How do you know if your home's ready for the market?  Contact an agent or broker to tour your home.  He/she will evaluate your home and provide an expert opinion based on your home's condition and the current real estate market.  Afterward, the agent/broker should provide a comparative market analysis (CMA).

A CMA should not be confused with an appraisal.  The difference is that a CMA is an unofficial market comparison between your home and homes that have been sold, pending, contingent and are active on the market.  It's usually prepared free of cost to the homeowner by an agent you would consider to represent you in the sale. 

An appraisal is an official report prepared by a licensed appraiser and will run you around $300 to $600. The appraisal will usually only include comparison data between homes that have sold in the recent past and your home.

When your agent presents the CMA he/she will usually suggest home repairs, staging, updates and cleaning to make your home marketable to achieve a fast offer for the most return on your investment.  It's prepared by your agent as a tool for you to decide the best listing price for your home.  You are the only one who can set the price.  An agent simply provides you the data through this report to do so.

He or she will recommend the best time to list your home based on market conditions and time needed to get your home ready.  Your CMA will be prepared with current market conditions so it will need to be prepared again in the coming months if your home is not on the market right away.  The winter months can affect a speedy home sale, so the best time is spring, fall and summer (extreme hot weather and vacation season can also negatively impact the market).  

We have listed some typical items that are usual suspects when a home is not selling.  They should be able to be completed in 30 days and have reasonable costs in consideration to the time saved on the market.

Once you are ready to get the home listed, ask your agent if you can walk-through current homes on the market in a similar price range near your home.  You can get ideas for marketability, price, amenity and days on market comparison.

If you have new construction communities near your neighborhood, it may be a good idea to walk through some model homes in a similar price range.  Like it or not, they will be your competition and it's good to know your home's comparison(s). 

Since model homes aren't functional, their purpose is to sell the dream of the "perfect home".  In the real world, our homes are older, lived-in and full of everyday "life" messes. 

So, consider what your market advantage will be to encourage a buyer to consider your home over a brand new home.  It could be price, décor (window treatments, landscaping, finished garage, storage shelves, deck or patio) fast closing, established neighborhood, lot size or various inclusions outside of the scope of a new home.  Regardless, you will need to get your home ready to win the eye of today's buyer.

Curb appeal

The first glimpse of your home by a potential buyer is huge!  As a real estate broker, many times I have had buyers refuse to even go into a home because it didn’t make a good first impression.  Most often some simple changes would have been the key to keeping the buyers interested.  

Potted flowers, flags, wreath & welcome mats make a home look welcoming.  Edge, prune, clean up debris and leaves.  Based on the season and need, overseed as soon as you know your home will be going on the market.  Minor cracks in the concrete should be filled, but if there is uneven concrete that could pose a tripping hazard, then hire a mud jacking company and schedule prior to your listing date.  Decks and porches should be washed and stained, if needed. Walkways, patios and vinyl siding should be power washed.

Front Entry

Paint the front door, if needed.   Replace or polish hardware/fixtures.  Wreaths are welcoming and can add color to your entry.

Exterior Paint

Find any areas of the home that need painting.  Unless the home is as-is, an inspector will likely flag these areas later, so it is best to get them painted now to improve salability, curb appeal, and reduced DOM (days on market).

Interior Paint

If your home hasn't had fresh paint for years, it may be time to apply a fresh neutral color throughout.  Limit choosing different colors for the walls in various rooms.   Instead you can add color to rooms in décor and furnishings.  This gives the buyer the chance to envision their choice of color, décor and furnishings in their new home.  

Flooring

Have your carpets cleaned a week before your home goes on the market or have flooring repaired or replaced in any areas that need it.  

Organize

Get things cleaned up and organized.  Get storage for any excess household goods or oversized furnishings to avoid a cluttered look.  It will make your home look bigger and more spacious.  Most storage spaces are a very reasonable investment for making your home look market ready.  This reduces negative feedback of comparison shoppers of new homes.

Closets

One of the major complaints of buyers is not enough closet space.  De-clutter and organize closets.  Adding organized closet systems are always beneficial.

Basement

Make sure your basement is dry and free of unrepaired cracks or foundation problems.  Make sure you hire a company that provides a warranty for any work performed.  The work should be completed prior to the home being listed.  Unless your home is "as-is", basement problems will certainly be flagged in the building inspection.  So fix it early.  Also, unrepaired foundation issues will repel qualified buyers like the plague during showings.  Repaired problems will put them at ease and encourage more offers.

Plumbing

Make sure the sinks are all properly vented and all faucets function correctly.  Check the pressure valves on your showers to regulate hot and cold water.  These are common problems flagged in inspections.  Check the main stack in the lower level and have a professional plumbing company make any repairs or updates as recommended.  Check toilets and ensure they are efficient and not in need of repair. 

Windows

Have your windows professional cleaned and inspected.  If they are older windows, check the counterbalance to ensure the window is functional and safe.  Repair any windows with broken seals (foggy windows). All this should be done prior to listing the home.

Popular Areas

Kitchens, baths and green space are all very important areas of a home that buyers focus on.   Update appliances, vanities, cabinets and fixtures, where needed.   A fresh coat of paint is essential in kitchens and baths.  Remove clutter and unused appliances from counters and vanity tops.  Remove magnets and "stuff" from fridge.  Buyers look inside cabinets, so clean and organize.

Your green space will include yard, patio and decking.  Make sure these areas are maintained, power washed, stained and updated.  Updated patio furnishings can help buyers envision the use of the patio.  Make it a space that encourages them to stay awhile.  Always make sure your yard is walkable, properly graded and mowed.

Garage and Mud Room

Organize your garage and keep it dry and clean.  Install hooks, racks and storage shelves to maintain the organization spaces of each area.  If possible, remove any storage in car spaces of the garage so that it can be used for your vehicle(s).

Clean

A major "clean and purge" is essential prior to listing your home.  Hire a company, if needed, to do the heavy cleaning.  Sometimes there are areas of the home that you don't notice that need attention.  A professional cleaning company can make recommendations upon inspection.  You can look for a cleaning company that can continue to maintain the home weekly while it is on the market.  Make sure you let them know your intentions for a short-term contract and what you expect.

Stage

Sell the dream, not the house.  New home builders build model homes because the "American Dream" sells better than "track homes".  Market your house as their future home and you will have a better chance of selling.  This may mean you may remove your home's "signature" such as family pictures, kid's stuff, unique décor or bold colors.  This is an opportunity to dress your home in décor and furnishings that have general appeal for most buyers.  It gets your home an advantage over other homes of similar size and price and may win-over the "potential new home buyer".  Interview staging companies or ask your agent if they can refer someone or offer advice.  Go to home furnishing stores and analyze the latest home décor choices offered. 

Don't sell "your home", sell any "buyer's next home".   It's not always easy.  But, neutral, fresh updates always help!

Walk through

Allow your Realtor® to have an agent walk-through at the beginning stage of your listing.  Accept feed back and confer with your agent about the suggestions that his/her colleagues believe may get your home sold more quickly and for top dollar. 

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