My husband and I are in the midst of building a new house. We recently listed our current home for sale. While I normally write about the business from the agent or brokerage perspective, today I’m going to put my seller’s hat on and share some important lessons learned.

Hire the most competent agent (hint: it’s definitely not you!)

The first step in listing your home should be to interview three different agents. No matter how long you have been in the business, you’re foolish to become a for-sale-by-owner. Chances are you will overprice your property, overlook the problems that you have lived with but that a fresh pair of eyes would spot, and be unable to negotiate as effectively as someone else would be on your behalf. Also, if you are a full-service agent, walk your talk! Pay a full fee, whatever that is for your area.

All you have to do is pack your closet

The agent I hired, Gail Crann of Keller Williams, is someone I trust completely. She is tough as nails when it comes to negotiating, plus her professionalism and expertise are top-shelf. The decisive factor for me was when she told us, “All you have to do is pack up your office and your closet and I’ll handle the rest.” Almost everyone complains about not having enough time. Gail took all the worry about staging and dealing with contractors off my shoulders. She minimized the amount of time that I would have to spend to prepare for sale.

Create a staging calendar

When we sat down to sign the listing agreement, Gail arrived with a staging calendar. Although our house was only eight years old, she confronted us with the cold facts about what buyers in our area want. There are three new subdivisions less than two miles from us. We would be competing with new product and to do so our house had to look like a model. The designer wallpapers had to go, as well as the brass lighting fixtures and the carpet in the bathrooms. The trim needed to be painted and all our personal decorating items had to be packed and stored. The closets were too full and several rooms would need less furniture. My staging budget was going to run about $10,000 more than we anticipated on spending. Like any typical seller, I asked if all of this would be necessary. Gail explained it like this: “Your appliances are eight years old. Our goal in changing the paint and light fixtures is to have the buyers compare it favorably to what they see in the models. We don’t have to spend a fortune to achieve the look they want. If you keep your current fixtures, they’re dated. The buyers will knock off much more than you will spend by doing this now. We want them to walk in and to feel as if they can move into a house that looks brand-new.” True to her word, she coordinated the tile installers, painters and electricians, and kept the price for the new look at a minimum. She also went shopping for the items we would need for staging. If we wanted any of them, we could buy them; and if not, she would be able to use them in future listings.

It’s not your house

I was reluctant to pack up some of the wonderful pieces we collected from our trips to various countries. Gail said something to me that was quite profound. “It’s not your house anymore.” This may be one of the most important concepts that you can share with your sellers. When you list your house, it’s not your home any longer. You’re actually living in what will soon be someone else’s house. It was a little strange to remove every single personal item that we had out and to replace them with generic pictures and flowers. The process of doing this during the staging, however, will greatly reduce the packing we’ll have to do later.

Be realistic on the price

Gail showed us the comparable sales and suggested a price that was a few thousand dollars higher than where I thought the property should be in order to move it quickly. Given that the market is quite good and we are in a highly desirable area where few homes come up for sale, I knew we couldn’t underprice the property. The market will always bid it up. What I didn’t want to do was to overprice it and be caught with two properties and a bridge loan. Consequently, we priced it several thousand dollars less than the comparable sales suggested.

Did it work?

Although we haven’t cleared all the contingencies, we received an all-cash offer at $50 over asking price within 24 hours of putting the house on the market. Time to start packing!

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at or visit her blog at

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