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How to Sell Your Home Fast: Tips and Tricks

Anne is a nonprofit executive and graduated summa cum laude from William Woods University with a BS in business management.

Listed our home of 18 years in mid-May.  Received first offer within 5 days.

Listed our home of 18 years in mid-May. Received first offer within 5 days.

Don't Get Overwhelmed

Many people who want or need to sell their home of many years get overwhelmed at the thought of needed updates and repairs. However, with some straight forward advice from your realtor and good planning, you can be well on your way to making that sale a reality. Here are some tips from the plan I followed.

Tip #1: Find the Best Realtor

First, before making any changes to your home, find the best realtor in your area. Fortunately for us, the number one realtor in our area lived right across the street. It's always good to:

  • Research the market to see which listing agents have the highest sales.
  • Find one that is certified.
  • Look for someone with a minimum of 5 years experience.

Tip #2: Prepare for the Meeting with Your Realtor

  1. Create a binder to hold all of the research and other data on your home and the market.
  2. Have a calendar and a potential timeline.
  3. Know your home mortgage payoff.
  4. If you have it, the listing sheet from when you purchased the home will be helpful.
  5. Copy of appraisal, if completed within the last year.

We had a listing date in mind which gave us ample time for updating the house. We began filling in the calendar with all the detail to meet the deadline (which was March originally but then later moved it to May).

Our realtor had a lot of data on recent sales of similar homes. I added all of that to my binder to refer back to if necessary. It was an easy conversation that took place in our kitchen instead of her office which put us more at ease from the start. We then had a second meeting a month later, where we made some decisions. She had lots of suggestions for our home and pointed out what she thought would help make rooms look larger and prevent our 18-year-old home from looking dated. To us these things were invisible. However, after diving into that process of elimination, it became clear that she was right. I think the amount you spend on updates and repairs is relative to your price range. The higher the price of the home the higher the cost of updating.

Tip #3: Create Your Plan

So we began by creating a plan with a timeline.

  1. List everything that needs to be repaired and/or updated.
  2. Estimate the cost and when it needs to be completed.
  3. Arrange in chronological order.
  4. Walk around the interior and exterior of your home and look at everything to be sure the list is complete.

Once we finished the timeline we realized that May 1 was the earliest we could list the house instead of March. Everything, no matter how small, went on the planning list. If a sink needed a stopper or an outlet didn't work, it was listed with repairs.

This was our list of updates with estimated costs.

This was our list of updates with estimated costs.

Tip #4: De-Clutter

Even though we thought about it, we decided against renting a storage facility. Most of the items being removed probably needed to go anyway (sell, donate or pitch). Our realtor said to put items we wanted to keep in plastic tubs and stack them neatly in our garage. That’s where we started.

Then we had a garage sale, sold larger or more expensive items on eBay and Craigslist until we rounded the corner into February. Then anything left was given away, donated or pitched.

I reorganized all of the storage closets. We replaced most of our cardboard boxes with plastic tubs which gave them a more organized less cluttered appearance.

The Garage Sale Plan

  • Ads on the local newspaper's website, garage sale websites, Craigslist, etc.
  • Big colorful signage/balloons the day of the sale with address and what CREDIT/DEBIT Cards were acceptable (square.com and many other online options available).
  • Staging: Use a lot of chairs and tables with cloths over them to create inviting and colorful nooks for items.
  • Traffic Flow: Create a very easy traffic pattern so all come in and follow the path around items and follow a natural flow to register. We had 2 garage doors so for us a horseshoe type traffic flow was perfect.
  • Groupings: Place items according to category or seasons if appropriate. Then as items sell, rearranged to keep it looking attractive and inviting.
  • Price: Everything to sell (A lot of websites online with suggested pricing).
  • Money box: Always have 2 people managing money.
  • Bags: Have a good supply of bags by money box.
  • Leftovers: Donate to Goodwill or other similar agency.
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In the end, our garage sale grossed about $1,000.

Selling on Craigslist and Ebay

After the garage sale, I launched into selling things on a couple of websites to continue the purging.

The first item to sell was my son's Goosebumps book collection which didn’t sell at the garage sale. However, it sold within minutes on one of the websites for $65. Then I posted another item and it sold fast too. So now I really got serious about finding more things to list. I was amazed at how much I was moving.

Along the way, I even purchased a mannequin to display the clothes I was selling. I believe we actually made about $4,000 from that process. I did this from August through January. Then in February, it was clear we were running out of time if we wanted to keep with listing the house in May, so we just began making a lot of trips to a local donation outlet. It was hard but once into it, we didn’t look back. So the mannequin went into the storage room and my selling website storefront was closed for the season.

Tip #5: Be Flexible

As with anything, there were surprises along the way.

