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You’ve decided to sell your home, but how do you get your house ready to sell?
With numerous tasks to tackle, from depersonalizing to boosting your home’s curb appeal, the home sale process can seem daunting, especially if you’re on a tight timeline.
With help from a top real estate agent, we’ll walk you through all the pre-listing preparations. Whether you’re racing against the clock due to an unexpected job relocation, taking advantage of a booming market, or just eager to make your next move, this guide will provide a week-by-week roadmap to get your house market-ready in just six weeks.
Week 1: Conduct preliminary market research
Get to know your local housing market. By familiarizing yourself with competing properties and current listing prices, you’ll have more realistic expectations of what you can sell your home for.
First, use a free home appraisal tool like HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator to estimate your home’s current market value. These tools use sophisticated algorithms to give you an idea of how much buyers would pay for your home in the current market.
But don’t mistake the resulting figure for your future listing price. You’ll need to work with a local real estate agent who can conduct a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to determine your home’s true value.
Next, browse local property listings online and note how your home compares to similar properties. What condition are these homes in? Are these properties staged? What are the listing prices for homes that are similar in size and design?
The estimator will use the details of your property and compare them with local market trends to provide you with a ballpark estimate of your home’s value.
Week 2: Hire a top real estate agent
Rima Rafeh, a leading real estate agent in Los Angeles County with more than 375 transactions under her belt, stresses the importance of hiring an agent as soon as possible: “Sellers should consult an agent right away because that agent is going to be able to come up with a game plan for what the seller is aiming to accomplish. No matter what circumstance, your agent is going to be able to guide you through your sale from A to Z.”
HomeLight’s analysis of thousands of home sales across the country reveals that the top 5% of real estate agents typically sell homes for 10% higher prices than their peers.
When you’re ready, HomeLight can connect you with top real estate agents in your area. From there, we recommend that you interview these agents to determine which candidate can best help you meet your selling objectives.
Week 3: Deep clean and declutter every room
Your home might feel comfortable and clean to you, but it’s likely not up to listing standards. You want to create a neutral space that buyers can envision living in. That means you’ll need to declutter, depersonalize, and deep clean your interior and outdoor spaces.
Not only is decluttering a top pre-listing task recommended by Rafeh, but a 2023 HomeLight research report shares that decluttering can add an average of $8,000 in resale value.
The best way to tackle this sizable chore is to break it up over several days and focus on one room at a time. Here’s a rundown of what you need to cover:
- The bathroom: Start your decluttering campaign in the bathroom, the smallest and easiest room in your home to clean. Take everything out but the essentials, do a thorough cleaning of the floors and surfaces, move your toiletries into cabinets, fold your towels, and you’re ready to move on to the next room.
- The bedroom: The bedroom is also relatively easy, as it’s normally only filled with your clothes and other personal items. Don’t worry about decluttering your closets just yet; just put away any loose clothing, nightstand items, and personal effects. Clean blinds, behind your headboard, and under the bed.
- Closets: Are your closets packed with neglected items that you haven’t touched in years? Revise your closet’s content and donate and toss things you no longer need. You should aim to declutter your closets until they’re only two-thirds full to enhance the appearance of storage space. Pack up any extra items into moving boxes and store them in the garage or a storage unit until your home sells.
- The kitchen: Here’s the big one. Kitchens are areas of constant activity, and if you’ve been living in your house for some time, yours is likely jam-packed with cooking tools and knick-knacks. Again, be judicious about what you’re going to keep around and prepare to part with anything unessential. After you’ve cleared old food and unnecessary items out, thoroughly clean every cabinet shelf, and surface.
- The rest: After you’ve decluttered the primary spaces mentioned above, tackle the rest of the house, including office spaces, living rooms, hallways, and entryways.
Week 4: Complete necessary repairs
You can proactively address repairs by conducting a pre-listing home inspection. An inspection costs $340 on average, but the actual cost will depend heavily on your location and the size of your home.
During this inspection, a licensed professional will examine your property for defects like cracked foundations, faulty electrical systems, moldy walls, and HVAC issues.
After you’ve received a report from your inspector, you can determine which repairs to complete and which to leave for future buyers. You’ll need to disclose these known issues and may want to consider adjusting the listing price to reflect the cost of any significant repairs needed.
In most cases, Rafeh advises sellers to complete the repairs themselves. “If a property is in good condition, it’s going to have more interested buyers, better exposure, and the potential to receive multiple offers. Even little repairs that cost maybe $3,000 can generate thousands more at the point of sale.”
Week 5: Enhance your home with upgrades and curb appeal
After you clean and repair your home, it’s time to start sprucing it up to make it as attractive as possible to potential buyers. However, there’s only so much you can do on a timeline, and not every project is going to have a worthwhile return on investment (ROI). Your agent can advise what renovations are most effective in your local market, but here are some suggestions that exhibit a high ROI nationally:
According to a 2023 HomeLight research report, agents estimate that a landscaping upgrade adds $7,312 in value. HomeAdvisor lists the average cost of a landscaping upgrade at $3,455, so homeowners can expect a 112% ROI when investing in landscaping upgrades.
Garage door replacement
The garage door is another big part of curb appeal and can serve as an understated but effective eye-catcher for buyers. In the 2023 Cost vs. Value Report, Remodeling.com found that garage door replacements have an average ROI of 102.7%. If you don’t want to pay to replace your garage door, consider cleaning, repairing, and applying a fresh coat of paint to your existing garage door.
Front door replacement
Your front door is your buyer’s first chance to interact with your home up-close and personal. If it’s rundown or the lock jams, they might question how well you’ve taken care of the rest of the property. Fortunately, replacing your front door is relatively cheap and, according to NAR, can have an ROI as high as 63%.
New house numbers
Sometimes small details can have a big impact. You probably don’t think about your home numbers all that much, but a set of modern, clean home numbers is an affordable way to make a statement.
Energy Saver reports that heating and cooling make up 50% to 70% of home energy costs. You can improve your home’s energy efficiency and attract buyers by insulating your attic for around $1,500.
Week 6: Stage your home and hire a professional photographer
At this point, you’ve done all of the major work to get your home ready to sell. Your final task is to get your home ready for listing photos, open houses, and showings.
Staging is the process of rearranging furniture, adding decor, and generally dressing up your home to appeal to potential buyers. According to HomeLight, well-staged homes sell for 18% more on average.
Most real estate agents advise hiring a home staging professional at an average cost of $1,500.
Once your home is looking stellar, it’s time to show it off. Most homebuyers use online tools during their home search, so you’ll need professional listing photos to grab their attention. Your agent can refer you to an experienced photographer. Professionals typically charge $150 to $350 per hour, and many agents wrap this expense into their commission.
Now you can relax and let your agent do the heavy lifting
You’ve just done everything you need to get your house ready to sell. From this point forward, your agent will take the reins on your home sale. They’ll craft a compelling listing, market your home to buyers, and arrange showings. All you need to do is maintain a clean house and watch the offers roll in.
Header Image Source: (André François McKenzie / Unsplash)