5 steps to prepare your home to sell


You’ve heard all of these supposed realities of selling. . . . Don’t sell during the holidays.  Wait until the flowers are blooming.


Don’t list an empty house.  Well, we sold our first home without furnishings. We sold our second home before Christmas and our third during mud season.

Remember, it takes just one buyer who is ready — regardless of whether the market is flush, interest rates are up or down, or the economy and weather are good or bad.

And while there is no magic formula to achieve a sale, there are things you can do to better your chances.

Here are five steps to help you present your home in the best possible light and bring in the highest possible price for the reality of the current market.

Reality for the current market, that’s the mantra to embrace.

Step 1: Decisions, decisions, decisions

Figure out what moves with you and what gets stored, sold, or discarded.

Use sticker dots to mark items:

 red: stays

 green: goes to storage, is donated, or sold

 blue: trash

 yellow: no verdict (revisit this after you finalize those red and green dots)

Step 2: Prepack and declutter

Consider putting certain items into storage. Rent space and/or put things in opaque bins that are out of the way.

Declutter all rooms (yes, the basement, garage, and attic, too). Don’t do this in dribs and drabs. Do it once. And don’t start going through that photo album you found under the couch. Before you know it, the day will be gone! Remember, you’re on a mission. If you can’t think of where an item will live, consider why you want to carry it to your next home.

Decluttering help

 Call a charitable organization that will pick up things for donation.

 Donate books to libraries, colleges, and schools.

 Use trash-removal services like GotJunk to take away items without value — inside and outside.

Step 3: Fixes that resonate with buyers

 Refinish or replace hardwood floors. If you don’t, prepare to negotiate the cost to do so. Take up or replace worn carpeting.

 Repair grout and caulking.

 Paint tired rooms, walls, and ceilings.

 Remove dated wallpaper.

 Utilize new tiles to cover worn wood flooring. Create an apron of tile in front of a sink, doorway, or tub.

 Refresh a kitchen with a new back splash treatment. Try a complimentary paint color or one row of new tile to keep costs down.

 Replace dated task lighting over a kitchen island or in the dining area.

 Paint or re-face kitchen or bathroom cabinets.

 Replace dated drawer pulls, knobs, and handles.

 Block bad views and freshen a room with shutters.

 Remove worn window treatments.

 Purchase ready-made slipcovers for tired furnishings, and freshen rooms with new lampshades, bed covers, and accent pillows.

Step 4: Ramp up the curb appeal

Annuals are an easy way to create pretty outdoor vignettes:

 Circle a mailbox, border a sidewalk or fence, or plant a cluster of multicolored annuals next to the entryway, backyard bench, or patio.

 Add planters.

 Mulch flowerbeds.

 Prune shrubs.

 Ready a vegetable garden for planting or plant to inspire. Add details like a birdhouse and/or markers for what’s been planted.

 Make sure stone walls, gates, and walkways are in good repair.

 Replace a tired mailbox

Step 5: Open house, close deal

 Have the rooms of your home put together simply and thoughtfully. Present it hotel clean, odor free. Don’t mask odors with sweet oils and candles. If need be, open the windows and air out the house.

 Keep tabletops and bureau surfaces uncomplicated.

 Lock up valuables.

 Tidy closets, with hangers going in the same direction and your shoes lined up.

Consider professional cleaning for the following:

 Rugs, upholstery, and curtains. The quickest way to do all of this is with a company that uses steam.


The day of the open house:

 Set out cookies and a pot of coffee.

 Put your pet’s food bowls away. Got cats? Make sure the litter box is clean. Put kitty in a small bathroom with a gate so the room can still be seen. Have a dog? Make sure all of the dog messes have been picked up in the yard. Take the dog for a walk or a car ride.

 On a table, display a photo album of your yard when it’s in full bloom. Map your garden with a layout in which you name all of the plants.

It’s in your real estate agent’s hands now. Go enjoy a much deserved latte.

5 Summer Projects That Will Improve Your Home and Boost Its Value

You already know that remodeling is a great way to improve your home’s appearance and raise your property value. The question is: Which improvements are worth tackling today? Here are five that you can easily complete before the leaves start falling.

