6 Questions to Ask Before Selling Your House

The idea of selling your home may be exciting, but there's a laundry list of questions you must ask yourself before even thinking about hiring a realtor. From determining if now is the best time to sell, to deciding if your curb appeal is up to par, consider this comprehensive list of presale questions to get your ducks in a row.

1. What is the remaining balance on my primary mortgage and any other home equity loans I have taken out?

You first need to determine if you can afford the process of selling your home. Ideally, you'll make a profit from the sale, but this doesn't always happen.

You need to check how much you owe on the mortgages and loans you've taken out. If your property is valued at more than what you owe, chances are you'll come out on top. But if you're already underwater on your loans and market or estimated value is less than what you owe the bank, you could be putting yourself at greater financial risk by selling. You'll need to pay off those debts when you sell.

2. What am I trying to accomplish with the sale of my home?

Simple question: Why do you want to move? Is this a personal choice? Do you need more or less space? Are you financially strapped in your current home?

You need to figure out if selling your home will actually help you achieve any of these goals. Maybe you owe too much on your mortgage, or the house sells for way less than you hoped. In this case, you're already off on a bad financial foot.

3. How much repair and cleanup work is needed to get my house ready for the highest offers?

Before any potential buyer walks through your door, you have to ready your property for viewing. Smart sellers understand that this may be quite the undertaking. Attention to detail outside and inside is important to show off your home's best assets and visually persuade the buyer that your home should be their new home.

Curb appeal is also a major selling point for most buyers, which means that you may need to hire a landscaper, plant greenery, or otherwise tidy up the exterior of your property. As this may be a substantial task (both in time and money), new questions arise: Are you willing to put the time, effort, and money into doing these repairs and cleanup, or are you willing to accept a lower market value?

You may want to ask your realtor if they can recommend professional, well-reviewed vendors to do any electrical, plumbing, HVAC, sewer, roof, or painting work that needs to be done. These repairs and enhancements can be costly, so it's important to keep that in mind when moving forward.

4. Is this the right time of year to sell my home?

While interest rates generally dictate the good and bad times to sell a home, so does the time of year. Historically speaking, the months of April, May, and June see a peak in home sales, but don't get hung up on that small window — there are buyers during all seasons. You just have to accommodate your listing to the time of year.

"The weather's great, the kids are just about to finish their school term, and your garden has never looked better [in the spring]," says Michael A. Pallares, a Boston-based realtor with Andrew Mitchell & Company. "If you have to sell at another time of the year, then the right marketing tactics you choose will help bring the right buyers to your door. Selling in the fall? Promote the idea of a 'new home in the new year.' Selling in the summer? Mention how the buyers can enjoy the in-ground pool as soon as they unpack. People need a home at all times of the year, so don't stress about the 'ideal' time to sell."

5. Do I really need to hire an agent?

Though I've purchased a few homes, I haven't yet sold any. But I can tell you this: Unless you're a real estate professional who understands all the marketing and legal aspects of a home sale, you'll want to hire an agent who does. You may balk at the commission you're forking over to get the job done, but it's certainly worth freeing yourself from the burden of taking on a task that you don't fully understand. You can also be sure that the agent will try to get you the best possible price.

"An experienced realtor will take the stress and worry of selling your home right out of your hands," Pallares explains. "He or she will handle all aspects of the sale, from determining the proper market value; producing marketing materials; handling all the contracts; negotiating the best sales price; ensuring the safety of your home during all showings; and, more importantly, selling your home for the best price in the shortest time."

6. Where am I going to move?

While you're in the process of selling your current home, it's probable that you'll also be looking for a new home to move into. This simultaneous sell-and-search can present logistical problems if you're not prepared.

Should you purchase a new home first, or wait until your current home is under contract? What should your realtor write into the listing contract about delaying possession of your house? Can you afford two mortgages if you purchase your new home first?

Answering these questions ahead of time will alleviate some of the hiccups along the way (you don't want to sleep in your storage unit, do you?) and reduce your overall stress throughout the process.

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