So you’re thinking about selling your home? Declare a price, put a sign in the yard and post it on Craigslist, right?


In the same way that a buyer should do their due diligence to save up for a down payment and polish up their credit score, there are many things sellers can do to better position themselves for the market. From home preparation to preinspection to staging, there are tons of ways to increase the value of your home — without spending a lot of money.

I’ve been a Realtor for more than 10 years, and I’m preparing to sell my sixth personal residence in as many years. (I know, I know … but that’s a whole different blog topic.)

So, what does a Realtor do to prepare her home to sell?

Step one: Determine a timeline.

Why are we moving? There are marriages and divorces, births and deaths, job losses and opportunities every single day. That’s why we list and sell houses every day of every month of every year. Regardless of the weather or interest rates, there are always people who need to buy and sell homes. That’s the good news!

The bad news is there are specific times that seem to lessen the days on market or ease the burden on the seller — and there are times when the opposite is the case. Finding the right time to list your home is important, and it’s not the same for every family. The school year plays a critical role in our timeline. We don’t want to move our kids midschool year. So, we’re aiming to be packing the truck in late May or early June.

Step two: Create a to-do list.

What do we need to do to have this house ready for the market? There are things we know we need to do. (You know, those things you knew about when you bought the house … and then you moved in … and life went on … and they’re still on the to-do list.)

Then, there are things we think we should do. This is when the counsel of your Realtor will come in very handy. What is the potential return on investment? Is it worth the time? Will you overimprove your home compared with the competition in your neighborhood or area?

And finally, there are the things we would have never considered. This is where a stager will blow your mind. They have all sorts of great ideas, many of which don’t cost a dime. Want to go the extra mile? Get a preinspection. Yes, it’s likely the buyer will still have their own inspection, and their inspector will find their own list of issues. However, I believe this step eliminates a lot more hassle than it creates.

Step three: Tie the to-do list to the timeline.

Once you have that list made up, put some dates on it that align with your timeline. What can we do now? For us, new windows. Such an expense, but it has to be done, and we knew that when we bought the house. If we do them now, then we can enjoy them for a few months, and we’ll also enjoy the bonus of lower utility bills through the winter.

What should we wait to do? For us, carpet. We have little kids. They have sippy cups. Enough said! Spreading the list out over a certain period of time relieves the enormous stress knot in your neck, but it also keeps you accountable to actually doing the work. Your Realtor will want to know when they can come back to get the paperwork signed!

Step four: Get to work.

What are you waiting for? Get some quotes from professionals and call your friends to help with the rest. The clock is ticking!

You’ll be ready for that sign in the yard in no time!

Stacy Russell Grove is a Realtor at Cathy Russell Team Real Estate. Follow her life happenings on Twitter.

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