You've decided to sell your home. Congratulations! Here’s a checklist of things you need to do right now, before you list your home for sale.
1) Establish a master plan. Are you moving into a new property? Now is the time to think about what you are looking for so that you can set out on your search immediately and be prepared to buy a new home as soon as your current house sells. Look into neighborhoods you are interested in and find out how much inventory is available. Assess your finances and determine what you can afford. Then shop around and find a lender who will provide financing. Finally, get pre-approved for a loan (not just pre-qualified). This can take a while these days, so be prepared to wait.
2) Find a real estate agent. You’re in the driver’s seat here, so unless you have worked with someone you liked before, do your research and interview several agents before making a choice. Make your decision based upon the individual agent’s record of sales in the past 6-12 months. Do not base it on the number of properties the company has sold, as many larger companies have 80-100 agents, but the individual agents do an average of only 4-6 sales/year. Many agents are part-time. This is a business decision and is usually the largest financial transaction you will make in a lifetime. Make sure you hire the top agent in your area. Someone that is going to guide you through the process, may have staging services available, and most importantly, an agent that will tell you “what you need to hear, not what you want to hear”. The best advice I can give you is NOT to hire a friend as I have seen too many friendships end on a sour note, and your friend will be hesitant to tell you what you need to hear in order to not hurt your feelings. Get some recommendations from family or friends about specialists in your area or neighborhood. Have each do a walk-through of your home and ask for a general impression of your property as well as local comps. Discuss a marketing plan and listing price, and assess general knowledge of the market in your area. Most importantly, make sure that you and the agent you choose “click” and will be able to work well together.
3) Whip your home into shape. Check your water heater, furnace, roof, and chimney to make sure everything is in good condition. If necessary, hire a licensed home inspector to do this for you. If replacements are needed, get estimates from different companies about how much the work will cost. You should also make any small repairs and touch up paint. Assess your curb appeal and work on cleaning up your yard and making the exterior of the house look inviting to prospective buyers. De-clutter the interior: store keepsakes, toss anything no one could ever use, and donate the rest of your unused or unneeded belongings. Keep the bare minimum – it’s liberating! Finally, clean everything in your house, including the inside and outside of windows, blinds, carpets, oven, refrigerator, and anything else that hasn’t seen a good cleaning in a long time. Sounds daunting? You don’t have to do it all yourself. Hire a cleaning service!
4) Locate your paperwork. Get all of your home documentation together in a folder for the buyer to see. Include any notes on paint colors, manuals for appliances, and receipts for work you’ve recently done. If your utility bills might be lower than a buyer’s, have them handy to offer as additional incentive to buy.
5) Finally, be prepared. Do you have a plan in place in case you are asked to close quickly? Most people don’t expect an immediate offer, but depending on the market and the buyer, it can happen. Better to be prepared to move out than to refuse an offer that comes your way.
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