Your Abstract of Title   [Back to list]

You and I call it selling a house. The county calls it transferring title. Title refers to the rights that go along with owning a property. You must guarantee the new owners "clear title". This means you have the right to sell the property. A big part of the sale is showing you have clear title that you can transfer. Usually the person buying your home will need a mortgage. The buyer's mortgage company will order "title work" to be sure the title is clear at closing.

A title company takes care of the title search. The title search is one of a seller's closing costs. A title search is also required when there is not a mortgage, but there is no lender to order the work. Be sure someone representing the Buyer orders the title work.  There will be no closing until the title work is done. To get the title work done you must provide title evidence to the title company or the buyer's attorney for examination before closing. There are a couple types of title evidence:

1. Abstract, the older your home is the more likely it is that your title evidence is an abstract. Abstracts are usually a stack of legal size(8.5 x 14 inch) paper bound together often with a heavy paper cover. The sheets of paper represent the legal history of the property with the top sheets being the newest. When you bought your house you would have been told to keep it in a safe place like a safety deposit box.

2. Torrens Certificate or "Owners Duplicate" is a more modern form of title evidence. It is a large document or certificate that would have come to you via registered mail after closing when you bought the house, folded to fit in a business size envelope. It may have the words "OWNERS DUPLICATE" stamped on it. Despite this fact, it is the original document. This document certifies that a title search was done and there were no title issues at the last transfer of the property.

3. More recently an owner's title insurance policy is issued in place of the abstract or torrens certificate. Your closer or attorney will be able to give you more information about the title search and transferring title.




Pricing Your Home.     [Back to list]

Establishing the listing price of your home should depend on several factors:

We recommend you watch the ads for homes being sold in your area. Visit some open houses and invite a Realtor to give you a Market analysis. Realtors will typically do this with no charge. It is a chance for the Realtor to present them self as an expert, a chance for them to show you what they have to offer. You can also have a professional appraisal done. Weigh all of the information you have. The Realtor opinion may or may not be better than the appraisal. Don't hesitate to ask the appraiser and the Realtor how they made price judgments. Make sure your experts really know your area.

Generally, we think you should avoid pricing your home far above the price you expect to get. A realistic price is more likely to draw an offer from someone who is good to deal with. Over priced properties may attract those that don't mind haggling on price. Easy buyers will shy away.




Resources       [Back to list]

Don't forget to talk with Realtors. They are experts and often don't mind talking about their business.The County has much of the information you will need to list your house for sale. Many counties have helpful web sites with access to information about your house. Try a google search using your county name, the word county and maybe the word "taxes". Minnesota county web site address's follow this format:


In smaller counties it is often easy to visit the tax assessor's office or the auditor Treasures office to get information. Always check information supplied by previous owners and Realtors. Mistakes are easy to make and not uncommon.



Projects                        [Back to list]

Most home improvement projects return a small percentage of their cost in terms of the final sale price of your home. Projects such as a kitchen remodel or adding a bathroom traditionally rank as major projects with relatively high return. Even so they generally don't increase the value of the home by as much as they cost.

Here are some projects that we have seen give good payback.

If your kitchen is a real downer, consider new counter tops, floor vinyl, new handles and pulls, repainting cabinets or possibly new cabinet doors instead of a serious remodel. Many times it is best to clean it up and leave it alone.

You can put energy into cleaning and painting with a much better chance for getting your money back.


Staging            [Back to list]

Staging means presenting your house in its best light. You can get a lot of advice on this. In bigger cities there are folks who make a living staging homes for sale. Usually you don't need to go wild with the staging concept. Most importantly make sure the house looks and smells clean and get rid of extra clutter and leave lots of lights on, preferably lamps rather than ceiling lights. For many of us it feels like the house will never be ready to show. That's okay, you're not the only one.



Who will buy      [Back to list]

Whether or not you are selling your own home, it is a good exercise to think about who your potential buyers are. Try to see their point of view and present your house with them in mind. Will they like the wood shop or the big garage? Is the sun filled yard great for gardening or maybe it's a short walk to the neighborhood store. Regardless of the features you can make the house look better if you have thought about who will be looking at it.



Working with Realtors           [Back to list]

Your most powerful tool, the Multiple Listing service, belongs to and is run by Realtors. Even if you are selling FSBO, it is very likely the buyer of your home will be working with a Realtor. Take the attitude you are selling your home to the Realtor as well as the potential buyer. Make it easy and pleasant for them to do a showing and your home will be shown more often. Consider, how easy is it for the Realtor to set up a showing, how easy is it to get in the door? Things might go better without you, the owner, hanging around while the showing is going on.


Showing the House               [Back to list]

When you show your own home you will probably talk too much. It is hard not to. When you meet a new prospect chat a little to break the ice, but put a purpose in the conversation. Take mental notes whenever the potential buyer gives you a peace of information. Write down what you can remember about the buyer after the showing is over. Some of this information may prove important later when considering an offer.

As the showing continues make sure there are periods you are not talking. In fact, try remaining quiet occasionally during those uncomfortable times when it seems someone should speak. Often your prospect will fill the silence with some information about their motivation or background.



Questions to ask about an offer.            [Back to list]

What do the buyers like about my home?

Are the Buyers pre approved? From what bank, Who is the loan officer?

Is that important to the Buyer? Why (ask this about anything you might want to change on an offer)

Could they close earlier?

Where do they work?

Do they have a home to sell( is this offer contingent on the sale of that home - does it need to be contingent?)

