Six Things Sellers Need to Know Before Their Home Hits the Market

Jovan Hackley, Trulia Educator

Selling a home can be stressful for the un- or under prepared consumer. Crazy expectations, market mis-education, and the common misconception that all homes sell in 30 minutes like they do on HGTV can all create a difficult environment for you and your agent.

1. Your staging will make or break you.

 “Homes that don’t show well don’t close well.”

Sellers don’t always know or understand the importance of staging unless first, they are told, and second, they are shown.  To see the light and avoid a grim marketing experience try this:

  1. Ask your agent to take you on a two-home showing; one where the staging is great and one where it’s not.
  2. Review this 10 Hardcore Staging Tips for Sellers so you can reference it before every showing.
    • Check out the competition.  The first step in successfully selling your home is to see what you are up against.  View open houses frequently in your area to see how your home compares to those.
    • Create a staging plan.  Great staging requires you cover your bases like a pro.  Create a checklist for what needs to be done and take pictures as you go along.
    • Get and follow professional advice.  Ask your agent if he or she has a professional stager they work with and then see what they recommend.
    • Eliminate the excess.  Before you head out to buy accessories to "spruce up your home" check to see what you can remove that will enhance a buyer's experience. The best test for these items is the things you aren't using and the things you plan to get rid of when you move.  Also check for major eyesores that may have buyer value beneath the surface.  For example: Are you old carpets covering up beautiful wood floors?
    • Pre-pack personal items.  Depersonalizing and decluttering are the most critical steps of staging, but they can be a challenge.  To make it easier, start by pre-packing and storing away the items you won't need until after the move and anything personal (like family photos) that might prevent buyers from envisioning the home as their own. 
    • Clear off the counter space.  When it comes to tops of your tables and counters, less is more.  Clear off your counter spaces except for the occasional decorative or functional pieces (clocks or vases of flowers).  And remove those magnets from the front of the frig.
    • Clean inside and out.  Everyone thinks they know what "clean" means when it comes to their own home.  Here's where an agent or professional stager can be super helpful.  Invite them in to get an outsiders opinion on how to make the nooks and crannies you've forgotten about glisten.  Clean, sparkling windows are also always a plus.
    • Dive into the trim and details early.  It's tempting, when staging, to do the big jobs - painting walls, polishing floors, moving furniture - and to run out of steam and cash before the little details get handled.  Some of the least expensive home staging projects can carry the most powerful buyer-impressing payload.  For example:  clean or paint baseboards and other trim, ensure locks, doors, and drawers work properly and smoothly; paint or replace outdoor accents like house numbers or mailboxes.  Pay particular attention to the front door and its first impression. 
    • Shoot sample photos.  The first contact most house hunters have with your property is from a computer or mobile phone.  Making sure you property presents well there is a big step toward sold.
    • Be brutally honest with yourself.  When you think you're done preparing your home, think again.  It's not overkill to go out on a Sunday afternoon, walk through a few Open Houses, get back in the car and drive home to walk through it like a buyer would.  Ask yourself: What can you edit or declutter?  What is distracting?  What stops a buyer from seeing the possibilities for their own family here?                                   

2. Comparables are the key to the right price, not your opinion.

 “When it comes to price, the market’s opinion is what really matters.”

When it comes price, the winning opinion is always the market’s opinion. You know it’s impossible to effectively price a home without taking into account the competition. Unfortunately, too many sellers don’t always do this.

Think about up front what your price expectations are for your home. Then, take the time to both educate yourself on the competition and understand your pricing strategy, with your agent's help.

3. You’ll get out what you put in, so consider renovations.

 “Most buyers don’t want to deal with your old problems.”

Selling for top dollar is simple math, not brain science. The problems buyers see when touring a home negatively impact the amount they’ll offer. That’s why you need to ask your agent to be upfront with you when they spot unsightly blemishes that could cost you the deal.

4. Incentives can help speed up the process.

 “Incentives are a great way for you separate from the rest of the pack.”

Offering practical incentives might not sound sexy, but those that fill legitimate buyer needs have the power to differentiate a listing from the competition and attract just the right attention needed to get the home sold.

Think about how you might be prepared to sweeten the deal if the right offers don’t come rolling in. Consider such things as interest rate buy-down, closing cost credit, HOA dues credit, or Broker incentives to encourage showings.  Talking incentives early and building them into the marketing plan can arm both you and your agent with the ammunition to jump potential marketing hurdles and beat out the competition for a fast sale.

5. Serious buyers never stop the hunt.

Too many sellers see the winter months as the slow season. The reality is, there are plenty of upsides to listing and marketing a home when everyone else is taking a break.  For instance there is less competition for buyers' attention and often the sellers are very motivated.  Additionally, homes can show so homey and friendly all dressed up for the holidays.

Holding off on listing your home could ultimately make selling harder than it has to be.

6. Asking prices are up nationally, but…

“Real estate is a local business”

The last few years have turned real estate headlines into high-profile news. That means you may have heard that home asking prices recently jumped more than 5 percent nationally. While this is great news for the country as a whole, be sure to remember that real estate is a local industry and that asking price isn’t everything.