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Kathleen White
Sales Representative

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10 steps to take before you plant the "for sale" sign

1. Recognize every market is different. Your town or neighborhood could dovetail with national numbers or buck the trend entirely.  There really is no national market, but there's a patchwork of regional markets.

2. Get your home inspected.  Recommended because it gives sellers an early warning on any repairs they might have to make.  It's better to be proactive and know what the inspector is going to find and be able to fix it -- and pick who will fix it.

3. Shape up before marketing.  If your home isn't appealing and in good repair, potential buyers won't even stop. Some sellers think 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.  You don't need to renovate, but make sure everything looks good and works well. Easy ways 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 entryway. Sweep or pressure-wash the front walk and porch. Polish the outdoor metalwork, clean the windows and glass, and replace any burned-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.

4. Check into company relocation assistance. Are you moving to take a new job? If so, the company might offer resources to make selling your house easier. If you're selling in a tight market, every little bit helps. Best source: Call your human-resources department.

5. Work with a realtor.  Your Realtor will accurately explain all legal and logistical aspects of selling your home and provide all the forms required including: agency disclosures, legal documents, property disclosures and sales contract.  One vital key to a successful sale is the correct asking price, which is determined by the highest price that the market will bear.  Your Realtor will work with you to establish a price based on a market analysis of comparable properties sold and offered for sale in your neighbourhood.

6. Devise a marketing plan.  Your realtor will want to clearly understand your needs, timing, circumstances and goals and will make recommendations to optimize property value.  Discuss hassle-free decorating and "staging" ideas to display your home to potential buyers.

7. Set a price. If your price is too high, potential buyers may not even look at it. And they may very well see a negative message in such a high price. Those who overprice their homes are wasting everyone's time.

Pricing is strategy. And much of it comes down to just how motivated you are to sell -- or how quickly you have to leave.

If you plan to pad the price, it's an art, not an exact science. Five to 10 percent is one thing. Fifteen to 20 percent and you have a problem.

Agents and buyers most likely are using computers to search for properties. If you want to sell yours for about $400,000, consider listing it at $399,999 rather than $400,500. That way, a computer search of anything between $350,000 and $400,000 will include your listing.

8. Understand your price. While you don't want to undervalue your house, many sellers today won't make as much as neighbors who sold last year, says Summers. If you have your heart set on a certain amount and find out that houses aren't selling for that, you may "have to change your mind and sit on the house," she says.

9. Get rid of the junk. Clear out that clutter. Buyers look for space and light. To show it off, you need to be able to tour a group comfortably through the house, as well as actually walk into those "walk-in" closets.

10. Stay on top of the market. You must be aware of market changes.  Stay on top of what is happening with mortgages and finance rates, keep looking at comps and see trends before they happen.  Your realtor will provide you with up to date information.

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