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7-step approach to selling your house

Selling your house is a big decision, and sets a number of activities into motion, from repairs and refreshing your property to selecting an agent and signing a contract. Here are seven important steps in the process:

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1. Get your house in order. Make a critical assessment of any needed maintenance or repairs. Hire a home inspector if you're not comfortable making those assessments on your own. An inspection will probably cost you a few hundred dollars, but it's money well spent to keep from being unpleasantly surprised when a buyer has his own inspection done. No one wants to find out that their roof is shot, but at this stage, you can decide if it's worth it to spend the money and fix it or to sell the house as-is, disclose that it needs a new roof and set your price accordingly.

2. Look through a buyer's eyes. Stand across the street and look at your house as if you're a prospective buyer seeing it for the first time, says Sid Davis, a Utah-based real estate broker and author of "Survival Guide to Selling a Home." If you can't be objective, ask a friend to help you. You're looking at the condition of:

  • the exterior paint -- is it fading or peeling?
  • the yard -- are there bare spots in the grass or overgrown shrubs? Is there trash or broken toys? Are there diseased or damaged trees that need to be removed? Are there beds that need to be weeded?
  • the driveway -- is it cracked or have holes in it?
  • the garage door -- is it damaged?
  • the windows -- do they need to be cleaned? Are they broken? Are the screens missing, torn or broken?
  • the gutters and downspouts -- are they clogged or damaged?
  • the front door -- is it dirty or damaged?
  • the details -- does the mailbox door fall open? Are any house numbers missing? Are there burnt-out bulbs on the porch lights? Is there fencing that needs to be repaired?

You want to do this because you have one chance to make a good first impression. What potential buyers see on that first drive-by can do one of three things (and two of them are not good): make them fall in love, make them keep driving, or give them a checklist of items they can use to try to knock down your price.

You'll do the same thing inside the house, studying everything from how it smells to how old the carpet is.

3. FSBO or listing agent? Decide if you're going to sell the house yourself or hire a real estate agent. If you're going on your own, you'll need to line up an attorney or at the very least a title company to handle the paperwork. You'll also need to handle marketing the property, showing it, pre-qualifying buyers, negotiating offers, and working with various real estate professionals, such as appraisers, title agents and mortgage companies.

If you decide it's too much for you to handle, meet with at least three prospective agents. You want an agent who is active in your area. Ask them to bring printouts on their last 10 listings, Davis says. You want to see where the houses were, how long they were on the market, and the listing price vs. the sales price. Also ask about their marketing plan for your house. Will they do a brochure? A Web site? Virtual tours? Open houses? Broker caravans? They should know what works best in your market.

-- Posted: May 16, 2005

'05 Real Estate Guide
30 yr fixed mtg 3.85%
15 yr fixed mtg 2.96%
5/1 jumbo ARM 3.80%
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