Read This Before Selling a House in Massachusetts


Do You Like This Article? Share It!

Your home is your castle. A place of refuge after a long day’s work and where you’ve made countless memories with friends and family. But there comes a time in many of our lives when selling our Massachusetts home is necessary.

Perhaps the kids have moved out and it’s time to downsize, or you’ve outgrown your first starter home and are looking to expand your family. No matter the reasons, selling a house in Massachusetts is a complicated process with numerous legal and other considerations to contend with.

For most Massachusetts residents, their home is the largest financial asset they have. Not to mention it often holds a certain amount of sentimentality, from pleasant memories to the hard work you put into remodeling the kitchen.

Because of this, selling a house in MA isn’t a simple transaction, and it’s ok to be hyper-cautious about making sure it’s done right, and in a way that benefits you and your family the most.

While the process of selling a house in Massachusetts is similar to that in other states, MA does have its own unique local practices and real estate laws to contend with. Making yourself familiar with this process early on in the stages of selling your home can help you avoid major headaches and problems down the line.

This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of selling a house in Massachusetts, making sure you don’t get hit with any major surprises along the way. From working with a listing agent to legally required disclosures, we’ve got you covered.

picture of the Best Time of Year to Sell a Massachusetts Home

Best Time of Year to Sell an Massachusetts Home

 
 
When it comes to selling a house in Massachusetts, timing matters. But it’s not just the month or season you need to take into consideration. Certain property types sell better at differing times of the year, and homes (on average) may sell faster or slower, or even at a higher closing rate during particular months.

In fact, a three year analysis of data collected from Zillow determined that the best time to sell a home (nationally on average) is mid-March through mid-April.

Season and Weather

In moderate and more temperate climates, weather plays a lesser role in the timing necessary when selling a house. However, Massachusetts has very clearly defined seasons, making the weather a significant factor.

Deviating slightly from the national average, those homes in MA tend to move faster and for more money (on average) between mid-to-late April. This is due largely to the often harsh winter seasons in Mass.

Holidays and Timing

Post-summer slowdown, real estate activity in Massachusetts begins to take a slow and steady upward trend as fall approaches. This uptick is often spurred by the end of summer school breaks and the return of “normal routines”. The real estate market in Massachusetts generally continues to improve up to November when it slows again as sellers and buyers alike move focus to holidays and family activities.

Best Time of the Year to Sell for a Profit in OH

Is profit your number one concern? If you’re not in a rush to move your home quickly, you have the luxury of timing the listing or your property during those months that have the greatest potential for a financial windfall.

According to Zillow data, Mid to Late April isn’t only one of the best times to LIST your house on the market, earning sellers a premium upwards of $8100 extra when it sells. If you happen to be in Boston, that localized market tends to favor sellers most in the second two weeks of April with homes selling for up to 5% higher on average.

Remember, it can take up to 3 months to sell your MA home. So when planning out the best month to “close”, you’ll need to list 1-3 months in advance to take full advantage.

Below are some points to consider about selling your home with data taken from the Massachusetts Property Information Network or MLSPin.

Best Time to Sell for Profit (best to worst)

  • June
  • January
  • November
  • September
  • April
  • August

Worst Time to Sell for Profit (in order of worst to least bad)

  • July
  • October
  • February
  • December
  • May
  • March

Best Time of the Year to Sell FAST

Money isn’t everything. Life circumstances often dictate that you need to sell your home fast. Looking at actual data we can uncover which months are the best months to sell your home quickly in MA.

Selling a home fast is especially important for many Massachusetts home sellers. Job transfers, a death in the family, changing needs and other major life events may require you to move quickly. But oftentimes the one thing holding you back is the sale of your existing home (likely so you can purchase another).

According to a Redfin study (2010-2014), data suggests that Spring (March 21st through June 20th) represents the best time to list a home on the market if your goal is to sell quickly. According to Redfin’s aggregated data, 39% of homes placed on the market during that timeframe went under contract within 30 days, with 15% of them selling above the stated listing price.

Best Months to Sell a Home Fast (in order of fastest)

  • June
  • May
  • August
  • October
  • July

Worst Months to Sell a Home Fast (in order of worst to least bad)

  • February
  • November
  • January
  • September
  • March
  • December
  • April

Buyers & Property Type Matters

Single-family homes are an ideal candidate for those with children. Buyers for these homes generally start looking in the spring, with an ideal “move in” date early June when the school year ends.

