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What to Do Before Selling Your Home: A Comprehensive Guide

Jenna InouyeMay 30, 2024

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Imagine this: You’ve just received a job offer for your dream position in a city miles away from your current home. Excitement fills the air as you picture your new life, but reality suddenly hits — to follow your dreams, you’ll need to sell your home. 

Nearly everyone finds the process of selling a home daunting. There are countless tasks and decisions that need to be made. There are ripple effects throughout your life, ranging from where you will keep your pets to how you’ll move your antique piano. But, with the right advice (and the right people in your corner), you can turn this process into a smooth, successful transition into your new life.

Here’s everything you need to do before selling your home. We spoke with Dustin Parker, the founder and CEO of the Parker Group (a brokerage of nearly 100 professionals and over $200 million in sales volume), and conducted our own research, to deliver this comprehensive guide to home preparation.

Assess the Market

In our interview with Parker, he noted a significant trend of sellers trying to sell independently rather than involve a real estate agent. This could lead you, and many others, to wonder how you could prep your property for sale. It all begins with assessing the real estate market. This knowledge will equip you with the insights to make informed decisions about pricing and marketing your property.

But you don’t have to go it alone. Real estate markets move fast — and real estate professionals are the most comprehensive sources of knowledge regarding your local market. By creating a property profile at Redy, you can get connected directly with real estate agents who are interested in your business — interested enough to provide a cash reward. Let them do the research for you.

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Research Local Market Trends

Start by diving into recent sales in your neighborhood; you can use services like Zillow or Redfin. Look for homes similar to yours in size, age, and condition. Pay attention to their selling prices and how long they stayed on the market. This information will help you understand the current demand and price range for homes like yours.

Critical metrics:

  • Average Time on Market: Knowing how long homes typically stay on the market in your area can help you set realistic expectations and timelines for your sale. Realty Times notes this can range from 25 to 140 days.

  • Price Trends: Let’s not go too deep. First, identify whether home prices are trending up or down. This can influence your pricing strategy and the urgency of your sale.

Consult with a Real Estate Agent

Hiring a real estate agent can be one of the best decisions you make in this process. You can consult with a real estate agent without committing to them, so it’s worth it to take a meeting or two. An experienced agent offers several advantages:

  • Local Market Knowledge: They have in-depth knowledge of your local market and can provide insights you might not find online.

  • Pricing Strategy: They can help you set a competitive price based on a comparative market analysis (CMA), which evaluates the prices of recently sold homes similar to yours.

  • Marketing Expertise: Agents can access marketing tools and networks to ensure your home reaches a broad audience.

Choose an agent with a proven track record in your neighborhood. Look for someone who communicates effectively, understands your goals, and has positive reviews from past clients.

Understand Seasonal Trends

Ask any Realtor®: real estate markets are often influenced by seasonal trends. Here’s how different seasons can affect the sale:

  • Spring and Summer: These are typically the busiest times for home sales. The weather is better for moving, and families prefer to relocate during school vacations. Homes often sell faster and at higher prices.

  • Fall and Winter: These seasons tend to be slower, but there are benefits. There’s less competition from other sellers, and buyers tend to be more serious. However, prices might be slightly lower, and homes could take longer to sell.

By understanding these trends, you can choose the best time to list your home, enhancing your chances of a quick and profitable sale.

Start to prep your home for sale

“Modern buyers are most interested in properties that are move-in ready and well-maintained,” says Parker — in other words, turn-key ready. So, if you’re thinking about selling your home at all, it’s best to start preparing it now.

Preparing your home for sale is all about making it as appealing as possible to potential buyers. This involves cleaning, decluttering, making necessary repairs, and enhancing your home's overall appearance.

Declutter and Depersonalize

One of the first steps in preparing your home is to declutter. This not only makes your home look cleaner but also more spacious and inviting.

  • Remove Excess Furniture: Clear out any unnecessary furniture to create an open and airy feel. This allows buyers to better visualize the space.

  • Personal Items: Take down family photos, personal collections, and anything that is too personalized. You want buyers to imagine themselves living in the space, which can be difficult if it’s filled with your personal items. Benchmark Realty has some tips for depersonalizing your home.

  • Organize Storage Spaces: Clean and organize closets, cabinets, and the garage. Buyers often look inside these areas, and a well-organized space can suggest that the home is well-maintained.

