How to Get Your House Ready to Sell (9 Actionable Tips)

8 November 2019Home Selling

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The process of selling a home can be nerve-wracking. If you’re like most people, your home is the most substantial single investment you will ever make. Making sure you obtain the highest possible price is a matter of both pride and practicality.

Of course, getting what you want requires more than just posting a price and waiting for buyers to walk through the door, checkbook in hand. You need to know:

  1. The value of your home
  2. What the local market will support in terms of price
  3. The best method for selling your home
  4. How to present it in a way that facilitates a quick sale at an attractive price

That’s a pretty tall order and one that involves a lot of variables. It also calls for a boatload of patience and persistence. So, it can’t hurt to have a list of actionable tips you can refer to if needed. That way, whenever you feel stuck, you can look to the list and get things moving again.

Here are the 9 Actionable Tips to Help You Learn How to Get Your House Ready to Sell.

picture of a woman checking out other homes for sale

1. Scope Out the Competition

 
 

You probably have a price in mind when it comes to your home. Everyone does. The difference between those who get what they want and those who don’t is research.

After all, your home doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in a market, and that market will, to a large extent, determine the price range of your home. Research what comparable homes in your area are going for and price accordingly.

How do you go about researching the competition? It’s not as difficult as you might think. Here are two methods that can’t lose.

  • Attend Open Houses – By attending open houses, you will get a real-world idea of what homes are selling and for how much—but that’s not all. You’ll also see how others are presenting their home. If you’re lucky, you’ll even overhear what potential buyers are saying about those homes.
  • Browse Listings Online – The internet is the greatest information resource ever created. Make use of it. Every year some five million existing homes like yours are sold in the US. Almost all are listed online at some point.

If you are new to online research, simply go to Google.com and enter homes for sale near me. That’s it. Regardless of where you are, you’ll see scores of listings in your area. Now that you’ve found them spend some time sifting through them, and be sure to take notes.

Using What You’ve Learned

The information you glean from open houses will help you arrive at a price, but more than that, it will help you formulate a more effective presentation for your own home. Will you have to give up some of your normal weekend activities for a while? Sure, but in the end, you’ll be better off for it.

picture of handy home sellers

2. Hire or Become a Handyman ASAP

 
 

The longer someone lives in their home, the more things they typically let slide. Squeaky doors and leaky faucets aren’t going to impress potential buyers! As such, it will be your job to either hire someone to fix things up or to do the fixing yourself. A typical repair/refurbish checklist may include:

  • A Fresh Coat of Paint – Most of us aren’t aware of how dingy the walls in our homes have become, and then we move an old painting. Yikes! If you are planning to put your home on the market, now’s the time to paint it. Dingy paint is a distraction that could cost you a sale.
  • Fixing Broken Items – You might think that squeaky back door is charming, but others take it as an indication you haven’t maintained the house. You might take the musty smell in the basement for granted, but potential buyers will take it as a sign you have a leaky foundation.
  • Sprucing Up the Cabinets – Kitchen cabinets can acquire a dated look over time. Painting them or replacing the cabinet hardware are affordable ways to give the kitchen a presale facelift. There are plenty of websites that can take you through the hardware replacement process.

The goal is to purge the house of distractions or anything that could even suggest neglect. Every light switch should work. Every light bulb too. The walls should look fresh and attractive. The carpeting should be clean and stain-free, and the cabinets should be an asset, not a liability.

picture of a man deep cleaning his home

3. Perform a Deep Cleaning

 
 

We’ve danced around this point up to now, but it’s time to shine a light on the need to deep clean the entire house. A deep clean is more than just a vacuum and dusting. Ideally, it’s a thorough scouring of the whole residence from attic to basement. That includes:

  • Steam Cleaning the Carpets – A standard wet vac will often create more problems than it will solve. Instead, you should seek out the services of a professional carpet cleaner with a truck-mounted steam cleaning system.
  • Remove Pet (and People) Smells – Pet owners don’t always smell pet odors because they’re so used to them, but others will. Steam cleaning the carpets will remove a lot of odors. Consider cleaning the upholstery as well. Closets are also odor factories and should be cleaned thoroughly, and there shouldn’t be any dirty laundry anywhere in the house.

Other items that should be on your deep cleaning checklist include:

  • Windows – Clean the windows inside and out.
  • Garbage cans – Clean them thoroughly to remove any odors.
  • The oven and stovetop – Ovens are a common source of unpleasant odors.
  • The refrigerator – Empty it. Clean it thoroughly. Toss any dodgy items.
  • The dishwasher – Thoroughly clean and sanitize the inside of the dishwasher.
  • Bathroom grout – Mold stinks. Grout often gets moldy. Clean the grout.
  • The shower stall and curtain – Clean it top to bottom and buy a new curtain.
  • The basement – Do a wall-to-wall cleaning, remove mold, and seal any cracks.

