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My husband and I recently went through the process of selling our home. It was the first time taking on this endeavor for both of us, and in the week or so before we went on the market we found ourselves plagued with a whole lot of stress and one big question: What if we can’t sell this house?
We had reason to be worried. We’re currently in the process of building a new home, and needed to sell so we could get moving into a rental while the build gets finished. If we didn’t sell, we’d be stuck with two homes, two mortgages, and too much responsibility. So we did everything we could think of to optimize our home for a fast sale. Four days after going on the market, we were under contract.
There is, of course, an element of luck to selling a home fast, but if you’re doing everything right on your end, it’s only a matter of time before the right buyer comes along. On the flip side, if you’re failing to take the necessary steps to optimize your home for a fast sale, you may be turning off potential buyers who might have made an offer if things were different.
To sell your home fast, you have to take an active role in the process. Don’t sit back and wait for the buyer who can see past potential flaws. Do your homework, make fixes, and go out of your way to show just how great your property is. Here are 10 tips to guide you through the process.
1. Choose your agent wisely
When I see a home that’s been sitting on the market for a while and has some obvious detractors, like Christmas lights still hanging up in March or an unkempt lawn, my first thought is always that the sellers deserve a better agent. You want to be working with a realtor who is as invested in selling your home as you are, which means someone who will tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong and how you can improve it – not someone who will just stick a lock box on your front door and help coordinate showings.
When you’re selecting an agent to work with, ask for referrals from people you trust and who have been through the process itself. And consider your particular needs. If your home could use some help with staging, find an agent who has experience in design. If you’re selling a fixer upper, find an agent who has a proven track record of selling those types of homes. You have a lot of options when it comes to agents, so choose one who is a fit for your specific situation.
2. Go on the market at the right time
The housing market ebbs and flows throughout the year on a pretty set schedule. While it’s not impossible to sell a home in November or December, you’re much more likely to have success in the spring, when more buyers are out looking. If you’re trying to sell a home quickly, your best bet is to list no earlier than late February so that you can take advantage of the heavy activity.
3. Get professional pictures taken
Photos are the very first thing a buyer will see of your home, and they can dictate whether they end up scheduling a showing or not. Good real estate photos should highlight the best features of your home, with every measure taken to make the space look as warm and inviting as possible. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it’s not something you should trust to just anybody.
My photographer scheduled our shoot around the weather so that we could be sure to have a sunny day that showcased the great natural light our home gets. He also had us clear out our home for pictures the same as we would do for showings: clear counters, minimal clutter, and targeted staging. Your photos are one of the most important parts of your listing, so make sure they’re done right. If they’re not, you’re going to get less potential buyers through the door.
4. Price it right
Everybody wants to make as much money as possible off their home sale, but it’s important to be realistic. What you paid for the home matters significantly less than what the market is dictating at the time, particularly if your goal is to sell fast. While you don’t have to under-price your home for a quick sale, you do have to price it smartly. Use a home estimate tool to get a basic idea of what range you’re looking at, and then work with your realtor to come up with a starting number that makes the most sense in light of the market and your objectives.
As soon as you know you’re going to list your home (and before pictures), get to work on clearing out clutter from your home. Rent a storage unit or find a family member willing to share some extra space in their home and box up everything that you won’t need in the near future. This includes out-of-season clothing, books, most of your décor, and pretty much anything that’s been sitting in the back of your closets and cabinets for a while. The less stuff you have cluttering your home, the more that buyers will be able to see the space itself, and not the items crowding it.
Buyers need to be able to see themselves in the property, and they’re going to have a tough time doing that if they’re looking at your family photos. The sooner you can remove any items that personalize the home – photos, mail, personal papers, etc. – the better you can present a blank slate to the buyers who come through.
7. Stage your home
Decluttering and depersonalizing are part of the staging process, but not all of it. To sell quickly, your home needs to be decorated in a way that highlights its best assets. Achieving that can mean anything from rearranging your furniture to open up the space (and removing furniture that’s bulky or unnecessary), painting your walls with neutral colors, and repairing obvious imperfections. You’ll also want to be sure to get rid of anything that dates your house, like holiday decorations or a snow shovel leaning against the garage. Follow these staging tips to make sure that you’re designing your space in a way that will appeal to buyers and show them that they won’t need to do a ton of work if and when they move in.
8. Be accommodating
The selling process can be a bit of a pain, especially when buyers start scheduling showings and you have to get out of the house. But it could be worse… you could have no buyers coming through at all! When we were selling our home, we made sure to say yes to every single showing request, even the one where we were in the middle of lunch and had to be out of the house – with two pets – in 15 minutes. Unless it’s truly impossible, rearrange your schedule around what’s ideal for the buyer, not what’s ideal for you. If you suggest a new time than what’s requested, the buyer or their agent may not be able to make it work and so may just pass on visiting the property entirely.
9. Set yourself apart
I wanted the potential buyers who came through our house to feel warm and welcome, so for every showing that came through I set out fresh cookies on the kitchen counter with a sign saying “help yourself.” It was such a simple thing, but we got a ton of positive feedback about it. A little extra step like that helps buyers remember your property, and also puts them in a good mood right off the bat. If you don’t want to put out baked goods, consider setting out water bottles or a basket of fruit. Regardless of what you choose to do, a tiny bit of extra effort will help you stand out from the competition.
10. Ask for feedback
Some buyers’ agents will contact your realtor after a showing to give feedback on the property – good or bad – but many don’t. You want to know exactly what you’re doing right and wrong though, so it’s important to get clear feedback from every single agent who comes through your door. Make sure your realtor is always following up with buyers’ agents to get their opinion on the property and finding out what buyers liked or didn’t like about what they saw. Then use that feedback to make changes as necessary.