Buyers shaking hands with Realtor behind sold sign

How to Sell Your House for the Highest Price Possible

So you’re getting ready to sell your house. Just thinking about it can be an overwhelming experience.

Should you hire a real estate agent? Do a FSBO (for sale by owner) to keep from paying that big commission? Should you spend a lot of money to paint and re-carpet—at least the front rooms?

Where do you start and what can you do to make sure you attract a qualified buyer as quickly as possible?

 

Beautiful single family home with red sold stamp overlay

Hire a professional

A licensed real estate agent who is successfully moving properties in your neighborhood and comes with references will likely get you a better price for your home than you could get on your own. Most non-professionals (owner sellers) end up losing more in the transaction than the commission they would have paid a professional. You want the best and most experienced representative possible to sell your house—not your friends’ nephew who’s launching a new career.

No radical changes

Should you remodel the kitchen? Replace counters and fixtures in the bathrooms? Probably not, unless those appliances or fixtures are not working. Frequently, such updates and changes done to achieve a higher sales price don’t pay off.

Almost anyone buying your home will want to make their own changes, so you are not likely to recoup that investment of time and money. Unless your licensed agent recommends major changes like a new roof or exterior paint job, hold off and put your energy into other areas.

Credit at closing

Rather than discounting your sale price to compensate for worn carpeting, old appliances or outdated bathrooms, offer the buyer a credit at closing to pay for these items. For example, let’s say your electric blue carpeting is old and tattered. Rather than replacing it or reducing the sales price by $4,000 to compensate for it—offer the buyer $4,000 credit upon a successful close.

Now the buyer is motivated to make the deal because he will have the money to re-carpet the house with his choice of color and style.

Appearance

Curb appeal is that initial impression your home makes when a potential buyer sees it for the first time. The cost to make certain your property is beautifully inviting will be money well spent.

  • Repair cracks in the driveway and walk areas that approach the home.
  • Keep the landscaping neat and tidy with flower beds blooming, weed-free, and well-cultivated.
  • Make sure the home looks freshly painted. A good scrub down might do the trick.
  • Keep the garage door closed.
  • Make sure garbage cans, tools, and outside clutter are completely out of sight.

 

Inside clutter

You want the inside of your home to appear as large as possible. That means all of the clutter from all of the rooms has to go. And don’t stuff it into the closets and cupboards. They need to be clutter-free and neatly organized. Motivated buyers look behind every door.

  • Remove most or all of the items from your kitchen and bathroom counters. You want storage areas to look spacious so take items out of the closets and clear shelves of knickknacks.
  • Pack up your collectibles if they are visually overwhelming. Leave only a few tasteful decorator items on the mantle. Your goal is to create a simplified and calm atmosphere.
  • Remove quotations, signs, or pictures hanging on the wall that are specific to your family. Move all the papers, magnets and coupons from the refrigerator. You want buyers to envision their family living here, not yours.
  • There should be nothing on the floors but floor coverings and furniture.

MORE: From Closet Chaos to Organized in 5 Easy Steps

Clean

Soap and water are cheap. The cost to get your house ready to sell will come in terms of time and elbow grease. Your home should be so clean that a Marine sergeant inspecting it with a white glove could not find a single exception.

Windows

Clean every window inside and out including the tracks, sills and jambs.

MORE: How to Get Your Windows Sparkling Clean—Cheaper, Better, Faster!

Bathroom(s)

Sanitize and scrub the bathrooms until they sparkle—even if they are old, they can be impeccably clean. Shine the faucets and fixtures until they gleam. Leave no water spots.

All toothbrushes, products, and implements should be out of sight. Clean ever trace of soap and scum from the tubs and showers. Clean shower door tracks with an old toothbrush, removing every trace of gunk and yuck.

MORE: How to Make Your Own Powerful Tub and Shower Cleaners

Floors

No matter how old or worn, have the carpets cleaned by a professional. Clean, wax, polish or do whatever is necessary to make your hard floor surfaces glisten. Scrub the corners even if you’re sure no one will ever look there.

MORE: How to Clean and Care for Hardwood and Laminate Floors

Vertical surfaces

Clean the baseboards, scrub the woodwork, and the walls in every room.