1. Add a Deck 


Creating enticing outdoor living spaces is one of the hottest trends in home improvement. When it comes to outdoor living spaces, the right deck makes all the difference, and is especially important for those who prefer to spend most of their summers relaxing or entertaining outside. However, adding a deck does more than improve your yards livability, a well-designed deck improves your home’s value and is a feature that has the potential to really set your house apart. Tackling the project now ensures you’ll be able to enjoy your new deck this summer and for summers to come.


2. Upgrade Your Air Conditioning 

air conditionerMaybe you’re tired of paying those exorbitant utility bills. Or perhaps you’re tired of having no air conditioning whatsoever. If so, an A/C upgrade is a home improvement worth making. From lowering your bills to improving the comfort and salability of your home, installing a new high-efficiency air conditioning system is one home improvement you’ll be glad you made. Concerned about the price? Getting quotes from at least three HVAC pros will ensure you get the best price. They’ll also be able to tell you about any rebates that your local utility might be running – making your new air conditioner a lot more affordable than you expect.

3. Replace Your Siding

Siding is responsible for protecting your home from the elements. It’s no surprise then that worn out siding can really affect your home’s appearance. Equally unsurprising is that replacing your siding can greatly improve your home’s appearance and increase your property value.

When considering replacement siding, look to your environment for clues as to which choice is right for you. In the southwest, stucco offers a regional look and provides extraordinary durability; in the northeast, wood (or vinyl that looks like wood but requires less maintenance) will give your home a more classic look. However, don’t just consider your climate, consider your neighborhood, too. If every house on the block is clad in vinyl siding, would stone or brick set your house apart or make it stick out? A siding pro will be able to help you figure out the right siding solution for your needs and your budget.

4. Replace Your Roofing


If your roof has been hit by severe weather or is simply at the end of its lifecycle, installing a new roof is a project best completed sooner than later (or immediately if your roof has been severely damaged and is leaking). So, what do you need to know about replacing your roof? First, talk to your insurance agent to see if the replacement is covered by insurance. Second, make sure you talk to at least three roofing pros before making the hiring decision (HomeAdvisor is here to help you find a roofing pro you can trust to get the job done right). Third, your new roof’s durability will be directly related to its cost. Asphalt is the most affordable and the quickest to wear out; tile and slate are the most durable and by far the most expensive. Metal falls somewhere in the middle; its quick installation, moderate price, and 40+ year life expectancy make it a popular choice among homeowners who want a good balance of value and durability. To find the best solution for your home and budget, we recommend talking to a roofing pro.

5. Improve Your Landscaping


No list of remodeling projects is complete without mentioning landscaping. For good reason too, as a well-designed and properly installed landscaping plan can have a big impact on your home’s curb appeal and value. However, in many cases improving your landscaping involves more than adding plants and cutting the grass, especially if you’re looking to make significant changes or have challenging design features to work around. We recommend talking to a landscape designer or landscaping pro to figure out the best solution for your yard and your budget.

Pick Your Project and Go

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your to-do list. The key is to prioritize your list of needs and wants to focus your attention on the project that makes the most sense right now (obviously, any roofing or siding issues affecting the structural integrity of your home need to be addressed ASAP). On that note, if you’ve been considering that new deck or new air conditioner, there’s no time like the present to get started. After all, completing the project now means you get to relax and enjoy the rest of your summer.

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Experienced Real Estate Agents


Think back to the last real estate agent you hired. Is your agent still in the business? Good agents stay in contact with past clients. Were you satisfied with your representation and the service provided? Odds are if your agent is still active in the real estate business — and you were happy with that agent — you probably had hired a real estate agent with experience.The bulk of letters and e-mails I receive from readers are complaints about their real estate agents — griping about lousy service and bad advice or agonizing over how to fire an agent, often a relative, without causing a family riff.

How Much Experience Should Agents Have? 

Instead of asking how much experience an agent has, ask how many times the agent has renewed his or her real estate license. In Oklahoma, for example, real estate licenses are issued for three years; in California, they enjoy four-year terms and in New York the  term is two years . You have probably heard the adage that 20% of the agents do 80% of the business. That’s because top producing agents are consistent, and this consistency comes from experience. The minimum number of transactions many brokers expect an agent to complete per year averages out to about ten, which is almost one per month. Not a lot by a top-producer’s standards, but adequate in most real estate circles.

Why Do Real Estate Agents Quit?

