourself, without the aid of a real estate agent. Home sellers usually choose FSBO when they want to avoid paying commission.
When selling a home yourself, you’ll do everything from the home cleaning and staging to pricing and marketing the listing, negotiating offers, drawing up the transaction paperwork, and closing the deal.
The main advantage of FSBO is avoiding real estate commissions because it leaves more money for you.
If you’re thinking about selling your home, then you may feel that you know more about the home and the neighborhood than a real estate agent does, but you likely still lack the expertise and market knowledge needed to set the perfect selling price.
Unfortunately, the cons of FSBO tend to outweigh the pros because for most people the work involved is both out of their comfort zone and demanding.
If you’re retired, with ample time to devote to the transaction, FSBO might work for you; if you need to sell your house ASAP on top of maintaining work and family life, the drawbacks tend to outweigh the advantages.
Cash for home buyers
Have you seen signs in your neighborhood advertising “We buy homes for cash?” If so, then you may have wondered what it would be like to sell a house fast for cash to an only-cash buyer.
Two words come to mind: fast and easy.
A cash buyer views your home and makes an offer, sometimes on the same day. Since they have cash, there’s no need for the buyer to get a mortgage–so you skip the process of waiting for the buyer to secure financing and can jump straight to closing.
Advantages of selling your house for cash
Convenience and speed are the main advantages of working with cash buyers; they can buy the home in as-is condition, so you can get out from under that house ASAP without having to make any repairs or upgrades.
You may leave some money on the table with a cash buyer, but for those who choose this option, the speed and convenience outweigh the disadvantages.
Additionally, selling your home quickly with a cash buyer will help reduce your holding costs (continued mortgage payments, insurance, utilities, etc.) that need to be paid while waiting for a qualified buyer.
2. Preparing to sell your house fast
FSBO or real estate agent
Preparing your home to sell looks the same whether you are working with a real estate agent or going the FSBO route.
First, you need to clean the house and make repairs. Typically cleaning tasks when preparing to sell your home include:
- Sweeping and mopping every room
- Sanitizing all bathrooms
- Polishing all appliances and faucets
- Cleaning all windows and glass in the home
- Removing all trash
- Organizing all misplaced items in the yard, living spaces, and garage
A real estate agent may recommend certain repairs that have a high return on investment, such as home improvements that generate significant curb appeal.
When you’re doing it yourself, you’ll need to decide on what fixes make sense based on their ROI and what you can do yourself, as opposed to hiring a professional.
Common repairs that sellers often opt to make before selling include:
- Make sure all kitchen appliances are working correctly
- All doors, drawers, and cabinets should all open and shut smoothly
- Replace missing boards on the exterior fence
- All sink faucets and showerheads should work without leaking. This would be a good time to double-check the water heater as well
- Repair all holes in the drywall from hanging photos, the TV, etc
- If the foundation is damaged that will need to be repaired or reported as well
- Ensure heat and AC are working correctly
Repainting to a neutral color is recommended, as this helps the home show well. At a minimum, paint over bright colors or hues that wouldn’t have a universal appeal, such as a lavender bedroom. You would be surprised how much better a home looks with a simple coat of paint to brighten things up.
After the home is clean, start to declutter and pack. Homes show best when they’re free of personal artifacts, such as family photos or special collections.
Buyers want to see themselves in the home, which they can’t do with personal possessions in every room.
After the home is clean and decluttered, stage each room to suggest how it will be used.
Either use the furniture you own or rent furniture (for instance, when you’re selling a home that was rented to tenants, who removed all their possessions at move-out).
Set up the furniture so it tells a story. Consider a dining table set with placemats and colorful napkins, with a bowl of fruit in the center of the table.
Don’t forget to stage the outside of the home with small improvements that boost curb appeal. For instance, mow the lawn, trim the hedges, and set a pot with cheery flowers on the front stairs.
Once the home is staged, take photos. If you’re not handy with a camera, bring in a real estate photographer who can use a wide-angle camera to get great shots of each room.
According to FitSmallBusiness, real estate photography typically costs between $95-$300. This pricing is generally based on a 3,000 square foot home and includes 10-25 MLS ready images.
If you’re doing it yourself, shoot photos on a sunny day when the home is filled with natural light. Use a tripod to steady the camera and take shots of each room from different angles, so you can select the best photos to advertise your listing.
