A useful timeline for selling a house that you can really depend on

A couple selling their home


Selling a property is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. However, while it looks daunting at first, you can make the process hassle-free with the right knowledge. There are many things to consider, especially in an in-demand market like Long Island — NYC buyers are flocking to Long Island to purchase properties. However, whether this is your first time selling a house or you’ve sold one in the past, a solid understanding of the timeline for selling a house will make the process go much smoother for you.

Not every timeline for selling is the same, and there are several factors that can affect it. But here’s a general schedule you can follow to prepare your home for this red-hot market.

Making the decision to sell your home

Whatever your reason, selling your current house is a major financial decision. And in real estate, time is money. Understanding the timeline for selling a house from the beginning will ensure your listing doesn’t sit stale on the market with you losing money.

In general, you want to plan out your schedule for at least four months; that should cover the preparation, listing and negotiations, and the closing process.

Two months before the listing date

As early as two months before listing your home, you should begin preparing for the transaction and everything that comes with it.

Research the Long Island market

Dedicate time to learning your local market conditions. This will help you determine the right price for your home and discover the average closing time, allowing you to create a more precise timeline for the whole transaction. 

Pay attention to the following details during your research:

  • The location and size of comparable properties
  • The median house prices
  • Which terms are used for financing
  • The history of the area

Hire a real estate agent

A licensed and experienced real estate agent will guide you throughout the selling process and help you navigate everything seamlessly. 

Real estate agents not only research and market properties for sale; they will negotiate on your behalf, organize showings and open houses, and manage interested buyers and buyers’ agents, as well as their attorneys, home inspectors, appraisers, title company and mortgage lenders. They will also advise you on how to qualify prospective buyers.

And when complications arise – as they often do during a real estate transaction – a good real estate agent will either know how to resolve the problem or know who to contact to get a resolution.

Check selling costs and closing costs

Selling a house requires a few expenses, such as transfer tax, attorney fees, real estate agent commission, and the option of staging your home. Review the rates or fees for these services to create a comprehensive budget and avoid surprise expenses.

Pick a date

Though there are defined selling and buying cycles according to Jeff Rhode, the biggest motivator of home sales and purchases are life changes. You can’t always time the market perfectly, but there are small timing adjustments you can make to better your sale. Perhaps putting your home on the market right before a big holiday isn’t the best idea, but waiting a week when more buyers are active is the better option.

Pick a date that works best with your schedule and adjust it to work with the market.

Six weeks before the listing date

This is where things begin to get exciting. But don’t worry — your home selling process will go much more smoothly if you prepare your home properly.

Conduct pre-inspections and make repairs

At this stage, you’ll want to prepare your house for sale. Your agent may even recommend a pre-listing home inspection if there are some concerns about your property’s condition. Otherwise, you can do small repairs, such as:

  • adding a fresh coat of paint
  • removing old carpet or refinishing floors
  • fix any loose or leaky faucets
  • replace any broken hinges or knobs
  • decluttering everything but necessities and pre-packing

If you have the extra space in your budget, minor renovations are also recommended, as these can increase the value of your home. These can include updating an old bathroom vanity or replacing or refinishing kitchen cabinet doors.

Secure the relevant documents

Six weeks should be enough time to get another copy of lost or damaged documents. The most relevant ones you need are:

  • Deed
  • Last Mortgage Statement
  • Most Recent Tax Bill
  • Utility Bills
  • Certificates of Occupancy or Permits for any additions/changes made
  • Survey – guaranteed and certified

If you are missing a permit or certificate of occupancy (CO or C of O), you should start processing these as early as possible to avoid title issues once in contract. And if you have any liens against the property, now would be the time to gather those documents, as well.

One month before the listing date

Here are a few more things you’ll need to do in the four weeks before listing your house.

Begin moving out

It might seem too early at this stage, but you’d be surprised at how much clutter you’ve gathered over the years. You’ll need to sort through everything and decide what you want to keep. Packing will also take time, and you may need to locate a storage unit where you can store your belongings if you haven’t yet found a house to move into.

Choose a list price

Review recently sold properties in your neighborhood that are comparable to your home. This will give you a range of where your home is valued today. Then use that range as a reference and choose a price based on what type of marketing strategy and outcome you want in the sale. Your agent will research and prepare a marketing plan for you called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) and discuss different pricing strategies to best position your house against the competition.

Two weeks before listing the house

These last two weeks might be the busiest days before your listing is live. But completing these tasks before the listing stage will make the rest of the home selling process much easier.

Finish decluttering and deep cleaning

Now is the time to make your home shine. Be sure to remove unnecessary furniture and other possessions to give the interiors a more spacious look. Don’t forget to clean the exterior of the house by maintaining greenery, power washing any unsightly areas, and increasing your curb appeal.

You might also want to consider hiring cleaning professionals for more thorough work. With their help, you can easily prepare your property for staging.

