mortgage

10 'must-do' steps to sell your home this year

3. Shape up before marketing. A buyer's market means you've got more competition. "You want to put your best foot forward," says Eric Tyson, co-author of "House Selling for Dummies." If your home isn't appealing and in good repair, potential buyers won't even stop. Some sellers feel it's OK to skip this step and take less, but if the house is not appealing you may not get the chance to negotiate. "Six weeks before you want to put it on the market is a great time to get it done," says Summers. You don't need to renovate, but make sure everything looks great and works well. There are some things you can do to make your home stand out:

  • New paint. Paint the whole house, if it needs it, or just the trim, shutters and door to freshen up.
  • A clean entry way. Sweep or pressure-wash the front walk and porch. Polish the outdoor metalwork, clean the windows and glass and replace any burnt-out bulbs in outdoor lighting. And, if you can, add planters with flowers.
  • Lush landscaping. Think new mulch, sharp edging, a healthy lawn and beds of flowers.
  • "Maximize your chances of people being excited about your listing when it hits the market," says Tyson. 

4. Devise a marketing plan. Do you want to use a real estate agent or would you rather sell it yourself? If you try doing it yourself, have you set a time limit after which you want to enlist the aid of a professional? Selling it yourself can save you the real estate commission (often about 6 percent), which can be an advantage in a tight market. But a buyer's market (or rapidly changing market) is also a good time to have a little professional expertise to price, market and move your property. And don't forget, potential buyers may feel that if there's no agent involved the price should already be 6 percent less. Both the buyer and the seller can't save the same 6 percent.

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5. Check into company relocation assistance. Are you moving to take a new job or position? If so, the company might offer some resources to make things easier, says Summers. Some companies will even provide a list of real estate pros who will work with you at a discount. If you're selling in a tight market, every little bit helps. Best source: call your human resources department.

6. Interview real estate agents. If you're interested in using an agent, interview several early on about listing your home, says Tyson. "Ask them for their advice," he says. "That's a good way to select an agent." What would they highlight about your home? What would they change before it goes on the market?

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