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Selling a house

This timeline is simply a memory aid for the things you'll need to do when selling your home. Your sequence may differ greatly, although you'll probably need to do most of the same things.

With today's market, many homes are taking longer than usual to sell. Still, houses in some locations will sell faster than others. It's smart to be prepared for any scenario.

12 weeks out

  • Decide whether you'll hire a real estate agent to sell your home or sell it on your own.
  • Interview real estate agents -- decide whom you want to represent you. If you decide to use an agent, check his or her credentials and make sure you see eye-to-eye on all the issues that matter to you.
  • Decide an asking price. Find out what other homes in your town cost.
  • For more specific prices in your neighborhood, ask a real estate agent for a free market analysis. The agent should price your house in line with your neighborhood. Agents do this for free because they want you to list your house with them.
  • Have title, deed and survey in hand when you're ready to list the house.
  • Determine what improvements need to be made -- cleaning, painting, landscaping or repairing. Consider hiring professionals to clean carpets, refinish wood floors or to do any major painting, tile or grout work. The real estate agent can help you decide what needs to be done. If there's something you're not going to do, such as repainting interior or exterior, get an estimate for the buyer.
  • Look into the potential tax breaks available to you as a home seller.
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8 weeks out

  • Make sure heating, air conditioning and any appliances you're leaving behind are in good working condition.
  • Clean the garage.
  • Take care of any landscaping needs.
  • Inspection -- If you really don't know what's wrong with the house, get an inspection. Otherwise, don't. The buyer will rely on their inspection.
  • The buyer's lender will probably order a termite infestation report.
  • Appraisal -- Get one only if it's needed as part of a corporate relocation package. In that case, your company will hire someone to appraise your home.

6 weeks out

  • Contingency plans -- What will you do if your house sells faster than you expected? Do you have a house or apartment lined up? If your buyer doesn't plan to move into your home right away, maybe you can rent it back from the buyer for a month or so.
  • Relocation -- If there's a corporate relocation involved, ask about any specific requirements. Know exactly how much the company will pay for moving expenses. Will they pay for one or two house-hunting trips? Temporary housing while you find a new home? Does your company offer assistance in the purchase of a new home?
  • If you haven't decided on a town, contact real estate agents in the area you're considering or check out Web sites that let you compare city demographics.
  • Get rid of anything you don't want to move. Have a garage sale.
  • Call three movers and get estimates. A low-ball estimate may look appealing, but it can cost you more money in the long run.
  • Make a list of everyone who needs to be notified of the move -- friends, relatives, creditors, schools, doctors and dentists.

5 weeks out

  • Contact your insurance company to make sure your belongings are covered during the move. If not, find out what the mover covers. Their basic insurance probably insures items by the pound, which is not enough. See what other insurance they offer.
  • Have an appraisal of expensive items you want shipped by the mover.
  • If you've refinanced recently, make sure everything has been recorded with regard to that mortgage.
  • If you're selling one property and purchasing another and you need money from the sale for the purchase, talk to your mortgage company about the time frame. They have programs where you can borrow against the sale but you have to take out the new mortgage with them.
  • If you're flying to your new location, book your flight and arrange for the mover or someone else to ship your car. Arrange for a rental car if necessary.
  • Vacant house -- If you have to move before your house is sold, check your insurance company for any insurance requirements. Insurance companies don't like to insure vacant houses.

4 weeks out

  • Start packing anything you don't want the movers packing.
  • Give away plants -- most movers won't take them. Movers also won't take flammables, paint, ammunition, chemicals and similar items.
  • Be prepared for closing. Talk with your attorney or representative. Make sure you understand any fees, commissions, taxes or points you may have to pay.

2 weeks out

  • Arrange to have utilities and phone service shut off, or transferred if it's a local move. Remember, movers need light, so have power turned off after you're sure the movers will be gone. Don't cancel cell phone service -- you may need it while en route to your new home.
  • Make sure you have arrangements for a place to stay assuming closing day is after you have vacated the house.

1 week out

  • Close your safe-deposit box. Important papers, jewelry, etc. should be kept with you for the move.
  • Get a cashier's check for the movers.

Moving day

  • Review the bill of lading very carefully.
  • If the house isn't sold yet, make sure a relative and the real estate agent have keys.

Closing day

  • You'll have plenty of papers to sign before getting the check for your property, and you may be invited to take a final walk through the house with the new owners.

With assistance from Lori Dahl, Burgdorff Realtors, Parsippany, N.J.,
and Jim Bradley, president of American Residential Lending, Atlanta.

-- Updated: July 22, 2008

Guide to Moving
30 yr fixed mtg 3.73%
15 yr fixed mtg 2.71%
5/1 jumbo ARM 3.20%
See Also

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