Basic Guide to Selling A Home

This document is intended to be a general guide to the home selling process in Massachusetts. It is a general guide and does not mean that when selling a home, the process may not deviate from this document.

Agent Selection

Selecting an agent to sell your home is an important one. Do not select an agent based on the suggested listing price of your home; select an agent based on his/her ability to properly carry out the transaction from preparing your home for sale to effectively marketing your home through to closing. You will be working closely with whomever you select and you need to feel secure and trust the agent that you select. If one agent gives you a higher price for your home, discuss that with another agent you may be considering. Always review the market analysis carefully and make sure you understand how the agent arrived at their number.

Listing Agreement

The contract that employs the services of the listing agent is the Listing Agreement. In it, items such as price, length of contract, and brokerage fees are set forth. The listing agent is a seller's agent and works in the best interest of the seller.

Pricing Strategy

In developing a pricing strategy with clients, realtors look at current market conditions and the factors specific to your home, i.e., comparable sales, location, condition, etc. After review of these items, the seller along with the agent agrees on a price at which the home is brought to market and listed for sale. In listing a property for sale, you should keep in mind that on the open market demand determines price, and the buyers routinely comparison shop.

A market analysis provides a seller with a "range of value." Should you price your property where comparable sales are occurring and hold firm if lower offers are made? Or start high, expecting to negotiate or reduce price after the market has been tested? These are the kinds of questions to consider. A good idea is to actually drive by or view competing properties to get a better understanding of how the agent arrived at the recommended selling price.

Gathering information on the special features of your home and improvements made, along with the dates, is most helpful to aid when reviewing value and, thereafter, marketing and showing your property.

At the beginning stage of the listing process it is useful to collect pertinent documents and records which you may have on file such as a copy of the deed, plot plan, utility bills, deleading certificate, previous title search abstracts, condominium documents, etc.


A good faith effort should be made by you to provide accurate information to the listing agent regarding any disclosures related to the property. By disclosing any known defect in the property, i.e., termite damage/treatment, water in the basement, etc., you reduce the likelihood that a buyer could later attempt to renegotiate price, cancel the sale, or seek legal recourse.

An agent's intent should be to disclose to customers information that they believe to be relevant to the sale of your property. While the role of the realtor is that of marketing agent, not a home inspector, potential buyers expect that they will have basic knowledge about your property. Be upfront with your agent -- always disclose.

How the Marketplace Works

It is very important for the listing agent to promote the property within the brokerage community (through broker open houses, mailings, phone contact, and a competitive commission split). Rarely do buyers purchase the home on which they initially inquire. In fact, the majority of buyers come to learn about properties they buy through prior agent contact and/or the internet and not the newspaper. Secondary buyer sources are direct mail pieces and signs. Today, many buyers register on realtor websites, which inform them daily of new listings and price reductions. Another interesting statistic is that over 70-80% of buyers are local people already living in the Greater Boston marketplace.

To promote your property effectively, your realtor should design a marketing program which suits your property specifically. Some of the key elements which may be included are:

  1. Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
  2. Produce still digital images and/or video tours of the property for internet/print promotion
  3. Placement of the property on the company website
  4. Placement of the property on highly visited regional ( and national ( websites
  5. Creation of property brochure and/or buyer take-home pieces
  6. Open House for the brokerage community and public
  7. Newspaper ad for the major and local papers
  8. A New Listing Announcement Mailing
  9. Sign Placement


Merchandising is the process of making your property show well. This will help a home sell faster and occasionally for more money if your improvements bring value. Your realtor should talk with you about things you can do to make your property more attractive to a typical buyer. Many are simply common sense, and, while you may know them already, our experience is that heeding to them can make a difference.

