Our Guide for Those Looking to Sell Their Wisconsin Home
Table of Contents
- Best Time of Year to Sell an Wisconsin Home
- Cost of Selling an Wisconsin Home
- Legal Requirements and Considerations
- Options for Selling a House in Wisconsin
- Wisconsin’s Purchase and Sale Agreements
- Negotiation Process – Offers, Counteroffers & Acceptance
- Escrow Process in Wisconsin
- Closing Process in Wisconsin
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 Wisconsin 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 is a complicated process in Wisconsin with numerous legal and other considerations to contend with.
For most Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin isn’t always as easy as a simple transaction. Given the size of the deal, 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 Wisconsin is similar to that in other states, Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin, 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.Want to sell a Wisconsin home and save thousands? Find out how (January 27, 2020)
Best Time of Year to Sell a Wisconsin Home
When it comes to selling a house in Wisconsin, 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.
They say location is everything in real estate, but when it comes to selling a home, so is timing. For example, listing a home in mid-winter when movers and buyers have to deal with bad roads for traveling and snowdrifts isn’t a very good plan.
Although the average time on the market for homes selling in Wisconsin hovers around 68 days from the date listed to the date the transaction is closed, this statistic does fluctuate throughout the year for a number of varying reasons
Wisconsin has a very clearly defined real estate cycle, with property prices both rising and falling like clockwork. Using actual real estate transaction data we can clearly chart the best time to sell your property in Wisconsin based on your goals. This makes planning to sell a home in Wisconsin an easier task.
For example, selling a home in June can result in upwards of a 14.29% higher closing sales price on your home, while selling in January might cost you a negative 14.01% lower than average sale.
Best Time of the Year to Sell for a Profit
Months Homes Sold at Above Average Prices (in order of highest to lowest):
Months Homes Sold at Below Average Prices (in order of lowest to highest):
PRO TIP: Remember, these figures are based on the moth the homes closed/sold in, NOT when they were listed. Depending on your local market, homes across WI on average sit on the market for around 68 days. However, this number can go as low as 30 and as high as 120 days. So plan accordingly.
Best Time of the Year to Sell FAST
Money isn’t always the primary motivator for selling a home. 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 WI.
Selling your home fast is especially important for many Wisconsin 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).
For example, those homes closed in February were on the market an average of almost 19 days longer than average, while those closed in June were on the market for an average of 7.5 days less on average. If moving FAST is a top priority, June is the top month to “close” (not list) your home for sale.
Months Homes Closed Faster Than Average (in order of fastest to slowest):
Months Homes Sold Slower Than Average (in order of slowest to fastest):
PRO TIP: Remember, these figures are based on the moth the homes closed/sold in, NOT when they were listed. Depending on your local market, homes across WI on average sit on the market for around 68 days. However, this number can go as low as 30 and as high as 120 days. So plan accordingly.
Buyer / 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. Those with properties in the Lake Region often see more interest and action in the market between Memorial Day and Labor Day when interested tourists seek out the purchase of summer homes.How Can I Sell My House Using ISoldMyHouse.com? Learn more (January 27, 2020)
Cost of Selling a Wisconsin Home
Selling a home comes with costs. Before listing your home on the market make sure you’re aware of any associated fees. Let’s take a look at what you can expect.
- Title Insurance – Title insurance protects home sellers from any claims that arise due to ownership of the property, such as claims that are brought about by a previous buyer/owner or other claims such as unreleased liens, fraud, court judgments, unpaid taxes or forgery.
By custom, in Wisconsin, the home seller is responsible for title insurance.
- Transfer Tax – The cost of the title transfer tax in WI is paid for by the “grantor” or seller of the property. This fee is currently set at a rate of 30 cents for every $100 of transaction value and is paid to the state of Wisconsin.
- Costs Associated with Remedying Title or Survey Issues – In the event that issues surrounding the title or survey emerge, contacting a local real estate attorney is the advised route to obtain counsel on your options and cost of resolution.
