Selling a Home in Texas

Some issues you should consider before selling your home in Texas:

Texas, like all states, has its own real estate laws and practices you must follow when selling a house. Here’s an overview of the basics—from working with a real estate agent to making legally-required disclosures to closing the deal.

Working with a Real Estate Professional

Most people who put their home up for sale in Texas, choose to work with a licensed real estate broker or an agent. A good real estate agent is knowledgeable about assessing the value of homes in your area, can effectively market your home to prospective buyers, handle other important issues such as reviewing purchase documents and negotiating with buyers.

Before you sign a listing agreement with any real estate agent, you should request references from other sellers and check out the reviews on the Internet.

Signing a Listing Agreement

Once you choose a real estate agent that you feel comfortable working with, you will be asked to sign a "Listing Agreement" giving the agent the right to market your home and handle the sale. Most real estate agents use standard forms that are provided by their Association of Realtors. Listing agreements typically include the following terms:

  • Real estate agent commission that you (the seller) pay. This typically ranges from 5 to 7% of the house sales price and is split between your real estate agent and the buyer's agent.
  • Type of listing. Most listing agents want you to sign an exclusive right to sell listing, that obligates you to pay a commission to the agent regardless of who brings in a buyer. Of course there are other listing agreements you could choose such as exclusive agency listing, but the most popular is the exclusive right to sell.
  • Length of listing. In all listing agreements you have to set an amount of time such as 3 months or 6 months. This is the amount of time that you agree to keep your house on the market with that agent.
  • Listing price. Your real estate agent will recommend the appropriate selling price for your home based on similar homes that have been listed and sold in your immediate area. Often sellers believe their home is worth more than it really is. Your agent can educate you in this area. Remember, a home that is priced too high won't sell and lingers on the market for too long, becoming a stale listing. Overpricing your home is a mistake that many sellers make when they don't use a real estate professional.
  • Items included or not included in the house sale. You may plan to leave your dishwasher behind but decide to take your fridge with you. Items that stay need to be specified and items that you are taking that aren't attached to the property need to be specified. Items that stay become a part of the property that the agent is contracted to sell.
  • Duties and obligations of seller and real estate agent. Your agreement will spell out how the real estate agent will list or market your house, what type of insurance you must maintain on the property and what disclosures you must make.

Real Estate Disclosures in Texas

Texas state law requires sellers to disclose any facts or conditions about their property that have a substantial impact on the value of the property and that others cannot easily see. To help sellers make all the required disclosures the Texas Association of Realtors offers a disclosure form, and your real estate agent will supply that to you. Details included on the form are:

  • contents such as specific appliances, and whether or not they need repair
  • the availability of working smoke detectors
  • defects in the electrical and other house systems
  • conditions such as termites or asbestos, and
  • homeowners' association fees, deed restrictions, and other specified details of the property

87% of sellers in Texas use a real estate agent when selling their house.

What Goes into Texas Offers, Counteroffers and Purchase Agreements

If a buyer wants to purchase a property in Texas they will make a formal offer to the seller, generally in writing. The buyer will specify the offer price, proposed down payment as well as any contingencies, for instance a satisfactory inspection report. Other contingencies can also include the buyers' arranging financing or selling their current house.

As the seller, you may reject any offer outright, accept it as is or respond with a counteroffer. A counteroffer accepts some or most of the offer terms but suggests changes such as a higher price or a different closing date.

A purchase agreement is drawn up upon acceptance of a final offer. The agreement will contain key terms of the sale such as the agreed upon price, contingencies, financing terms, dispute resolution and the closing date.

Once a purchase agreement is signed by both the buyer and the seller, the transaction will go into escrow.

What is Escrow?

Escrow is the time between the purchase agreement and the closing on the house. You choose an escrow or title agent to serve as intermediary and supervise the process of closing.

The buyer generally has more to do during this time than the seller. By the close of escrow, the buyer will need to finalize financing, remove all contingencies, have the house appraised and get title insurance - usually under set deadlines. Some issues may come up that may require negotiating such as who will pay for any repair problems. The buyer may insist that you pay for a repair or lower the purchase price. If you can't come to an agreement, the buyer may have the right to back out of the deal.

What Happens During Closing?

By the closing or settlement, you and the buyer should have fulfilled all the terms of the purchase agreement. At the closing, all final documents and funds are exchanged between buyer and seller. The buyer pays you the purchase price, and you give the buyer a deed and other transfer documents and clear title to the house. Then, any outstanding loans on the property are paid along with commissions to the real estate agents.

Closing With an Attorney

Unlike other states, Texas doesn't require sellers to include an attorney. Even though it isn't a requirement, you may decide to hire an attorney to assist with closing details. Also, if you are selling your home without a real estate agent, it may be useful to hire an attorney to help with the legal paperwork.

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