In real estate, most homes sell before September, mostly because people want to move into their new homes before the school year starts. So when should you list your home for sale? The earlier, the better.
If you've resolved to sell your home this year, you want to attract as many buyers as possible. That's why it may even make sense for you to list in January or February - especially since, despite conventional wisdom, homes do sell in the winter.
Once you've made the decision to move forward with selling, it's time to get serious about how you're going to present your home to potential buyers. Before you get to that point, you have to detach yourself from your home. We all have an emotional attachment to the place where we live, so this isn't easy. Realtor and About.com home buying/selling contributor Elizabeth Weintraub offers this advice: "Say to yourself, 'This is not my home; it is a house - a product to be sold much like a box of cereal on the grocery store shelf.'"
Now on to staging your home. Some of what you'll find below may be hard to read -it may even seem a bit harsh - but these are tried and true tactics that have been shown to help homes sell. Just remember: if you're willing to put in the necessary work, it should pay off in the end.
De-clutter. You don't have to have appeared on the show Hoarders to have a lot of "stuff." Collecting things is human nature. That's fine as long as it's not interfering with your everyday life and if you have the storage space, but it's not so great if you're trying to sell your home. Get all that unnecessary stuff out of there. That includes rearranging bedroom closets and kitchen drawers - let's face it, people are nosy. Rather than store it in your attic or basement (both of which potential buyers will undoubtedly see), rent a storage unit until you're ready to move into a new home. Look at it as making headway on the packing you'll have to do eventually. This article provides some great pointers and explains in more detail the rationale behind de-cluttering.
De-personalize. This is often the hardest thing for sellers to hear. Buyers need to be able to imagine themselves in your home, and that can be difficult to do when the refrigerator is wallpapered with your child's artwork. As painful as it is, you have to remove as many personal touches from your home as possible, keeping in mind that, as Deborah Gould (aka the Home Staging Diva) says, "Home staging is nothing personal."
Fix it up. Walk through your home, carefully scrutinizing every wall, windowsill, baseboard, and door for damage or wear. Make any necessary repairs, including the small ones. If you notice it, you can be sure potential buyers will too. Pay special attention to cracked tiles, holes in walls, leaky faucets, doors or drawers that don't open or close properly, burned-out light bulbs, or even painting walls a neutral color.
Make it shine. This should go without saying, but a clean home is more attractive to buyers than a messy one. Even a tiny amount of messiness could turn off potential buyers. That means washing windows, polishing faucets and mirrors, cleaning out the refrigerator, vacuuming, washing floors, dusting (furniture, shelves - everything), cleaning, grout and getting rid of any not-so-great odors.
Make it inviting. All the time and effort you put into prepping the inside of your home will mean nothing if buyers are so turned off by the outside that they won't even get out of the car. Clear the snow (or leaves or cut grass) off the sidewalk, walkway and driveway. Paint any faded trim, mow the lawn, plant fresh flowers (when appropriate), trim the bushes and hedges, and make sure your house number is clearly visible.
Last but not least, scrutinize your work. Stand outside and look at your home as if it were just another house. Imagine that you're seeing it for the first time. Is it inviting? Would you want to go in? Now walk inside, moving from room to room with that same "buyer's eye." Stand in each doorway for a while, imagining how potential buyers would see your house. Emotion has no part in this process so keep in mind that all-important emotional detachment process. It will serve you well as you prep your home for selling.
The start of the year can be a great time to kick the sales process into gear. And if you're willing to put in the time and effort - and can get past your emotional attachment to your home - you may be pleasantly surprised at how quick the process can be.