Shopping for your next dream home seems like a blissful idea, until you realize you have to sell your current home first. And as many a homeowner can attest, even if you’ve purchased a home before, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to selling your house.
Here’s what sellers around the country say they wish they’d known about the home-selling rigmarole before they listed their home for sale.
1. How much is your home really worth?
“I didn’t do my homework about comp prices, so I had an unrealistically high number in mind,” says Jack, who recently listed his Miami, FL, home for sale. “I also wish I knew more about trending prices.”
In robust markets, it’s easy to get excited about your potential listing price, especially if you’re planning to put all that new found equity into your next home purchase. But the worst thing you can do is have an unrealistic expectation about your home’s value — you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. So do your research to find out what your home is worth: look at local comps, consider nearby home sales over the last six months, and then really narrow it down to properties that most closely resemble your own. If you suspect there’s something wrong with your foundation or that termites might be in the picture — the kind of thing you’ll most likely have to pay to fix later on in the selling process — it might be worth it to get a pre-sale inspection (or at least fix some of the larger, known issues so you don’t have to tackle them on someone else’s timeline).
2. How important is your listing agent?
“There are several things I wish I had known, but far and away the biggest was to interview more than one real estate agency,” says Suzanne, who sold a home in Los Angeles, CA. “I went along with a relative’s advice: ‘This is the only agent who really has your best interest at heart, plus he’s only handled the more expensive properties in the area’— and my place sold for easily $25,000 less than it could have.”
Once you’ve decided to list your home for sale, the biggest decision you’ll make is choosing a real estate agent. Choosing a listing agent can be challenging, especially if you’ve never hired one before, but working with a recommendation can have its own pitfalls. Interview several real estate agents, and do it before you need to list your place so that you have plenty of time to make a decision. Judge them for their knowledge of the local market rather than their flashy presentations, and be wary of both pie-in-the-sky promises and a lack of enthusiasm for your place.
3. Does anyone even read listing descriptions?
“I wish I’d known that I really should have just written the description for the listing myself, because my real estate agent’s spelling and grammar errors were so egregious that as a buyer, I would never have looked at a house that was so poorly described,” says Dana in Portland, OR.
Just because your real estate agent is a professional doesn’t mean they’re also a professional writer or photographer. If you otherwise love your agent but cannot handle the typos in the listing (or the glare in those all-important listing photos), gently ask for revisions to the listing.
4. What’s the best home-staging tip?
“I wish I’d known that to sell a family home to another family, you have to de-clutter it of anything a family would ever use. Which means every toy, baby bouncy seat, and stroller has to get shoved in the back of your car for every showing,” says Hadley, who had a home for sale in Boston, MA. And don’t overlook the small details either. “Get the windows professionally cleaned!” says Kerry, also selling in Boston, MA. “Man, it made a world of difference. It also made me mad we lived with dirty windows for so long!”
Obviously, you want your home to be tidy. But when your home is for sale, it should be pristine. That means gleaming refrigerators, organized closets, sparkling surfaces, and nary a piece of clutter anywhere. In fact, sellers are often best off throwing as much as they can into storage bins and living an austere life until the place goes under contract. And don’t forget: You have to keep it clean. So you might want to put a cleaning service on speed dial.
5. Should I make plans for the pets during home showings?
“When I sold my first place, I had two cats and a dog. Somehow I had it in my head that it wouldn’t be hard to hustle them out before a showing. Of course, that was ridiculous — potential buyers stopped by during the workday all the time, which meant I had to leave my office, dash home, bundle all three pets into the car, and then drive around for an hour with the cats yowling before dumping them back at our place,” says Dan in Denver, CO.
In the rush to get your house listing-ready, the pet factor can be easily overlooked. But it’s a big one! For starters, no matter how clean your place is, pets can often find (creative) ways to undo your hard work. And a smelly litter box is no seller’s friend. Never mind that some potential buyers might be allergic to pets; that would be a terrible way to lose a sale. Your best strategy is to find a place for your fur children to stay while your place is on the market, then shower them with apologetic treats later. If that’s not in the cards, make it as easy as possible to remove the pets and all of their things from your home quickly so you can do one final sweep (literally) — and take that litter box with you!