Have they made offers on other homes? (especially if this is a low offer or difficult in some way- try to understand

their motivation)




Contingent offers              [Back to list]

"Contingent Offer" most often means subject to the sale of another home, though a purchase agreement can be contingent on many things. Contingent offers can lead to the sale of your house, but they are not the same as other offers. Read the contingency agreement and make sure you understand it. If things get complex you should consult an attorney. Keeping this in mind, the contingent offer we are used to is mostly just a promise. A promise to buy at a certain price within a certain time if a certain house can be sold. Usually you want to be able to keep your house on the market with the shortest possible time required for contingency removal. How good is the offer? Even though it is just a promise you may be committed to take the offer even if a better one comes along. Be careful before you take the offer, you want to know if that house is likely to sell. Are they just putting it on the market or has it been for sale for the past year? Is it priced right.?


Financing         [Back to list]

Most offers involve and are subject to financing. An important thing to understand is how solid is the buyer. Are they really "pre-approved" or are they just "pre qualified".

Pre approved means income and jobs have been verified, credit reports have been run and the file has been through underwriting. The buyer can purchase the house as long as the appraisal is satisfactory to the Bank. Pre -qualified means the buyers have visited with the loan officer and it appears they can get financing.

In many cases earnest money can be returned to the buyer if financing fails. You should be able to verify this by looking on the financing addendum.



Negotiating thoughts         [Back to list]

Try to understand why an offer is written the way it is. If you are considering making a counter offer, ask the Realtor or the buyer what they think the best way to counter would be. "Should we change the price or cut out the washer and dryer". "How important is the closing date?"

When someone goes out of their way to point out the weak points of a home, it may just mean they are interested. It could also mean the price is more than they want to or are able to spend.

If a realtor or prospect picks out what is wrong with the house beyond reason as a negotiation tactic it could simply mean they are inexperienced.

Always let people know their offer is appreciated.

Offers that counter back and forth more than three times often don't go together at all.

Inspections            [Back to list]

Many offers today are subject to inspection. Inspections are a good thing because they can head off future problems. As with everything, try to compress the time frame. Do the Buyers really need a week? Can they get it done in three days?


The Title company          [Back to list]

Once you have agreed to sell your house and a closing date has been set, there are some details to be taken care of. The paying off of mortgages,filing of legal documents and the actual closing is taken care of by the closer at the title company. Which title company and which closer is often determined by the lender or the Buyer's Realtor. Make it a point to find out who it is and call them two or three times before the closing to make sure everything is in order. Attorneys sometimes do closings as well.



Steps on the way to closing                    [Back to list]

It is important to note, the closing it's self and the words used to describe the process vary from state to state and even from region to region. In our Minnesota experience here is what happens.

There are a few things that must happen between making a purchase agreement and closing. It is smart to have conversations with the closer and Realtors involved about these things. Even if you make a call to the Realtor or closer and say nothing more than "Hi" , it is worth the your effort.




Should we take it with us?                  [Back to list]

Check your Purchase agreement. If you suspect it could cause confusion clarify long before closing - like when the Purchase agreement is accepted. Be careful about unattached hot tubs, swing sets and garden sheds. Often times people assume these things are attached to the property and expect them to stay. If they are not attached and are not considered part of the property, resolve it early.

What the Buyer finds after closing.                  [Back to list]

We are of the opinion that as a Seller you should make an effort to deliver your home to its next owner in the best possible condition. A new owner who finds a clean house free of debris with things in better shape than they expected is likely to give the benefit of the doubt if something doesn't go as expected. A little bit of extra effort could save you trouble in the future.


What happens at closing.                            [Back to list]

The closer, the Buyers and Sellers and any involved Realtors typically attend. Occasionally loan officers or even attorney's may attend. Now days Buyers and Sellers are usually kept apart during signing. Less talk means faster signing and more privacy for everyone. Closing usually takes place during business hours at the offices of a title company or attorney.

Because of all the loan papers closings usually take more effort for buyers than sellers. Usually, buyers and sellers sign papers separately. First the buyers go in and sign papers relating to financing and title transfer. Then the sellers are invited in to sign papers while the buyers wait. After this is your chance to chat and exchange things such as garage door openers keys and information.



What if we have a problem at closing?               [Back to list]

If you have kept up with details there probably won't be any problems at closing. If there are problems that actually delay the closing they can cause a lot of stress. Many times they seem much worse at the moment than they turn out to be. Try to step back and think about your options.

Often there will be pressure to allow the Buyer to move in even though the closing hasn't happened. Be careful about this. If it turns out to be a problem that can't be fixed you probably don't want the buyer living in your house.

If something is broken and needs to be fixed it may be suggested you give the buyer money to take care of it themselves. If you do this get it in writing from buyer that the issue is resolved. If there is some kind of problem with financing get a clear description of the problem and when it will be fixed. Ask what the worst case scenario would be.

If you have questions that are not answered on this web site please let us know and we will do our best to answer them. If they are specific and of a legal nature you should call an attorney. If you are making an important decision make sure you consult other sources of information.

Selling "For Sale By Owner" Tips . Here is some advice:

A blog with good general information

Real Estate Forms
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Browse Realtor MLS

Getting Ready
     Your Abstract of Title
     Pricing your home

Putting your home on the market
     Who will Buy
     Working with Realtors
     Doing your own Showings

We have an offer
     Questions to ask a Realtor or prospect
     Contingent offers
     Negotiation thoughts

After the Offer & Before Closing
     The title company
     Steps on the way to closing
     Should we take it with us
     What the buyer finds after closing

What happens at closing.
     Who comes to closing
     What does the closer do
     We have a problem