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7 Steps to Take Before You Put Your Home on the Market

House for saleThe following is a guest post from Jason at Work, Save, Live. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please read my policy and contact me.

Realizing that housing markets in parts of our country are still struggling, selling a home can be a difficult task. There are a lot of factors that determine whether or not it’ll sell quickly: pricing, visual appeal, and location are a few.

With that in mind, here are a few items that you need to consider before you put your home on the market.

1. Hook up With a Reputable Real Estate Firm and Agent

 If you’re not going the ‘For Sale by Owner’ route, make sure you find a first-rate real estate company and agent. In fact, you typically gain more market exposure through using a quality firm than going it alone. Investigate the leading companies in your region and talk to others who’ve used their various services.

2. Have a Down Payment Ready

If you plan on buying a new home after yours has sold then saving for another down payment will be top priority. If you have equity in your current home then you’ll be able to access that once you’ve found a buyer. However, with the collapse of the housing market, many people have very little equity which means you’re going to have to accumulate cash on your own.

Personally, we’re combining both of these options. We have a little equity built up in the house (which mostly will get taken from realtor fees and closing costs), and we’ve also worked hard over the past 6 months to save as much money as possible.

3. Get Your Financing in Place

 Check out financing for your new home and work with a reputable lender to get pre-approved for your next purchase. Research what banks, mortgage brokers’, credit unions, and other qualified lenders are offering. You may decide to stay with your current institution but it is good to do some comparison-shopping and see who offers you the best interest rate in addition to the lowest closing costs.

4. Do Necessary Repairs

You want your home to be in the best possible condition before you list it.  Even minor repairs and upgrades can help you get more for your home. Consider repairing dripping kitchen faucets, your roof, any lifting floor tiles, any bathroom fixtures, and such that are looking and performing less than optimum. Do any patching and painting that may be required, and make sure to spruce up your exterior curb appeal with flowers and a nice lawn.

 5. De-clutter

 A neat and tidy home is inviting to buyers. De-cluttering adds to the beautiful aesthetics of your home and makes your abode visually appealing. This translates into good feelings for homebuyers and can manifest itself in a quick sale. Pack away knick-knacks, voluminous CD & DVD racks, and any hordes of pictures hanging on walls to give your home a sleek, clean look.

 6. Understand Your Local Market

 To negotiate intelligently, via an agent, you must know what’s happening in your local real estate market. Read up on what’s going on and keep open lines of conversation with your real estate professionals. Knowledge is your best tool for talking constructively with home buyers and agents. You can voice your needs and concerns more intelligently armed with vital information.

7. Above All – Make Sure You Want to Sell

Getting ready to sell involves ensuring you really do want to sell. Don’t make a rush decision – know exactly why you’re selling and where you want to go, before you put your house up for sale. Consider the financial ramifications of your decision. Is it financially feasible for you to sell? Consider the ‘quality of life’ ramifications: will you be happier with a new home in a new area?

What to do to sell your house is something you should extensively research. Your objective is to get the best price for your home and sell it within a reasonable period, while satisfying all financial requirements. Consider the above-mentioned steps and you’ll be well on your way to selling your current home and closer to securing your next one.

Jason is the founder WorkSaveLive.com and the author of the free How to Become Rich e-course where he helps guide people towards the path of building wealth.

 Kim’s Comments: I would certainly stress the curb appeal, cleaning,  and de-cluttering. Many homebuyers can’t see past your stuff. You’d hate to lose a sale because you had a dirty kitchen!  

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

36 comments

  1. We tried selling our house years ago when the market crashed. It was unsuccessful but we managed to find renters that covered our mortgage, taxes and insurance. We’re ok for now, thankfully.

  2. Nice work Jason. I’ll be sure to vote for you on FMF. I can’t believe how many people don’t mind their curb appeal and de-clutter before a sale. Appearances hold a lot more value then people realize sometimes.

    • I was SHOCKED to see how many houses were cluttered with piles of junk when we looked recently. It’s like the owner are totally clueless about what they’re house looks like.

  3. Price your home realistically. There are so many people who claim to want to sell, but have asking prices that are ridiculously over market trends.

    • Great point Mrs. Pop! It’s hard to swallow the pride and lower the price below what you think you should get. Although what you THINK you should get really doesn’t matter much at the end of the day.

  4. I’m not sure I would want to ever sell my house. I think we would be far more likely to rent it out to someone else and then go live in another one.

    • That’s a great point but I think it depends a lot on the value! I’m not sure I’d want to use my house as a rental as I’d rather buy a little less expensive properties for investment purposes.

  5. It may not be a necessity for most people, but paying any debts (ie: tax or work liens) against the property beforehand is a big thing too. Not only will they be guaranteed to show up on the title search, but some prospective buyers may walk away immediately upon finding out. A tax lien may be easily overcome, but if there is a work lien, then it may signal to the buyer that something was started and not finished which is quite scary to some.

  6. Also, know your bottom price, but don’t tell it to your agent! They will come with offers even lower than your lowest price just to test you. Keep it vague ”I am considering offers” but know the price you are not ready to go below, so you can move fast in case you do get an offer.