Ideally avoid selling during the winter months, especially in those areas of MA with heavy snowfalls and harsh conditions throughout the winter season.

picture of Massachusetts home selling costs

Cost of Selling an Massachusetts Home

 

Selling a home comes with costs. Let’s take a look at what you can expect in the state of Massachusetts.

  1. Tax Stamps – Not even a home sale escapes taxes in MA. Unbeknownst to many home sellers, MA imposes a tax on selling a home if the owner has not yet sold one in the past. Meaning that if this is your first home sale, expect to get taxed. This tax is known as a “Massachusetts tax stamp”.

    Across most of the state, this tax stamp is calculated based on $4.56 per every thousand dollars your home sells for. For example, if your home sells for $200,000, that is 200 x $4.56, or $912.00.

    However, there are counties where the tax may be higher, such as Barnstable County where the rate is $5.70/thousand. Further, both Nantucket and Dukes counties charge an additional 2% on top of the tax stamp.
  2. Massachusetts Title V – Unless your home is serviced by a public sewer, you should expect to pay this fee. The cost is generally around $800 for septic tank inspection and should ideally include a charge for pumping the system. Note that this inspection is valid for up to two years and may be optionally extended to three years so long as you pump the system once each of the three years.
  3. Deed Preparation – Costing between $100-$150 and prepared by your representing attorney, it is the seller’s responsibility to have the deep prepared for the buyer and recorded at the registry.
  4. Title Insurance – Title insurance is meant to protect and mitigate any risks with defects that may be present in the title but remained undisclosed or undiscovered prior to the acquisition of the property, including fraud. In this way, title insurance covers events that occur after the policy is issued, but not against anything you may have had previous knowledge about.

    Luckily for you, in Massachusetts title insurance is often paid for by the buyer, although this can be negotiated.
  5. Administrative, Filing and Other Fees – Other fees may include those for municipal lien searches, title searches, community association estoppel fees, filing fees or expedited shipping of documents.
  6. Seller Attorney Fees – As a seller it is often advisable to have a real estate attorney review contracts and for various other real estate related activities and advice. For example, title defects or numerous changes needed for a contract may require legal assistance.

    Further, Massachusetts state law now requires an attorney to preside over residential real estate transactions.
  7. Real Estate Agent Commission – While there are other ways to sell your home than going with the traditional real estate agent listing, if you do hire an agent they are paid based on a commission rate calculated against the sale price of your home. We’ll cover the costs associated with hiring a real estate agent later in this guide.

    For now, understand that real estate commissions in Massachusetts are defined as a percentage of the sale price of a home and that while standard rates do exist, they are negotiable.

 

picture of the legal requirements of selling an Massachusetts house

Legal Requirements and Considerations

 

Do You Need a Lawyer? (Yes, For Good Reasons)

Massachusetts state law mandates that an attorney be used for the process of selling a home.

Besides, having a lawyer in your corner is never a bad idea for contract review or to assist in negotiations. Real estate attorneys may also be useful for assisting with unconventional circumstances such as with a lease-to-own or owner-financed deal.

Massachusetts Real Estate Disclosure Requirements for Sellers

In contrast to many other states, Massachusetts does not require sellers to provide an official form, statement or disclosure form to prospective buyers. However, the buyer’s real estate agent may still ask you for a statement including provisions that indemnify the agent or broker in the event of any errors or misstatements.

The state does, however, require two types of disclosures:

  1. The presence and potential hazards of lead paint (actually the federal government requires this, more below)
  2. And the presence of a septic system located on the property

If your property is not being serviced by public sewer, but rather by a septic system, Title V requires inspection of the system any time the property is transferred, except for exceptions including transfer between you and a child or spouse. The buyer must receive a copy of the inspection report.

Seller’s Federal Disclosure Requirements (Title X)

Sellers in Massachusetts must also abide by federal disclosure requirements.

  1. If the home you are selling was built prior to 1978 you must disclose any lead-based paint hazards in the property
  2. You must provide any inspection reports relating to lead-based hazards in the home
  3. Provide an EPA-approved informational pamphlet to buyers
  4. Allow buyers to conduct their own lead-based assessment
  5. Include specific warning language relating to lead-based hazards in the sale agreement

Psychologically Impacted Property

Unlike some other states, there is no need to disclose if your property has been “psychologically impacted”. Such properties may include those where a murder, suicide, or other crime took place, or that is purported to be haunted.

picture of Massachusetts home selling options

Options for Selling a House in Massachusetts

 

Selling With a Real Estate Agent

When most Massachusetts residents think about selling their home they think of listing with a real estate agent. In the state of Massachusetts, you may also see seller real estate agents being referred to as listing agents.