You should also have someone in to clean the air ducts and dryer vent. Dirty air ducts are repositories for dead skin, pollen, pet hair, and mold spores. Cleaning them can go a long way toward purging the house of musty, unpleasant odors.

picture of a house with curb appeal

4. Maximize Curb Appeal

 
 

Experts agree that curb appeal plays a huge role in selling a home. An unattractive exterior will turn off potential buyers. Before your home goes on the market, you will need to address its exterior appearance. Here are some common ways to do that:

  • Focus on the Front Door and Porch – You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The porch should be clean and freshly painted. There shouldn’t be any loose boards, no areas of rot, and no creaky steps. The front door should be attractive, substantial, and well-framed.
  • Add Fresh Mulch and Flowers – Your house may be impeccably maintained, but if the rest of the property is a mess, it won’t matter. Dead flowers and pale, lifeless mulch are non-starters when it comes to curb appeal.
  • Always Have a Fresh-Cut Lawn – Making sure the lawn is tidy and free of bare spots is crucial. It provides the entire property a put-together aura. Not only that, but it also endows the air surrounding the home with an appealing scent.
  • Cut Back Trees and Shrubs – Trees and shrubs are great, but they shouldn’t have a wild appearance, especially if the rest of the house is impeccably maintained. Get a professional landscaper in to cut back the trees and shrubs. The sale you save may be your own.
  • Bring Walkways Up to Speed – A cracked and uneven driveway is an eyesore. Same with walkways. Replacing old concrete with new interlocking pavers won’t cost a fortune, but it will produce an outsized bump in curb appeal.
  • Replace the Mailbox – Traditional mail continues to lose ground to digital media, but it’s not entirely obsolete yet. If the mailbox is a relic from the 1970s, spend a few bucks and install a new one. It’s often these kinds of details that make the difference.

picture of real estate market prices

5. Research Local Real Estate Market Prices

 

We talked about this earlier, but it deserves a closer look. The asking price for your house can’t be something you simply pulled from the ether. It must be grounded in the realities of the market. That means researching the local market.

  • Active Listings – Active listings demonstrate what people are asking for properties similar to yours. Now, your home may have some unique features that bolster its value, but at the very least, active listings can provide a foundation for the price range your home will occupy.
  • Sold Listings – Sold listings provide a real-world indication of buyer sentiment. If most sellers in your area are achieving their asking price, it indicates a healthy market. Aside from that, it can also help establish a ceiling on your price range.

Keep in mind that there are myriad factors that affect home prices. Some of which are within your control and some of which are not. Active and sold listings are simply a way to create context. They are not a guarantee of anything.

picture of fsbo vs agent

6. Decide on FSBO or Real Estate Agent

 

When selling a house, you have two options. You can choose to enlist the services of a real estate agent, or you can go the FSBO route. FSBO stands for “For Sale by Owner.” Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of both.

FSBO Advantages

  • No Commission – This is the most common reason people decide to go the FSBO route. It’s understandable because commissions can be substantial, especially on million-dollar homes.
  • Enables More Competitive Pricing – With the hefty commission out of the way, you are free to lower the price of your home. This is especially useful in a competitive market.
  • Lots of Helpful Resources – This wasn’t always the case, but the rise of the internet has seen the proliferation of resources for those who wish to go the FSBO route.
  • Total Control – You get to pitch your home the way you think best.

FSBO Disadvantages

  • Paperwork – Property sales generate a lot of paperwork. If you go the FSBO route, you’ll find out just how much.
  • Lower Profit – Most homeowners are not adept at sales. As such, most homeowners who opt for the FSBO route wind up netting a significantly lower price for their home than if they enlisted an agent to handle the sale. Which is why you should consider a flat fee mls listing! See below…
  • Time – An FSBO sale requires you to arrange home tours. Showing your house to potential buyers can be a very time-consuming aspect of the sales process.

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

 

Real Estate Agent Advantages

  • Expertise – Experienced real estate agents have seen it all. They can quickly size up a home and develop an effective sales strategy.
  • Connections – The best agents have access to a wealth of potential clients. Their network can speed up the sale process and help ensure a more agreeable price.
  • Time Savings – With the agent handling all the paperwork and tours, you are free to concentrate on other things.
  • Higher Sales Price – If FSBO sales result in lower prices, the opposite must also be true—and it is.

