Have you heard? It’s a seller’s market. Well, in most zip codes at least. But a hopping homebuying season doesn’t necessarily mean your home will go well over asking price. There’s still plenty a seller must do if they want to get the best price for their soon-to-be-former digs. Do you know how to avoid rookie mistakes?
Here are 50 things to do if you plan to sell your home this spring.
1. Learn the Market
The reports of a seller’s market are greatly exaggerated — which is to say every zip code is different. If you want to expedite a sale, your “property has to be marketed properly and be priced appropriately,” said Glenn S. Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty. “The feeding frenzy of a few years ago has not returned, and buyers are better informed than ever.”
2. Avoid Over-Pricing
Gradual price drops signal to house hunters that more decreases are to come, Phillips says. Plus, if your home sits on the market long enough, prospective buyers will wonder what’s wrong with it. “In the end, most homes that start overpriced sell at a price lower than a home priced [appropriately] from the start,” he said. “And the deal happens much faster and without the pain of months trying to sell.”
3. Hire a Realtor
Yes, you’ll have to pay them a commission. (Side note: You’ll be expected to cover the buyer’s agent, too.) Still, a good Realtor can be instrumental when it comes to the whole “learn-the-market, price-it-right” stuff. Plus, they’ll do the heavy lifting when showing the house and negotiating offers. Of course, be sure to …
4. Vet Prospective Agents
“Find someone who is in the business full time and who can demonstrate their skill at listing a house,” Reba Haas, CEO of Team Reba at RE/MAX Metro Inc. in Seattle, said. “This will show up in their print materials, online photos, services provided marketing presentation and ability to find the right price range to help you sell in a reasonable amount of time.”
5. Get a Home Estimate …
Yes, your real estate agent can help you set the right price on your home, but it doesn’t hurt to get a general idea of the pricing in your area on your own. There are plenty of sites online that can help you get an idea of your home’s current value.
6. Or, Better Yet, a Pre-Listing Appraisal
That’ll help preclude any problems during the bank appraisal. “An independent appraisal performed prior to listing can determine the value that a lender would assign your home,” Bruce Elliott, president of the Orlando Regional REALTOR Association, said. “While the process is never scientific, many buyers do find an independent appraisal to be a credible source for judging a home’s value.”
7. Determine How Much the Sale Will Cost You
Because there are plenty of expenses associated with selling a home. “A lot of sellers are not aware of what their costs are, including attorney, commission to broker and any other closing costs, including potential repairs before putting the home on the market,” says Kobi Lahav, managing director, Mdrn. Residential, a real estate brokerage in New York City. Fortunately, your broker or listing agent can help you pin down a rough estimate of what you might have to shell out.
8. Hire an Attorney
They’ll be instrumental when it comes time to negotiate the purchase contract with your chosen buyer, but you’ll, of course, want to …
9. Research Their Reputations (& Fees)
Ask friends and family for recommendations, or do a search online to find an affordable real estate attorney you can trust.
10. Ask for a Mortgage Pay Off Quote
You may think you know how much you owe on your mortgage. However, “it is not always what you see on your lender’s website,” Denise Supplee, co-founder of SparkRental and Pennsylvania Realtor, says. “And it is a good idea to have that information, especially if the money from your sale is going towards another sale.”
11. Build Your Coffers
Like we said, selling your home can be very costly. Be sure you’ve got an adequate emergency fund on hand to cover the costs, moving expenses and mortgage or rent associated with your next abode.
12. Check State Tax Records
“Make sure any debts you thought you paid off, were, in fact, posted in municipality tax records [and] satisfied,” Janice B. Leis, Accredited Buyer’s Representative and associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway, says. “Otherwise, you will have an arduous task getting issues resolved if faced with either a quick closing or finding out by the title company near closing, when life is hectic.”
13. Consult an Accountant
Or a trusted financial adviser before putting down For Sale stakes. They can fill you in on any tax deductions or bills associated with the sale that you’ll be expected to pay next year, Leis says.
14. Pull Your Credit Reports
In addition to liens, look for any judgments because those can go against the title of your home. “I have seen … people who thought they were getting X amount of dollars find out that they owe back taxes from many years ago,” Supplee says. (You can pull your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.) If you’re also searching for a new home while you’re trying to sell yours, well, then, you’ll want to …
15. Get Your Full Credit Check On
16. Dispute Any Errors …
You can go here to learn how to handle errors on your credit report.
17. … & Otherwise Shore Up Your Scores
Beyond that, pay down high credit card balances, limit new credit inquiries and address any other credit-score killers to improve your credit scores. You can monitor your progress using your free credit report summary, along with two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.
18. Set Realistic Deadlines
“It takes a lot of time to prepare a home for sale,” Haas says. “Be realistic in what you can do, and consider where you may need help from family, friends or by hiring professionals.”
19. Map Out Your Move
“If coinciding with a closing and purchase, make sure there is a contingency in your purchase contract,” Reis says. “Otherwise you owe on two properties or will be in default on new purchase due to lack of proceeds from the sale of your existing home.”
20. Get a Pre-Home Inspection Home Inspection
Sure, it’ll cost you. Still, “spending a few hundred dollars on a thorough home inspection can help you get a better idea of what repairs need to be made, and more importantly, what your net proceeds will be from the sale of your home,” Emile L’Eplattenier, real estate marketing and sales analyst at Fit Small Business, says.
21. Make Any Major Repairs …
Pay particular attention to roof and air conditioning issues, as buyers tend to shy from expensive repairs, Elliott says. “Completing as many repairs as your budget allows will pay off when potential buyers are not put off by the amount of time or money they would need to bring the home up to speed,” he adds.
