Selling A Home in Baltimore County

Home Seller’s Guide

Putting Your House On The Market

The first step toward putting your house up for sale is to meet with us. We will take a look at the features and conditions of your home and let you know if we advise any repair work, decluttering or staging be done before listing. We then spend some time “doing our homework” and come back to present you with our opinion on listing price, expected range of offers and marketing strategy.

Clean Up, Fix Up, Or Toss Out

Today, the home that stands out among similarly-priced houses is the home that sells. Why? Because it makes a good first impression that lasts right to the settlement table. Often you can improve the marketability of your house with some simple repairs or decluttering. And usually this can be done with more elbow grease than hard cash. The key is to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Practice making your house as appealing and uncluttered as the home you wish to buy.

Leave The Selling To Us

While the home seller is actively getting the house ready to show, the listing broker is actively spreading the word that the property is available. Generally speaking, the listing is promoted to two groups: the real estate community and the buying public.

Many home sellers are surprised to learn that approximately 56% of all buyers come from referrals between brokers and their vast network of contacts. Approximately 17% of buyers come from inquiries stimulated by “for sale” signs in yards. The remaining 27% of buyers come from a combination of the real estate company’s reputation and image, open houses, and advertising or other promotional efforts. Obviously, the most productive source of buyers is working closely with other brokers, and this is where your listing broker begins.

The selling process will be kicked off with a Brokers’ Open to market directly to agents. This typically occurs on Wednesdays, mid-day. We will then meet each appointment as they are made. We will market the property with full color custom brochures with professional photography, online websites such as Longandfoster.com and realtor.com and print ads in local publications.

Signing On The Dotted Line

A buyer makes an offer by submitting a written and signed offer to purchase, which will become the sales contract when ratified by everyone’s signature. Once the seller and buyer sign the paper, they are bound by the contract conditions.

The “presentation of a contract” begins when the selling agent presents the offer to the sellers’ agent. The listing agent then arranges a presentation appointment with the home seller. Once both sides are in agreement, then the sellers sign the contract and it is returned to the buyers’ agent; ratifying the contract.

Processing The Case, Etc.

The listing or selling broker (depending on local custom) oversees a contract through to closing and helps to place the financing, process the case, arrange various inspections and review financing and “points”.

At this stage, all contingencies will be satisfied and removed. The buyer will select a settlement and/or a title company, and the listing or selling broker will notify those firms and provide the vital information.

A number of professionals come into the home selling process during this period, including a home inspector (if requested by the buyer), well and septic inspectors, termite inspector, appraiser and attorneys. A mortgage approval can be made at application in many cases subject to verification of the information provided. However, on the chance that the financing falls through, the seller should keep the property in showable condition.

Buyer’s Final Inspection

The purpose of the walk-through inspection prior to settlement is to determine if conditions in the contract are satisfied. The time for the buyer to inspect and note defects for correction by the seller is during the contract negotiation and prior to signing the sales agreement. Repair or replacement items should be noted in the contract. Most resale homes are sold in “as is” condition, however, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing items should be in working condition.

It is up to the buyer to perform the inspection, not the seller who may or may not be present. The buyer should be accompanied by the selling broker and/or the listing broker. The home seller should be sure utilities are on so that equipment can be operated.

Signing Papers And Transferring Keys

The big day is here! Tonight you can pop open the champagne, but today there will be a lot of paper signing and a poignant passing of the keys (don’t forget the garage keys, and the electric garage opener, too).

At the settlement will be an attorney or title company representative, the buyer, listing and selling brokers, and all owners. The home seller should bring all warranties on equipment (or leave them in the house) and any instructions on equipment maintenance or operation.

The attorney will have searched the title, and obtained old and new lender instructions. First, all unresolved walk-through deficiencies are resolved.

With the buyer, the attorney explains the deed of trust, deed of trust note, and settlement sheets. The buyer signs all three, and pays the balance of the down payment and buyer’s closing costs.

With the seller, the attorney explains the deed and settlement sheets and gets the home seller’s signature on them. The seller pays appropriate closing costs.

Words To The Wise

Below is a handy guide of terms that sellers need to know.

Agent
A person acting on behalf of another, called the principal.

Agreement of Sale
Known by various names, such as “contract of purchase”, “purchase agreement”, “sales agreement”, or “binder”, according to location or jurisdiction. A contract in which a seller agrees to sell and a buyer agrees to buy, under certain specific terms and conditions spelled out in writing and signed by both parties.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) 
Includes quoted interest rate on the loan plus all additional service and finance charges associated with the loan. Includes all costs of financing; those paid at the time of closing and those paid over the term of the loan. The APR is usually slightly higher than the note rate.

