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#1 Beat your competition on price. Research what similar homes have recently sold for (not what they listed for) in your neighborhood and undercut by at least a few hundred dollars to start. A real estate sales associate can easily get you those sales figures. Indicate you are willing to negotiate.
#2 Assess your home's negative points with a critical eye and make repairs. Fix leaky faucets, replace broken or cracked windows, tighten screws on loose cupboard doors, nail down squeaking floorboards, put fresh caulk around the tub or shower, fill in nail holes or cracks in wall board and repaint, replace worn out window coverings or shades that don't work.
#3 Update and get with the times. Get a couple of gallons of paint in a soft or neutral color and go to work on those walls and trim. Replace those clunky, noisy ceiling fans with modern models. New faucets and showerheads will add sparkle. Change out worn (or missing) cupboard and drawer knobs. If your budget will allow, replace that old burner-top stove, ancient refrigerator, and worn out dishwasher. You don't necessarily need to do a total makeover, but if you have orange, shag carpet in the living room I would seriously recommend installing a new, inexpensive carpet and pad!
#4 Use soap, water, and elbow grease. It's a big turn off for potential buyers when there is visible dirt and grime and it can indicate that the seller has let other issues slide on the house as well. Mop floors and apply a good grout cleaner in tiled areas. Look for dirt and smudges on door trim and handles, dust furniture, vacuum floors and rugs and sweep down stairs. Clean out sink, tub, and shower drains, remove soap scum from bathroom walls, wash or replace shower curtains. Get on a stepladder and clean accumulated dust and dirt from ceiling fan blades, clean the oven, remove old food and wash inside of refrigerator. Replace air filters and wash all the windows inside and out!
#5 Do the Sniff Test. After being outside and coming into your house, how does it smell? Are there any obnoxious odors, such as wet dog, , birdcage, cigarette or cigar smoke, old garbage, gym clothes, stinky sneakers, mildew, or strong food odors from last night's meal? If so, thoroughly clean offensive areas and dispose of stinky articles. It may be necessary to wash down and repaint walls and replace old curtains and carpet if the smoke smell is overpowering.
#6 De-Clutter! We're all guilty of hoarding too much stuff. Getting ready to list your home is a great time to get a clean slate. Give away whatever you can to friends or relatives, or have a yard sale. Don't forget there are any number of organizations that would welcome donations of your unused or extra appliances, clothes, knick-knacks, outgrown baby items, sports equipment, tools and other household goods. Local libraries will take books. Habitat for Humanity will take certain items that can be used for construction. Look for their number in the phone book.
#7 Don't overstuff rooms, closets, or the garage. Make it easy to navigate through your house, even if it means rearranging furniture or removing a couple of overstuffed chairs. A small closet will look much larger if it's not jammed with everything under the sun. Just have essential items on hangers or neatly stacked and pack up or dispose of the rest. In the garage, what can't be thrown out can at least be stored or stacked in an orderly fashion.
#8 Remove distractions. Potential buyers should be looking at your house with intent to buy, not admiring your baseball collection, asking about the antique gun hanging on the wall, eyeballing risque posters in the bedroom, oooing and ahhing over the doll collection or the 9 x 10 glossy signed by Elvis.
#9 Don't forget the all-important Curb Appeal. Ever drive up to a house hidden beneath hanging tree branches, knee-high weeds, large, worn spots in the lawn, rusty toys strewn about, an old tire with a dog chained up, a broken down swing set or a junk car in the drive? How about the swimming pool water that's turned olive green? Trust me; that eyesore is not going to lure many serious buyers. It may, however, elicit ridiculously lowball offers from salivating investors.
#10 Market your listing every way you can. The more people that are aware your house is for sale, the more likely you will get interested buyers and a sale. Tell everyone you know. If allowed in your neighborhood, place a For Sale sign in your yard. But, be sure to have professional looking flyers attached, describing the good points. Real estate brokers can provide extensive advertising and marketing. They utilize computer multiple listing systems, ads in newspapers and magazines, agent pre-views, Internet web sites, email to other agents, etc. Post cards can also be mailed throughout the neighborhood announcing your listing. A well-planned Open House can also be effective.