MORE: How to Rid a Bathroom of Hairspray Overspray

Furniture and fixtures

Dust and polish until there is not a speck of dust anywhere. Vacuum all upholstered furniture. If you have so much furniture that your rooms appear crowded, move some of it out. Stand back and look at each room through the eyes of a stranger. Rearrange things to give a more pleasing visual impression.

Odors

There’s nothing more off-putting to a visitor than the smells of Fido and Fluffy. If your carpets have pet stains, you may have to remove those sections of carpet completely to get rid of odors that have penetrated the carpet pad. Do it. That’s how important it is that your home not have an offensive odor.

MORE: How to Get Rid of Pet Odors

When you show your home, make sure it’s a pleasant experience. Put out a plate of cookies, fresh flowers and make sure something that smells good is cooking in the kitchen. Try a pan of simmering spices on the back burner.

Good impressions

It’s been said that you only get one chance to make a good impression. Never were truer words spoken than when you’re getting ready to sell your house.

 

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9 replies
  1. Ellie Davis
    Ellie Davis says:

    I loved that you elaborated on the importance of hiring an experienced real estate agent to sell your house. My sister is thinking about buying another house, and we are looking for advice. I will let her know about the benefits of hiring an experienced real estate agent to help her find the best house.

    Reply
  2. KateGA
    KateGA says:

    This article didn’t mention that a well-written home description can make a big difference in final sales price. Research, See the case studies.

    Reply
  3. Catie Kniess
    Catie Kniess says:

    Hi, Mary. Love your work, thank you for all you do. I don’t understand what you mean by give the buyer a $4000 credit. Can you please explain that one a little more? Thank you again!

    Reply
    • Don
      Don says:

      I don’t know why she used the word “credit”. I think she’s saying that most buyers would prefer to get cash at closing, rather than paying less for the house.

      Reply
  4. Jan New
    Jan New says:

    We hired a licensed home inspector to come to our house before we put it on the market. He spent about 2 hours looking at everything–from the attic to the closets, flooring and foundation. We fixed everything on his list before putting it on the market. The house sold in under 6 hours. It was money well spent because we didn’t get any pricey “surprises” when we negotiated with the buyers.

    Reply
    • Kay Jones
      Kay Jones says:

      I did the same. Found a couple of minor things and fixed
      Them. This also gave the impression of transparency and saved me the stress of wondering if the inspector would find anything major. I more than made up the cost of the inspection by the rapid sale of the house.

      Reply
  5. Kay Jones
    Kay Jones says:

    I sold 3 houses at full price within a week. My realtor said my notebook made the key difference in two of the sales. I have a loose leaf binder that has different sections. One lists all the appliances, date and place of purchase. I have all the booklets and paperwork that came with them in that section. I have receipts for work done on the house, date and name of company or person doing the work. I list paint colors, flooring choices along with date and place of purchase. There is a section of recommended plumbers and other workman or companies I have used. I have a list of stores and restaurants nearby that I recommend. I have the past 12 months utility bills in a section. Many buyers are relocating from other areas and this seems to be appreciated. Of course, all personal information has been removed from the items. Only the address is shown. It sounds like a lot of work, but you probably have most of that information anyway. Just reorganize it.

    Reply
  6. Sharon Campbell
    Sharon Campbell says:

    We read a bunch of books on selling your home, figured out that it wasn’t rocket science, bought a FSBO sign, advertised it in the paper (this was a while ago) and drew up some wonderful flyers with a picture of the house on top and the selling points to the property (Great for gardeners! Wonderful for workshoppers! Home businesses, phone jacks in every room!) and sold it in one weekend. We interviewed realtors, checked the comps fixed a price, cleaned the house, and we were done. Our New York City apartment had a waiting list of people wanting into the building, and we doubled our money. All you need is a real estate attorney or a title company. Really, it wasn’t difficult. That said, we didn’t have to be a particular place at a particular time, so that can change the equation.

    Reply
  7. Annie Barrett
    Annie Barrett says:

    All of these suggestions are good. However, the one about having simmering spices in the kitchen was discouraged by my realtor. He said that it might make the buyer think that we were doing that to hid an odor. He said just to make sure the house was clean and fresh.

    Reply

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