The number one reason real estate agents leave the business is because they aren’t making enough money. The median salary for an agent in the United States is less than $35,000 a year. Subtract from that figure normal business expenses and taxes, and let’s hope nobody is trying to feed a family of four on what’s leftover. Although experts advise new agents to keep six to 12 months of salary in reserves, few heed that advice. The business appears to be very easy to outsiders looking in, but real estate is complicated, time consuming and the average Joe or Jill are typically ill equipped to become a real estate agent. Unfortunately, many don’t find that out until they’ve weathered many months without a paycheck.

Here are some of the skills successful agents possess that help them to prosper in the real estate industry:

Time management
Patience to handle conflict resolutions
Marketing expertise
Self promotion
Projection of an outgoing personality

The Benefits of Experience

An experienced agent is one whose mistakes are new. Successful agents learn something new every year; while lesser agents tend to repeat past mistakes. Top agents treat each client as though their business depends on the client’s success. Because it does.

Agents who are experienced:
Offer solutions based on previous results
Anticipate problems before they occur
Enjoy solid reputations with other agents
Have practiced strong negotiation techniques
Refer time-tested vendors such as mortgage lenders, title companies, home inspectors, appraisers, general contractors, pest inspectors
Understand the complexities of changing real estate markets
Provide statistics and crucial market data to clients
Professionally guide clients to smooth closings

Should You Hire a DNA Agent?

DNA agents are relatives. As such, relatives are often careful not to offend each other. Agents who are related to you might not want to counter your opinions or ideas, even if it’s in your best interest to do so. You might not feel comfortable demanding what you deserve, as you would with an agent who was not family.

The bottom line is you might want to compare competitors, use tips to finding a real estate agent and interviewing a real estate agent, before making your final selection.

Finding a Real Estate Agent



Finding a good real estate agent / broker is essential to enjoying a painless real estate transaction. The saying is “20% of the agents do 80% of the business,” and it is true. The question is how can you find a good real estate agent? The best agent for you doesn’t necessarily work at the largest brokerage, close the most transactions or make the most money. The best agent for you is an experienced professional who will listen to you, conduct him/herself in an ethical manner and knows your market.


1.  REALTORS® and Real Estate Agents

All Realtors® are licensed to sell real estate as an agent or a broker but not all real estate agents are Realtors®. Only Realtors® can display the Realtor® logo. Realtors® belong to the National Association of Realtors and pledge to follow the Code of Ethics, a comprehensive list containing 17 articles and underlying standards of practice, which establish levels of conduct that are higher than ordinary business practices or those required by law.

2.  Referrals

Most real estate agents stay in business because satisfied clients refer them to friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. Ask the people around you who they have used and ask them to describe their experiences with this real estate agent. Successful agents make customer satisfaction their number one priority and put their customers’ needs before their own. Try to find an agent who goes above and beyond her responsibilities. They’ll be the agent whose praises your friends sing the loudest.

3.  Search Online for Agent Listings

There are plenty of websites that will refer agents to you but that is no assurance of quality. The agents they refer are those who have paid the website owners a fee to be listed in their directory. A better bet is to Google the top real estate companies in your area, go to those websites and look up profiles of individual agents at offices near you. Agents who are experienced will tell you in plain view on their websites, but newer agents might have more time to spend with you. Look for customer reviews.

4.  Attend Open Houses

By going to open houses, you can meet real estate agents in a non-threatening working environment and interact with them. Collect business cards and make notes on them. If you’re thinking about selling your home, pay attention to how the agent is showing the home. Are they polite and informative; appear knowledgeable? Do they hand out professional-looking promotional material about the home? Are they trying to sell features of the home? Or are they sitting in a corner reading a book, ignoring you?

5.  Track Neighborhood Signs

Pay attention to the listing signs in your neighborhood. Make note of the day they go up and when the sign disappears. Don’t wait for a sold sign because not all agents will post a sold sign. The agent who sells listings the fastest might be better for you than the agent with the largest number of “for sale” signs. Results speak volumes.

6.  Using Print Advertising

Real estate agents run real estate ads for two purposes. The first is to sell specific real estate. The second is to promote the real estate agent. Look in your local community newspaper for house ads in your targeted neighborhood. Then look up the websites of the agents who are advertising. These agents could be specialists in your neighborhood. Call and ask them about their experience.

7.  Recommendations from Professionals

Ask other real estate agents for referrals. Agents are happy to refer buyers and sellers to associates, especially if the service you need is not a specialty of the agent who is referring you. Some agents specialize in residential resales while others work exclusively with new home builders. Other agents sell only commercial or investment property. Mortgage brokers are also a resource for agent referrals as many brokers have first-hand knowledge of exceptional agents. Professionals tend to refer other professionals like themselves.