Make Necessary Repairs and Upgrades

Small repairs and updates can make a big difference in how your home is perceived. You may not need a full bathroom remodel, but painting and switching up some fixtures can help.

  • Fix Minor Issues: Repair leaky faucets, squeaky doors, and cracked tiles. These small issues can add up and make your home seem neglected.

  • Fresh Paint: A fresh coat of neutral paint can make your home look clean and updated. Stick to neutral colors to appeal to a wider range of buyers.

  • Update Fixtures: Replace outdated light fixtures, cabinet handles, and faucets with modern ones. These updates are relatively inexpensive but can significantly enhance your home’s appearance.

Stage Your Home

Staging your home involves arranging furniture and decor to highlight its best features and make it more attractive to buyers. But Parker cautions not to spend money when staging your home—instead, it may be worth it to do it yourself or use an app.

  • DIY Staging: If professional staging isn’t an option, you can still do a lot on your own. Arrange furniture to create a spacious and functional layout, add fresh flowers or plants, and use mirrors to create the illusion of more space.

  • Use an App: There are apps today that will take a simple photo of your home and stage it digitally, using artificial intelligence to remove and add furniture within a few minutes. Parker suggests using one of these apps for your photos rather than breaking your back — check out Quicken Loans for a list of some of the best apps available.

Improve Curb Appeal

The exterior of your home is the first thing buyers will see, so it’s essential to make a good impression.

  • Landscaping: Mow the lawn, trim hedges, and plant flowers. These small improvements can make a big difference in how your home looks from the outside.

  • Exterior Cleaning: Power wash the exterior, clean the windows, and paint the front door. A clean, well-maintained exterior can significantly boost your home’s curb appeal.

  • Lighting: Ensure that your outdoor lighting is working and adequately highlights your home’s best features. Good lighting can make your home look inviting and safe.

Final Touches

Before any showings, do a final walkthrough to ensure everything is in place. It’s easy to miss things when there’s so much going on.

  • Clean Thoroughly: A clean home is essential. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service for a deep clean before the first showing.

  • Set the Mood: On the day of a showing, make sure your home smells fresh. Light a scented candle or bake cookies to create a welcoming atmosphere.

  • Create a Welcoming Entryway: Place a new doormat, add a potted plant, and make sure the entryway is clean and inviting.

By taking these steps, you’ll make your home more appealing to potential buyers, increasing your chances of a quick and profitable sale.

Pricing Your Home

Now, it’s down to business: What is your home really worth? 

“While most homeowners have a fairly good sense of their property's worth, there is a tendency for some to be overly optimistic, particularly in a seller's market,” Parker cautions. And it makes sense—after all, your home means a lot to you. It’s easy to assume that it will mean a lot to someone else.

Setting the right price for your home is a critical step in the selling process. Time is money, after all: an accurately priced home will sell faster and give you fewer headaches. But if the price is too low, you may leave the transaction feeling scammed. As with all things, knowledge is power.

Determine Your Home’s Value

Start your journey by diving into your home’s real value. Of course, “real” is a little nebulous when we talk about today’s volatile markets — but some research will give you a better and bigger picture.

  • Online Valuation Tools: Start by using online valuation tools such as Zillow to get a ballpark figure of your home’s value. These tools use algorithms based on recent sales and market trends to provide an estimate. While these figures can be helpful, remember they are just a starting point.

  • Comparative Market Analysis (CMA): A CMA is a more detailed analysis conducted by a real estate agent. It compares your home to similar properties that have recently sold in your area. This analysis takes into account factors such as the size, condition, location, and features of your home. A CMA provides a more accurate estimate of your home’s value based on current market conditions.

  • Consider a Professional Appraisal: Hiring a professional appraiser can give you an unbiased valuation of your home. An appraiser will inspect your property and compare it to similar homes in the area, considering factors like size, condition, upgrades, and the current market. This appraisal can be particularly useful if you’re unsure about setting a price or if you want an expert opinion to support your asking price — but there are downsides, as well, as outlined by Realtor.com.

Set a Competitive Price

With all that information in hand, it’s time to collaborate with your real estate agent to set a competitive price that reflects your home’s value and the current market conditions. Your agent’s expertise and knowledge of the local market will be invaluable in setting a price that attracts buyers while ensuring you get a fair return on your investment.

There’s one thing standard throughout the real estate market: you can sell low and fast or high and slow. Given that, there are a few strategies to keep in mind:

  • Competitive Pricing: Price your home slightly below market value to attract more interest and potentially generate multiple offers. This strategy can create a sense of urgency among buyers.