Not only does a real estate agent handle the listing and marketing of your property, but they also aid in helping you through every step of the process from showings and staging to contract negotiation and closing.

Listing agents will provide you with a comparative market analysis (referred to as comps), and provide pricing recommendations and strategies tailored towards your specific goals.

High Real Estate Commissions in Massachusetts

Commission paid out to a seller’s agent is generally calculated as a percentage of the final sale price of the home. The percentage of commission can vary, with lower levels of service usually corresponding to less robust services.

Full-service agents handle the listing, marketing, showing, staging, negotiation, and closing of your home. Marketing expenses are handled by the agent out of their own pockets. These agents on average charge between 5-6% in Massachusetts. This commission rate is split with any agent that may be representing the buyer’s agent. Commission rates with your seller agent may be negotiable.

The commission is paid out as part of the sale price upon closing and is not required upfront.

Massachusetts’ Multiple Listing Service

Developed by REALTORS®, the multiple listing service, also known as MLS, is a multimillion-dollar real estate technology. The fundamental principle behind the MLS is that it helps brokers and real estate agents share information on the properties they represent for sale through a singular network.

Sellers benefit by exponentially increased exposure for listed properties, while buyers benefit do to the ability to quickly identify ideal properties on the market for their clients to purchase.

This system facilitates cooperation between competing agencies, brokers and agents, leveling the playing field and providing value for every party involved.

As a consumer, you can access MLS listings published on brokers’ and agents’ websites, but the MLS itself is a private database created and maintained by licensed real estate professionals.

Listing Agreement

After interviewing and selecting a real estate or listing agent of your choosing, you will sign what is known as a “listing agreement”. This agreement grants the agent the legal right to market and coordinate the sale of your home on your behalf.

Listing Agreements Generally Cover the Following Terms:
  1. Commission Rate – The rate of commission you agree to pay as a seller (usually ranges from 5-6% in OH). This fee, as mentioned earlier, gets split between the buyer’s agent and your agent at closing.
  2. The Type of Listing – Listings can either be “exclusive” or “non-exclusive”. Exclusive listings are the most common type and require you to pay a commission to the selling agent no matter who or where the buyer comes from. With open or “non-exclusive” listings, on the other hand, you pay whichever agent brings the seller the commission.
  3. Listing Duration – Each listing agreement will cover a specific time-frame, after which the contract expires and you are free to hire another agent to do the job, handle the sale yourself, or extend the existing contract.
  4. Listing Price – Your agent should provide you with an in-depth market analysis and a detailed breakdown of comparable sales in your locale. Based on the data, their experience as an agent and your goals, the listing agent will provide you with advice on pricing strategy. The agreed-upon price will be included as part of the listing agreement.
  5. Any Items NOT Included as Part of the Sale – In some cases, there may be instances where certain items are not part of the home’s sale. For example, perhaps you plan to take the refrigerator with you when you leave, or an heirloom chandelier. Any such items you wish to take with you must be included in the listing agreement.
  6. Detailing of the obligations and Duties of Both the Seller and Listing Agent – Each listing agreement should (in detail) spell out the obligations you have as a seller to the agent and the obligations the agent has to you as the real estate agent representing your property. For example, the listing agreement will specify the ways in which your agent will market your property, the type of insurance that must be maintained on the home, and the disclosures you are required to make.

Selling Without a Real Estate Agent or By Owner

Although most Massachusetts residents opt to sell with the help of an agent, non-traditional options offer a range of benefits of their own, with a growing number of sellers OH flocking to these opportunities in lieu of paying out high commission rates to an agent.

DIY or For Sale By Owner

Selling your home going the DIY or For Sale By Owner in Massachusetts route has its challenges, and is certainly more work, but the payoff can make it more than worthwhile if you do your homework and put in the effort.

In fact, on a $250,000 home with a 6% commission fee, you can save $15,000. Further, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, homes sold by their owners also often sell more quickly, sometimes in as little as two weeks.

But before you decide to dive off the deep end and handle your home’s sale on your own, bear in mind that the process isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Apart from marketing, staging and negotiating the sale, you’ll also be responsible for both the financial and legal paperwork associated with the transaction, something you’ll no doubt want to hire an attorney to help with.