Real Estate Agent Disadvantages

  • That Commission – Real estate agents do a lot of work behind the scenes. If people knew how much, they probably wouldn’t complain about the commission. Still, commissions can be substantial.
  • Lack of Attention – Good real estate agents are busy people. Chances are you are not going to get anything resembling “personal service” from a top agent.
  • Loss of Control – Those who prefer to be in charge often clash with agents, which can put a cloud over the entire process.

picture of a storage unit

7. Rent a Storage Unit

 
 

Most homeowners accumulate things over time. These items, which typically serve no immediate purpose, end up filling the basement, attic, and closets. Renting a storage unit during the sales process can be a winning strategy for a couple of reasons:

  • It Allows for De-cluttering – Clutter is a visual distraction, but it is also a reminder that someone lives in the house. Why is that an issue? Because, as we will see shortly, potential buyers want to be able to imagine themselves in the house. To do so, the owner needs to step aside. Removing years of clutter is one way that you step aside.
  • It Enables You to Store Extra Furniture – Clutter is typically comprised of old clothes, camping equipment, books, old magazines, and various art objects. Just as often, though, homeowners will have more furniture in the house than is either necessary or aesthetically attractive. Moving this extra furniture to a storage space can open the home up and give potential buyers’ imaginations room to work.
  • It Can Pay Dividends Going Forward – Storage spaces can become addictive. Most people who use them can’t imagine going back to life without them. A storage space acquired during a move will usually wind up a permanent feature of the homeowner’s life going forward.

Storage space is a minimal expense that can produce significant benefits. If you have a hard time saying goodbye to things, storage space will be an important component of the sales process.

picture of a home staging professional

8. Staging to Sell Is NOT Just For TV

 
 

Home staging programs have become very popular on networks like HGTV. So much so that some folks believe the process was invented for TV, but home staging has been around for decades and, according to the National Association of Realtors, is one of the most critical aspects of the sale process.

Home staging is the process of adjusting the look of a house to emphasize its best qualities. More often than not, staging minimizes the effect of personal tastes in favor of a kind of neutral ideal. This enables potential buyers to engage more fully with the home.

Basics of Home Staging

There are several key aspects to home staging that should be adhered to. This point is true whether the person doing the staging is a professional or the homeowner.

  • Depersonalize – When potential buyers look at a house, they want to picture themselves in it. A home full of personal items—family photos, eclectic furniture, sports memorabilia, etc. –makes this challenging. The job of the stager is to transform the “home” back into a “house.”
  • Organize – Transforming a home into a house means re-imposing a kind of standard ergonomic regime. As a result, things go back to where most people expect them to be. Not where the owner is comfortable with them.
  • Lighting – Lighting is an incredibly powerful tool for creating mood, establishing focal points, and emphasizing spatial relationships. As such, few things are as important to effective home staging as a well-considered lighting scheme.
  • Accentuate the Positive – Purging the home of the owner’s personality is essential for successful home staging. With quirky furniture choices, well-worn family favorites, and pets out of the way, attention can shift to the aesthetic and practical strengths of the house.

According to Forbes, staged homes sell faster and for a higher price than non-staged homes, but home staging will sometimes require the homeowner to swallow their pride and place their furniture in the aforementioned storage space. They’ll then replace it with rental pieces chosen for their ability to highlight different aspects of the house.

picture of a professional real estate photographer

9. Professional Photos Are a Must

 
 

While curb appeal is vital to attracting buyers, it’s not what it used to be. In the past, curb appeal referred to how people perceived the house from the street. It still does to some degree, but these days, people judge curb appeal from photographs posted to a realtor’s website.

As such, savvy sellers are now hiring professional photographers to give their home the Ansel Adams treatment, both inside and out. Potential buyers can then take a virtual tour of the house using their smartphone while they’re in the lunchroom at work or lying in bed at night. Thereby saving much time and hassle.

Pro Photos Help Sell Faster and Closer to List Price

Professional real estate photographers know that customers who use their photography service sell their homes 50% faster and much closer to the asking price than those that don’t. Most real estate agents would also agree with that assessment.

So, in short, a professional real estate photographer is a must because:

  • Industry professionals state that high-quality photos will lead to a faster sale.
  • Great photos attract more potential buyers.
  • The nature of curb appeal has changed, and you either change with it, or you lose.
  • Considering the potential benefits, the cost is a relative pittance.

Remember, not any old smartphone photos will do. We’re talking about high-quality, carefully staged professional photographs.

Wrapping It Up

In the days of yore, most people spent their entire lives in a single house. Today, that notion seems incredibly quaint, as mobility is one of the hallmarks of modernity, but moving from one home to another can be a complicated and tedious process.

If you take the above tips to heart, you are certain to remove some of the stress and uncertainty from the process of selling your house. Even then, though, you’ll need to be careful. Any number of factors and forces can rear their heads and send things off in an unpredictable direction.

That’s no reason to be scared. Just cautious. So cast off your preconceived notions and spend some time internalizing the suggestions on the above list. When you’re closing the deal at the price you want, you’ll be glad you learned how to get your house ready to sell!

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