  • Market Value Pricing: Set the price at or just above the market value based on the CMA and appraisal. This strategy is effective in a balanced market where supply and demand are relatively equal.

  • High Pricing: In a seller’s market with high demand and low inventory, you might consider pricing your home slightly above market value. However, this strategy can be risky if buyers perceive your home as overpriced.

Above all, avoid overpricing. Overpricing your home can lead to it sitting on the market for too long, which can deter potential buyers. Homes that stay on the market for extended periods often develop a negative perception, making it harder to sell. Consider adjusting the price if you don’t receive any offers within the first few weeks. Raleigh Realty Homes discusses the peril of overpricing.

Monitor the Market

Once your home is listed, keep an eye on the market and be prepared to adjust your price if necessary. If similar homes are selling quickly while yours remains unsold, it may be a sign that your price is too high.

By setting a competitive and realistic price, you increase the likelihood of attracting serious buyers and achieving a successful sale.

Marketing Your Home

Your home isn’t going to market itself, no matter how desirable it is. Effective marketing ensures your home reaches as many potential buyers as possible. A strong marketing strategy can make your home stand out and attract serious offers.

Professional Photography

Parker urges buyers to consider professional photography — too many people view properties first online to ignore it. High-quality photos are essential for making a strong first impression online. Consider hiring a professional photographer who specializes in real estate. Here’s why:

  • Highlight Key Features: Professional photographers know how to capture the best angles and lighting to showcase your home’s features.

  • Online Appeal: Listings with high-quality photos attract more clicks and views, increasing the chances of finding a buyer quickly.

  • Virtual Tours: Consider creating a virtual tour or video walkthrough of your home in addition to photos. This allows potential buyers to explore your home from the comfort of their own.

Create a Compelling Listing

Your listing description should be clear, concise, and highlight the best features of your home. Focus on what makes your home unique, such as recent upgrades, energy-efficient features, or a desirable location. Be sure to include all relevant details, like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and any special amenities.

Use Multiple Platforms

To reach the widest audience, list your home on multiple online platforms. Social media can also be a powerful tool for marketing your home. Share your listing on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to increase visibility. But you can’t list on the MLS — the most essential listing site — without an agent.

Host Open Houses and Showings

Open houses and private showings allow potential buyers to see your home in person. Work with your real estate agent to schedule and promote these events. Ensure your home is clean, well-staged, and ready to impress during these viewings.

Is it time to sell your home?

Selling a home is a multifaceted process that requires careful planning and preparation. By assessing the market, preparing your home, pricing it correctly, and marketing effectively, you can increase your chances of a smooth and successful sale. 

And note, this all assumes you’re living within your home — there are other factors to consider when selling a rental.

“We're seeing a significant trend toward unrepresented buyers who prefer to navigate transactions independently,” says Parker. And while that’s valid, there are a lot of areas a real estate agent can help you with — especially if you aren’t sure where to get started. 

Here’s a quick recap of the key steps:

  • Assess the Market: Understand local market trends, consult a real estate agent, and consider seasonal factors.

  • Prepare Your Home: Declutter, depersonalize, make necessary repairs, stage your home, and enhance curb appeal.

  • Price Your Home: Use online valuation tools, get a comparative market analysis, consider a professional appraisal, and set a competitive price.

  • Market Your Home: Use professional photography, create a compelling listing, leverage multiple platforms, and host open houses and showings.

Remember, the goal is to make your home as attractive as possible to potential buyers while setting a realistic price that reflects its true value. But regardless of where you are in your home-selling journey, a real estate agent can help. 

Redy lets you compare multiple real estate agents to find the best agent for you. Consider getting started today with Redy

Jenna Inouye is a professional freelance writer specializing in the areas of real estate, technology, and finance. Her professional experience extends to her work in property management, accounting, and brick-and-mortar retail, as well as a substantial background in journalism and thought leadership for businesses and high-net-worth individuals.

Dustin Parker, founder and CEO of The Parker Group, is a successful entrepreneur and contrarian thinker making waves in the real estate industry. When he's not dreaming up new ways to revolutionize real estate, you can find Dustin at his local CrossFit gym, rooting for the Miami Dolphins, and cherishing moments with his wife Rachel and their adventure-loving kids, Ford and Avery.

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