12 Month Plan to Prepare You and Your House for Sale

Are you considering selling your house in the future?  Well, I’d like to think so, most people will at some point.  In the future.  Whether you are planning on moving in 6 months to a year or more this checklist is a great way to get you and your house prepared for listing.  I know your REALTOR® will be happy if you take care of all these items.

1. Reach out to a REALTOR®. (Pick a great one)

This is a very important step. It is at the point when you have decided that you are ready to move and want to learn the best ways to move forward.  It is very important that you find a REALTOR® who will help you the most and will be available to answer any questions you might have about the process.  I must put my pitch out there.   I am here, as a REALTOR® to answer any questions that you might have and to help steer you in the right direction.

2. Get a home value estimate

This step will be helped by the great REALTOR® that you picked in Step 1.  We REALTORS® have many tools that help us develop a fairly accurate price for your house.  Many people think that the Zestimate is accurate.   I’m sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, but it is not.  Zillow is known, in the REALTOR® world, to not be the most reliable.  They overvalue everything, trying to drive you to use one of their REALTORS® and don’t pull as many attributes into their valuation as a good REALTOR® would.  Again, I am available to help you with this.   If you are in another city, I can send you a few great REALTORS® to talk to.

3 Set a timeline for when you want to go on the market

This step seems kind of obvious, but you need to set a time frame for when you want to list your house.  Yeah, I know, this post is about a 12 Month plan, but these are really just things that will make the process move more smoothly when you do decide to list your house.  In determining your time frame, you also should think about where you want to move to and what you want in your next house.  Your great REALTOR® will be able to help you start your search.  Another critical thing to do in this step is to start talking with a mortgage lender so you can get pre-approved for a loan.  Trust me, you want to do this so you will know for sure what size loan you will be able to get.  Don’t just go to some website and get pre-qualified.  Typically, that is not as certain as the pre-approval letter you will get from the actual company that will be giving you the loan. 

4. Learn the housing market in your area

This is another step that your REALTOR® will help you with.  It is important to learn the housing market in the area that you are currently living in.  During Step 2, you will learn a little about the market, as part of getting the home value estimate for your current home, but it could change over the time span between Step 1 and actually listing your house.  I would suggest that your REALTOR® send you semi-regular market updates for your neighborhood.  This will allow you to stay informed and be ready for the final price suggestion when it comes time to list your house.

5. Get Pre-Home Inspection home inspection

Did you know you could do this?  To me it makes complete sense, especially if you aren’t planning on listing your house for 6-12 months.   You can get a Home Inspection, which won’t count once you are under contract, but it can make you aware of any issues that would come up during the official home inspection for the future buyers.  If you get the pre-home inspection, you will be able to fix and issues ahead of time and reduce the negotiating power the buyers might have.  You will keep greater control of the situation.

6. Get occupancy inspection

This is very similar to Step 5, but these issues should be much more minor, at least any that weren’t pointed out in the full pre-home inspection.  This inspection will address issues such as ensuring that the smoke detectors work and that all stairs have appropriate railings.  If you have an obvious hole in your ceiling, that isn’t supposed to be there, they will point that out to you here too, but you should already be aware of that issue.

7. Fix issues called out in inspection reports

This is the culmination of both Step 5 & 6, where you should FIX the issues that were called out during the inspections.  It will make the house better and more attractive to potential buyers.  You never know, some of the issues that were called out could be dangerous to be currently living with, such as bad wiring.  I know I’ve had my fair share of shocks when dealing with outlets in listed houses.

8. Do a faux ‘renovation’ on your house

When you see renovation, I know you think I mean knock down some walls and fully remodel your bathroom.  Well, you can do that if you want, but that’s not what I mean here.  All I mean here is to update some of the outdated fixtures, faucets, and hinges.  We all know people who went through the phases of style where it seemed that brass was ‘in’ and then suddenly it wasn’t.  Next came stainless steel, which I think is still ‘in’ but who knows for how long, and what the next style will be.  It’s also just nice to change out the hinges and knobs on cabinets because they make them all look newer and fresher.  While these changes may cost a bit, they can greatly improve the sellability of your home and increase your final selling price.

9. Finish all small repair projects that you have been putting off (‘Honey-Do’ list)

If you’re like me, or my dad, you have a to-do list that seems to be a mile.   Now is your chance to do all the things on that list.  You’ll be much happier when you get all of those items crossed off.  Trust me, I’ve started doing this myself.  I’m not planning on moving anytime soon, I just want to get them done.  Getting these things done will make your significant other happier through the whole process, which will make everyone less stressed out.

10. Repaint walls with neutral tones

First off, there is nothing wrong with having a room painted neon yellow when you are living there, but the odds of finding someone else who would see that color on a wall and fall in love with it are very small.  Having rooms painted with neutral colors is always a good idea when trying to sell your house.  I’ve been through some houses that are for sale, that have some crazy colored walls and they seem to stay on the market longer than others.  There is nothing wrong with the house, people just have a hard time looking past the paint.  I tell my clients that paint is cheap, and you can always just paint the room yourself, but nobody seems to want to do that.  I’m one of the rare people who finds painting walls relaxing.

