Sellers who get their homes listed early in the season actually have a better shot at closing a deal and doing so at a better price. While peak season varies by region, home asking prices peak nationally in May and inventory peaks in the summer – but buyers tend to start searching for homes as early as March, according to Trulia data.
“Buyers wake up from hibernation before sellers do,” says Trulia housing analyst Jed Kolko. “Sellers who list earlier may get higher prices and face less competition.”
Though it’s easier to sell a home earlier in the season, you’ll still need to put in some prep time so that your home is in prime selling condition before you host your open house. There will likely be more competition this year, as sellers who have been sitting on the sidelines digest the news that this year’s housing rebound is real.
Rising homes prices – they increased 11.3 percent last year – have also put more potential sellers in a position to move without bringing money to the table. The percentage of homeowners with positive equity grew to 83 percent last year, up from 75 percent in 2011.
Follow these 5 steps to prepare your home as quickly as possible for a spring listing.
1. Start decluttering now. Realtors agree that the secret to staging a home is decluttering the property. Most homeowners know they’ll need to clean up their home and put personal items out of sight so that potential buyers can more easily picture themselves living there. Yet most homeowners underestimate how long this process takes and how much they should be clearing out.
As a starting point, plan on removing 50 percent of your belongings, says Lisa West, a realtor in Coronado, Calif. Begin by trashing or giving away things you haven’t used in a year, then find a place to store additional furniture and other belongings throughout the selling process. You should be able to see every inch of your countertops and the floors of the kitchen. This may seem overwhelming, but think of it as getting a head start on packing for your move.
2. Make some minor upgrades. You won’t get a dollar-for-dollar return on investment for major renovations like a kitchen or bathroom remodel, but there are smaller projects that can freshen up your home and help set it apart from the competition.
If you live in an area of the country still covered with snow, focus on indoor projects first. Take care of any minor repairs that could turn off a buyer – now’s the time, for example, to fix that leaky faucet or re-grout the shower. “If you think there might be bigger issues, it could be worth it to pay for a home inspection before you list the house,” says realtor Gary Rogers of Waltham, Mass. “That way you’re not surprised by something when the buyer does his inspection.”
Once basic repairs are out of the way, a coat of paint, fresh kitchen or bathroom fixtures, or updated appliances are low-cost changes that can boost a home’s first impression to buyers.
3. Choose the right realtor. One key to a quick sale is having the right pro guiding you through the process and paying attention to the details of your listing. Before you pick someone, Interview at least three realtors with experience selling homes in your neighborhood.
Ask them about their marketing plan for your property and make sure their listings appear on all the major online real estate sites. More than 9 in 10 home shoppers start their house search online, but they don’t all use the same sites. “You don’t want to miss out on a buyer because your listing wasn’t on the site that she uses,” says Zillow’s real estate expert Brendon DeSimone.
4. Be realistic about prices. Yes, it’s still a buyers’ market out there, but experts say the mini-boom and accompanying bidding wars seen last summer won’t return. This summer, more competition, higher interest rates, and less investor demand will likely produce more modest home price increases and give buyers more breathing room to negotiate. Mortgage rates are currently at 4.43 percent, more than a full percentage point higher than they were this time last year.
The key to getting your house sold quickly is to price it right at the outset. Ask your realtor to carefully look over comp sales with you, and be prepared for the recommended asking price to be less than you had imagined.
5. Stage a photo shoot. Web appeal is the new curb appeal. Having a lot of high-quality images accompanying your listing is the secret to boosting online interest in your home. You’ll want to use a high-quality camera (borrow or rent one if you don’t own one), and take as many pictures as possible – including both wide-room shots and close-up images of noteworthy details like molding or tile work.
By Beth Braverman