Selling your home can feel like a major undertaking and—truthfully—it is. Even if you plan to list your home in the spring, now is a good time to start getting ready.

The Game Plan. Do you need to sell your home before closing on a your new place? Most people do, which is why there is a contingency for that. Keep in mind that if you plan to buy and sell in the spring, you might get into a bidding war over a few houses before you finally find one and extra contingencies can weaken your offer. If this makes you nervous, it wouldn’t hurt to put your home on the market a bit earlier and find your new home before the spring market hits.


Interviewing Agents. I believe sellers should interview a few agents in order to find someone they’re really comfortable with. The price point and days on market will vary and agents can’t predict the future, but it is a good sign if an agent comes prepared with good comps and a marketing plan. Bear in mind that your neighbor’s house that just sold is not always the best comp due to differences in lot size, style, upgrades, and square footage. Sometimes this means your house is worth more than you’d think and sometimes it means that you can’t expect to get as much as your neighbor might have. This is another reason to interview a few agents. You may find an agent you like, but their list price is a bit of an outlier. Both overpricing and underpricing increase the average days on market and decrease the selling price.

If you have a farm, historic property, or other special property type, be sure to interview agents with that specialization. I specialize in residential and equestrian properties and I find that agents with little knowledge of equestrian properties tend to both overprice those properties and give sellers an unrealistic timeline. Equestrian properties tend to be a longer project and if priced too high, they can sit on the market for years.

Clean Out, Repairs, And Upgrades. Cleaning out the house is often the most daunting task for sellers. Suddenly, you feel your home has too many closets! While the winter weather has you spending more time indoors, you might as well begin the process of cleaning out your storage spaces. Ideally, you want your closets at 50% capacity so buyers can get a better idea of the size. Many sellers donate items, but you may need to rent a storage locker until you move.

When it comes to repairs, start small. Replace fixtures and paint over scratches. Remember that fresh paint in a neutral color is one of the most practical updates. In addition to updating the look of your home, paint can help mask any odors from pets or smoking.

Outbuildings also need to be in good shape, especially if they house animals. Some of the big-ticket items that buyers are on the lookout for include roofs, well and septic, sump pumps, and HVAC. It is important to schedule servicing before you list so you don’t have any surprises that might jeopardize a contract down the road.


Staging. Homes that are staged sell for more and spend fewer days on the market. In fact, homes that are staged sell for an average of 6% more money. The most important rooms to stage are the living room, the master bedroom, and the kitchen. It may be annoying to have a house full of furniture you can’t use, but staging is an important part of selling a home today. If your home is cluttered or vacant, buyers have a hard time judging the space. Check out my article on staging your home for some DIY tips.

Landscaping. Even in the winter, curb appeal is important. Try not to go overboard with holiday decorations, but keep in mind that a nice wreath and some potted plants go a long way towards making a home more inviting. If you don’t want to hire a landscaper, check out these helpful landscaping tips for a quick sale.

A lot of sellers make the mistake of hoping they can sell their home without taking these steps. Unfortunately, they often end up on circling back after a few months on the market. Ultimately, skipping the prep work will cost you time and money so it is important to be prepared and put in the work ahead of time. Read my article, How To Sell Your Home For More Money, for more tips to help you prepare!

 

Sarah is a Realtor specializing in residential and equestrian properties.