So you’ve made the decision that you want to sell your home — now what? Before you get that for sale sign up and close a deal with a buyer, there are many steps that you’ll need to follow as part of the process. The task may seem daunting, like any big life change, but before you get stuck in a rabbit hole of to-do lists and documents, we’ve got a few key things for you to know as you create your checklist for selling your home.
Select a Realtor
To make your life easier, you’ll want to hire a professional who knows how to sell homes and has experience in your market. Your realtor will guide you through everything as you prepare your home to be photographed and shown, find the right buyer, and close the deal. Like hiring any professional, you may want to talk to a few people before you find your real estate soulmate. Experts recommend that you interview two to three agents to ask them questions and assess whether they are a fit in terms of market knowledge, professionalism, and even personality. Working with someone who knows your neighborhood can be an asset as you are setting the list price for your home. You’ll also want someone who can recommend other experts who you might need on your home selling team — like a lawyer, inspector, appraiser, photographer, or contractor. A first step might be talking to friends in your area who have recently sold a home to see if there is someone who they might recommend.
Get Your Documents in Order
If the paperwork related to your home is scattered among boxes and drawers, the time to get them organized is before you start the selling journey. That way, if you need to request a copy of a document— like a warranty for an appliance — you’ll have time before potential buyers start asking for it. You’ll want copies of mortgage agreements, property assessments, city permits, and anything else that relates to the nitty-gritty details of your home and its condition. You can always ask your agent about the list of documents that they recommend as you begin preparing to sell your home.
Declutter and Clean
Getting your home photo-ready for marketing purposes and then to show it, is necessary for its time in the spotlight. But don’t get overwhelmed by focusing on what’s wrong with your home. Start with a serious session of decluttering, followed by a deep clean.
Decluttering has two advantages: It will leave you with less stuff to take with you to your new home, and also help your abode look its best for showings. You can turn to the decluttering guru Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of only keeping items that spark joy to help you get a handle on the task. In general, decluttering is easiest when you work strategically, moving through one room at a time, and one category of items at a time, placing them in either donate, keep, toss, or later boxes. Later are for those sentimental items that you can’t part with even though you haven’t used them in years. The key is to move quickly and not think too much about each item. You may find that in a few hours your home already feels fresher and lighter.
As for deep-cleaning, unless you have a lot of extra time, it’s probably best to enlist a service to tackle those hard to reach places like ceiling fans, crown molding, and tall windows. If you do decide to handle the cleaning job yourself you’ll want to hit every crevice and corner including:
- Vacuuming and cleaning all carpets, rugs, and window coverings
- Dusting all furniture
- Mopping floors
- Washing windows inside and out
- Cleaning kitchen counters and appliances inside and out
- Scouring your bathroom
- Swapping out lightbulbs for new ones and clearing away cobwebs
Repair It or Replace It
Most people don’t want to buy a home that needs to be fixed, and that means it’s to your advantage to make an honest assessment of what needs to be repaired or replaced in your house before you put it on the market. If you have major repairs that need to get done — like a roof, plumbing issues, or broken appliances — talk with your realtor before addressing these. You can get started by doing a walkthrough and noting what looks like it could need sprucing up in each room or area such as:
- Touching up paint, especially for scuffed walls or doors
- Replacing house numbers, giving your front door a fresh coat of paint in a pop color, and updating light fixtures
- Recaulking bathroom tiles
- Fixing drippy faucets
- Repairing doors that stick or squeak
Get Ready for the Stage
Before you show your space, you want to transform it into an inviting place for everyone. Your house may be comfortable for your family with children’s toys in the living room and a home office in the kitchen, but the key here is to have it appeal to the masses. Decluttering will help, but you may want to consider hiring a professional stager who can give your house that universal welcome home feeling. Stagers may recommend that you move furniture around, add lighting, or swap out existing art for neutral pieces. Adding flowers, plants, and accents to your home are a few tips to follow for DIY staging.
Assess Your Curb Appeal
A potential buyer is likely to decide if they are interested in your home as soon as they walk toward the front door, and addressing your home’s “curb appeal” can be what convinces them to move forward. You don’t have to spend a fortune on landscaping to take your home’s curb appeal up a notch. Maintaining what you already have — like mowing the grass, cutting back trees and hedges, and repairing broken walkways — can be one place to start. For extra color, you can add planter boxes to the entryway, considering flowers follow a known color theory to appeal to buyers.
Understand the Market
Your realtor will be your expert about the market, but doing a little homework on your own can prepare you with a realistic expectation of what your home is worth and what it might sell for. Use an online home value estimator and from there you can create a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), comparing your home to others in the area, much like your realtor would. If you create your own CMA, then you can combine your research with your agent’s. Having this ballpark figure can help you as you plan for your next move and get ready for your future home.
This article has been contributed by Liz Shemaria.