Budget

Some things were more costly than anticipated. Looking back we spent 10% more than we planned to due to unexpected repairs and expenses. Anytime something was higher, we stepped back and readjusted our list of updates and repairs. There were some things we couldn't do because of such. Originally all of the appliances were going to be replaced. However, after other things came in higher, we dropped them from the list.

Family Health Issues

My husband Jim was in and out of the hospital throughout the process but no matter what, life threw at us, we still kept to the schedule. Sometimes contractors were working on the house while we were at the hospital. If we wanted to list it in May though, we had to keep things moving forward. The pool was a big part of the marketing plan for the home and that called for a spring listing. In our area, May is one of the biggest months for home sales. So there was no way we were going to miss that window. Our theme: Push Through It!

Work Delays

The door hardware also took almost the entire month to complete. With 41 doors, 3 hinges each, along with 2 door handles (some with locks and some without), patience and persistence were called upon often.

Tip #6: Paint Paint Paint

Nothing is as easy and inexpensive as paint to give a room a new look. Our realtor put us in touch with wonderful handy-men and other vendors, who did great work and were so accommodating. We removed a lot of items from any of the walls that were scratched or cluttered, and had all of them repainted. The color was still current so we only repainted the damaged wall, not the whole room. Paint stores can match any color off of a chip of paint.

Also, don't forget the outside of the house. The front door and shutters were pretty weathered so they were repainted with a more current color.

The painting took longer but was so worth it.

Scaffolding needed for painting.

Scaffolding needed for painting.

best-ways-to-prepare-and-sell-home-fast
best-ways-to-prepare-and-sell-home-fast

Tip #7: Update Light Fixtures

We worked with a local designer to choose the appropriate light fixtures for each room since ours were all the outdated brass. She was extremely helpful which made the job so easy. All of the old fixtures and door hardware was donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Our outdoor lights were rusted so they were replaced with oil rub bronze lamps along with a new mailbox with the same finish. That face-lift was the star on the tree for the very important: curb appeal. To top it off, we hung a new flower arrangement on the door that coordinated with new topiaries in the black urns we had on the front porch. I previously had a couple of fire engine red dragons on the porch as well. However, those were retired. I really liked the dragons, but this wasn’t about what I liked, it was about what would appeal to the potential buyer.

When you decide to sell your home, you realize as you make changes to make it more marketable, that it’s no longer “your” home. It was sad at first but the goal was to sell the house to get to a smaller more manageable place. So each time I’d start to feel that sadness creep in, I’d brush it back by focusing on our life in our next home. In the end, it became all about getting to “the other side.”

Out with the old.

Out with the old.

In with the new.

In with the new.

Tip #8: Replace Any Rotted Wood

Nothing says old and unkempt, like rotted wood. Any rotted wood whether it was a doorstop or small piece of frame, was disposed of and replaced including an entire door and frame on the side of our garage.

Our deck needed some attention so we had a contractor do an assessment. They replaced some boards and made some minor repairs and then washed and stained it for us. The realtor picked out the stain and it was a beautiful rich finish which made it look brand new.

best-ways-to-prepare-and-sell-home-fast

Tip #9: Maximize Selling Points of the Home

Our kitchen needed a back splash, so for a minimal amount of money, we added tile which also gave it a very current look.

Most homes in our price range had granite countertops and newer stainless steel appliances. We didn't have either of those. In fact, our white appliances were 18 years old but new ones in the end, had to be cut from the budget. What we did have though were big beautiful custom made plantation shutters on all the downstairs oversized windows. They let in a lot of light and overlooked the swimming pool and very large backyard. We figured the buyers would be so fixed on that when they came to the kitchen, that the counters and appliances wouldn't be noticed as much...We were right. By maximizing the strong selling points of our home we were able to minimize its weaknesses.

Tiled back splash was not very expensive but added so much appeal to kitchen

Tiled back splash was not very expensive but added so much appeal to kitchen

Tip #10: Refresh Landscaping

We started out by just adding more rock and mulch to all of our flower beds. We already had a relationship with someone that was treating the lawn with a 5 step program and managed all the trimming of our shrubs too. So we asked them to manage the weed control in the flower beds to keep the fresh look throughout the summer months. It's vital that the yard has a very manicured appearance. That was part of marketing the pool as a big selling point. Who wants to lay by a pool and look at weedy flower beds or half dead shrubs. Any items like that were replaced with new.

Our yard was very deep and at the end was a struggling Weeping Willow tree with several dead limbs. So, we hired a tree trimmer to shape it up. It was once the crowning glory of our yard but between a significant ice storm and later a drought-like summer, the tree was no longer attractive. After all of the dead portions were removed though, it was good as new.