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6 tips to sell your house before the end of the year

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In recent years, sellers have called the shots in homebuying negotiations. They’ve had plenty of leverage, too, thanks to surges in buyer demand, tight inventory and soaring home prices in many top markets around the country.

But we all know that the housing market is a cyclical one. Pricing and demand that goes up eventually goes down, and the hot summer housing market often cools by the time winter rears its chilly head.

If you’re needing to sell a house and can’t wait for next year’s warm-weather sales surge, you’ll need to act fast. To get to the closing table sooner rather than later, sellers may need to adjust their expectations and approach. Here are six important steps you can take now to sell your home before the new year is here.

1. Rely on comps — not emotion — to set a realistic asking price

First things first. Experts say you’ll want to jump into the housing market with a realistic asking price that has the potential to stick. This part can be hard for sellers to wrap their heads around since many want to “test the market” with a higher sales price knowing they can drop it later. This approach, however, is a mistake, says Chicago real estate agent David Cahill.

“If your home is priced too high, it can be very difficult to overcome, even when you eventually reduce the price,” he says.

This is one area where you may want to let your agent lead the way. Cahill says a good real estate agent will do a comparative market analysis that helps you price your home based on recent comparable sales in your area — not just hopes and dreams.

The best agents will even go the extra to mile to find out the prices of comparable homes with a recent or pending sale in process, he says.

You’re paying your agent for their professional advice and expertise, so when they suggest a sales price based on mountains of research, you should listen.

2. Ask your agent for ‘first look’ feedback

Homeowners hoping to unload their properties by year’s end will need to enter the market with their best foot forward. This means having a house that is easy to sell and free of glaring problems.

Michael Kelczewski, a real estate agent with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in the Greater Philadelphia area, says you should not only ask for real estate agent feedback but review all of their notes — both positive and critical. It’s also a good idea to have your agent gather buyer feedback from people who tour your property so you understand what buyers love (and don’t love) about your home.

Your real estate agent may be able to point out defects you’ve overlooked like forgotten windows with cracked seals or the fact that your teenager has heavy metal posters plastered wall to wall. Or perhaps they’ll remind you that most people want to park in their garage instead of using it to store boxes of photos and old clothing.

Consider agent feedback carefully and implement their suggested changes to potentially avoid losing out on a sale due to minor issues.

3. Clean, organize and declutter

It’s possible your agent will advise you take down family photos and clear out your closets right away, but you should make time for a major cleanup regardless.

Cahill says you should “do everything within your budget to ensure your home gives a great first impression.” For example, give your front door a fresh coat of paint, trim back overgrown shrubs and keep your lawn in tip-top shape.

While your home is on the market, the interior should also be clean and ready for a last-minute showing at all times. Cahill says to start by removing clutter, getting rid of any oversized furniture and taking down busy decorations.

“Rent a storage unit if you need more space,” he says.

Stay on top of cleanliness by taking time to wipe down counters, sweep floors and touch up bathrooms every day. Nobody wants to buy a dirty house.

4. Consider hiring a professional stager

If you have the cleaning part down pat but need help making your home visually appealing, you can also consider hiring a professional stager, Cahill says. Home stagers have furniture, art and décor they use to make your home feel modern and increase your chances at a speedy offer — an important consideration for anyone, but especially if your home feels especially dated.

Does staging work? Most experts would say it does. In fact, a recent study from the National Association of Realtors showed that 83 percent of buyer’s agents said staging helped their clients envision living in that specific home. Also, 28 percent of seller’s agents said they staged all of selling clients’ homes before putting them on the market. However, 13 percent reported staging homes only if those properties were difficult to sell otherwise.

5. Spring for professional photos and video

Where potential buyers perused the local newspaper for new home listings decades ago, pretty much all home marketing is done online now — either through multiple listing services (MLS), real estate websites, email marketing or a combination of all of these avenues.

Susan Bozinovic, a Realtor with Century 21 Town & Country in Troy, Michigan, says this is why quality pictures are crucial if you hope to achieve a quick sale. Hire a photographer to take high-quality pictures and consider having your real estate agent’s office create a marketing video, she says.

Drone photography might be an important factor to sell a sprawling property with land or a ton of outdoor features, she adds.

Bozinovic also emphasizes the importance of social media marketing — especially on Facebook.

“I found that running ads on the Facebook platform is superior to any other social media space because the audience can be targeted very specifically,” she says.

If you’re hoping to spread the news of your home for sale far and wide, it may also help to work with a real estate agent who has knowledge of social media marketing and other strategies to get more eyeballs on your virtual listing.

6. Get an optional pre-sale home inspection

Never assume your home is in perfect physical condition; take the time to make sure. Paying for a home inspection upfront is typically a safe bet. With prior knowledge of issues like missing shingles on your roof or faulty electrical work, for example, you can buy time to fix these problems before they become a problem.

Cahill also says that hiring a home inspector to conduct a thorough inspection before you list your home may “inspire greater confidence in your home’s condition among potential buyers.”

This is true even though most savvy buyers will likely hire their own inspector.

Also note that, if you take the time to fix big problems discovered in an inspection before a sale is underway, the negation process could be “short and sweet,” Cahill says.

Bottom line

A speedy home sale could be in your future if you take steps to avoid common problems that turn off potential buyers. This includes making sure your home is beautiful and clean, but it also means uncovering major defects or repair needs before someone else does.

There’s still plenty of time to get to the closing table before the end of the year. Working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market trends and can help you set a realistic price are key pieces to the puzzle.

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Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
Edited by
Deborah Kearns
Mortgage reporter