- Local Government / Municipal Costs – Generally, there are localized costs associated with the sale of a Wisconsin house. These may include local stamp taxes, recording fees, community association estoppel fee, or other fees imposed by the county, city or town such as those for utilities or local taxes.
- Deed Preparation by Attorney or Title Company – The cost deed preparation is generally paid for by the seller and commonly ranges between $100-$150.
- Seller Attorney Fees – It is important to note that in the state of Wisconsin it is required that a licensed attorney bet at the close all real estate transactions taking place within its borders. This is contrary to many other states in the US in which title companies are allowed to handle escrow and closing matters. Most attorneys charge by the hour, however, you may be able to find Wisconsin attorneys offering “flat fee” real estate closing services.
- 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 Wisconsin are defined as a percentage of the sale price of a home and that while standard rates do exist, they are negotiable.
Legal Requirements and Considerations
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Wisconsin, like many states, does not require that an attorney be used for the process of selling a home. However, having a lawyer in your corner is also 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.
Wisconsin Real Estate Disclosure Requirements
Wisconsin, like most states, requires that sellers disclose certain information regarding known material defects about the condition of the home to prospective buyers. The majority of property sellers will be required to submit what is known as a “real estate condition report” to any prospective buyer.
Disclosure requirements in WI are required for any defect or condition that:
- Is likely to have a significant impact on the property’s value
- May pose a health risk to future inhabitants
- May pose a safety risk
- Would shorten the life-span of the property
The law does make certain exceptions for those sellers who do not have a “reasonable” understanding of the condition of a property due to the seller not actually owning the property. For example, a trustee or representative of an estate.
The “real estate condition report” required by WI state law requires that the seller of the home answer a designated serious of questions pertaining to the known aspects and the condition of certain elements of the home or property.
The form focuses on a few key elements:
- Structural defects such as those related to major elements of the property, including but not limited to plumbing and electrical systems, roofing, foundational issues, HVAC and more. This section also includes any issues with radon, lead paint, asbestos or on-site fuel tanks.
- Legal issues with the property. This includes but is not limited to encumbrances, property line disputes, shared well agreements and more.
In the event that you are “aware” of such issues, you are required by law to select “yes” on the form and then provide an additional written statement detailing the issue. However, you cannot be held liable for any issues or conditions that you don’t know and that aren’t readily apparent.
Condos: Selling a condo requires a few additional details that must be disclosed
You must provide any prospective buyers with information regarding:
- The name of the condominium
- The date the condo was developed
- The name and address of the condo association
- The Person of contact for the condo association
- A statement clarifying any associated assessments or fees due or owed in the future
Seller’s Federal Disclosure Requirements
In addition to the aforementioned disclosure requirements set forth by the Wisconsin statute, sellers must also abide by federal disclosure requirements.
- If the home you are selling was built prior to 1978 you must disclose any lead-based paint hazards in the property
- You must provide any inspection reports relating to lead-based hazards in the home
- Provide an EPA-approved informational pamphlet to buyers
- Allow buyers to conduct their own lead-based assessment
- Include specific warning language relating to lead-based hazards in the sale agreement
Purpose/Benefits of Disclosure
At first glance disclosure requirements may seem like they benefit buyers more than sellers. However, these disclosures provide sellers with protection from certain liabilities associated with the sale of the property. For example, if a crack in the foundation is officially disclosed and that disclosure documented, the buyer would have a difficult time effectively suing the seller if that crack later resulted in further damage to the property.
Options for Selling a House in Wisconsin
Selling With a Real Estate Agent
When most Wisconsin residents think about selling their home they think of listing with a real estate agent. In the state of Wisconsin, 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.
Real Estate Commissions in Wisconsin
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 5-8% in Wisconsin. 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.How Can I Sell My House Using ISoldMyHouse.com? Learn more (January 27, 2020)
The commission is paid out as part of the sale price upon closing and is not required upfront.
Wisconsin’s 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.
