Thinking of Selling Your House Yourself? Read This First.

Selling your house without a realtor will save you the commission but you will have to learn the process and do all the work the realtor would normally do for you. You will need to advertise, show the house, negotiate, analyze potential buyers’ financial ability to buy and formalize the deal with as solid written agreement. Here are some other tasks you may not have thought about.

Seller Disclosure Statement. In Pennsylvania, every seller who occupied the house he is selling must complete a seller disclosure statement and provide it the potential buyers. The disclosure is designed to reveal all material defects in the property. It is important that a seller complete this honestly with full disclosure. Understanding what is considered a “material defect” can be challenging and has been the subject of numberous court decisions. The seller’s knowledge of lead-based paint in the house is part of the disclosure but also be aware that, by EPA regulation, a seller must give a give a buyer an EPA pamphlet explaining the dangers of lead-based paint. Further, the buyer must be given notice that he has the right to a 10 day period to conduct a lead assessment of the house. An honest and thorough disclosure will help protect you, the seller, from potential claims based on lack of disclosure or alleged, oral representations. An experienced real estate attorney should be consulted about completing the disclosure.

Municipal Inspections. Many municipalities require that houses be inspected for code compliance at time of sale. This might involve functions such as fire detection, electrical, structural safety and prohibited connections into the sanitary sewer. You should learn whether inspections are required in your municipality and the procedure involved. Sometimes, it can take weeks just to get the inspection done and if repairs are needed that is an issue you need to disclose and resolve in a timely fashion. Knowing about necessary inspections in advance and promptly timing your inspections will help your sale move forward without delay and uncertainty.

Buyer Deposit. There has been a trend toward smaller buyer deposits at the time of signing the agreement of sale. There was a time when a 10% deposit was the norm, but that is rarely the case now. Small deposits can pose problems for you. There a couple of important reasons why you should negotiate for the largest deposit possible.

  1. The deposit helps guarantee you that the buyer will diligently apply for a mortgage and perform his inspections as fast as possible so that these contingencies are satisfied.
  2. More importantly, the threat of losing the deposit will act as a deterrent to the buyer arbitrarily changing his mind about the house (buyer’s remorse) and, if he does, keeping the deposit as liquidated damages will help compensate you for the time your property was off the market and any costs you may have incurred.

In addition to these items, a well-written agreement of sale and strict adherence to the advice “put everything in writing” are important guidelines for every do-it-yourself seller to follow. The truly professional realtors perform important functions for a seller. To make your sales effort successful, inform yourself of the tasks ahead and commit to carrying them out promptly and thoroughly.

Meeting with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate attorney will likely save a do-it-yourself seller time and money and may make the difference between a financial mess and a successful sale. Contact one of our experienced real estate attorneys at 61-0-323-7464.