In today’s hot real estate market, you would think that just about any home for sale would get offers and bring top dollar as is. Well, I hate to tell you, but you would be wrong.

Buyers are picky about their future homes. They won’t make top offers on homes that need substantial updating or extensive repairs. The vast majority of buyers making such costly purchases are cautious about taking on an expense that might unexpectedly cost them even more down the road.

The dreaded thought of buying a “money pit” lurks in the back of every potential homeowner’s mind.

Even in a seller’s market, you must take certain steps if you intend to get top dollar for it; here are four that will help your buyer get their desired offer:

1. Get a professional home inspection prior to listing it on the market.

There are few buyers out there who are willing to buy a property before a thorough home inspection and repairs by the homeowner. Why not make it easier on the seller? Make the suggestion that the homeowner get an inspection and make repairs before placing it on the market.

Most buyers will make their offer contingent upon a professional home inspection. Regardless of how diligent the seller is in maintaining the home, there are always going to be some unseen problems. A professional inspector will crawl into places that contain the most integral parts of a home and identify hidden defects.

By taking control of the inspection and repair process, you will eliminate the most unpleasant part of selling the home.

The first objection the sellers will give you is, “Why should I go looking for problems with my house?” Your answer should be, “Because you will be able to take control of the inspection process and get top dollar for your home.”

Sellers who wait for an offer and then have the buyer hire an inspector to examine the home for issues put themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating. The buyer then has the upper hand, midnegotiation, to get repairs and replacements.

And many times, the buyer will even get a price reduction based on the inspector’s findings.

Sellers who offer their home in the best possible condition get top dollar.

2. Set the price right.

Possibly the most important aspect of successfully selling will be correctly pricing the property. The popular belief that pricing a property at a higher price and then gradually working down to a lower price is a good strategy has proven time and again to be false in practice. This strategy is the worst way to get top dollar for a home in a seller’s market.

What buyers are willing to pay is entirely based on the overall condition and age of the home, its new amenities, updates and renovations that feature luxury upgrades. If the state of the home is almost like new, it will be priced similarly to newly constructed homes in the area.

Buyers will pay more for green and energy-efficient upgrades, such as low-emissivity Energy Star-rated windows, tankless hot water heaters, blown-in cellulose insulation, programmable thermostats, dual-flush toilets, passive and active solar systems, expandable spray foam insulation, sealed ducts, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and whole-house automation and control systems, to name a few.

If you can demonstrate to a buyer what savings will be for having energy-efficient upgrades in a home, the buyer will be much more likely to pay more upfront for those long-term benefits.

If a home is within a price category that is in high demand, the home might get multiple offers, and a bidding war between buyers could result, which could mean more money for your client.

3. Make sure you have curb appeal — it counts in a big way.

Starting with the look and condition, from the mailbox to the front door, what potential buyers see helps them make decisions about whether to buy a home. These first impressions are crucial. Even when the rest of the house is immaculate, if the front of the home is less than desirable, it might not be possible to get a top offer.

Ask yourself and your seller:

  • What does the front door look like? Does it look new or is it weathered?
  • How about the door knob and lockset? Is it attractive and working flawlessly?
  • Are the front shutters and gutters in good shape?
  • How about the shrubbery? Does it extend past the bottom window sill?
  • Is the lawn lush and green or does it have dead brown areas that need attention?

The better the curb appeal, the more likely it will enlist higher offers.

4. Clean, clean, clean.

Clutter, grime and strange smells coming from the refrigerator will drive away buyers. Pet odors, cigarette smoke, spicy cooking and mildew odors are deal killers every time — without exception.

Deep cleaning is an extensive and tedious operation to get the place as sanitized as possible. Make sure the owner scrubs the baseboards, buffs and polishes the wood floor, removes cobwebs, cleans the mirrors, washes all the windows, dust ceiling fan blades, cleans the oven, shampoos the carpets, dry-cleans the drapes and dusts the blinds. Have them do the whole works. Some home cleaning services even wipe down dusty light bulbs to provide more light.

If it doesn’t smell fresh, it’s not going to garner the best offers. Recommend hiring professionals to clean the ducts and change the filters.

If odors persist, then recommend a professional who specializes in smoke remediation. The industrial systems they use produces ozone, and it completely remediates all odors so it will smell cleaner than a hospital operating room. Room air fresheners you find at the grocery store won’t cut it.

If your seller wants top dollar — the home and the air must be clean.

When going for top dollar the agent who can demonstrate the highest level of clear communication with his clients and those involved in the selling process will be the most successful.

Andy Freeman is a native of Nashville, Tennessee, and an area affiliate real estate broker since 2005 at Parks in Green Hills. He currently assists his clients make wise decisions about real estate.

Email Andy Freeman.

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