Let a home staging professional make your home appealing

Home staging is the process where your property is turned into something fit for a home magazine. A professional will help you present your home and make it more appealing to prospective buyers by rearranging furniture, removing clutter, and adding decorative elements.

Staging can also shorten the time your house spends on the market. Professionally staged homes spend 73% less time on sale according to Professional Staging LLC.

Seven days before listing the house

This is your last week before the listing goes live, so the only thing you should be thinking about is the marketing collateral.

Take photos for marketing

Once you have your house ready, it’s time for marketing materials like professional photos and video. Drone shots are also great if your property has landscaped grounds or if you are located near a coast. You’ll need these later for your listing to showcase the beauty of your property and appeal to more home buyers. 

Listing day and the weeks after

After your listing goes live, the timeline becomes less predictable. Your schedule will now be dependent on when offers come. Depending on your marketing strategies, it can take between a few weeks and a few months before you close.

List your home in relevant channels

Your real estate agent will help you market your property on the appropriate platforms so you can maximize your visibility in the local market, especially in the digital space. Take advantage of social media websites, local Long Island online communities, and other channels. 

You also need to be responsive to potential buyers, so make sure your communication lines are always open. Showing requests can become overwhelming, so work with your real estate agent to create scheduling blocks and showing instructions to have a more structured schedule.

In addition, you need to keep your house clean and free from clutter to accommodate show requests. You’re not required to be there, but you should always be available unless your agent is present. If you have pets, you also need to make arrangements for everyone’s safety. 

Negotiate offers

Reviewing offers is more than just choosing which price is the highest. The terms of the offer are often much more important than the number. For instance, all-cash offers don’t have a mortgage contingency, but they may still request an appraisal and they sometimes aren’t the highest offers. So when accepting an offer, qualifying the buyer and their financing is very important. 

Here are just a few things to consider during the initial negotiation:

  • When does the buyer want to gain occupancy of the property? 
  • Is the buyer requesting an inspection?
  • Are there any findings during the inspection that are worth negotiating? 
  • Is there an appraisal and mortgage contingency?
  • Does the buyer have proof of funds or a pre-approval for a loan?
  • How quickly can their loan go into underwriting?

All of these can affect your timeline and the final funds you’ll receive, but trying to understand all of it can be quite overwhelming. That’s why it’s paramount to work with an experienced real estate agent who can advise you on all of the terms.

After accepting the best offer

Once you’ve finally accepted an offer, you’ll need to process a few more things.

Negotiate inspections

In most cases, the buyer will request a home inspection 48 hours after you accept their offer. They’ll return to you with repair or credit requests, and you need to negotiate this with them. Though home inspections aren’t required in New York state, termite inspections are mandatory and all termite activity must be resolved before the closing date.

Sign the purchase agreement

Once the home inspection is completed, it is time for both parties to sign contracts! This contract defines the terms of the real estate transaction based on all of the terms, conditions and repair requests agreed upon above.

With the signed contracts, the buyer’s lender will schedule the bank appraisal and the buyer’s attorney will begin the title search. This process can take 30 to 45 days in New York, so be ready for this typical timeline. You can use this time to find a home if you haven’t found one already. 

Mortgage commitment and clean title

Once the buyer’s mortgage application completes underwriting, they will receive a mortgage commitment, a document showing that the buyer has been approved to get the loan they need for the home. This document along with a clean title ensuring there are no liens or open permits/certificates of occupancies on the property are the last items needed before closing.

During closing day

You’ve come a long way, but it’s time to say goodbye to your old home.

Do a final walkthrough

The final walkthrough will allow the buyer to check if all the necessary repairs and home improvements agreed upon in the contract are done. They’ll also be able to evaluate if the house is in the same condition as when they first saw it. 

This is usually done within 24 hours of the closing, so you should have most, if not all, of your personal items packed up and the house broom swept clean before the walkthrough.

Sign the documents and hand over the keys

With the presence of your real estate agents, real estate attorneys, your buyer’s mortgage lender, title closer, and other relevant parties, you can sign the paperwork and transfer ownership to the new owner.

Make sure that all the keys, passcodes, garage door openers, and other entry details are handed over to the buyer as well. 

You’ll receive your proceeds from the sale once everything has been approved. You can use the funds for your next home.

Key takeaways

The timeline of real estate sales might seem intimidating at first, but you only need proper planning to ensure a smooth process. As soon as you’ve decided that you’re selling your home, you can follow the outline above and cover all your bases. That way, your timeline for selling will be organized and your home sale will be a breeze.


Cristina Morizio

Long Island real estate agent Cristina Morizo
As an experienced REALTOR® and Long Island native, I know the ins and outs of the real estate market. I help home buyers, sellers, investors and homeowners navigate and negotiate. Questions? Ready to buy or sell? Let’s talk!

More from Living on LI