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  How To Sell Your Home For Maximum Gain  

The first principle is to prepare for the sale well in advance.  If your plan, for example, is to list your home for sale in May or June, it's wise to lay the ground work for the sale in January or February at the latest. You can use this advance time to clear the property of junk, contract out some home improvement work, do some of the project work yourself, pack up extra belongings, have a garage sale, donate items, etc. Consider asking a real estate agent for a professional walkthrough several months in advance: you might be surprised at the profitable advice he or she can offer.

Here are some important steps you should take before you put your house on the market:

  1. Get a loan approval for your next home first.  You don't want to sign a contract to sell your house before knowing if you are qualified to buy another. You'll get a good idea of what you can afford by getting a pre-approval before selling your house. You can then decide whether it would be reasonable to sell your house at this point in time, or perhaps consider renting instead.

  2. Determine the Fair Market Value of your house.  You'll want to get the best price for your property and in the quickest time possible. Over-pricing your home will only limit your chances of selling fast, while under-pricing may speed up the process but you lose out in the bargain. An agent or an appraisal service should be able to assist in determining the fair market value of your home. has a home-valuation calculator that lets you estimate your home's approximate value quickly.

  3. Estimate the cost of selling: 
    • Real estate commissions (3% on up to 7%.)
    • Attorney, closing agent and other professional fees (several hundred dollars.)
    • Capital gains tax (if applicable) and excise taxes (1% to 5%).
    • Advertising costs, if you plan to sell home yourself.

  4. Home improvements.  Are there improvements that could be made to your home that would increase the value cost-effectively and help it sell faster? Usually that's not the case, but your home may have some "hidden value": an unfinished area that could be turned into an additional bedroom or bathroom, for example, could increase your property value by 10% or more depending on the market. See our home improvement section for advice in this area.

  5. Maximize "curb appeal".  It's amazing that sometimes just $500 in landscaping or a quick touch-up on the outside paint can increase buyer traffic from 2 people a week touring your home to 20 people a week. Be sure the approach to your home is clean, tidy and well groomed. Make sure the grass is cut, leaves raked, plant beds mulched and weeded, etc. Any brass should be polished, paint on the door should be in good condition and the door should be washed clean of fingerprints and paw marks.

  6. Make necessary repairs.  You don't want to turn off a buyer because of minor repairs which you haven't attended to. Don't ignore repairs for these reasons:  (1) the home could take a long time to sell, (2) you will probably still end up paying the cost of the repair work for the buyer, (3) you could get a lower sales price because the property was "stigmatized" by not selling within the first few months, and (4) you'll also have to keep paying the mortgage and maintenance expenses while you wait for your home to sell.

  7. Get the house ready to show.  This includes clearing out junk, making repairs, cleaning, landscaping, deodorizing if need be, and perhaps repainting. Get a walkthrough by an experienced real estate agent early on to get their value-building advice. You'll want your house to be sparkling clean and well-ordered when a buyer comes to see your place. A clutter-free environment is essential if you want the house to appeal to the buyer.

  8. Make your home's visual appeal fairly broad.  If the decorating in your home is unusual, you'll risk turning off prospective buyers.  Pack up distracting elements, try to use "neutral" colors (e.g. beige or off-white), and move out excessive furniture to make your home seem larger. You want buyers looking at the house, not your stuff.

How To Find A Real Good Agent

When you're ready to choose a real estate professional, here's what to look for:

  • A local real estate agent should know your neighborhood well so he or she can help you determine a fair market price. The agent should also be able to recommend repairs or improvements.

  • Ask family, friends and neighbors for referrals. You could also search Google for "best real estate agent" yourcity (include the quote marks for best results, and also try pluralizing agent to agents.)

  • Phone-interview several agents to find out how professional or experienced they may be. Most will be happy to supply a written outline of how they plan to market your property and the services they will include.

  • Evaluate the personal "chemistry". Do you feel comfortable with the agent as a fair partner who will work with you to give you advice and act as your representative? Does he or she focus on the importance of meeting client needs and personal expectations, or is he or she caught up in the "hard sell?"

  • The firm that your agent is associated with is also important. Find out the firm's commission rate. Some firms can offer discounts on everything from painters to mortgages to moving services. Other firms might try to channel business to their high-paid buddies at your expense.

  • There are also low-cost options such as selling your home yourself or using a cut-rate agent that charges a flat fee as low as $3,000.  However, you run the risk of getting little exposure for your property or somehow botching the sales process.

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