Tips for Selling the DIY Way:

  1. Prep your home for the market – This means professional cleaning, removing any clutter, and staging the property both inside and out for viewing.
  2. Competitively price your property – With real estate platforms and data readily available online from sites such as Zillow and Redfin, you can do your own market research to find comparable properties and price your home similarly to those that best represent your home and sold within a timeframe that you are comfortable with.
  3. Invest in an Massachusetts flat fee MLS listing service – In order to exponentially expand your reach to prospective buyers both in the area and nationwide (more on this below).
  4. Get a marketing plan together – Consider listing your site online, in classified ads and platforms, your local newspapers, social media, and even starting a website where you can digitally showcase pictures, videos of the property and more.
  5. Know your home’s best selling points – Put a “pitch” together to “sell” them both in person and in print or online.

Massachusetts Flat Fee MLS Listings

As previously mentioned, MLS is short for “Multiple Listing Service”. The MLS consists of a network of over 900 individual MLSs nationwide in the USA. Each MLS is separate from each other, meaning that a real estate agent in Cincinnati, OH cannot view listings in San Diego, CA. This makes it critical to ensure you are listed in the proper MLS.

Why is Paying for a Flat Fee MLS Listing Worthwhile?
  • The MLS essentially represents the entire “real estate market”
  • In the US, over 90% of all sold properties are the result (at least in part) of MLS listing exposure
  • Listing in the MLS means that all local Realtors®, agents and brokers will be able to find and promote your listing to their clients
  • Potential buyers can find your home listed on hundreds to thousands of public MLS websites
  • Those properties listed on MLS tend to sell faster and at a higher price
  • You can avoid Massachusetts high real estate agent commission rage (on average 6%)
  • You retain the right to sell your house yourself
  • You have full control over your listing
  • Qualified buyers will call you direct
  • You set the terms of the contract offer and negotiate conditions directly
  • Your MLS listing can be canceled at any time if your situation changes

Want To Learn More About Flat Fee MLS Listings?

If you want to save at least 50% of the Realtor commissions, check out our article about 9 Things FSBO’s Need To Know About Flat Fee MLS Listings

 

picture of an Massachusetts purchase and sale agreement

Massachusetts Purchase and Sale Agreements

 

In simple terms, a home purchase and sales agreement (P&S), also called a sale agreement or purchase contract, is a contract that details the conditions of the sale to which both the buyer and seller agree to. This agreement is legally binding, and it is advised that the agreement be both drafted and reviewed by an attorney you trust.

NOTE: The majority of clauses within the purchase agreement are designed to protect the buyer.

In Massachusetts there are two main types of P&S agreements:

  1. The Massachusetts Association of Realtors (“MAR”) Standard Purchase and Sale Agreement (With Contingencies)
  2. The Greater Boston Real Estate Board (“GBREB”) Purchase and Sale Agreement

The agreement will cover such aspects of the sale such as:

  1. Sale Price – This will include both the actual sale price of the home as well as how much the buyer agrees to put down at the contract signing date, what amount will be financed and any balances due at closing.
  2. Financing Contingency – Financing contingencies are a common rider included in many purchase agreements. Generally, they define a timeline during which the buyer must qualify for adequate financing in order to purchase the home.

    Similarly, a rider may be included to protect the buyer, stating that the purchase is contingent upon them obtaining financing at favorable terms (such as within a specified interest rate rage).

    Other Financing Clauses may Include:

    • Dates by which the buyer must have applied for a mortgage
    • Dates by which the buyer must have obtained pre-qualification, pre-approval and/or final approval by the lender
  3. Inspection & Repairs – Under the agreement, an inspection clause dictates that the buyer has the right under the terms of the contract to inspect the property by hiring one or more contractors or licensed inspectors to look at the property.

    The contract will need to specify which, if any, repairs the seller agrees to make as a result of the inspection prior to closing.
  4. Title, Plans, Insurance and Survey – The agreement will outline which party is responsible for title insurance and the duration of time the buyer has to review and/or object to the results. In the event that you, as a seller, provided a survey or the buyer ordered one themselves, the agreement will specify how long the buyer has to identify any issues. In the event that a resolution to a problem is required, a timeline for this solution will need to be established and incorporated into the contract.

