More than 5 million people sold their homes last year, and sales are forecasting to increase even more. If you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, that’s a lot of competition. Like buying your first home, selling a home is a process. There are some things you’ll need to learn and some steps you’ll need to take in order to maximize the value of your home and attract the attention of buyers. Here’s how you can get your home ready to sell in 6 easy steps.
Get a Sense of the Local Real Estate Market
It’s probably been a few years since you bought your current home, which means your local market has probably changed. Real estate markets go through cycles, expanding and contracting, often on a local or regional level. You’ll want to find out where your local market is in the cycle to gauge how similar homes in your area are selling and how hot the local market is.
Local real estate listings are a good place to start. People do still drive around neighborhoods with the Sunday paper, but you could also hop online to find local listings on sites like Zillow or Trulia. Note the specifics of listings in your area with similar square footage, the number of rooms and upgrades — how much they list for, how long they’re on the market, and what they sell for.
2. Increase Value and Equity with Curb Appeal
No matter what your local market situation is, there are steps you can take to maximize the value and equity of your home. First impressions matter a great deal to potential buyers, so think about maximizing your curb appeal. It could get you a quicker offer, help you sell your home for more money and help your home stand out in a competitive buyer’s market.
Best of all, curb appeal projects can be quick and inexpensive, compared to bigger projects like kitchen and bath remodels. Start with cleaning up your front lawn, trimming trees or shrubs, cleaning out gutters, touching up paint and think about adding a bit of landscaping to wow buyers. You can go further, investing in a new front door, a new garage door or house siding — three home projects that have a high return on investment. If you’re not sure where to focus, look for clues in your local market listings or ask your real estate agent.
3. Give Your House a Deep Spring Cleaning
Whether it’s fall or summer, your house needs a deep and thorough spring cleaning to get ready to sell. You might even consider hiring professional help to get your home as ready as possible. Start with the basics — dust furniture, vacuum, mop the floors, clean the windows, rugs, light fixtures, appliances and so on. Kitchens and bathrooms in particular should be sparkling clean. You may also want to re-caulk sinks, showers, and tubs, and think about pressure-washing the exterior and sidewalks. And don’t forget the windows, inside and out.
4. Store Away Personal Effects
A house is a home, which means you likely have many family photos on the walls, kids’ art projects on the fridge, as well as many other personal touches. When you sell your home, potential buyers will try to picture themselves living in the space as they walk through. It’s easier to help your buyers imagine this is their home by storing away your personal effects. Depersonalization makes a big difference. If you find you’re running out of room for storage, consider a short-term storage rental for personal effects and bulky seasonal items you don’t need taking up closet space.
5. Refresh with New Paint
How long has it been since you painted? If you can’t remember, it may be a good idea to refresh your walls with a new coat of paint. That’s particularly true if your home has a bright or personalized color palette. Buyers tend to prefer light, neutral colors, which again helps them picture themselves living in your home.
Paint is relatively affordable and you can do the work yourself. The payoff is the opportunity to make your house look new, vibrant and clean. That’s a great impression for the potential buyers who will tour your home.
6. Talk to the Professionals
Finally, make sure to talk to the professionals when it’s time to get your home ready to sell. A real estate agent will be able to help advise you every step of the way. You’ll be able to get a professional opinion about comparable properties and what your home is actually worth in today’s local market. You’ll also be able to estimate your bottom line, taking into account potential sales price, mortgage payoff, taxes, fees and closing costs.
You’ll also want to seek out a lender for questions related to your mortgage, home sale and your next home purchase. It’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage on your next home before you start looking, and your lender will be able to help you with all the details.
If You’re Not Ready to Sell
But what if you’re not ready to sell? The great thing about many of these tips is they can help improve the value of your home even when you’re not looking to sell. By investing in some curb appeal, spring cleaning and fresh paint, you may be able to increase the value of your home. That, in turn, could let you tap into your equity for a cash-out refinance, home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). These options could let you consolidate high-interest debt, pay for college or reinvest in your home with bigger home improvement projects.
When you are ready to sell, it’s important to learn about the process and make a good impression on potential buyers. Markets change, so you’ll want to research where your local real estate market is today. An agent and mortgage lender can offer professional advice while cleaning up, depersonalizing and maximizing curb appeal can help you get the best offer.