People vow to do all kinds of things—hit the gym, get more sleep, quit Froot Loops—and if you plan to sell your home this year, making a few promises matter here most of all. After all, selling your home for top dollar takes work and the right mindset to strike a deal.
To help make that happen, we put together a list of good habits all home sellers should start now so that you’re fully prepared once opportunity knocks.
Vow No. 1: Get realistic about how much your home is worth
It’s natural to think your home is priceless, or hope it’s worth at least more than when you bought it. As such, many sellers make the epic mistake of placing a pie-in-the-sky price on their home with the hopes that some buyer somewhere will bite. But the reality is, overpriced homes tend to languish on the market.
In addition to setting their asking price too high, sellers are often stubborn about lowering it. Or they get offended when a buyer makes an offer below what they’d hoped to get.
Stop seeing these as insults. Instead, see them as a sign that the way you see your home may not be the way others do. For a reality check, ask your Realtor® to show you comps on the recent sales prices of similar homes in your area. You can also get an estimate of how much your home is worth by plugging your address into realtor.com/sell.
Vow No. 2: Keep clutter from creeping in
No one wants to buy your clutter, or try to determine what the house looks like without it. So it’s crucial that you toss, donate, gift, or recycle anything you don’t love or use. This is also true for those hidden areas like your closets and cabinets. Yes, buyers will (nosily) poke their heads in these areas—and seeing a pile of half-folded clothes is a definite downer.
But even if you purged the clutter, it has a way of slowly sneaking back in, so you should develop some habits to keep it at bay. For instance, rather than let your mail pile up, vow to deal with it every day. For any paper statements or bills you receive regularly, sign up for electronic versions or autopay to stem the wave of papers flooding your mailbox to a trickle.
Vow No. 3: Banish bad smells
A simple truth: Even beautiful, well-priced homes won’t sell if they smell rank. It can be as subtle as the presence of pets, bathroom mildew, or last night’s broiled carp. Scented candles and sprays can mask smells, but it’s best to root out the source.
If the problem is pet urine, there are sprays that break down these molecules. If that doesn’t work, toss the rug or replace that section of flooring. If the offender is food odors, vow to take out the garbage more often and air out the house after cooking.
If the smell of mildew pervades your bathrooms, install a fan to vent the room, and leave the doors to your bathrooms open to get more air. You can also get a dehumidifier. To keep mold from growing, indoor humidity should linger 30% to 60%. Here’s more advice on how to purge bad smells from your home.
Vow No. 4: Keep your home show-ready 24/7
We know it’s hard to keep your place picture-perfect for buyers all the time, but it’s well worth the pain and suffering.
“Sellers might not want to spend the $500 on a deep cleaner or do it themselves, but a lot of times that will actually get you another few thousand dollars of selling power,” says Jason Shepherd, co-founder of Atlas Real Estate Group in Denver. Here’s what you can do:
- Keep a Swiffer handy to quickly wipe up dust and stains from wood floors.
- Clean your windows—they not only sparkle but also let in more light.
- Even if you don’t want to spring for yet another new coat of paint, at least wash off wall marks and smudges. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser does a great job of removing wall blemishes.
- Also, in case some buyer wants to swing by, like, right now since they’re in the neighborhood, develop a five-minute cleanup plan. Keep a basket nearby where you can swipe the contents of your kitchen counter or anything else you want to vanish quickly.
Vow No. 5: Keep your personal items and styles to a minimum
You know those things that make a house your home—family pictures, artwork from your kids, souvenirs from the family trip to Dollywood? Stick ’em in a drawer or safely stored box. We know your home won’t feel so homey, but this step is essential to getting someone else to see themselves in your home.
“Buyers need to envision themselves in the home, and the very personal items can be a turnoff,” says Karin Jackson of William Raveis Real Estate. If you must, keep one or two personal items on your desk or nightstand that you can easily stash when people swing by. Consider it a small (and temporary) sacrifice to a great home sale.