1) First, do your homework. Find out the local market conditions for your neighborhood. Depending on your area, there may be better/worse times to sell. Once you’ve decided to sell, there are three different levels of service that you may want to consider:
• Sell the home yourself (FSBO)
• List your with a Discount / Flat fee broker
• Utilize a full service real estate agent/brokerage
If you are inclined to sell the home yourself, note that you will bear the responsibility for marketing your property, along with full legal disclosures, inspections, appraisals and the like. You should be very comfortable with real estate related documents, and comfortable with the legal implications resulting from the transaction.
You can also choose to use a discount or flat fee broker, who will assist you to sell your property. Depending on the broker you select, you may be able to get some assistance with marketing, open houses, disclosures, title/escrow, etc. Make sure that you understand exactly what services you are willing to pay. Make sure you understand what services are covered under each pricing plan. Find out if your listing will be posted on the website, what signage will be available to you; find out if you are posting the home to the respective MLS (multiple listings service) in your area. Each broker is different, so make sure to get references from former clients.
If you want to market your property to the largest pool of possible buyers, list your property with a full-service real estate broker/firm. Now, before you pick up the phonebook or check that postcard you received in the mail, make sure to take the time to interview more than one agent/agency.
Find out if they are a REALTOR® — a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, a trade organization of nearly 1 million members nationwide. Members of NAR subscribe to a stringent code of ethics to guarantee the highest level of service and integrity. You may also want to know if they have any special REALTOR® designations, such as GRI and CRS, which require that real estate professionals take additional specialized real estate training. In addition to qualifications, you should check references of the agent. Make sure to speak with former clients to see if the agent is responsive and is available to keep you up-to-date with progress. You need to have direct contact with your agent, so you will need to be as comfortable as possible. The agent that handles your listing should:
• Detailed marketing plan for your house, including online and offline marketing
• Prepare a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of properties in your area that have sold, as well as properties currently listed
• Help you determine the best selling price for your house
• Advice on suggested home improvements
During the time that your house is on the market, potential buyers will make appointments to view your home, along with the planned open-houses that you or your agent may schedule. Try to evaluate the house as if you are seeing it for the first time. Buyers need to envision themselves living in the home, so take care to present the property in its best light. Put yourself in the position of a potential buyer and view the property starting at the front, itemizing the most cost-effective enhancements to make.
2) Clean up as much as possible. You may want to paint walls (neutral colors are best) or spruce up wallpaper. Replace old flooring and worn carpets. Check and repair damaged or unsightly caulking in the tubs and showers. If possible, hire a cleaning service. Display your best linens, towels, and shower curtains. Make up beds, and put fresh flower arrangements on the table. Make sure that there are no offensive odors in the house. Odor is the first thing buyers notice, and often a permanent turnoff.
3) Make your house their new home. Put away or pack small appliances and other items that might be sitting on countertops or tables throughout the house. You want buyers to visualize the space in each room, so it is best to remove as many smaller items as possible. Remove personal items, pictures and items to present clear shelves, book cases and walls. Move excess furniture to make rooms more spacious. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light. Clean and organize the closets. If you must, store boxes in an out of the way location. You may also want to rent a temporary storage unit, to allow you to de-clutter every part of the house.
4) Don’t forget the outside! The right landscaping can enhance the curb appeal of a home. Eliminate weeds, patch bare spots, fertilize and water. Take a good look at the shrubbery. Bushes that have grown to cover windows should be pruned to let sun and light into the home. Fill in bare spots with small shrubs and colorful, fast growing annuals, such as impatiens and petunias. A few well-placed flower pots by the front door can be very inviting. Today’s buyers want low maintenance. Your goal should be a beautifully maintained yard that looks easy to care for.
5) Allow your agent/representative to show your home. Buyers don’t want to offend current owners, so they may be more hesitant to consider your home if you are present for open-house events. Be flexible about showings. It’s often disruptive to have a house ready to show on the spur of the moment, but the more often someone can see your home, the sooner you’ll find a seller.