The home selling process differs from state to state, but there are some important steps that you should take before you put your house on the market--all steps that protect your interests and help you get the most return from your investment.
I've known sellers who signed a contract to sell their house before they knew if they were qualified to buy another. Either their financial circumstances had changed since their last purchase, and they could no longer qualify for a loan, or they weren't able to sell at a price that allowed them to buy the type of replacement house they wanted. They ended up renting or buying something that was far from ideal.
Before you decide to sell the house, get pre-approved by a lender you trust and research the housing market in the area where you wish to live so that you have a good idea how much it will take to buy a replacement.
Call your lender to check the payoff for your current home mortgage. You'll need the figure to complete Step 6.
Determine your home's fair market value. Real estate agents will usually help you determine value as a courtesy, but you might take it a step further and order an appraisal.
Will your closing proceeds cover your costs to acquire a new home? If not, do you have cash or other funding to make up the difference?
Make all needed repairs unless you want the house to be regarded as a fixer-upper. I'm not referring to cosmetic updates, but to items in need of repair. Anything that's obviously broken gives potential buyers a reason to submit a lower offer.
Most houses need at least a little spiffing up before they are shown to potential buyers. Great curb appeal, fresh paint indoors (and sometimes out), organized closets and cabinets, sparkling clean windows and appliances, and a clutter-free atmosphere are essential if you want the house to appeal to buyers.
If you're listing with a real estate agent, she'll no doubt ask you to leave when the house is shown. Why? Because lurking sellers make buyers nervous--they don't feel comfortable inspecting the house when they feel they are intruding.
Unless there's a real reason for it, don't ask your agent to be present for all showings. That's the kiss of death for showing activity. Other agents want privacy with their buyers and they don't usually have time to work around your agent's schedule.