Online Marketing Techniques of Successful Real Estate Agencies

37193912Now more than ever, the Internet has become the primary method used by home buyers when looking for a new home. Online searches and listings have made it easier for prospective home buyers to find their dream homes.

In 2013, 90 percent of home buyers did research online before choosing to buy their homes. Additionally, 76 percent of home buyers actually drove by homes that they found on the Internet.

It’s clear that the Internet has become a staple in the world of real estate. This is great for home buyers and realtors too.

However, this paradigm shift has created new challenges for real estate agencies and realtors. The advent of social media and content marketing has given everyone a voice. Realtors no longer have to rely on traditional advertising to gain exposure.

While this has made it easier for agents to market themselves, it has also brought new challenges. Since any real estate agent can build a website and begin spreading their message online, it’s now become harder for firms to differentiate themselves from their competition: How do you stand out from all the other real estate firms in your area?

This post will provide you with some sound online marketing techniques that will help you distinguish your firm. With hard work and focus, you can successfully build a viable and prominent brand in your community.

Online Marketing Rule of Thumb

The main rule of thumb that online marketing firms should follow is simply this: you must provide as much value as possible.

Your online efforts will be pointless if they don’t provide a distinct benefit to your readers. Everything you do online should be done in a way that provides useful information, solves a problem, or answers specific questions.

Create Guides

Create guides that help your readers better understand your market. These free guides should give value to your readers.

Here’s some examples:

  • A definitive guide to the local nightlife in your area.
  • A guide that discusses the most kid-friendly places in your city.
  • Annual guides that discuss the changes in your local real estate market.

Guides such as these can help you provide relevant and helpful information to prospects that may be looking for a real estate agent in your area. They are also a great lead generator.

If you offer the guide in exchange for the reader’s email, then you will be able to help them while earning the right to reach out to them.

Create a Brand that Stands Out

It’s not enough to use online marketing only to offer your services. If you want your firm to stand out from the others, you have to create a winning brand that makes your prospects want to engage with your firm.

Creating an effective brand isn’t easy, but if you do this right, you will be able to position yourself as the authority that your readers need. Creating a great brand involves several components:

  • Personality — Are you funny? Authoritative? Hard working? Every real estate agent has personality traits that make them a great choice for a prospect. Figure out what those are and make sure they show through in your online marketing efforts.
  • Voice — What does your brand “sound” like? What tone will you take when you’re engaging with your readers? This is related to your personality. Use a voice that will resonate with potential leads.
  • Story — What’s your brand’s story? Why did you decide to do real estate? What do you stand for? An essential component of a great brand is a great story. Craft your brand’s story, then make sure elements of your story are present in each piece of content you create.

Real Estate Newsletters

A great way to keep your clients engaged (even after you have already helped them) is to have a regular newsletter. Creating a newsletter will further position your firm as an authority in your area.

As a real estate agent, you can use newsletters to provide relevant and helpful content to your audience on a continuous basis. Your newsletter should provide timely information about your community, information on events going on in the city, and other useful content. You can also use it to alert your audience to new blog posts.

Real Estate Blogs

As a real estate agent, your primary online marketing tool should be your blog. Your blog is where you will share your most relevant and informative content on a regular basis. When you maintain a blog that regularly features unique and interesting information, it shows prospects that you are the expert at what you do.

Your blog will help you set yourself apart from the other real estate agents in your area who aren’t taking their online efforts seriously. Here are some helpful tips for maintaining a successful real estate blog:

  • Post on topics that your prospects will care about. Answer commonly-asked questions. Give updates on the community. Spotlight local businesses. Educate your readers on your city.
  • Write in a friendly, casual tone. Don’t be too wordy. Your blog isn’t the place to show your reader how brilliant you are. It’s where you will provide as much value as possible.
  • Do not use your blog to promote your services or try to sell yourself. There are other places on your website for that.
  • Try to make sure that your brand’s message comes through in each blog post you create.

Guest Blogging

A sure fire way to build authority and influence is to share your content on other blogs. This gets you more exposure and shows potential prospects that you are an expert in your field.

Find blogs that are relevant to your profession and become involved in the community. Then, pitch a blog topic on which to write.

