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Selling your home can be stressful if you don’t have a great strategy in place. But don’t worry – It doesn’t have to be! Follow these 19 tips and go from “for sale” to “sold” in the shortest time possible, all without pulling your hair out.

Visually Make Your House Sale-Ready

There’s only one chance to make a first impression, and both the inner and outer curb appeal of your home is a huge selling point. Just like prepping for an interview, your house is a candidate that should be putting its best foot forward. HouseMaster says that you should touch up paint, repaint rooms with neutral colors, declutter, stage furnishings and put away personal items like photos, extra furniture and collectables that may make it tough for potential buyers to visualize this as their own home. The Chicago Tribune says “buyers look for homes, not houses.” HomeIA goes a step further: making your home as close to a model home as possible “helps prospective buyers imagine more freely what it would be like to own the home and adapt it to their own style.” This includes cleaning out cupboards, closets, storage areas and turning on all lights — even in the garage. And, don’t forget the landscaping. Maximum Exposure Real Estate says that flower beds, your lawn and bushes are the first things potential buyers see when pulling up to the curb.

Cape Farewell Foundation notes that visuals aren’t the only things buyers are paying attention to. “No matter how scent-free our homes seem to us, someone walking in can instantly smell something — whether it’s last night’s dish or your old carpet.” Even complex smells like potpourri can turn buyers off. A simple, organic smell like lemon, pine, vanilla or cinnamon are familiar smells that aren’t overbearing to home seekers.

Take Great Photos

You may not be the next Annie Lebowitz, but photos truly can make or break a sale before anyone sets foot in the home. They are the true first impression. The Chicago Tribune reports that over 74% of potential buyers look online first. Take clear, crisp photos from multiple angles, inside and outside. And, Cape Farewell Foundation says that 98% of potential buyers say photos are the most useful tools in whether to consider looking at a property. It may be worth investing in a real estate photographer for the best visual impression of your home.

Agent… Or No Agent?

Opendoor notes that in this day and age, you don’t need an agent to sell your home. You’ll save on the listing agent’s commission, but you’ll be on your own. There’s a ton more effort involved — paperwork, marketing, photos, listing details and showings will all be on you in the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) world.

If you’re not ready for the stress of a FSBO home sale, it’s time to find someone to do the work for you. There’s a reason why 92% of homes in the U.S are sold with an agent. Choosing the right agent is key, according to Money Super Market. Agents with proven, modern techniques who find a good value for the money and aren’t afraid to negotiate are great finds. Rob Grey Associates notes that when looking for an agent, look for reputation (word of mouth and internet referrals are great places to start, in-depth knowledge of the local area, personalized attention and someone you feel good about. After all, if you don’t have confidence in your agent, it’s not going to be the genuine, stress-free experience you’re paying for.

Set the Right Sale Price

Rob Grey Associates finds that fewer than 70% of homes listed for sale actually sell. A huge factor in that is the sale price. U.S. News & World Report says, “A home that’s overpriced in the beginning tends to stay on the market longer, even if the price is cut, because buyers tend to think there must be something wrong with it. Pricing correctly on the lower side tends to work much better.” Your agent can advise you on comparable listings in your neighborhood so set a fair price for a quicker sale. Opendoor agrees: “Pricing your home requires a balance between personal expectations and market conditions.” If you’re unwilling to budge on price, you may be enduring weeks — or even months — of showings, so be prepared for that reality.

Make Repairs — Or Don’t

Advice on this one varies, and it depends on the type of repairs your home is needing. HomeIA suggests doing a walk through with your agent (or yourself if you’re FSBO) and make a list of all the repairs that are needed. Common sense then dictates what is reasonable for you to spend both money and time on. MilitaryTimes notes, “Just because you’ve always thought your house needed the renovation, new paint job or new carpet you’ve had in mind for years doesn’t mean you should make any major changes prior to a sale.” Not all upgrades will give you a return for your investment, so choose wisely.

Pick A Great Sign

We’re not selling lemonade here, so the yard sign you choose could actually make a difference. Passers by are a great source of word-of-mouth, and the Chicago Tribune says that a high quality sign that displays an internet address for follow up information is perfect. “A cheap looking sign will detract from the otherwise attractive appearance of your home. Even worse, a bad sign could turn off potential buyers by causing them to wonder what else you have tried to cut corners on.”

Advertise Your Listing

You’ve taken dazzling photos, staged your home and set your price. You’re ready to share your listing with the world. You can get free listings on sites like Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Offerup and Oodle. And that’s just some of the main ones. Check out Seth Williams article on R.E Tipster to see the top 50 places to list your home for free.

The Chicago Tribune says that clear, informative, descriptions of your home will really spark interest, along with outside information like school district, trash pickup, weather, etc. Today’s smartphones make virtual video tours reality as well. After all, your potential buyers may be out-of-towners. If you’ve got the money for a high-quality professional virtual tour, do it. The Balance reports that 50% of 2018 home buyers found their home online — too high of a number to not stand above the competition.

