For sale sign in front of house

Every Step to Sell a House

Explore all the steps to selling a house in Northern Michigan with this complete guide to timelines, key milestones, and what to expect when working with a local realtor.

Step 1 Getting Started

Even when you’re still just thinking about selling your house, the process will always be easier the earlier you start. This is especially true here Up North where many homeowners are from out of town and who need extra time to juggle schedules.

With time on your side, you’ll benefit from your early start by making more informed decisions like picking the best month to sell for the highest price or deciding on the best selling price for your home.

Step 2 Prepare, Repair and Improve

Make sure you’re prepared to move out by packing and depersonalizing items throughout your house. This usually takes homeowners a lot longer than they first thought.

Next, you’ll want to do your best to fix or replace items that need repairs, such as furnace filters, light bulbs or missing light switch covers. In some cases, you might need to hire an electrician, plumber or some other type of trade to do the job. Remember, a buyer will likely bring in a professional inspector who is trained to spot deficiencies in homes.

Finally, work with your agent (see the next step) to find what makes your house look its best, including cleaning, rearranging and staging. A good goal is to make sure your home gives off a great first impression to interested buyers.

Step 3 Choosing an Agent

A real estate agent will handle everything from marketing and showings to negotiations and closing. But as your representative, their most important role is to protect your interests.

Before you choose a realtor, set up a time to meet them at your home where you can get a good understanding of how they work and what you can expect going forward. Making a list of questions beforehand is always helpful.

But don’t wait too long to make a choice. Any extra time your agent has to work on your behalf will likely benefit your bottom line.

Step 4 Listing Contracts and Disclosures

Immediately after selecting your listing agent, you’ll be presented with several contracts, forms and disclosures to review and sign.

Of these, the listing agreement details the terms that you’ve discussed with your agent including dates and duration, asking price (more on this in the next step), and the commission fee.

Step 5 Finding the Right Price

It would be a huge understatement to say that your home’s asking price is going to be important. As our market reports continually show, homes that are incorrectly priced sit on the market longer and sell for less in the long run.

This is why working with your agent early on is so critical. Take some extra time to consider your pricing targets by reviewing any data your agent presents. Together you’ll benefit from their professional insights and find ways to get top dollar for your home.

Step 6 Ordering Preliminary Title

In the Petoskey and Harbor Springs home market, it’s very common for the seller’s agent to get the title work moving as soon as possible. This is known as ordering preliminary title.

Since homes in our area can sell so quickly, having the preliminary title search early not only helps keep the pace moving, it importantly provides time to correct any potential problems that might be discovered.

Step 7 Marketing Production

Now that your home is polished and ready, your agent will hire a professional photographer to produce photos, videos, floor plans, and 3D mapping for marketing.

It’s ideal if this can be done on a sunny day or whenever your home looks its best (within reason).

Step 8 Your Home Listing Goes Live

Usually within a week of photography, your agent will be ready to publish your home’s listing live on their MLS where all other agents are notified. This system also feeds other websites across the internet (Zillow,, et al), making your home’s sale status instantly available to anyone interested.

Sometimes the publishing of your listing will be timed by your agent depending on their marketing strategy. This helps them target certain markets or maximize the exposure your listing will get.

Step 9 Showings

Perspective buyers and buyers’ agents will immediately start contacting your agent to setup in-person (sometimes via video) showings.

As the home seller, you will not be present during these showings. But rest assured that all interested buyers will always be accompanied by an agent. Your agent will discuss and coordinate everything with you ahead of time, including which days and times are permitted.

Step 10 Receiving and Reviewing Offers

When a buyer makes an offer, it will be delivered directly to your agent. They will thoroughly review it and check if anything needs clarification. It’s very common for the buyer’s agent to call, text or email your agent before they send in an offer.

After their review, your agent will present the offer to you, go over the details, and answer any questions you may have.

Step 11 Negotiations

A good faith negotiation between you and the perspective buyer begins by responding to the offer with any type of changed price or term. This negotiation almost always is handled between your respective agents.

The negotiation, normally communicated back and forth through offers and counteroffers, phone calls, texts and emails (sometimes meetings), eventually leads to either an acceptance or a rejection – and always in writing.

Step 12 Purchase Agreement and Escrow

When there is an accepted offer, the earnest money deposit (EMD) is recorded and the transaction enters escrow. This means a deal is in pending status.

Importantly, just because you have a signed purchase agreement (PA) does not mean you have a done-deal. You’re close but not quite there just yet.

Instead, now is the time when you both must follow through on the terms of the PA to satisfy certain conditions first. Usually this includes going through the full title policy process, getting inspections, appraisals, and securing financing.

Step 13 Appraisal

When a buyer is paying for your home with financing, their lending institution will order an appraisal before approving the loan.

The appraiser will generate a standardized valuation report by performing a visual assessment of the home’s details and condition. If their valuation matches or exceeds the amount being financed, then the bank will (almost always) approve the loan.

Step 14 Inspections

Unless otherwise detailed in the PA, most purchases include a window (usually 5-10 days) in which the buyer must complete their inspections of the home.

The type of inspections and their duration are highly dependent upon the type of home and property being purchased. Here in Northern Michigan, many homes have wells and septic systems that require additional attention. Some buyers also may want to bring in a trade, builder, engineer, or even an interior designer to give them an evaluation.

A typical home inspection takes two to three hours and the buyer will get the report immediately afterward. During the inspection, it’s common for the buyer and/or the buyer’s agent to be there, too.

Step 15 Final Negotiations

If during their inspection period the buyer finds something wrong, they can try to negotiate price and terms even further. As always, such negotiations should be done in good faith.

Step 16 Release of Contingencies

After all the conditions in the PA have been satisfied (such as the buyer’s inspection), your agent will want to get a waiver signed by the buyer that explicitly acknowledges as much. Getting the buyer to sign a release is just a little more assurance that things will go smoothly.

Step 17 Final Walkthrough

Usually just before the closing (almost always on the same day), the buyer will have a final walkthrough of the home accompanied by their agent. The purpose of the walkthrough is to provide them with an assurance that nothing has changed with the condition of the home and that everything is as it was agreed upon.

Step 18 Closing, Final Paperwork and Payment

The closing usually takes place at the title company on a prearranged day and time (your agent will have been coordinating this along the way).

However, the closing for the seller and the buyer can take place at the same or different times and locations. It can even be done remotely. This happens quite often in Northern Michigan where sellers and buyers are frequently from other areas of the state or country.

At the closing, the closing agent will review the final closing statement to ensure you understand how the proceeds will be distributed (you will have received a preliminary statement prior to this). You’ll then have to sign and initial several documents that acknowledge your agreement to all the terms.

Finally, you’ll receive payment in the amount of the sale less any deductions for paying off a mortgage balance, broker/agent commission, transfer taxes, etc. The final proceeds will be paid to you with a paper check or deposited in your back account via wire transfer.

The Key to Successful Selling

After reading this step-by-step guide to the home selling process, one thing should stand out above the rest: the importance of time.

Above all else, when you’re selling your home in our part of Northern Michigan, starting early and being prepared will help ensure a smooth selling process. But even if time isn’t on your side, knowing what to expect can save you headaches further down the road.

Since you’ve just read this article, you’re already better informed than you were before. Hopefully, you can use some or all of the information presented here to help your home sale be a success!

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