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An Overview of the Residential Real Estate Sales Process

Sept. 3, 2018

Residential real estate sales can be overwhelming and confusing. Thankfully, the process is similar for every transaction. This means t you can prepare long before you find the right home, here’s how.

The Listing Agreement

If you are selling your home, you will start with creating a listing agreement. This agreement sets the asking s price, the commission your real estate agent will be paid, and also specifies the length of time the property will be listed, that is, remain on the market.

In a listing agreement, , you may also be required to disclose certain physical information about the property, such as the age or condition of the roof and any significant problems you have experienced. You are also required by federal law to disclose any known lead-based paint used in the home.

All of this information is vital to buyers who are considering purchasing the home. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, you will start the process with a listing agreement, if you are using a real estate agent. You may also list your home for sale yourself. There is no requirement to use a realtor and no need to have a listing agreement. Instead, you simply start advertising the home for sale independently.

The Purchase Offer

Once you have found the right house, you will submit a formal, written offer. The seller will then respond to the offer in one of three ways: rejection, acceptance, or making a counter-offer. While the focus at this initial stage is usually on the price, every aspect of the sale should be negotiated -- from time to close to appliances that are included in the deal or furniture you’d like to keep, to warranties and contingencies.

When both sides are in agreement, an official sales contract will be signed. This agreement finalizes the deal and sets out specific rights and obligations, including penalties if one party decides not to go through with the transaction in many circumstances.


Once the sales contract is finalized, the entire transaction is far from complete. The next step is to open escrow, which involves a neutral third party holding the contracts and funds related to the transition. These items will be held in escrow until all of the contingencies are fulfilled, and the transaction is completed.


While an inspection is not required in every transaction, it is a good idea to have one performed. In any event, most lenders will request an inspection to be completed before the sale is finalized. An inspection typically occurs a few days after the sales contract is signed, and is often one of the contingencies in a sales agreement.


As a buyer, you will be working with your lending institution throughout this process. While the loan application process can be very complicated, your lender should be able to walk you through the steps. Generally, the lending process will require that the property remain in escrow between 30 and 60 days.


The last step in the process is closing. This is when everything else is completed, and you transfer the title to the property to the new owner. Both parties will receive the finalized documents, the seller is paid the balance of the purchase price (usually from the loan proceeds), and the buyer will obtain the keys to their new home.