Get Pre-Approval For Your Next Home

You’ve spent so much time and investment in selling that you may be overlooking steps in future plans. Getting financially ready for your future home comes in the form of a pre-approval written letter by a lender, never settle for a verbal one! Since you’re selling your home, you’ve probably already been through the pre approval process way back when you bought it. But a lot may have changed since then – if you need a refresher on getting prepared for your next mortgage, check out my other blog post here.

Fill Out Applicable Seller Disclosures

HomeIA shares that all homes in the United States built before 1978 are subjected to lead-based paint disclosures. Other disclosures that you should be transparent about include faulty wiring, pest damage, flooring cracks, etc. And, Realtor.com notes that in some states you must disclose if there has been a death in your house within the last three years. If the seller asks, any known deaths must be disclosed. Morbid, but true.

Set Home Showing Schedule

You may be eager to sell quickly, but you also have a life. Set an established schedule, HouseMaster notes, creating a balance between flexibility for potential buyers but also so you can get the kids to bed or do whatever tasks you have in your life. Weekends are popular times for showings, so set time in your schedule to make sure your home is perfectly shiny and clean beforehand. 

Don’t Confuse Buyers from Nosy Neighbors

Both noisy and nosey neighbors can be a nuisance — and bad foreshadowing for potential buyers. HomeLight suggests talking to noisy neighbors ahead of showings, addressing barking dogs or loud music during those specific times. “Address them in a non-confrontational way, ideally not in the midst of noisy chaos, and listen carefully to any concerns they have about your own noise levels.” Additionally, Military Times says that open houses are filled with “nosey neighbors who want to see how this home stacks up to theirs or are seeking decorating ideas.” If this happens, stick to appointment only for a smoother, more genuine process.

Leave the Pets at Grandma’s

We love our best friends, but your potential buyers don’t need the excitement of Fido jumping all over them or potential allergy stricken cat fur. Pet liability is on you if something happens to someone in your home. Maximum Exposure Real Estate provides a great checklist specifically for pets, including talking to your veterinarian about your animal’s needs. Some pets don’t adjust well to change, but leaving them out of harm’s way during showings or temporarily relocating them may be for the best. And, of course, make sure pet damage and odors are taken care of before showings. Maximum Exposure says strong pet odor is one of the top reasons buyers pass on homes.

Don’t Hover

In fact, you don’t even need to be home for your showings. The Balance says if you have an agent, now’s his or her time to shine. Allow them to use a lockbox or keypad to show your home when you’re at work or out. Opendoor suggests vacating so buyers can tour without distractions or pressure. If you’re having an open house and you’re going to be home, make sure the thermostat is at a comfortable temperature (Rob Grey suggests 70 to 72 degrees), play light music in the background and, offer refreshments or cookies for a homey feel. Just don’t follow guests around and stick to offering snacks, bottled water and napkins.

Get Offers

You have offers! It’s a joyous time! But, once the adrenaline rush settles, Redfin suggests sitting down with your agent and reviewing which is the best one. “Ensure you’re maximizing the price and getting the best terms for your situation. Remember, your agent will be your negotiator throughout this process.” Here again is where choosing a trustworthy agent is key. Whether you’re working with an agent or not, jumping at an offer shouldn’t be done until you’ve looked at key areas like buyer pre-approval, closing costs, seller concessions, cash versus financing, buyer’s contingency and the closing date timeline, Opendoor says. 

Choose Your Buyer

There’s great news! You can choose who purchases your home, just as they’re choosing your home. It’s a two-way street, and you don’t want the deal to fall through. The Chicago Tribune notes questions your agent should be asking include: How much can the buyer afford to put down? Do they have good credit? What mortgage can they afford? Buyers with written pre-approval from a lender are ideal. Keep your options open in case your pick falls through. Don’t take your listing off the market until the deal is down in ink on the contract.

Prepare for the Inspection

HomeIA notes that the buyer will probably hire the home inspector, who looks for damage or “non-functional components.” This step is usually when deals fall through, so it’s important to disclose anything you know about, because the inspector will find it. In many cases, you will be responsible for either fixing repairs or offering money in concessions so the buyer can fix the issues themselves.

Accept Offer

Castline Properties notes that your agent will explain binding guidelines for the offer and the ensuing transactions so there’s a smooth sale. Key points of this offer letter will explain: date, name and address of buyer and seller; legal description of the property; sales price; amount of earnest money to be deposited; down payment size; how the remaining purchase price will be financed; proposed closing and occupancy dates; contingencies like the inspection and appraisal; and other personal property provisions that may be involved.

Sign Title and Escrow on Closing Day

Your agent or attorney will recommend a title company if you don’t already have one in mind. HomeIA says that you should interview and “see which one offers you the best closing quote and services”. If you have hired a brokerage to sell your house , their commission will be due on closing day as well. The listing agent’s brokerage will split their commission with the brokerage representing your buyer.

Move!

Congratulations; it’s time to give the keys to the new owners and move on to the next phase of your life – aren’t you excited?