A newer phone should be able to capture your home fine if used properly, but not all phones are created equal.
If you don’t have access to a more powerful camera phone, such as the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel – it may make sense to go with a professional photographer.
38% of buyers are selling to avoid renovations
Cash buyers don’t mind the clutter or repairs and companies like HomeGo even offer to haul your junk away after the purchase. Having this option makes the preparation process of selling your house a breeze.
No cleaning, no repairs, no contractors, and no photos.
3. Marketing Your Home
No matter which method you choose to sell your home fast, we recommend you begin by doing some real estate market research, so you know what the market trends are. When you’re setting your own price, this is essential; understanding market trends add helpful context for cash offers and real estate agent pricing tips.
This visualization below should help you get a better understanding of how pricing affects the number of buyers you will attract.
Look at flyers on real estate brokerages to see what similarly sized homes are going for.
You can also check online platforms such as Redfin or Zillow to see recently sold listings near you. As you look, try to understand where your home fits within these others listings.
Recently renovated homes will command much higher prices than yours, for instance. A home of similar size and age can tell you a lot about what you can expect to command.
There are many strategies for pricing. Some recommend setting a low asking price, in the hopes of generating a quick sale, maybe even with multiple offers.
Others recommend finding the sweet spot, where you price the home competitively so the widest range of buyers will be interested while ensuring a fair profit for yourself.
Real Estate Agent
Your marketing strategy is tied to the sales method you choose.
Your real estate agent will have a marketing plan for your home. Agents might create flyers, advertise online, or hold open houses for their peers so that other real estate agents know what’s on the market.
Typically, real estate agents hold open houses, where buyers can view the home. If the market is slow, an agent might hold showings instead, which is where they walk a single buyer through the home and answer any questions.
If you live in the home, make sure you understand how the real estate agent will schedule showings to minimize the disruption and inconvenience they can cause in your daily life.
Most of what you’re paying for with a real estate agent’s commission is their assistance in marketing your home and guiding you through the complicated process, thus it’s important that you choose an agent who has the skills and experience to sell your home fast.
Look for agents who have experience selling in your area and who regularly sell homes like yours (both in terms of price point and type).
Your real estate agent should have:
- A good amount of experience helping clients buy and sell homes
- Strong negotiating skills
- A great understanding of the real estate market at large and at the local level
- A list of references that can vouch for them. Check their reviews if they have them
If you try to sell a condo with an agent who never sells condos and whose listings usually sell for six figures higher than yours, you’ll wind up dissatisfied.
Ask tough questions when screening real estate agents, and don’t work with anyone who can’t answer them.
You may still owe your real estate agent commission if you back out of a sale…
Here are examples of questions you should ask a real estate agent before working with them:
- Who has been your most challenging client, and how did you handle it?
- What are some ways to make my offer more appealing besides just raising the price?
- How do you help buyers come to a decision?
- How long have you been working as a real estate agent?
- What marketing tools will you use to help me?
- How do you prefer to communicate? Are you quick to respond?
The use of the internet to sell your home is more important now than ever. Over half of home buyers find the property that they want to purchase with an online search, so make sure your home has a strong online presence.
If you’re using a realtor, you will want to ask for examples of how your agent plans to market your home online. A social media savvy agent is a must!
If you plan to sell your home on your own, be sure to make use of your personal social accounts as well as websites for online listings. The more places you can share your home, the more likely you are to catch the eye of the right buyer.
When you’re selling a home yourself, you can borrow from real estate agent strategies to sell your house fast.
Use photos to create high-quality online listings or flyers, which you can post in the neighborhood. Place a sign on the front lawn advertising the home is for sale by owner– you never know who may be interested!
Top FSBO Selling Strategies
To generate the most eyeballs on your house, and increase the odds of getting a fast offer, list on several sites such as Zillow, Craigslist, eBay, FSBO, and more.
Hold open houses on Saturday or Sunday. If you can get a good crowd in the open house, people may be motivated to put in an offer because they feel like they’re going to miss out on a good deal.
If you’re fairly handy with social media, take a newer approach from the real estate agent playbook and run some Facebook Ads. It’s not as hard as it looks, and if done right, can be very effective (and cost-friendly). The days of only being able to market your home on an MLS and through traditional channels, like knocking on doors and handing out flyers, are over.
Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube have seen a large increase in marketers using them as a tool to market homes for sale. There are tons of tutorials on how to sell your home using Facebook ads but here is one that will give you a brief overview of the process.
Cash for home buyers
Just as you would research a real estate agent before hiring them, you’ll want to research a cash buyer. Not all cash buyers are created equal and unfortunately, there are some players who are seeking to take advantage of those who want to sell their home as fast as possible.
Look for a cash buyer who is transparent about the process, including what if any fees they charge, and who explains their processing timeline clearly. Cash buyers should be willing to answer any questions you have and should never pressure you into selling or use fear tactics to scare you.
A reputable cash buyer, such as HomeGo, buys the home in as-is condition and doesn’t charge you commission or closing costs.
A good cash buyer is on your side. HomeGo uses state-certified contracts to protect you, clearly explains the entire process, and has licensed real estate agents* on our staff.
Questions to ask cash for home buyers
1. Who will look at my property
2. Do I need to pay any money up front?
3. Are there any fees?
We make it easy and safe to sell your home for cash, and in many cases, we make an offer on the day we first see your home. Our offers never change, and we close quickly so you can get on with your life.
4. Closing the deal
Closing is a complicated and sometimes lengthy process. Until the closing is officially complete, home sales can still fall through. Common issues at closing include unresolved title issues, mistakes in the documentation, and the buyer’s financing falling through.
Until the real estate transaction closes, you are the homeowner. That means you are still responsible for keeping up with the mortgage, utilities, and other expenses. So what does it take to close the deal?
Real estate agent and FSBO
According to NerdWallet, closing costs that are often the responsibility of the seller include:
- A property or deed transfer tax
- Recording fees
- Any outstanding liens or judgments against the property
- Repairs required following a home inspection
- Real estate agent commissions
- Title insurance
There are additional closing costs that are divided between the buyer and seller, too, including property taxes and any homeowner association dues.
The closing process is similar for these two options. During FSBO closing, you’re the one in charge of negotiating, although you can hire a real estate attorney to review the paperwork on your behalf.
With a real estate agent, you benefit from their expertise. They can help you negotiate if you receive a lowball offer, for instance.
Homebuyers in these options usually need mortgage financing. It is recommended that you accept an offer that comes with pre-approval, as this suggests that the borrower will qualify for a mortgage.
However, this is not guaranteed and deals can fall through if the buyer is unable to obtain a mortgage, or if the home is not appraised at the amount of the mortgage.
A traditional offer may come with a contingency, such as a buyer needs to sell their current house first. If the contingency is not met, it can drag out the sale.
If the buyer’s purchase of your home is contingent on the results of the home inspection and the report shows that repairs are needed, the buyer may back out of the sale altogether or ask you to either make the repairs yourself or lower the asking price.
The buyer needs to obtain homeowner’s insurance, and this can delay the closing time too. While most homes can close within 30 days of accepting the offer, it can take up to twice as long if there are delays with financing or insurance.
Cash for home buyers
With a cash buyer, the funds are already on hand so there’s no need to wait. Because the buyer has the money to move forward, the closing can take place in as little as one week.
Once you accept a cash offer, you’ll want to verify the buyer has the funds, typically by requesting 1-2 percent, which is held in escrow.
You’ll then clear title and escrow and set a closing date. After you sign all the paperwork, you’ll be out from under the house with the cash in hand to face the future.
There’s still paperwork with a cash deal–plus title needs to be cleared and the buyer needs to get insurance–so sometimes it may take longer than one week, but your time frame will be faster than with a buyer who needs a mortgage.
HomeGo is committed to helping you move out and move on, meaning we help clear title issues and handle any other concerns that may arise during the closing process.
5. Choosing the best option for you
Now that you have a better understanding of the real estate process working by yourself or with an agent, you see there are many similarities.
Both are effective ways to sell a home, but both can take a long time because you need to advertise the listing, hook a buyer, wait for them to get mortgage financing, wait for the bank to get everything in order, and then wait for the closing.
Anywhere in this process, you can encounter a delay that hits the pause button for weeks.
With a cash buyer, there are fewer delays. When you need to sell home fast, it’s by far the best way to do so provided that you find a cash buyer with integrity and professionalism.
Look to HomeGo for a quick, stress-free home sale. HomeGo has helped thousands of homeowners across the country ditch their unwanted properties, and we are ready to help you move out and move forward to the next stage of your life, quickly and confidently.