Even in a seller’s market, where inventory is scarce and bidding wars are common, it still pays to invest some time and energy in positioning your home to sell for top dollar.
This effort can involve a variety of steps, from working with a real estate agent who truly understands the local market to spending some money on key renovations and improvements that will encourage buyers to pay a higher asking price.
Here are 10 tips for selling your home that Realtors say will separate you from the competition — and help you sell for more money.
1. Find a trusted real estate agent
Working with a skilled real estate agent who knows your local market inside and out can help you sell your home more quickly, and often, for more money. In fact, data from the National Association of Realtors shows that in 2021, homes listed without the assistance of a Realtor sold for a median price of $260,000, while those sold with one fetched a significantly higher median of $318,000. Interview several candidates before you commit to one agent — the better you get along, the smoother the process is likely to be.
2. Invest in value-adding improvements
Determining which home improvements to invest in can be daunting, and the costs can add up quickly. The key is spend your money on projects that will provide the most return on your investment. A garage door replacement, for instance, is the single most valuable investment when it comes to ROI, according to data from Remodeling magazine. The average return on a new garage door is just under 94 percent.
Minor kitchen upgrades are also a wise investment, says Realtor Jade Lee-Duffy of TXR Homes in San Diego, California. “The heart of the home is the kitchen, and many buyers will judge a property by its kitchen,” she says. “While a complete overhaul of this space can run into the tens of thousands, a minor update is where you can gain the greatest return. Think about resurfacing cabinets, replacing countertops, a fresh coat of paint or updating the fixtures and hardware.”
Updating a bathroom is another wise investment, says Katie Severance, a Realtor with Douglas Elliman in Palm Beach, Florida. “Renovated kitchens and baths are the ‘money rooms’ — those that add the most value to a home,” she says.
3. Up your curb appeal
Curb appeal should not be overlooked: As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. “Make sure your front yard is free of debris, the bushes are pruned and the grass has been cut,” says Lee-Duffy. “Also, add some bright potted plants by the front door to make buyers feel welcome.”
Some easy updates that really improve curb appeal include touching up exterior paint, adding window flower boxes and installing a new mailbox, says Severance. “Adding rich-looking mulch around shrubs and trees can really bring out the charm,” she adds.
4. Get a pre-listing inspection
Investing in a home inspection before putting your property on the market is another step to consider. “You don’t want any unexpected surprises,” says Lee-Duffy. “It’s best to find out beforehand if there are any issues that you can fix before buyers find out on their own.” That would give them negotiating power for a lower price or, worst case scenario, a reason to back out of the deal. So it may be worth a few hundred dollars for the peace of mind.
There is, however, a downside to a pre-listing inspection. “Beware, because once a seller becomes aware of an existing defect and does not correct it prior to listing, they are obligated to disclose it to a buyer,” says Severance. “Defects that a buyer learns were known but not disclosed, prior to accepting an offer, can kill the deal.”
5. Highlight the positive with professional photos
Spending a bit of money on high-quality photography can go a long way toward helping your home sell for a higher price. “The majority of people search for properties online,” says Lee-Duffy. “If the photos pop, it can translate into a higher sales price — and sell faster, too.”
You may want to leave some things to the imagination when it comes to your home’s online listing, though. “I advise against photographing every square foot of the home,” says Severance. “The goal of photographs is not to give all the goodies away online; it’s to make a buyer want to see more — to whet their whistle enough to entice them to see it in person. If they don’t come see the house, they probably aren’t making an offer.”
6. Stage your home
When it comes to home staging, says Severance, there are two rules of thumb: less is more and keep it neutral.
“It’s very important to capture buyers’ interest from the front door,” she says. “Pay extra attention to the entry hall and invest heavily in staging this part of the house. Repaint; place flowers; buy a new area rug, an impressive mirror or a dramatic piece of art.”
Remove objects and clutter that visually shrink a room, such as large ottomans or too many plants, and remove everything from the kitchen counters except for one or two new-looking appliances. “And don’t forget to stage the deck or patio, because that is an extension of the house that can make a small home feel much larger than it is,” Severance adds.
You can do the staging work on your own or up the ante by hiring a professional stager. A pro will cost between $749 and $2,825, with the average cost paid being about $1,728, according to HomeAdvisor.
7. Set the right asking price
Identifying the best asking price for your home can be critical to your success. When a home is priced right, it will attract more buyers to visit. “Setting the price too high can be detrimental and prevent buyers from walking through your front door,” says Lee-Duffy. “If you want to be conservative, always price on the lower end to entice maximum buyer interest.”
How do you find that sweet spot of pricing for profit but not overpricing? That’s where the expertise of your agent can be truly valuable. A knowledgeable agent knows how much your house is worth, and how much you might reasonably get for it. “Good pricing requires the expertise to thread the needle,” says Severance. “List at a number that is lower than comparable properties, in order to draw attention to it, but not so low that you will be disappointed if you only get one offer right at list price.” If enough buyers are enticed, you could be setting the stage for a bidding war.
8. Remove personal items
“The goal of any showing is for the buyer to envision their own belongings in the space,” says Severance. So, while family photos and other knickknacks might seem like they have no bearing on how much money your home commands, they really do matter — especially if you are still living in the home while you’re trying to sell it.
“Buyers are thinking of their own furniture, where it will go and how it will fit. It’s the house they came to see, not the items inside of it,” she says. If buyers are distracted by personal items, then chances are they won’t be able to see themselves in the space, and will not end up making an offer.
9. Be ready to move fast
Once your property is listed on the market, things can happen quickly. It’s important to be well prepared ahead of time so that you can be as responsive as possible to potential offers. “Fill out all the necessary documents, such as any seller disclosures, and have paperwork for recent repair work, home renovation costs and utility bills on-hand for any buyer requests that come in,” says Lee-Duffy.
Sellers who are slow in reaction time or unresponsive can lose buyers, adds Severance. “If the buyer feels that they are not being dealt with fairly, they are very likely to walk away,” she says.
10. Use your head, not your heart
Finally, try to remove emotion from the equation and see things as a simple transaction — your home is no longer “home” but a product for sale. Be clear on what issues and items you may be willing to make concessions on if buyers ask. It’s not unusual for prospective buyers to request credits or repairs, and it’s easy as a seller to take offense.
“It’s important to take emotion out of it and remember that the buyer usually doesn’t expect to get everything they ask for,” says Severance. “Take a closer look at which requests are valid and fair, and offer something. The cost to you is not in giving the concession — it’s the expense of losing the buyer, putting the property back on the market, starting all over again and getting a potentially lower offer.”