Process of Selling A House – Step-By-Step Selling Guide [2019]

Selling your house can be one of the most important financial decisions of your life, but it shouldn’t be one of the most stressful!

In this guide we step through the process of selling your property.

Prior preparation and a thorough approach should see you dodge the pitfalls commonly involved in selling a property.

Should You Sell Your House?

There are any number of reasons why people decide to sell their house. However, there are a number of factors that everyone should consider. First of all, it is useful to gauge market conditions before you sell your property.

Try to find out where you’re at in the property cycle, and if you can, avoid selling at the bottom of the pricing cycle. Do some research and see what similar homes in similar areas are selling for. Most newspapers have extensive property sections that should clue you in to this.

Also consider the time of year you’re selling your home. The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn tend to be peak buying seasons, but consider what is right for your property.

Spring increase in property listings

If your house is light and airy with lots of shade, summer might be ideal. If it’s more closed and cosy, with a fire-place, winter might be right for you. This could help you get an extra margin on your selling price.

Finally, before you close the deal and sell your house, make sure you have an exit strategy. Where are you going next? How long before you take possession of you next home? Will you rent in the mean-time? A clear exit strategy will make the process of selling your home easier.

Don’t forget that there are financing options, like bridging loans, available for people who are looking to buy a house, and then sell. This means you can have the certainty of a second home while you find a buyer for your first home.

There are some things to be mindful of, especially if you haven’t got a clear settlement date, so have a look at our guide on bridging loans to see if it’s the right option for you.

What Price Is Your House?

When you’re selling a home, one of the most important things to be clear about is how much you think the property is worth. A bit of time spent researching the market can be well worth the effort here. There are a number of online sites that can offer suburb specific market reports (sometimes for a fee). You can also get a formal valuation from a qualified valuer, though this also costs money.

Alternatively, you could also visit auctions of comparable properties in your area and see what the market is doing. Talk to local agents as well. They will be keeping their ear close to the ground and should be able to give you an indication of what they think your property can sell for.

Make sure you stop by our Market Dashboard for more information on local market conditions.

choosing an agent to sell property

Sell It Yourself or Hire A Real Estate Agent to Sell Your House?

It is possible to sell your house yourself. It is even possible to hire an auctioneer to put the property to auction yourself. However, you should be aware that it can be quite a lot of work, and may not even save you money in the long run. See our article Why Use A Real Estate Agent to see why we urge everyone selling a house to consider employing an agent, and for more info on the services they offer.

Generally, you’re going to be putting a huge amount of work in just to stay on the right side of the law, never mind the extra work needed to get to the same level of service as a professional real estate agent.

It’s very easy come off as an anxious seller rather than a confident negotiator to potential buyers. You’re also missing a buyers database accumulated over years of property sales and contacts within the industry.

There is a reason why the market share for sale by owner properties is so low in Australia – just 2-3%. Advertising is more expensive, or even outright impossible, on the biggest real estate platforms for private sellers. Less advertising usually means lower competition and a lower price. What you’re saving in agent and advertising costs, you’re probably losing in the property sales price. Be very careful if you choose to go the private sale route.

If you do decide to use an agent to sell your property, you want to make sure that you have the best agent available.

Drop by our homepage for objective performance data on real estate agents in your area, and make sure you have one that delivers.

Which Method of Sale is Right For Your Property?

You’ve now picked your real estate agent (or you’ve decided on selling privately), but you need to figure out which sale method you want to use.

There are three main methods of sale and small variations of each. They are sale by auction, sale by private treaty and sale by tender. Have a look at our individual in-depth guides on each (including pros & cons) if you need more information or need to decide on which one to go with.

A sale by auction is a great way to create an exciting atmosphere and potentially drive up competition. A group of interested buyers are gathered on a certain day after an extensive marketing campaign and encouraged into placing increasingly high bids by the auctioneer. A survey of over 1000 agents in Sydney and Melbourne found that 90% of agents believe that you get a higher sales price through auction.

There is a lot of uncertainty when selling by auction. You can set a reserve price, but if your expectations are too high, you will have trouble selling it at the next auction. That’s even after shelling out for a second marketing campaign. According to CoreLogic, a real estate analytics and reporting company, auctions are suited towards higher value properties, with a bias towards houses over units.

auction statistics
Courtesy of CoreLogic, 2015

If privacy and direct negotiation are what you are after instead, consider selling by private treaty. It’s not nearly as thrilling, but it’s one of the most common methods of sale in Australia. The property is marketed and put up for sale with an asking price. Interested parties can then submit offers and can be negotiated with.

You avoid having to pay an auctioneer, and can decide at your leisure how to negotiate with interested buyers, so you stand to save a lot of stress and potentially money.

However, prices for private treaty rarely go above asking price, so setting your asking price too low could stand to lose you a lot of money. You need to be very sure about your property’s marketed price range.

A sale by tender is usually reserved for unique or high-end properties with no clear price. It is similar to private treaty in that offers are submitted privately – but the key point of difference is that the offers are only examined after a due date. The offers are then examined and the vendor can choose to accept an offer, negotiate or reject all offers entirely.

This means all buyers are acting independently. They are encouraged to put in their highest bid from the beginning, with no knowledge of the other bids on the property. You retain the privacy of the private treaty method of sale while still encouraging a healthy amount of competition.

