12 Things to Do Before Selling Your Home

12 things to do before selling your home

Get your house sold with these tips

Not so fast. Before you pound in that “For Sale” sign, you’ve got some work to do.

You may think your home is great, but you’re not trying to impress yourself. You need prospective buyers to think, “Yeah, I could see myself living here” — rather than “I know why they’re moving outta here.”

Some tasks are relatively easy. Others take more time and money. If you’re working with a realtor, check before you start major work. A professional knows what’s worth doing in your market.

So find your toolbox, roll up your sleeves and get cracking. The sooner you’re done, the sooner strangers will be poking their heads into your closets.

1. Probe Pricing

The first suggestions require work, but not the elbow-grease kind.

What’s the market like in your area? What are comparable homes going for in the neighborhood? You can start collecting data on websites like Trulia and Realtor.com.

If your house isn’t paid off, confirm what you still owe. With this data and local pricing info, you’ll know if you’re underwater. A realtor uses certain tactics when the mortgage balance is greater than market value.

Upgrades and improvements might affect the asking price of your home. Start a list.

Did you dry out the basement? Replace the porch? Insulate the attic? Do any of these come with warranties that pass along to the next owner? Get that list going!

2. Pull Paperwork

While you’ve got warranties on your mind, pull out appliance guaranties and manuals. The buyer will need them anyway, and a prospect might want to flip through.

Have copies of utility bills available for different seasons. Your average costs might be enticing.

You worry they’re too high, but prospective buyers are going to ask. They may hesitate when they see high numbers, but they probably won’t even consider an unknown.

3. Look at Legalities

Before listing your house, be super sure there aren’t legal issues involved. No liens, tax problems, property disputes, title questions…

If you’re certain you’re free and clear without checking, is that based on knowledge or assumption? How sure are you?

If anything crops up when you’re selling, it’ll blow a deal.

4. Realtor Ruling

You need to decide pretty early in the process whether you’re going with a realtor or going rogue and selling it yourself. In 2013, 89 percent of sellers used agents.

There’s a lot to recommend realtors. They know the business and the region, so they can make recommendations to get top dollar. Their time and effort goes into listing and showing homes.

And negotiating is their thing. They know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

If you go it alone, you won’t have to pay commission. Get a good price, and you’ll end up with more in your bank account.

Be honest, though: Are you willing to do a realtor’s job? Toss your house onto the market without a plan, and you’ll be staring at that For Sale By Owner sign for a long, long, time.

5. Investigate Inspection

A potential buyer will likely have your house inspected. Identified problems don’t always quash a deal, but they can lower the offer.

If you get the house inspected first, you have a chance to fix issues. A potential buyer might want you to drop the price if there’s roof work in the future. Maybe you can stave that off.

If you don’t want to sink a lot into repairs, get estimates for big concerns. That way, if a buyer does want a reduced price because of wiring complications, you’ll know if it’s a reasonable amount. If the property has a residential septic tank installation, it is advised that you have it inspected by a septic service company to determine if a septic tank cleaning or pumping is needed.

Problematic inspection results are the top reason real estate deals don’t go through. Forewarned is forearmed.

6. Demolish Dirt

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Literally. Clean your house from top to bottom.

We’re not talking a dust cloth and mop here. This calls for deep cleaning. If you can afford it, let professionals handle this part. At the very least, hire experts to shampoo old carpets.

Heavy-duty cleaning does more than make your home more attractive — it also makes it smell better. Your brain and nose are used to their surroundings. You don’t want prospective buyers wrinkling up their noses.

Eradicate evidence that people live there. It’s just one of those beautiful show houses, right?

12. Minimize Messes

While we’re talking about dirt and odors, let’s discuss two major offenders: kids and pets. Sure, you adore them, but they don’t help make a home more presentable.

Honestly, they’re troublemakers. Buyers don’t want to see evidence of your little loved ones when they imagine themselves in your house.

Clean, clean, clean up after them. Temporarily get rid of as much of their stuff as you can. And when there’s an open house, be sure children and pets are far, far, away.

8. Eliminate Evidence

It’s not just kids and animals that need to disappear when you’re trying to sell. All evidence of residents needs to go.

Buyers have trouble seeing themselves enjoying the fireplace when dozens of your family photos surround it. Personal memorabilia is comforting for you and fun for visitors. But it’s distracting to someone in the market for a house that’s new to them.

9. Definitely De-clutter

While you’re putting stuff away…keep at it. You not only want the house depersonalized, you want it uncluttered, too.

It’s going to be hard for a buyer to appreciate room size with all your stuff around. Less means more…the rooms look bigger.

You want people to move about easily and open closet doors without objects crashing down. You can stash stuff in your garage. But if that area is a selling point, you’re better off hiding everything in a temporary storage facility.

How much do you put away? More. Whatever you think you should do, the right answer is remove more. Though your house shouldn’t look like a monk’s cell, it should be roomy and airy.

10. Start Sprucing

Fix all those little things you’ve been meaning to take care of. Put a washer in a leaky faucet, tighten the knob, sand down that rough spot.

If you have old fixtures, replace them. Light panels, faucets and doorknobs are relatively cheap and easy to switch out.

This includes the outside, too. Trim bushes, add flowers, rake leaves…you want that famous curb appeal.

11. Contemplate Color

You love bold, bright colors? Great. But not everyone agrees. If your house is very colorful, slap some neutral shades on those walls. This’ll help your home speak to potential buyers who don’t share your esthetics.

And if you already have a neutral palette, it wouldn’t hurt to freshen up the paint. If the walls haven’t been done in over a year, they could use a new coat.

12. Picture Perfect

Make sure you get good –- really good –- photos of your home for real estate websites. More than half of all buyers check out homes online.

Bad pics might keep people away. But attractive, comprehensive photos are enticing.

Make this your final step, so you can show off all the work you’ve done. Don’t skimp. Folks are drawn to listings with more pictures.

Get Going!

To get the best possible price, you need to know your house is in tip-top shape. Resign yourself to some paperwork prep time and manual labor. You’ll see the results on closing day.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum