The Great Big List Of Things To Do When Getting Ready To Sell Your House

My wife and I are in the midst of building a new home, and readying our current home to put it on the market within the next few weeks. It’s a flurry of activity, and it’s daunting to think about all that we need to do before our home goes up for sale.

In the process of trying to come up with a list of things that we need to do to sell our house quick, i realized that having something like this might be useful to have for others as they get ready to sell their own homes.

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So today I thought I’d come up with a great big list of things to do before you sell your house.

Preparing And Staging Your House For The Sale

Probably the first thing you’ll need to do when getting ready to put your house on the market is preparing the house to be shown in it’s best light. Making sure your house looks it’s best on the inside and outside is key to making the right first impression and making the sale.

So what are some things you can do inside the house to get ready to make sale?

  • staging the house for saleClear the home of clutter:  Do what you can to make the house as free of clutter as you can.  If you have a lot of possessions, pack them up, and put them in a storage locker while you’re selling your home. Nothing says “this house is cramped” like a house full of things.
  • Clear off counter surfaces: Clear everything off the kitchen and bathroom counters, as well as off of other horizontal surfaces where it makes sense.  Less stuff makes it feel like there’s more available space to put things – and makes it feel more roomy.
  • De-personalize the home: Remove personal photos of your family, and other personal touches around the home. Keep decorations and photos neutral. You want potential buyers to picture themselves living in the house, not to feel like a creepy voyeur!
  • Fix obvious issues that need repair:  If you have items that need obvious repair, take care of them before listing. For us that meant fixing some drywall that had peeling drywall tape, fixing a leaking faucet and patching up a few of small drywall holes.
  • A fresh coat of paint: Paint rooms with non-neutral colors (that bright red kitchen?), or touch up paint in rooms where there are nicks and scrapes on the wall.  Our house was already pretty neutral in color, but we still went around the house and touched up small marks,scrapes and nicks on the walls.  Now the walls look brand new!
  • Fresh caulking in bathrooms: Put fresh caulking on the the showers, tubs and around the sinks in your bathrooms and other areas that might be caulked.
  • Update outdated or unsightly fixtures:  If you live in an older house that looks a bit outdated you can update the look relatively inexpensively by putting in a few new faucets, light fixtures and other accessories.
  • Replace outlet or light switch covers that are old/worn: Sometimes after years of use light fixtures and outlet covers get dirty, scraped up and ugly.  Spend a few dollars and get new ones. They’ll only take a short time to replace and will make the outlets and switches look new!
  • Replace or clean worn carpeting: If you have older carpeting that’s threadbare you might consider replacing it.  If the carpet’s newer you might want to just get it cleaned to remove any stains or blemishes.
  • Make sure to replace all burned out bulbs: Before your showing make sure that all the light bulbs are working to ensure there is adequate light in the house.
  • Open shades/curtains to give the home a light and airy feel:  Open the curtains and blinds to let in plenty of light when you sell. It will give the house a lighter and airier feel.
  • Use scented plugins or bake cookies on the day of a showing:  Before your showing bake some cookies, or plugin a scented air freshener to give the home a nice homey smell.
  • Pack away un-needed clothes and accessories in closets: If your closets are jam packed full of clothes, pack away the ones you don’t need and put them in storage. The roomier you can make your closets look and feel the better!
  • Oil squeaky doors and hinges: Go around the house and oil any squeaky doors and hinges.  Squeaky hinges can make a house feel old.

There are also quite a few things you can do outside the home to make sure that it has great curb appeal.

