You've just taken the most important step in selling your house: you've contacted Iowa Realty, Iowa's best and largest team of real estate professionals. Experience has shown us that every home sale is unique. Yet every sale - from putting the house on the market through settlement day - shares a common process.

Iowa Realty's Seller's Handbook is designed to help you understand the selling process so you can make smart decisions every step of the way. For specific questions, your Iowa Realty agent is the best resource.


The Iowa Realty Peace of Mind Promise

Iowa Realty agents pledge to do the following:

  1. Furnish you with a list of comparable home sales to help you establish an accurate market price for your house.
  2. Explain how our more than 1,000 professional sales associates and our referral network covering all of the United States can help attract out-of-town buyers for your home.
  3. Explain how the Iowa Realty agent will represent you under our agency program.
  4. Explain how we create market awareness of your home through Iowa Realty's extensive marketing program.
  5. Assist you by answering specific questions and giving you a copy of our "18 Suggestions For Preparing Your Home For Sale".
  6. Review our checklist of concerns with you to eliminate surprises.
  7. Prepare a sample net proceeds sheet to how you approximately the amount of money you will clear when the sale closes.
  8. Place your listing on the Des Moines area Multiple Listing Service so your property gains maximum market exposure.
  9. Place our distinctive "FOR SALE" sign on your property (with your permission), for immediate exposure to the buying public.
  10. Present the Home Warranty Program for your peace of mind during the listing process and after the sale has finalized.
  11. Update you with frequent progress reports, by phone or personal visit, on what's been done to sell your property.
  12. Encourage prospective buyers to per-qualify so that only the most interested and qualified people come to your home, eliminating as much inconvenience to you as we can.
  13. Assist you in evaluation and negotiating all offers to purchase your property for the best price and according to your best interests.
  14. Assist attorneys, lending institutions, surveyors and cooperating Multiple Listing Service Realtors, associates and brokers in obtaining all the documents needed to finalize the sale.

This promise is our service commitment to you. Your Iowa Realty agent is here to help if you have any questions or comments.

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Getting Your Home on the Market

Preparing for Listing

As the seller, you hire an individual real estate broker to represent you during a specified contract period. This written document is called a "listing agreement." A real estate agent or sales associate will meet with you personally to prepare the agreement.

Before you actually list your house, however, both you and your sales associate must do some homework.

To prepare for the listing appointment, you will need to collect and provide the following information:

  • The legal description of the property.
  • The number of rooms and their sizes.
  • A list of things not attached to the house that you're offering for sale, such as window treatments, carpet, fixtures and swing sets.
  • Past utility bills, property taxes and insurance.
  • Information about your mortgage, including the type, terms and assumability.
  • Any liens against the property.
  • Special items or improvements about the house. Be sure to point out things that may not be apparent to others as they walk through the house.
  • The positive points about your neighborhood, such as demographic information and proximity to services, shopping, schools, and other areas.
  • Any defects that aren't apparent. You have an obligation to the sales associate so that buyers can be informed.

The sales associate will study recent sales of comparable homes in the neighborhood as well as listing of similar homes that are currently for sale. Using a comprehensive real estate information tool - called the T-III Realtor's Workstation - your associate will be able to show you solid facts and figures. We want you to get that best price for your home in the shortest time possible. To do this, you need accurate and current information about the real estate market.

The Listing Appointment


Your Iowa Realty sales associate will inspect your entire house and yard to become familiar with its special features and exact floor plan.

Understanding the Asking Price

The ideal asking price satisfies both your desire for the highest return and the buyer's need for maximum value. This critical narrow range is called "market value."

Market value is not based upon what you paid for your house or what you put into it over the years. It isn't affected by the amount of cash you need or want from the sale of your house. In reality, it isn't affected by your opinion or mine, or even that of a professional appraiser. Most buyers look at an average of 10 properties before buying. While comparing your house to others currently offered for sales, buyers will decide whether your property is realistically priced.

The value of your property is determined solely by what a buyer is willing to pay for it in today's open market.

Some important points to consider:

  • Decide how much time you have to sell your home. If you must sell quickly, you may want to consider a more competitive price. If you have more flexibility with time, you may choose a slightly higher price.
  • Don't price your home too high because you "want" more profit. There's a rule of thumb that says that a house priced more than 5% over market value discourages offers. You'll lose a large pool of eligible buyers who won't even look at your house because they can't afford the price. Likewise, you'll disappoint buyers who can find more house for their money elsewhere.

Understanding Competition

Competition in the market place determines the true value of any home. A Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) reveals market conditions and gives you an opportunity to review and evaluate the facts before making pricing decisions. To assist you in your evaluation we offer the following questions:

  1. In your price range, how many comparable listings are currently exposed to the market?
  2. On a per square foot basis, what have comparable listings actually sold for?
  3. What was the per square foot asking price on those comparable properties that never reachedcontract during their original listing period?

The Asking Price is Ultimately Your Decision

It's a figure that you should feel comfortable with based on a realistic understanding of today's present market conditions.


When a home first goes on the market it generates a great deal of excitement and interest among the real estate community and potential buyers. That's why it's important to price your home at the highest realistic price from the beginning. Caution should be used when considering an unrealistically high price based on an assumption that the price can be reduced at a later time. Interest peaks when your home is new to the market. Later, like fresh bread that has set out all day, it too gets stale in the marketplace.

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Showing Your Home

Getting top dollar begins with a realistic look at your home through the eyes of a potential buyer. Most homeowners (after they've lived in them for any length of time) have difficulty really seeing their homes. They don't notice the effects of gradual physical deterioration and accumulation of things. Most buyers make snap judgments about houses based upon their first impressions. Good or bad, these impressions are lasting. Be sure that the outside of your house doesn't turn them off before the inside gets a chance to turn them on. Hide everything that looks like work, and accent anything that looks like fun. Note, though, that while curb appeal draws the buyer into your house, it is the well-cared for interiors that make the sale.

Cosmetic Improvements

Your stove, refrigerator, microwave, and other kitchen appliances must be spotless. Put dishes away. The kitchen has the greatest impact on the buyer. It should be spotless. Scour walls, floors, bathtubs, showers, and sinks until they sparkle. Bathrooms are the second most important rooms in the house. Buyers will notice strong smells as soon as they walk through the front door, so eliminate smoke, mildew, and pet odors. Dehumidifiers help remove musty smells in the basement. If you're a smoker, clean all ashtrays daily. Use some kind of air freshener to keep your house odor free. Vacuum often.

Since you're going to be moving anyway, declutter, box, and store. Clutter can reduce your house's value. Eliminating clutter and excess furniture makes rooms appear larger. Closet spaces sells houses, remove clothes and shoes your not using, box and store them somewhere else. Serious buyers will inspect your closets and built-in drawers.

If you do it yourself, painting isn't expensive. Stick to conventional soft whites and neutral colors that won't clash with most perspective buyers' taste. Pay attention to anything that could cause a buyer to reduce their offer. Find it and repair it before you put your house on the market. If a buyer sees anything as a sign of poor maintenance, they have two solutions: one, don't buy, or two, reduce the price by thousands.

If you don't have the desire or time, hire a competent people to help you. If you want top dollar, it must be in top condition.

Leave the Selling to Us

While you are preparing your home to be shown, you Iowa Realty sales associate is "spreading the word" that your property is available. The listing is promoted to two groups: other real estate agents and the buying public. Approximately 60% of all buyers come from referrals between brokers and their vast network of contacts. About 10% of buyers come from inquiries stimulated by "FOR SALE" yard signs. The remaining 30% come from advertising and other promotions, including open houses. Let us sell your home!

When your home is to be shown, we will always attempt to make an appointment with you, giving you as much advance notice as possible. To help make the best impression, we suggest you:

  • Turn on all your lights, including the outside entrance, even during the daytime.
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Ask a friend to keep pets, especially during your open house.
  • Put out your best towels, tablecloths, and other accessories.
  • Make sure there's a property profile folder visible, with the data sheet on utilities, features, and other details about the house.
  • If you're home when the prospects arrive, greet them politely and then excuse yourself. Having too many people around during the showing may make the potential buyer feel like an intruder, making it difficult for the selling agent and buyer to be at ease. Leave the selling to us.