    In the event that you cannot or do not want to resolve the problem (due to finances or other considerations), incorporating a clause that states you have the right to cancel the agreement and return the deposit should be included.
  5. Personal Property / Excluded or Included Items – Just because you are selling your home does not mean you have to sell everything in it. From furniture, to appliances, and even light fixtures, you get to decide. But, you must specify in the agreement which items are staying behind and which are not part of the deal. Both you and the buyer should make a list of property they expect to sell/purchase. From there you can both negotiate a deal.
  6. Closing and Move in/out Dates – Dates are very important with regards to the process of selling a home. Generally, the closing date for Massachusetts properties lands around 30 days. However, this date is largely dependent upon the lender and may require an extension.
  7. Other Riders – Optional riders may cover unique circumstances such as:
    • Owner financing
    • Homeowners’ associations
    • Condominiums
    • And more…

picture of an Massachusetts home sellers negotiating a contract

Negotiation Process – Offers, Counteroffers & Acceptance

 

Real estate deals are an evolving process with lots of moving parts, contingencies and more. All of which means that a lot can change between the point at which an initial offer is made and closing day.

Rarely is selling a home as simple as getting paid your list price without some form of concession and negotiation. These negotiations can go on for weeks until both parties reach (or don’t reach) an amicable deal.

Counteroffer

A counteroffer is the medium in which this negotiation is dealt with. Counteroffers are generally handled by either your real estate agent or attorney (unless you are selling DIY). Think of selling as a process vs a transaction.

Counteroffers arise when the terms of the initial offer are not agreeable. The counter-offer provides you with the opportunity to take a hard look at what items you are willing to compromise on and which are potential “deal breakers”.

picture of an Massachusetts home sellers in escrow

Escrow Process in Massachusetts

 
 

When a buyer decides on a property they are interested in buying, they first make a purchase offer. As part of this purchase offer they most often provide “earnest money”. This earnest money is a deposit made as a consideration to be held in escrow by an escrow agent.

The role of an escrow agent is to ensure the transaction closes on time and without a hitch. It is the duty of the escrow holder to validate that all conditions and terms of the buyer’s and seller’s agreement are met prior to finalization of the deal.

This means that all funds, required forms, documents are accounted for and that any loans or liens have been paid off as part of the transaction. This process ensures that the new buyer will have a clean title prior to purchase of the property.

Escrow Agents May Collect the Following:

  • Tax statements
  • Insurance and fire policies
  • Loan documentation
  • Title insurance policies
  • Terms and conditions of the sale
  • Any requests for payment of services to be covered by the escrow funds

picture of an Massachusetts home sellers at a closing

Closing Process in Massachusetts

 
 

The closing process in Massachusetts may be conducted with both parties present at a single location/table for the signing of documents related to finalizing the transaction and loans, or in separate locations.

This often takes place at the real estate broker, lender or attorney’s office. The closing is the time at which you formally transfer ownership of your home to the buyer. This process can take place anywhere both parties agree to and may be proxied by legal representation.

Once all appropriate and required documentation has been signed and payments have been transferred to the respected parties, the deed will be recorded with the county. Once this takes place buyers in Massachusetts generally take possession of the keys immediately.

The Closing Process in Detail

  1. If one has not already been conducted, either the title company or a hired attorney will perform a title search in order to confirm that no assessments or liens exist on the title. Presuming the title is “clear” the closing will proceed as scheduled and a “title commitment” will be issued by the title company or attorney handling the proceeding.
  2. All paperwork necessary for transferring of the deed/title and accompanying title insurance is prepared and a final closing date confirmed that is suitable for both parties.
  3. A final cash value is determined for the buyer to bring to the final closing table. This cash figure is to be in the form of a cashier’s check and is generally based on the mortgage closing costs as well as other factors such as utilities and taxes paid to date by the seller.
  4. The final walkthrough is usually conducted anytime between this point and up to the day prior to the actual closing. This is to confirm that the property is in fact in the same condition it was at the start of the process and as agreed upon in the contract.
  5. At the final closing or settlement table, both the seller and the buyer sign all necessary documentation including final loan documents and the HUD-1.
  6. Remaining money owed for the down payment is paid by the buyer to a representative of the title company or attorney who is acting as the settlement agent for the transaction.
  7. The settlement agent records the deed and transaction with the appropriate municipality.
  8. The buyer takes possession of the keys and subsequent possession of the property.

picture of an Massachusetts home seller thinking

Final Thoughts

 
 

We hope that you have found this guide informational and beneficial. Selling a home can be an emotional and exciting time in one’s life. But it can also be a stressful one as well. Knowing what to expect and how to best prepare for the process can help you remain calm and in control throughout.

 
 

Do You Like This Article? Share It!

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of