22. … & Consider Some Small Upgrades
“Replacing old curtains and blinds or even appliances and fixtures will make your home look better in pictures and on showings,” L’Eplattenier says. At the very least …
So long as you don’t use one of these four colors, of course. By the way …
24. Carefully Consider Major Home Improvement Projects
Fix the roof, sure. Have the AC serviced, but consult with your Realtor or stager before blinging out the bathroom or wallpapering the basement. Certain home improvements that seem like a good idea may not actually bring any value to your home — or, worse, could be a turnoff to potential buyers. (We’re looking at you, outdoor bathtub.)
25. Get Your Disclosures Ready
Though there are variations by city or state, some types of seller’s disclosure are generally mandated by law. “If you know of an issue in your home, write it down on the disclosure form provided by your Realtor,” Elliott says. “Nothing is too small to disclose, and failing to disclose is a serious breach of real estate law that can undermine the sale or worse.”
26. Trim the (Furniture) Fat
“Too much furniture makes a home look smaller than it really is, so sell or move out furniture to make the home feel more spacious,” Phillips says.
27. Tap a Photographer …
And consider hiring a professional. Solid listing photos make a big difference when it comes to getting buyers over to your house.
28. … But Clean Your Windows Before Showings
“Multi-exposure photography … will make the photos really stand out, but if the windows are dirty, you don’t get the best shots,” Haas says. “Plus, cleanliness in general just makes for a better showing.”
29. Actually, Clean Everything
We’re spelling this out just in case you hadn’t taken the initiative to do so already. “Nothing turns buyers off like grime, odor and general dinginess,” Elliott says.
30. Grout & Glaze
“How does the bathroom look?” Max says. “Do you need to reglaze the tub or put new grout on the tile?”
31. Set the Stage
Your Realtor can provide some valuable insights into how to organize your (leftover) furniture. “Stagers can also help you organize your furniture, and they can bring in just a few pieces that accentuate the positives of your home,” Kathryn Bishop, Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Studio City, California, says.
32. Change the Light Bulbs
Lighting can be just as important as furniture feng shui when it comes to attracting homebuyers.
33. Up Your Curb Appeal
“Neatly trimmed bushes, fresh mulch and a colorful pot of flowers work wonders on that all-important first impression,” Elliott says. “Repainting (or washing) the front door and pressure cleaning the driveway and sidewalks are also simple tasks that provide eye-catching results.”
34. Find a Place for Fido
Sure, Sparky is cute and all, but you’ll want your pets out of the house during any showings. Plus, “it will always bring questions about any pet damage or difficult-to-remove smells,” Phillips says. Speaking of smells …
35. Deodorize …
“Homeowners become smell blind and don’t realize how powerful smell is to homebuyers,” he says. “The home should smell fresh and clean, not perfumed and not like cats, dogs, cigarette smoke, old furniture, mothballs, mold, old food, gym locker or just plain stale.”
36. … De-Personalize …
Pack away those personal pictures and mementos. “Removing these items helps buyers imagine themselves in the home,” Phillips says.
37. … De-Clutter …
That goes beyond offloading some excess furniture and your picture words. Bottom line: It’s time to put all those books, toys, video games and figurines away. “The more crowded the apartment is, the smaller it appears,” Stacey Max, the sales manager of BOND New York, a residential brokerage, says.
38. … & Detach
“Sellers are usually emotionally attached to their homes, which is natural,” Lahav says. “However, they have to remember that any potential buyer is looking at it without the emotional aspect that the owner has for his own property.”
39. Clean Out Your Closets …
“They should look roomy,” Max says.
40. … & Your Drawers
“We all say that one day we will go into all the rooms and drawers and throw out a lot of old items,” Lahav says. “Selling your home is the best time to do it.” In fact, while you’re at it, go ahead and …
41. Start Packing
You’ll have to do it sooner or later. Might as well get a head start.
You don’t have to junk all your belongings — or avoid decluttering just because you don’t want to part with your old Buffy the Vampire Slayer box sets. Consider renting out a storage space or keeping some stuff over at a friend’s or family member’s place while you’re trying to sell.
43. Talk to Your Neighbors
Consider this part of your curb appeal project — especially if you’re selling an apartment, co-op or condo. “You want your neighbors to be aware that there will be open houses,” Lahav says. “Buyers coming to view your home and see unhappy neighbors who look mad that the elevator [doesn’t] work or the driveway is blocked will assume that the neighbors are nasty, and that can affect their decision.”
44. Do a Final Walk-Through
Just to be sure there’s nothing you missed with regard to repairs, curb appeal or staging your home.
45. Advertise Amply
“Some sellers believe that it is OK to not put the home on the local MLS, that the agents in the area will just bring the perfect buyer,” Phillips says. “While this could happen, it rarely does. Doing this is like trying to sell a secret. The price does not matter because few buyers know the house is even for sale.”
46. Host an Open House
“Recently, my listings have all sold to buyers who came to the open houses,” Bishop says. Beyond that …
47. Be Available
“Appointments often come with only an hour’s notice,” she adds. “Work as smoothly as possible with your Realtor to accommodate showings.”
48. Adjust …
If you find you did list your home for more than it’s worth, go ahead and change your listing. (Again, consulting with your Realtor can come in handy here.)
49. … & Stay Flexible
“We’ve seen purchases fall apart over very small amounts of money, over a single appliance and over attitudes,” Phillips says. “Remember the big picture and how much it will cost to start over finding another willing and capable buyer. [Getting] the deal closed is often the best financial (and emotional) choice, even if you have to give up a little more than you wanted.”
50. Brush Up on Your Homebuying Skills
Chances are, you’ll be buying a new abode before or after you sell your current one, so you’ll want to go refamiliarize yourself with that process as well. Fortunately, we’ve got 50 things you should do as a house hunter right here.
Got more questions about the homebuying process? Ask away in the comments section, and one of our experts will try to help!