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Offers and Contracts

An Offer to Buy

A buyer makes an offer by submitting a written and signed offer to purchase. This document becomes the sales contract when signed by all parties involved.

"Presenting the offer" begins when the selling agent registers the offer with Iowa Realty's office and notifies the listing associate of the offer. The listing associate then arranges a presentation appointment with the home seller and the selling associate. The buyer does not attend.

As the seller, you may be given a sample net proceeds sheet. The calculations on this sheet are done to let you see the "bottom line." Part of this presenting the offer meeting also includes determining if the buyer is financially qualified to make the purchase.

You now have three options:

  1. You can accept the offer as written.
  2. You can make a counteroffer, changing any unacceptable conditions. This counteroffer is written on a special form and signed by you. When this is given to the buyer, the buyer can withdraw, accept or counter the counteroffer.
  3. You can reject the offer if it is totally unacceptable.

When both buyer and seller agree to all terms (including changes made in any counteroffers) and indicate agreement by their signatures, the contract becomes "firm." With signatures and notification to all parties, a sales contract now exists.

Multiple Offers

It is possible to receive more than one offer to buy. All offers that are registered before a final acceptance must be presented to the seller. As the seller, you should hear each offer and ask questions. You do not need to act until you've heard all offers. If more than one offer is accepted or countered, an order of precedence must be established, such as primary, first backup, second backup, and so on. Your listing sales associate will answer your questions as they occur.

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Closing Details


Several professionals may come into the home-selling process after the offer is accepted, including:

  • a housing inspector (if hired by buyer)
  • a termite inspector
  • an appraiser
  • attorneys who are affiliated with the buyer's lending institution

Buyer's Loan Processing

If the buyer is financing the purchase of your house, the process will typically take 30 to 60 days. On the chance that a buyer's financial will not be given final approval, you should keep the house in good showing condition.

Your Property Title

As part of the contract process, you must prove to the buyer that you have a clear title on the house-that you own the property, and that there are no legal claims against it. Proof of title is provided by:

  • The abstract of title being continued and certified by the abstractor as complete and accurate.
  • The attorney representing the buyer and/or financial institution then searches the title and issues and opinion that the title is clear.

Your Details

Your sales associate or attorney can help you gather the paperwork that the contract requires. Some of the details you'll probably need to handle include:

  • Notifying your lender that you will be paying off the mortgage and asking for a statement for what you owe. Your outstanding balance will be subtracted from the amount you receive from the seller.
  • Having any fix-up work done according to the contract so that final inspections may take place.
  • Gathering all warranties and instruction books for your home's appliances or major systems to give to the buyer.
  • Once you have a closing date established, notifying the utility, telephone, water, and other services to advise them on your final billing date.

Buyer's Final Inspection

A walk-through inspection prior to settlement allows the buyer to determine if conditions of the contract are satisfied. The buyer should have inspected and noted any defects during the contract negotiation and prior to signing the sales agreement. It is up to the buyer to perform the inspection. The buyer should be accompanied by the selling and/or listing agent. The seller may or may not be present, but should make sure the utilities are on so that equipment can be operated.

Signing Papers and Passing Keys

At the settlement (closing), the home seller should bring all warranties on equipment (or leave them in an obvious place in the house) as well as instructions on equipment maintenance or operation. Be sure to bring all keys and electric door openers.

The real estate agent will explain the settlement sheets to you. These outline the closing costs to you. Typical costs for the seller include:

  • State revenue tax
  • Termite inspection
  • Mortgage balance
  • Interest on the mortgage up to the date the mortgage is paid off
  • Administrative Compliance Fee
  • The real estate agent's commission
  • Pro-rated taxes and homeowners association dues (if applicable)
  • Homeowner's warranty

If property taxes or homeowner's insurance have been in escrow with your lender, you'll receive any money that is accumulated in that escrow account for bills not yet due. You'll actually receive these funds at or after settlement.

The seller, the buyer, and the agents receive a copy of the settlement sheets.

The listing broker's closing department will actually disburse money after all the funds are in hand, the new lender has reviewed the papers, and the title has been examined and the deed is recorded.

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Sold and settled!