Appraisal
An expert judgment or estimate of the quality or value of real estate as of a given date.

Assessed Value
The valuation placed upon property by a public tax assessor as the basis for taxes.

Bill of Sale
An instrument which transfers title to personal property (chattels); a “Deed” transfers real property.

Certificate of Title
A document signed by a title examiner or attorney, stating that the seller has a good marketable and insurable title.

Closing Statement (Settlement)
The computation of financial adjustments between buyer and seller as of the day of closing a sale to determine the net amount of money which buyer must pay to seller to complete purchase of the real estate and seller’s net proceeds. Also, “settlement sheets”, “HUD-1”.

Commission
Payment to a real estate broker for services performed.

Convey
To deed or transfer title of property from one person to another.

Deed
A formal written instrument by which title to real property is transferred from one owner to another. Also, “conveyance”.

Deed of Trust
Like a mortgage, a security instrument whereby real property is given as security for a debt. However, in a deed of trust there are three parties to the instrument: the borrower, the trustee, and the lender (or beneficiary).

Earnest Money
The money given to the seller by the potential buyer (usually held in escrow) upon the signing of the agreement of sale to show that buyer is serious about buying the house. Also, “deposit”.

Equity
The interest or value which owner has in real estate over and above the debts against it. (Sales Price – Mortgage Balance = Equity.)

Escrow
Funds, property, or other things of value left in trust to a third party. The escrow may be released upon the fulfillment of certain conditions or by agreement of the parties.

Fixture
What was formerly personal property which is now permanently attached to real property and goes with the property when it is sold.

Hazard Insurance
Protects against damages caused to property by fire, windstorms, and other common hazards.

Listing Contract 
Between a homeowner (as principal) and a licensed real estate broker (as agent) by which the broker is employed to market the real estate within a given time for which service the owner agrees to pay a commission. Also, “listing agreement”.

Market Value
The highest price which a buyer, ready, willing and able but not compelled to buy, would pay, and the lowest price a seller, ready, willing and able but not compelled to sell, would accept. Basis for “listing price”, or “asking price”.

Market Price
The actual amount for which a piece of property is sold. Also, “sales price”, “purchase price”.

Mortgage
A lien or claim against real property given by the buyer to the lender as security for money borrowed.

Mortgage Note
A written agreement to repay a loan. The agreement is secured by a mortgage, serves as proof of an indebtedness, and states the manner in which it shall be paid. Also, “deed of trust note”.

P.l.T.I.
Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Most residential mortgage payments include the above and are therefore referred to as P.I.T.I. Also, “carrying charges”.

Points
Sometimes called “discount points”, a point is one percent of the amount of the mortgage loan.

Prepayment Penalty
Penalty for the payment of a mortgage note or deed of trust note before it actually becomes due.

Principal
This word has several meanings:
(A) to denote the most important;
(B) a capital sum lent on interest;
(C) one who appoints an agent to act on their behalf;
(D) either party to a contract.

Property Management
The operation of real property, including the leasing of space, collection of rents, selection of tenants, and the repair and renovation of the buildings and grounds.

Prorate
To allocate between seller and buyer their proportionate share of an obligation paid or due. For example, a prorate of real property taxes, fire insurance, or condominium fee.

Sales Associate
A person with a real estate license and associated with a specific real estate broker.

Survey

A map or plat made by a licensed surveyor showing the results of measuring the land with its elevations, improvements, boundaries, and its relationship to surrounding tracts of land. A survey is often required by the lender to assure a building is actually sited on the land according to its legal description.

Title 
As generally used, a document that indicates rights of ownership and possession of a particular property.

Title Abstract
A summary of the public records relating to the title to a particular piece of land. An attorney or title company reviews an abstract or title to determine whether there are any title defects.

Title Insurance 
Protects lenders and homeowners against loss of their interest in property due to legal defects in title.

Title Search or Examination
A check of the title records, generally at the local courthouse, to make sure the buyer is purchasing a house from the legal owner and there are no liens, overdue special assessments, or other claims.

Transfer Tax
State tax, local tax (where applicable), and tax stamps (in some areas) required by law when title passes from one owner to another.

Ask your Long & Foster Sales Associate for a copy of the “Understanding the Role of the Real Estate Agent” (LF1192, for use in the state of Maryland only);”A REALTORS® Role” (LF1193, for use in the state of Virginia only); or “The Agency Disclosure Brochure” (LF1195, for use in the District of Columbia only).