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This list gives some things to consider before putting your house on the market. Preparing properly can get you in the best possible position to make the most money possible from your sale.
1. Know Where You Are Going
Does this one seem obvious? Good. Most people know where they are moving next or may already have a home or a plan to buy a home.
But if you are just “testing the market” or do not have a plan in place, it can make the sale very difficult.
Unconsciously, each step of selling you will resist and wait for the “perfect” offer (which does not exist). This can cause you to overprice the home, turn away solid offers and possibly cost yourself money.
2. Know the Market Conditions
Real estate is hyperlocal, so each area and/or neighborhood has its own market factors, both good and bad.
These factors, and the economy as whole, affect how quickly homes sell. They also determine whether you should list the same as recent sales or slightly above/below and how much work you should do on the home.
This is good information to have, because the more you know what to expect the easier you can move through the process.
3. Find a Real Estate Agent
When is the right time to find a real estate agent? A good agent will add value early on in the process and continue all the way to closing.
They can help you understand your home’s value and the market conditions, suggest improvements, coordinate contractors if you are out of town, market the home so you capture the most profit possible and much more.
At the least, you will want to make sure to secure your agent with enough time for them to start getting the marketing in order before listing it live.
I have found many sellers sign a listing agreement 4-8 weeks before listing. But some hire an agent earlier on to ask questions about preparing their home, updates, etc.
4. Get a Value Estimate
You do not need to sign a contract to interview an agent and also get their opinion of your home’s value.
There are many websites that have already assigned a value to your home. This is known as an AVM (Automated Valuation Model) which is produced by a site’s machine learning program.
These are a great starting point, and in some cases are fairly accurate. But they do not replace having a professional come in and walk through your home to give an estimate.
Your home’s condition, both positive (more updated than other sales) and negative (needs updating or has deferred maintenance) is not taken into account. There are also other variables that can only be taken into account by a human.
5. Look Through Buyer’s Eyes
Living in a house and looking at a home to buy are 2 very different perspectives. You are used to that weird wall color. You stopped noticing that bathroom with the 1980s tile.
Buyers, on the other hand, will notice all of the little quirks that you no longer do. They are hyper aware of a home’s condition and how many updates you have done. They are usually overly critical of flaws and can get very excited for updates.
Start to shift your perspective from a homeowner to a homebuyer, and get ready to look at your home through a new light as you get ready to sell.
6. Explore the Market at Open Houses
There is nothing wrong with going to see the competition. The easiest way to do this is to go to see some open houses in your neighborhood and other closeby areas with similar houses to yours.
This will help you see how those owners have handled updating the homes, and how they priced them.
7. Evaluate Your Property Condition
Honestly take an inventory of your property condition. If you are having trouble figuring out the condition, rely on your real estate agent (or hire one if you do not have one) to help you through this stage.
It can also be helpful to compare your property to the others on the market that you see at open houses. Is it better or worse than those?
This is going to help you accept what your home will sell for.
8. Declutter The Property
There is nothing worse for your profit than a cluttered property. If your home is cluttered, it will distract the buyer to the point they may not be able to see much else, even if your home has good “bones” or is updated.
Even if your home is going to be sold to an investor “as-is”, decluttering should be your first focus.
9. Do The “Smell” Test
Just like you do not consciously notice flaws in your home once you have lived there awhile, you also cannot smell your own home or other places you spend lots of time.
Have someone who does not live in the home give you an honest opinion of the smell. A real estate agent will give you there honest assessment, especially when asked.
If there is an unpleasant odor, you want to fix the source of it before listing.
Deodorizers and air fresheners are also a good idea. But it is also important to try to eliminate the source. For example, if you have some old musty carpet, replacement is usually the best idea.
10. Catch Up On Maintenance
You know what kind of maintenance that you have been putting off. Before you list is the right time to fix that leaky faucet, any damage to drywall, get an HVAC tune up and anything else that has been put off.
The buyer is likely to request many of these items during the inspection period anyhow.
11. Decide What to Update
Along with maintenance, you want to make a list of upgrades that you plan on doing.
This is best done with the help of a knowledgeable real estate agent.
How much to update and what updates to do depend on a few different factors. For example, the market conditions, the update level of other homes in the area, market value of an updated home vs non-updated, etc.
12. Walk Up To Your Front Door
Using your “buyer vision”, walk from where you park to the front door. If you have a garage, walk up like you are a guest from the sidewalk to the front door.
This is the first impression your home will give to potential new owners.
Your landscaping, trim, exterior paint, windows, front door, siding, sidewalk/driveway should all be in the best condition possible. This sometimes means cleaning and sprucing, other times you may have to replace some items.