However, if your marketing campaign does not create enough interest, you may find yourself paying for more marketing and spending time negotiating with buyers to receive an acceptable price.

styled property with furniture

Styling and Marketing Your Property

One of the best investments you can make during the selling process is funding a solid marketing and advertising campaign for your property. Within a highly competitive market, it’s best to ensure that your house is well-prepared and looking its best.

When planning a marketing strategy, it’s good to have an idea of the costs. This is one of those times when you have to engage in a serious discussion with your agent. Most of the time, top real estate agents will organise photos and/or videos of your house, but may also opt for additional methods of advertising, which they should notify you about and give quotes. 

There are many different ways to market your property. Most real estate agent companies offer a multitude of methods to promote your property, such as online real estate portals (e.g. Domain or realestate.com.au), signboards, local mailbox drops and newspaper advertising. Along with your agent, you should discuss which methods you can afford and should invest in to maximise exposure to your property.

Professional photography is one of the greatest property marketing tools you can invest in. Once your home is looking good, professionally taken photos of your interior and exterior are great for use in online listings, print advertisements, and your outdoor signage.

If you would like an updated idea of real estate photography fees in your area, make sure to read our Real Estate Photography Costs: 2019 Price List.

The importance of real estate photos and videos has been demonstrated by a survey of over 600 agents in Australia. 99% of surveyed agents said high-quality photos generated more interest among buyers, leading to increased inquiries, views of the property listing and ultimately sale price. 

Don’t discount newer technology in advertising your property. Adding aerial photography and videos to your listing can be a huge plus.

survey finds that videos increase interest by 400%
Courtesy of Top Snap, 2017

You are showing buyers the vicinity of the property or interior in high definition. Aerial shots give your buyers a great perspective of the location of your house within the neighbourhood, and its proximity from other areas, such as shops, schools, parks, and public transport.

Social media campaigns have also recently exploded in popularity amongst real estate agents. They are a great way to reach a huge audience of buyers without them having to actively seek out a property like yours online. You may notice ads yourself on Facebook, Instagram

Showing Your Home To Buyers – Open Houses

Your marketing and property styling isn’t just for the photographs on the listing or the pictures on the brochures. It’s also to bring in and interest buyers who visit your property.

Open houses are your chance to display your property up-close, so it’s important everything is in order before people start wandering in. That means at least a few weeks of planning the open home – down to the weather on the day.

According to Real Estate Institute of WA (REIWA) president Hayden Groves, it’s best to take advantage of a sunny day to get as many people in the door as possible. Be warned: you need to be careful not to accidentally schedule an open home on the same day as a major event, like an AFL grand final.

Make sure you follow our inspection day guide to cover every base when it comes to cleaning and setting up for the open home. You should consult a real estate agent or valuer on the potential gain from small renovations or touch-ups you could perform to help with discerning open day inspectors.

In general, just before the open home, make sure that every surface is clean and the garden is tidy and trimmed. If you have small valuables, make sure that they are out of sight or locked away – some particularly brave open house visitors may open drawers, cupboards and closets.

Your agent may encourage you to not be at the open house. It’s a good idea – the Australian Institute of Property mentions that it’s to help potential buyers imagine themselves living in the home. We think it’s to avoid unnerving visitors. After all, you are letting strangers into your living quarters – who wouldn’t watch them like a hawk? As long as your valuables are stashed away, you should rest assured.

Your real estate agent (and/or assistants) will be at the door and around the property taking down the details of interested parties. This is one of the most valuable sources of marketing after an open house – these are people that are in the area and were interested enough to walk through the door.

If you’re particularly lucky, you may even receive an offer at the open house, subject to financing requirements. This is why putting on a great open home is so important, it’s the buyer’s opportunity to really see the property up-close and your agent’s opportunity to talk to buyers face-to-face.

open homes are an important marketing tool

What Do You Include In The Sale Contract?

It is a common oversight in selling a house to forget to make a detailed list of inclusions and exclusions. When your house is open for inspection, many buyers will presume that everything they see is included in the sale.

It is up to you to specify exactly what is and what is not included in the sales contact. The clearer you are about things like curtains, burglar alarms, white goods, light fittings, awnings, clotheslines, above-ground pool and so on, the less room there is for confusion.

For more information on what should go into your contract of sale, have a look at our in-depth guide on them here.

Hire A Conveyancer For A Property Title Check

If you are selling your house, you have a legal obligation to give “good title” at the time the property is sold. This is a legal term. It means that you must make sure there is nothing preventing the buyer’s purchase of the property and that the buyer has all the documents necessary to be registered as the owner.

The title will list any person who has an interest in the property. For example, it will name the registered mortgagee (usually a bank). It will also list any caveats – a caveat is an alert that someone else claims a financial interest in the property.

There are even D.I.Y. conveyancing kits sold by companies online that will allow you to fulfil your legal obligations on your own. However, one small misstep can lead to huge repercussions, from a delayed settlement to denied financing. It’s usually worth it to hire a conveyancer or solicitor to assist you.

There’s a lot more to conveyancing than performing a simple title search – you usually need to look into strata laws, council rates/titles, land tax clearance and more. A professional conveyancer or solicitor ensures that these searches are completed and documents are drafted correctly.

prepared house for sale

Time To Sell The House

Once you have all your ducks in a row, make sure you’ve got your house ready for sale. Check out our quick guide on how to sell a house for more and then start some real estate agent comparisons here.

And then all the best of luck!