11. Think about curb appeal

This is commonly an aspect that is overlooked for some reason.  Clean up your yard.  The saying is that you only get one first impression. Well, the curb appeal is the first impression for your house.  It is important to have a clean and well-groomed yard.  Make sure that you mow it on a regular basis.  Trim up the bushes around your house and pull any weeds that might be in your garden, or gutters. Another great idea is to buy and plant new flowers to bring some color to your landscaping.  A critical thing that many people don’t think of is to buy a new and inviting welcome mat to put at your front door.  All these fairly simple things can bring in more people to look at your house with the intent of making an offer.  They walk in in a better mood.

12. Tighten all loose handles

This task might have been taken care of in Step 9, but in case you forgot, make sure all the handles on your cabinets are tight.  It’s one of those small things that can make the potential buyer feel that the house was well taken care of and is complete.

13. Buy Lightbulbs

Buying lightbulbs is not necessarily a major concern, in my mind, but it is important to be ready to replace any lightbulb when, and if, it burns out while your house is listed.  During showings and open houses, all the lights will be on to better accentuate the house’s features.  This step is more to be prepared for when they burn out just before a showing.  It’s also never a bad idea to have spare lightbulbs on hand.

14. Buy fresh flowers and plants

I know, I know, I already told you to buy flowers and plants in Step 11, but these ones are for the inside of your house.  It’s nice to walk through a house and see a vase of beautiful flowers on the table.  Interior plants also help filter the air making it seem fresher in the house.  House plants help make the house feel homier for the potential buyer, again, increasing their mood.  Don’t go overboard and create a little forest in your house, but a few nice plants here and there is a great idea.

15. Fix pet issues, such as stains and smells

If you do not have a pet, congrats, you’re onto Step 16.  If you have pets, you know what kind of issues I mean.  Do you have stains on your carpet?  Try to clean it the best you can, otherwise, I’d recommend that you replace the carpet.  Did your dog or cat scratch up a door frame or something else?  Depending on how bad the damage is, try to fix it, or just replace that too if you can.  The main thing you’ll want to do is buy an air freshener, fresh linen is the best choice to have in your house when you are trying to sell it.  You’ve probably heard in the past that you should make cookies the morning before so your house will have that smell, but these days, people are preferring the house to just smell clean and fresh.

16. Fix fencing

This step is another that you only need to work on if you have fence issues.  Do you have any broken pickets in your fence?  Those are cheap and easy to replace.  Go ahead and replace them so your yard will, again, look complete and taken care of.

17. Clean Windows

Another simple task to do, just nobody wants to do it.  Take the time and actually clean your windows.  But make sure you do it safely.  As with many of the steps before, clean windows will make your house look like it truly was taken care of.  I know you take care of your house, why not show it to those who are thinking about buying it.  Growing up, my mom got so mad at me with how often she had to clean one certain window in our house.  I always looked out it and for some reason pressed my forehead against the glass leaving a smudge.  I knew it happened, but for some reason, I kept doing it.  Sorry Mom.

18. Organize your closets

If you are like me, your closet is a mess.  A great trick in selling your house quicker, is to clean up and organize your closet.  Nobody wants to see your clothes thrown all over the place.  A well-organized closet also can give potential buyers hope that they will be able to keep their closet clean and organized in your house, too.

19. Hide your Valuable and Depersonalize your house

This step is more critical when you are showing your house.  No need to tempt anyone to take anything.  I recommend that when you are truly ready to list your house, depersonalize it.  Take down the family pictures from the wall.  Literally take down and pack up anything that makes the house seem to fit only you.  Another critical thing to think of, BEFORE, you list your house is identifying anything that is attached to the walls or ceilings that you want to take with you when you move.  Wall mirrors and light fixtures must go with the house, so if you have a family heirloom mirror or chandelier, you’ll want to take it down and replace it prior to listing your house.  If not, it’s a giant headache later when the house goes under contract.  Your REALTOR® should be able to help you take care of any of these preparations.

20. Do a Deep Clean on your house

Well, congrats, you are almost ready to list your house.  The only thing left to do is to do a final deep clean of your house.  Cleanliness is key when you are showing your house.  I couldn’t tell you how many houses that I’ve gone through that were just a mess.  I didn’t truly look at the house, I just did a quick walk through and didn’t have anything good to say about the house.

Now that you have completed this checklist, now is time to call your REALTOR® and set up a meeting when you can further discuss your plans with your house.  They will walk you through the listing contract, among others, which will officially set up your house to be listed for sale.  Your REALTOR® should then schedule a professional photographer to take great pictures which will go on the MLS.  I know you’ll do great, and I hope to hear from you if you are looking for any help through the process.  I hope you have a great day and let’s go see some houses.

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