Practical Tips for Preparing Your Home for Showing:

  1. First impressions are lasting... The front door greets the prospect. Make sure it and the approach to it present well. Sprucing up your landscaping gives your home a cared for appearance.
  2. Decorating can be a plus... Sometimes a new kitchen floor, sanding floors, a new carpet, or a fresh coat of paint can make a difference. Neutral colors are best.
  3. Let there be light... Make sure the lights are all functioning (full wattage bulbs), the draperies open, etc.
  4. Bathrooms are important... Put away all the toiletries and medicines. Check to see that the grouting/caulking is in good shape.
  5. Fix-up, throw-out... Now is the time to jettison those unwanted items which might be cluttering your home. It is a time, as well, to tackle minor maintenance items which you may have put off.
  6. Noise, pets, and aromas... As best you can, try to manage your home situation so that cooking aromas or pet odors are non-existent.


You should have legal council represent you. Now is the time to retain an attorney to act on your behalf. The attorney will prepare a new deed, negotiate the Purchase and Sales Agreement and come to the closing on your behalf. Some attorneys may want to see any offer that you would like to accept prior to acceptance. Others are comfortable having you contact them once the home inspection has been completed. Discuss with your attorney and your agent what the plan will be once you receive an offer.


It is your agent's obligation to present all offers to you. It is standard practice for the offer to be in writing and for it to be accompanied by an initial deposit, which is typically $1,000 but can be less. The form normally used is the Offer to Purchase Real Estate. All the terms of the offer need to be presented to you. The format which most offers take is a statement of the legal address of the property being sold, the amount of the proposed purchase price, the timing of deposit monies, the mortgage and financing terms, the proposed settlement date, and the conditions of any contingencies (such as an inspection clause, mortgage contingency clause, condominium document review clause, radon gas test clause, asbestos inspection clause). Typically the deposit will be held by the listing broker in an escrow account.

A response to the offer should be made within the time frame indicated on the offer. If the offer is deemed unacceptable, you may wish to reject it out-right or make a counter-offer. The prospective buyer may then accept the counter, or respond with another offer or withdraw.

Once the offer has been accepted you will move to the next step, which is the home inspection (if there is one in the offer). A home inspection is not a time for a buyer to renegotiate the price of the home, it is a time for the buyer to due their due diligence. A seller should keep in mind that if structural or mechanical issue arises out of the inspection, which prohibit the listing broker from putting the property back on the market without disclosure, the seller should consider addressing the issue.


  1. Seller's attorney fees.
  2. A newly prepared deed conveying title to the buyer.
  3. The Massachusetts excise stamps charged to the seller upon transfer of title are $4.56 per $1,000.00.
  4. Outstanding mortgages or other liens which are outstanding must be paid off at closing. Often written notice is necessary before lenders will release the payoff figures. An attorney will charge to secure a payoff figure and to draw a discharge and record the same.
  5. Adjustments to final water bill, sewer, electric, and oil readings are presented and recognized at closing.
  6. Brokerage fee is due and payable at closing.
  7. A smoke detector certificate must be issued by the Fire Department. The ordering of this needs to be coordinated well in advance as no closing can take place without a recent certificate (usually within sixty days) issued by the Fire Department. Your broker can assist you with the new regulations for smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and make the appointment for the inspection.
  8. Certificate as to unpaid common charges (also known as 6d Certificate and applicable to condominiums only) is required at closing in the form of a notarized statement from the trustees or board of managers of the condominium certifying that all outstanding condominium fees have been paid as of the month of the closing.
  9. If the seller has received the tax bill from his city or town, it should be brought to the closing whether paid or unpaid. If the tax bill is paid, bring to the closing a stamped receipt and inform the conveying attorney prior to the closing that you will be bringing your receipt. This along with the municipal lien certificate (which will have been ordered by the buyer's attorney), documents your lien status.
  10. If there are to be holdbacks or escrows because of outstanding issues, these issues need to be discussed well before the closing date. Mortgage lenders have become more stringent about holdback agreements and require that they be approved prior to closing.


Congratulations, you are now prepared to close!