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:
- Commission Rate – The rate of commission you agree to pay as a seller (usually ranges from 5-8% in WI). This fee, averaging at 6% in WI, gets split between the buyer’s agent and your agent at closing.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Wisconsin 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 WI 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 Wisconsin 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.We can buy your house. Get your fair cash offer here. (January 27, 2020)
Tips for Selling the DIY Way:
- Prep your home for the market. This means professional cleaning, removing any clutter, and staging the property both inside and out for viewing.
- 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.
- Invest in a Wisconsin 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).
- 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.
- Know your home’s best selling points and put a “pitch” together to “sell” them both in person and in print or online.
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 Madison, WI cannot view listings in Boston, MA. 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 Wisconsin’s 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
Wisconsin’s Purchase and Sale Agreements
In simple terms, a home purchase agreement, 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.
The agreement will cover such aspects of the sale such as…
- 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.
- 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
- Property Description – Given that WI is a big “buyer beware” state, the more detail provided here, the better it is (generally) for the buyer but not necessarily for the seller.
The property description should accurately describe the property including:
- Size of the home’s square footage and any additional structures such as a detached garage
- Lot size
- Number of lots included
- Frontage on a road or body of water
- Number of living units
- Finished basement
- Rights of way, easements or appurtenant rights
- Inspection & Repairs – Under the agreement, an inspection clause may dictate 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.
- Title 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.
- 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 the property they expect to sell/purchase. From there you can both negotiate a deal.
- Closing and Move in/out Dates – Dates are very important with regard to the process of selling a home. Generally, the closing date for Wisconsin properties lands around 30 days. However, this date is largely dependent upon the lender and may require an extension.
- Other Riders – Standard Wisconsin Realtor forms also have a range of optional riders that cover such circumstances as those that involve:
- Owner financing
- Homeowners’ associations
- And more…
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.
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”.
Escrow Process in Wisconsin
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 the 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 the 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
Closing Process in Wisconsin
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. In Wisconsin, when the lender notifies that everything is ready, the closing attorney or title agency will coordinate with all involved parties to schedule the “closing ceremony”. This process culminates with the actual transfer of title to the property to the new owner.
Once closing has come to an end, the attorney or title company utilized for the process will record the deed at the local courthouse.
The Closing Process in Detail:
- Title Search – A title search scours public records for mortgages, deeds, assessments, wills, liens, settlements and any other documents that may impact title to the property being sold. If the title comes back as “clean” the closing can proceed unhindered.
- Document Preparation – During this step, the closing agent prepares, gathers and reviews any paperwork necessary for the transfer of the title/deed. They also review any lender instructions or mandates as well as any instructions from other relevant parties involved. From this information, closing statements and schedules for the closing are drafted and provided to all involved parties.
- Closing Date is Set – A final closing date will be scheduled that is amenable by both parties, giving each time to prepare for the transaction.
- Calculation of Monies Owed – Calculation of the total amount (in the form of a cashier’s check) that the buyer needs to bring to the closing is assessed.
- Final Walkthrough – This walkthrough of the home is usually performed the day of, or the day before, the date of closing. A final walkthrough is used to validate that no substantial changes to the property have been made since the last inspection.
- Signing of Documents – Buyer and seller, at closing (settlement table) sign all requisite documents including final loan paperwork. During this step, the seller signs a closing affidavit and the deed. The buyer signs the new mortgage and note.
- Down Payment – Buyer remits remaining funds in their down payment to the attorney via cashier’s check.
- Recording Public Record – Attorney or title agency records the transaction and deed with the local municipality.
- Post-Closing – The buyer receives keys to the home and legally takes possession of the property.
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.Want to sell a Wisconsin home and save thousands? Find out how (January 27, 2020)
About the Author: Kris Lippi is the owner of ISoldMyHouse.com and the broker of Get LISTED Realty. He actively writes about real estate related topics such as buying and selling homes, how-to guides for around the house and home product recommendations. He has been featured in Inman, Readers Digest, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as other major websites. Read more about us here.