    • I think it really depends on your agent and your relationship with them. I was very clear of my expectations with my agent and told him the lowest offer we could take (and why). He was very sensitive to that and made careful pricing suggestions to help us work around it. I guess it really depends on who you use as your agent.

  7. Many people think they can go without a real estate agent, and I think that’s completely false. They look at only the commission that they have to pay, which IS very expensive but I think can really pay for itself. When we sold my condo and bought our house back in 2007, I used the same agent for my interests. He monitored the sale of our condo and advised me when prices of competing units went down. I probably would have missed that. He walked me through the offer that we ended up taking and showed me that it really wasn’t as bad as my initial reaction, given the market. On the flip side, he had us come in with an offer that I never would have had the cajones to go in with on the house we wanted, and when the seller countered and said that was their final offer, I would have taken it. He told me to go $5k lower, and they took it. All in all, the 6% I paid on the sale of the condo was well worth it when I consider everything I just mentioned and how it all would have worked out differently (and certainly not to my advantage) had I gone it without him.

    • GREAT point! Our agent provided us with a wealth of data about showings within our area and helped us understand that it wasn’t our house in particular for the reason we weren’t getting a lot of action…it was simply that the market around us was exceptionally slow overall.

      If you find the proper person, they’re worth every penny that you pay them. However, the flip side is also true: you can find somebody that’s absolutely worthless and simply wants to collect on the commission without providing much in return.

  8. Good post Jason! We’ve not had the pleasure of selling a house yet, but know these are all important points. I remember when we were looking for our house how often we’d go into a home and it was obvious when the people made no effort to make their houses presentable. Not only did it make us not consider them, but is also made me wonder at times I they really wanted to sell or not.

    • I think it’s possible to take advantage of the people that don’t declutter and keep their house a mess. They’re often the houses that remain on the market the longest and therefore presents the opportunity to low-ball and get a deal on the purchase. That won’t always be the case, but I’ve seen it quite a bit.

  9. These are all great tips. Since we want to sell next year, these are all things that we need to keep in mind!

  10. Declutter is a big one. I can’t tell you how many gross houses I walked into when we were shopping for a house. Pick up yo’ stuff, people!

  11. When we decided we were going to cell, my brother-in-law’s girlfriend put us in touch with the agent she was using to sell her own place. It worked out great for us, because we didn’t know anybody who specialized in mobile homes and because she knocked a grand off her fee since she was selling two homes for one (extended) family.

  12. A good real estate agent is a must have! We sold our house 2 years ago and our agent was awesome. She listened to us and knew her stuff. I even recommended her to others!

  13. Good points! It is always good to be prepared because your house may sell quickly. This also the kind of market that you need to move fast to get the right property particularly if there are multiple bids.

    • That’s a great point: depending on the market you’re in, you may not really be ready to sell it. We found the balancing act fairly difficult to keep up with: not getting too anxious about looking for properties to buy (in case we sold ours) while also making sure we were staying on top of what was out there and being ready to pounce if we were to get an offer within a few days.

  14. Having your house as clean as possible is so important, especially in the bathroom and kitchen area. When you buy a house you don’t want to think about other people using the bathroom. So seeing shampoo bottles and shavers covered in soap scum isn’t going to help you sell your house.

  15. I am working on the down payment part right now. I know where I want to move, know how much I can spend, but just need to find the down payment money. This should be fun!

  16. I did almost all of these when I was selling my house back last year. However, the guy that bought my house notices some of the siding was cracked and wanted to negotiate a little off for it which ended up costing me around $200 more. Other than that the process went pretty smooth.

  17. We are in the market for our first house, so I don’t know much about putting on on the market. But I can tell you from the buyer’s perspective, I cannot emphasize the importance of de-cluttering and making basic repairs. When I tour a home, I want to get a feel of whether I see myself living there. If the house is stuffed to the roof, I can’t even see the basic structure to out my stuff in and picture. Stage the house with very basic furniture/stuff as possible. I would even take a storage to move most of my stuff and stage the house well.

  18. Great tips. We love our current home, but a few years back we considered buying a new home a bit closer to the beach (my husband is an avid surfer). Ultimately, we stayed in our home, which was the right decision for us. But it was definitely interesting looking at homes. You are absolutely right that people should declutter before showing their home. It makes a home look smaller than it is, plus you want the potential buyer to envision their stuff in the home, not be mildly horrified by your random collection of clown figurines. 🙂

    • I’ve never understood people who show a dirty or cluttered house. I know you love your place, but you need to make sure others can love it too.

  19. Another tip that I learned about getting your house ready to sell is that the scent of your house has an effect on buyers. If the house smells like dog, litter boxes, cigarettes, garlic or cabbage, this can be a big turn off to potential buyers. Besides the obvious cleaning and freshening, some realtors recommend simmering cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan of water, or even baking cookies just before a showing. Putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls can do wonders for covering up smells that have permeated the walls. The smell of fresh paint is often attractive to buyers, too.

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