Not only does guest posting give you a platform to showcase your expertise, it can also increase your blog traffic and provide useful backlinks. This is great for your readership and SEO. Try to do as many guest blog postings as you can.


If you’re a real estate agent, effective online marketing is essential to your success. When you’re engaging in online marketing, there’s one key point to remember: it’s all about providing value. It’s likely that one of the main reasons you decided to become a real estate agent is because you had a desire to help people.  You get to be a part of one the most important decisions a person can make: choosing a home.

Your online marketing strategy should flow from this desire. When you’re creating content, it should be designed to make it easier for your prospects when they are considering where to live. If you create content that actually helps your prospects in their search for a home, they will be more likely to hire you. In the end, a successful online marketing program will help you generate and convert more leads into actual clients.

Real Estate Agent Photo via Shutterstock

If you STAGE it, you will SELL it!

Home-StagingSelling your home sounds easy enough. Just hammer a “For Sale” sign into the front lawn and start bringing in the buyers, right? Not so fast. If you want to get the highest possible sale price, you need to woo potential buyers. That’s where professional home stagers come in: Like a Hollywood set, your home can be turned into a scene that buyers will want to latch on to. If you’re serious about selling, you might want to consider hiring a professional home stager to transform your house into every buyer’s dream—or just borrow these tips from the pros to get it in ready-to-sell condition.

1. Clear Out Clutter

Whittle huge photo displays down to a few frames. Pack up collections and knickknacks that are cluttering your bookshelves, desktop, dresser and end tables. “Show potential buyers your home, not your stuff!” urges professional home stager Jan Whitlow.

2. Let Light In
Pull up the shades and draw back the curtains! “Light creates a positive, cheerful environment,” says professional home stager Trish Kim. During showings, turn on every light in every room. And leave some of the lights on in the rooms that face the street until you go to bed. “If potential buyers drive by after-hours, the welcoming light in the window is very seductive,” says Kim.

3. Make the Background Neutral
If the walls are in neutral shades, the space will feel bigger, says Barb Schwarz, CEO of StagedHomes.com. You don’t want potential buyers’ initial thought to be, “Well, I’d have to repaint the purple bedroom and the brick-red dining room, to start,” so consider repainting bright-hued walls before you start showing. Even with a neutral backdrop, you can still add “movable color” to the rooms with artwork, bedspreads or area rugs. All add visual interest, but the buyer knows you’ll take them with you.

4. Create a Lifestyle
If you think your home might appeal to someone who entertains, set the dining room for a formal dinner party, suggests Kim. Or turn your master bedroom into a quiet spa-like haven if the whirlpool tub in the master bathroom is a selling point. “Buyers are looking for an upgraded lifestyle,” says Kim. It’s up to you to help them imagine it.

5. Play Music
Have music playing softly in the background. “I call it ‘buying music,'” says Schwarz. Choose something mellow and play it just loud enough so it’s discernable. The idea is to mask the echoey sound of shoes clap-clap-clapping through an empty house—not to start a dance party. Schwarz recommends light jazz without a lot of vocals: something similar to elevator or department store music.

6. Neutralize Odors
Contrary to popular belief, no odor is the way to go. The smell of bread or cookies in the oven might appeal to you—but potential buyers may not agree, says Kim. Open the windows and let fresh air flow through your home. Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of trash cans and place a box of it in the fridge to absorb unpleasant smells. “You can’t sell it if you can smell it,” seconds Schwarz.

7. Clean, Clean, Clean
If you’re selling your home, you can’t stash clutter in the closets or have a fridge full of messy takeout containers. Potential buyers will be inspecting every square foot—and that means you should, too. Store clutter in neatly stacked boxes in the basement—or better yet, in a storage unit. Then white-glove clean any and all surfaces, says Schwarz.

8. Rethink Your Furniture
If taking out a few pieces of furniture would make a room feel more spacious, then do it, urges Schwarz. Put pieces that are rarely used (like extra dining room chairs) in storage, then rearrange what’s left to maximize each room’s space. One thing to hold on to: items that double as storage, like an ottoman with a lid, where you can stow clutter at the last minute.

9. “Stage” Every Room
A dining room in top form won’t do you any good if your kids’ rooms look like a tornado just tore through them. “The whole house has to be staged,” says Schwarz. If your children have a hard time getting a handle on their stuff, buy underbed storage boxes and insist they toss their toys in them at the end of every day. Once a week, have them sort through the storage boxes before they’re allowed to watch TV or have a friend over, to keep the clutter under control.