Buyers often make a judgement, unconsciously, on the condition of the home based on the exterior.
13. Make a Copy Of Your Key
Your real estate agent will, in most cases, put a lockbox on the door so that buyer’s agents and other professionals can schedule appointments to access your property.
Have a copy of the key ready to provide for the lockbox. If you are not living in the house, you will also want a lockbox for contractors.
14. Be Flexible With Contractors
You are likely to have professionals coming and going as your prepare to list your home, and in fact all through the sale.
It can be inconvenient if you are still living in the property. But just accepting this and being flexible with them coming and going will make the sale much easier.
15. Make a Plan for Excess “Things”
If you have storage in the home, that is great. But you do not want to use common areas for storage. This, just like excess clutter, is distracting.
You also do not want too much furniture. You really just want enough furniture to show the function of each room.
If you have excess, make a plan for where you will put it. A local storage unit is a good option.
16. Make a Staging Plan and Set Up
Your real estate agent will make staging suggestions and/or may suggest you hire a professional stager. Either way, have a plan to present the home in the best possible light.
Writing out what to do for each room can help you remember. Then, go ahead and put a weekend or few days on the calendar to execute the plan.
17. Do a Deep Clean
You want the home to be the cleanest it has ever been before listing it for sale.
You can tackle this project yourself, or hire a cleaning service to do it for you. Most cleaning companies have a deep clean or “move out” clean where they include appliances, windows and more.
18. Replace Light Bulbs
Having fresh light bulbs in all of your light fixtures makes sure that the home is shining bright and also looks great in photos.
You also want to make sure that the all the bulbs are the same wattage and color (soft white, cool white, etc.)
19. Remove Screens
This is an interesting but effective staging tactic. Removing the screens from windows gives your property a very clean look, especially if your screens are dirty.
If there are high windows, you can can have a contractor remove them when they are there doing other work.
Note: Put the screens in a storage area, do not throw them away! The buyer will likely want to reinstall them or have them back on for closing.
20. Buy Small Plants or Flowers
Putting in a few small live plants or fresh flowers are inviting to buyers touring your home. Flowers give the added benefit of a little color for a room that is otherwise lacking.
21. Prepare for Photos
Real estate photos are one of the most essential aspects of marketing a property. Your real estate agent will most likely have a professional photographer come in for photos.
You want your home to look its absolute best for these photos. So if you live in the home, make sure that you take some extra time to make sure it will be at its best.
22. Get Some Smart Speakers
Having some quiet, relaxing music playing for showings can leave the buyer with positive feelings toward your home.
Home speakers are now affordable, and they can also sync up with lights, locks, doorbells and more. This can make things easier on you if you are out at showings.
Amazon has a great selection of smart speakers with lots of integration.
You also will enjoy that at your next home, or possible can leave them for the buyer as an added incentive.
23. Check For a Copy Of Your Title Insurance
In some cases, providing a copy of your title insurance to the new buyer can get them a “reissue rate“.
It will depend on when you purchased the home and also the buyer’s title company.
Will this help you get more money in your pocket at closing? Not directly. But here is the truth: helping the buyer for your new home possibly save some money can make for a much easier transaction.
24. Make a Plan For Showings
Ask your real estate agent how many showings you should expect. In some markets and price of homes, this could be 1-2 a week or less.
But in strong seller’s markets, the showings can last all day on the weekends and even be busy during the week.
You 100% want to be out of the home for all showings. So make a plan upfront if you are living in the property. Some sellers even go on a mini weekend getaway or stay with family in markets with strong demand.
25. Find Floor Plans
Floor plans can be a great marketing tool for buyers. If you have floor plans from an addition or your home builder, provide those to your agent.
You can also request your agent have some drafted if you do not have a copy.
26. Find Warranty Info
If your home is still new enough to have builder’s warranties, this is great info to pass along to a buyer. The structural warranty is the longest lasting.
Any warranties for work done on the home is also useful. Many contractors provide warranties, from roofers to kitchen and bathroom, HVAC and more.
27. Order HOA/Condo Resale Documents
Depending on your state, you will need to provide the new buyer documents relating to the HOA (homeowners association) or condo association.
The buyer likely will have a review period contingency in the contract. So you will want to have these to give to the buyer as soon as you get a contract.
Not all properties are in communities with HOAs, so this may not apply.
Selling a house can be stressful, but ultimately will allow you to get on to the next chapter of your life. Our ultimate guide to selling a house is another great read for anyone getting ready to sell a home.
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