  • getting-house-ready-for-saleClean your windows:  Make sure to clean your windows so that they look clean from inside and out, and let plenty of light in.
  • Wash the house down: If you’ve got siding on your house, give it a good cleaning so that it looks fresh and new.  For us that essentially means just spraying it down with the hose.
  • Paint the house and/or trim: If your house is painted and is looking worn, you may want to consider painting the house. At a minimum painting the trim can be a good idea.
  • Cut the lawn: Make sure your lawn isn’t an overgrown mess. Mow the grass and trim the edges before any showings.
  • Trim the bushes back: If you’ve got big overgrown bushes in front of the house you may want to consider cutting them back a bit.  If bushes or undergrowth gets too out of control, it can hide the house and make it feel out of repair.
  • Plant flowers and other plants: If you don’t have any landscaping or plants, consider planting a few inexpensive flowers and plants, or get a planter to put in front of the house.  Some people suggest planting yellow flowers – a color that supposedly puts people in the mood to buy!
  • Put down fresh mulch: Put down a few fresh bags of mulch in flower beds to make it look  nice and appear as if you maintain things, including the landscaping.
  • Clean the AC unit condenser:  Make sure to clear debris out of your AC unit condenser coils, and hose it down to make it clean.
  • Make the home’s entry inviting: Spruce up the home’s entryway with flowers, a wreath on the door and by making sure it’s clean and house numbers are visible and polished.

Doing Your Research

When listing your home for sale it’s important to do your research in several different areas.

  • Finding the right price: This is by far the biggest thing you will need to do when selling your house, choosing a price that will mean your home actually gets showings.  If you’re working on your own finding the right price can often be as easy as perusing recent sales in your neighborhood for comparable homes, and pricing it accordingly.  Usually, however, your best bet is to work with a good agent who can give you a good market analysis.  Be careful not to price all your priceless memories and fond feelings for your home – into the selling price.  Buyers won’t want to pay for those!
  • Finding the right agent: Finding a good agent can definitely help you to sell your home quicker. Not only are they able to get your house listed in the MLS system, they can also help you in pricing your home and work their network of contacts to help sell your house.  Try not to choose just any agent because they’re a friend or family member. Interview a few agents and go with the one that feels right and can demonstrate expertise.
  • staging the house for saleFinding the right photographer: Do some research and ask around to find a good photographer that can take great inside and outside photos of your house, preferably with a wide angle lens, and some degree of HDR photography so that light and dark areas in the house are both easily visible.
  • Figuring out where to list the house:  There are a variety of places you can list your house.  Most important is getting it on the MLS service so it will be available to agents showing homes to prospective buyers. You can do that through an agent,or via a service that charges a MLS listing fee.  Beyond that you can list the home at Trulia.com, Zillow.com, Craigslist. IWantAnOffer.com, FSBO.com, ForSaleByOwner.com and other local online and newspaper classifieds.  Another option is to create your own website for your house (at 1234lincolnave.com or something similar) to list extensive details and photos about the house.
  • Research other successful ads: Look at ads for other homes that are for sale, especially ones in your neighborhood on recent sales. See how the homes are presented, and notice what things stand out to you when you look at ads for other houses. Write out some of the biggest pluses of your house and figure out how to feature those things in your ads.

Be Aware Of The Costs Associated With Selling Your House

Selling your house isn’t likely to be cheap, in fact that are all kinds of costs associated with selling a house. When you add it all up, the cost of selling a home can sometimes be anywhere from 7-10% of the sale price or more. Here are some of the costs to be ready for:

  • Marketing the home:  Marketing your home can be quite expensive when you factor in all the listing fees, the cost of a photographer to do nice photos, etc.
  • Fixing and staging the home: The costs of fixing up things that are wrong and staging the home (especially if you use a professional) can add up quick.
  • Fixing things contingent to sale: Sometimes when you have a potential buyer they’ll agree to purchase, but only contingent on certain things being fixed.  Those costs can add up.
  • Real estate agent fees: agent fees to buyer and seller’s agent can be anywhere from 6-7% of the sale price.
  • Closing fees: Closing fees can be thousands of dollars depending on where you close, and what you’ve agreed to pay for the buyer’s fees.
  • Miscellaneous fees: Sometimes there will be other miscellaneous fees like transferring association membership, among other things.

When it comes down to it, to properly fix, stage and market your house can potentially cost thousands of dollars, so be sure you’re ready for the cost when you go in.

Conclusion

Selling your home can be quite the undertaking, but if you put in the time, do your research and do what it takes to make the sale, you could end up with thousands more in your pocket because of your hard work.

Do you have your own tips for things to do when you’re getting ready to sell your house?  Tell us in the comments!

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Last Edited: 22nd May 2013

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