10. Don’t Forget the Outside
“All of the property has to be staged,” says Schwarz. Your house number should be big, shiny and easy to read. Landscaping should be pristine—and give the impression it’s easy to maintain, so opt for simple over fancy pruning designs. Finally, the garage and shed should be in reasonable order, too.

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Selling Your Home for Maximum Value

HomeChecklistSelling a home is almost as exciting and nerve-wracking as buying your first property. Fortunately, if you work with an experienced real estate agent and take the time to prepare your home, it will sell faster (and most likely net you an excellent price.)

Don’t underestimate the power of home improvement projects and home staging—these things can amp up your home’s appeal inside and out, and have buyers fighting to make an offer. Preparing your home for the market is a chance to make money and gain experience—take advantage of this opportunity by working hard.

Home Improvement Projects and Repairs

Small repairs and upgrades often have the biggest impact. Buyers want a home that is move-in ready. Minor things like burned-out lights, broken windows and cracked pavement detract from a home’s perceived value. Make sure everything is in good working order, and then tackle the upgrades. With a return on investment of 130 percent, replacing your front door is the top improvement.

If you’ve lived in your house for years, you probably have a few projects that have been on your to-do list forever. Some of these may be good choices, but others may be prohibitively expensive—projects that have excellent returns share these traits, as they are affordable and reduce maintenance requirements. They improve efficiency, and they address problems.

Improvements for Kitchens and Baths

The kitchen and the bathroom are prime candidates for remodeling, but you might be able to get away with less—replacing drawer handles and knobs is an excellent step. You may also want to repaint or refinish drab cabinets if they are structurally sound. Purchasing a new fridge or oven is also a nice step, as a premium appliance can give a room a measure of quality.

Installing modern light fixtures is another winning effort. In the bathroom, neutral colors create a classic look. Install a new shower head, and make sure the floor and shower itself are in good condition. Replace the caulk. Review thishome improvement guide to see which projects are worth the work.

What about Paint?

Fresh paint is one of the most welcome and recommended improvements if you’re selling your home. This project is simple and inexpensive. With good preparation, paint can cover minor blemishes and nicks—it can also conceal the bold paint in a child’s bedroom (buyers generally prefer neutral colors). You can maximize your return and achieve professional results by completing appropriate prep work, masking the trim, spackling holes and sanding the base coat. Low-VOC paint is an excellent choice and can be a selling point when you’re marketing your home.

Outdoor Upgrades

Exterior improvements are extremely beneficial for improving your home’s market value. Purchase new house numbers, replace broken or drafty windows, or install a new garage door. Invest in new siding, or make sure that your existing siding is free from mildew and stains. If you want to make a more major improvement, build a deck or patio. These functional areas will help buyers visualize a new life in a new home.

Landscaping for Curb Appeal

Landscaping can increase your home’s curb appeal and value considerably—the challenge is knowing where to start. First, how does your landscaping compare to other homes in the neighborhood? Is it lagging behind, or is it leading the way? Second, if your home has overgrown landscaping, it should be trimmed back, or even removed completely. Dying, neglected or overgrown plants will decrease your curb appeal. However, if you add a variety of landscape plants, your home’s value can increase by as much as 10 percent. You can easily double the money spent on plants, mulch and other supplies.

If you spend just 2 percent of your home’s estimated value on landscaping, you’ll see major returns. A study by Virginia Tech found that adding landscaping increased the value of a $150,000 home by more than $8,000. The sophistication of the design, the diversity of the plants and the size of the specimens are generally the most important aspects.

If you’re getting ready to sell, you should have about two months to make changes to your landscaping—a bag of lawn fertilizer and a load of mulch are ideal for sprucing up a home quickly. Outdoor furniture, potted plants and seasonal flowers are excellent choices for improving the appearance of your yard, and adding value to your home.

The Best Times of the Year to Sell

You’ve worked hard to spruce up your landscaping, and you want buyers to see the result. However, this might be impossible if your yard is covered by a foot of snow. Timing a sale is tricky, and it can’t always be helped, but you can maximize your returns by understanding what drives the market. Traditionally, spring has been the best time to sell, though this may not be the same in every case.

Buyers are active, and families want to get their kids settled before school starts. Approximately 60 percent of families who move do so in the summer, which shows how many homes sell in the spring. However, this trend is slowly changing. If you aren’t ready to list in the spring, you still have a good chance to profit—new data shows that November is one of the hottest months for home sales. But why?

Today, more than half of home buyers are retirees, single millennials, and couples without children. The school calendar doesn’t affect these individuals—in fact, listing in the autumn and winter is advantageous, because the housing supply is lower. It becomes a seller’s market!

As a general rule, homes listed in the fall and winter are 10 percent more likely to sell for the listing price, and to sell within six months. Don’t fear the holiday season either! If you can handle showings during this hectic time of year, feel free to list your home. Wintertime buyers are often in a hurry to relocate for a job, and thus need a home quickly. If your home is available, they may be willing to pay a premium price.

Staging a Home

Homes that are staged sell faster, and for more money. You could hire a professional, but many of these things can be done on your own (and for a fraction of the cost). Home staging starts with a thorough cleaning—strip waxed floors, shampoo carpets, and make every surface spotless. How much light a home has is also a major selling point.

Wash the drapes, or buy new curtains. Clean the windows and screens to let in more sunlight. Put in high-wattage bulbs that show off your home.

After you’ve cleaned, it’s time to declutter. Remove family photos and keepsakes. Clear out the garage. Donate items that you don’t use. Then, store the rest!

Ideally, your home should be 90 percent packed when it’s time for a showing. Closets and storage spaces are especially important to buyers. Make sure closets are tidy and no more than half full.

Finally, arrange furniture to give each room a distinct purpose. Multi-purpose rooms give buyers a mixed message—it’s better if the buyer imagines a home office in a spare bedroom, rather than seeing a computer desk crammed next to a daybed.

Test your improvements by walking around your home and looking at everything like a buyer would. Staging gives you the power to decide what potential buyers see (and what they don’t see), including your children and your pets. This process starts before you list your home, and continues through the showing. It can be a good idea to brainstorm a variety of home staging ideas in advance.

Aromatherapy for Home Sellers

Staging makes your home look great in listing photos, however, pleasant smells can make your home appealing in person. Before you get out the air freshener, it’s important to remove unwanted odors. Pet odors and cigarette smoke are two of the biggest turnoffs for home buyers. If you have a problem with either, take steps to address these issues early in the process.

Some homes suffer from musty odors. Open the windows regularly to draw in fresh air. Clean the walls, carpets, upholstery and any surfaces that harbor unwanted odors.

Scientists know that olfactory experiences have a great effect on behavior. Neutral and natural scents, such as lavender, orange, lemon and pine, appeal to potential buyers. Avoid overbearing blended fragrances or artificial air fresheners. Studies show that strong scents create a mental disturbance and inhibit the decision-making process that is critical when someone is making the biggest purchase of their life.

Vanilla extract and essential oils are excellent choices for perfuming various areas of your home. You can also boil cinnamon sticks or orange peels about an hour before a showing.

Think seasonally, and consider what fits your home and the buyer. Avoid derisive scents like patchouli, and keep in mind that many people are sensitive to powerful fragrances.

Hiring the Right Realtor

All of your hard work up to this point won’t pay off without an effective real estate agent. The right realtor can make the process of selling your home easy and profitable. It’s tempting to hire the realtor who originally sold you the home or who found the perfect property for a friend, but these choices can prove to be less than ideal.

A selling agent needs to be on top of the market and understand all the nuances of your neighborhood, including the sale prices of comparable homes—pricing a home is an art!

If you start with the right number, you’ll get more offers and still have room to negotiate. If you start too high, your home might sit on the market, face price reductions and eventually sell for less than it would have.

Look for an agent who is experienced and works in your area regularly. You need an accurate market analysis, not an inflated valuation. Here are a few questions to ask to help you find the right realtor.

1. How quickly are your homes selling? How does this compare to the average selling time?

2. Did the homes sell for more or less than the listing price?

3. What will you do to market my home locally and online?

4. How often will you update me on any progress?

5. May I speak to your most recent clients? Ask about the agent’s communication skills, sales strategy and interaction from the listing through the closing.

How well you prepare your home for the market can alter a buyer’s perception and help you get top dollar. Everything you do should send the message that your home is well-maintained and ready for new owners. If you’re preparing to move, you’re probably ready to buy, which means that you should be able to see your home from a buyer’s perspective. These strategies will help you sell your home quickly, and capitalize on its full value.

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