PREPPING A HOME for sale can take months, so give yourself ample time. What needs to be done—and what shouldn’t you do? Here are some pointers:
Skip the remodeling. Most home improvements are money losers, so you shouldn’t undertake extensive remodeling with a view to turning a profit when you sell. On the other hand, smaller improvements—a fresh coat of paint, a tidier garden, refinishing the bathtub—could be worthwhile, because they may make your home easier to sell.
Go neutral. If you paint the bedrooms or retile the kitchen or bathroom, favor colors and patterns that are less likely to offend. No matter how tasteful you think your decorating is, many potential buyers will likely disagree. When you ready your home for sale, also remove personal pictures and get rid of clutter. The goal: Organize your home so buyers can visualize themselves living there, not you.
Negotiate the commission. The 6% real estate agent’s commission, once standard, is fast becoming history. You should pay less than 6% unless there’s something about your home that will make it extremely difficult to sell, such as the need for major repairs or an environmental problem.
Price realistically. To win your business, an agent might suggest your home is worth some fancy price. But do your own research, including checking listings for comparable homes.
If it’s clear you are asking too much, move quickly to lower the price to a more compelling level, rather than making a series of small price drops that might make your home seem like tainted goods to potential buyers. That’s especially true if your home is sitting empty. You aren’t getting any use from the house, but you are incurring all the carrying costs, plus the equity tied up in the house could be invested elsewhere and earning gains.
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