You’re about to sell your home. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.

You want to get top dollar, but there are a few things you need to know before you put up the “for sale” sign. Here are five tasks you should get going on before you sell your home.

  1. GET AHEAD OF SAVVY BUYERS

    Today, buyers have easy access to listings through websites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor, as well as a ton of housing market data — such as home value estimates, sales histories and school ratings — right at their fingertips. Consequently, many homebuyers know exactly what type of home they want and how much they’re willing to pay for it.

    Millennials, in particular, tend to do a lot of online research before making an offer. Some housing experts would say their habits matter most, since millennials now comprise the largest generational group of home buyers, a recent National Association of Realtors report found.

    What does this mean for sellers? Essentially, your home needs to catch people’s eye right away (usually online) and you need to price it right. If you accidentally list too high, your house could wind up sitting on the market, which can lead buyers to assume that something’s wrong with it — making it even more difficult to sell.

  2. STAGE YOUR HOME TO SELL

    Since you want your home to catch people’s eye right away, you may want to stage it, which basically means that you decorate it to be as appealing as possible to a potential buyer. Some sellers hire professionals to stage their home, which can be costly but worth the expense. A study by the Real Estate Staging Association found that un-staged homes spent an average of 184 days on the market, whereas homes that were staged prior to going on the market sold, on average, in 23 days.

    How much can you expect to spend? Most stagers charge $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per room. Many also require a contract for at least a few months. If you’re on a budget, focus on staging the living room and kitchen, since they’re the most important rooms to homebuyers, the National Association of Realtors 2015 Profile of Home Staging survey found.

  3. A study by the Real Estate Staging Association found that un-staged homes spent an average of 184 days on the market, whereas homes that were staged prior to going on the market sold, on average, in 23 days.
  4. FIND PROBLEMS BEFORE YOUR BUYERS DO

    Most homebuyers make offers contingent on your home passing an inspection. Thus, doing a pre-inspection of your home (which costs $300 to $500) may help you uncover any major issues with things like your electrical, roofing, or heating or cooling, before a potential buyer would. Making necessary repairs before putting your house on the market can help prevent a future deal from falling through.

    The exception? If you’re selling your house “as is” because the property needs a ton of work, ordering a pre-inspection would be a waste of money.

  5. MAKE SURE YOUR HOME HAS CURB APPEAL

    Homebuyers form their first impression when they pull into the driveway. So make the outside look enticing. The payoff can be huge: Good landscaping can add 5.5 to 12.7 percent to your home’s sales value, according to research from Virginia Tech.

    If you’re looking to save money — and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty — simply cut the grass, trim shrubs and prune hedges yourself. Other low-cost upgrades include repairing outdoor light fixtures, pressure-washing windows and adding a fresh coat of paint to the front door.

  6. NEGOTIATE A REAL ESTATE AGENT’S COMMISSION

    While you certainly have the option to sell your home without a real estate agent, it can be a good idea to hire a professional, since your home is likely your largest financial asset — and unless you sell homes for a living, you don’t know the ins and outs of the process.

    On average, real estate agents charge a 5 to 6 percent commission of your home's final sales price; this fee is split with the buyer’s real estate agent. So, if you pay your agent and the buyer’s agent a combined 6 percent when you sell your $200,000 home, you’d fork over $12,000 at closing. Unfortunately, the money comes out of your pocket — not the buyer’s. But the good news is commission is always negotiable.

    You’ll want to shop around and meet with at least three real estate agents to compare your options. There are a number of discount real estate brokerages, which charge sellers lower commissions. Of course, you may ultimately decide to hire an agent who charges 6 percent commission (3 percent for themselves and 3 percent to the buyer’s agent), especially if that person specializes in selling homes in your neighborhood. Still, it’s good to do your due diligence.

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