Tips from the pros to get top dollar for your house

Tips from the pros to get top dollar for your house

An eight-week timeline for putting your house on the market

Published: February 25, 2015 05:30 PM

The spring home selling season is nearly here, so if you're thinking about entering the market, now's the time to get your house in order. A home can be ready to list in as little as a month, especially if it's in good shape and you're working with a competent real estate agent. But it's often better to give yourself a little more cushion. Here's a rough timeline, including advice gleaned from a recent survey of 303 real estate professionals conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. 

Two months out (or more)

Find a real estate agent. This is arguably the most important decision you'll make in the whole home-selling process. You want to find an agent who is credible and trustworthy and with whom you have good rapport. It pays to speak with a few professionals, ideally using word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family. For good measure, check the references from at least three recent clients. Before signing the contract, be clear on the agent's commission. In our survey, 63 percent of pros said they negotiate their fees at least half the time, and the average commission was 4 percent—not the 6 percent that's often considered the industry standard. Check out these other real estate agent secrets.    

Six weeks out

Handle any large repairs or upgrades. Pay close attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, which are the two rooms that most sell a house. Our report found that spending about $2,200 on new suite of appliances—the dishwasher, range, and refrigerator—could fetch you an extra $6,000. In the bathroom, consider replacing corroded fixtures as well as the vanity countertop, which can be fairly inexpensive given its small size. Applying a fresh coat of paint in high-traffic parts of the home, including the front door, is also a good use of time and money      

One month out

Get rid of the clutter. Nothing turns away buyers faster than a messy house. You want them to be able to imagine themselves in your home, which will be impossible if your stuff is piled everywhere. Storage is a big selling point, so free up the closets and kitchen cabinets. This is also the time to pack up family photos, which can be another distraction for would-be buyers. These measures can add about 5 percent to a home's asking price, which works out to $10,000 on the average property.

Two weeks out

Photograph your home. In the era of online real estate, this step is crucial. If you're working with a top-quality real estate agent, they'll hopefully pony up for professional photographer—and maybe even a stager too. If they try to tell you their smart phone camera can do the job, don't believe them. An advanced digital camera is essential, because its large sensor will take clear pictures even in low-light interiors. Be sure to photograph every room in the home, as well as the exterior and yard. Here are some tips from the pros at Consumer Reports.         

One week out

Do a deep clean. Ahead of the first open house, you need to thoroughly wipe down every surface in the home, as well as vacuum and dust every corner. Do your best to air out the property by opening windows. And avoid cooking any smelly dishes in the final days leading up to the open house.        

One to two days out

List your home online. Traffic to real estate websites tends to spike just before the weekend. For example, on the real estate broker Redfin, traffic is 29 percent higher on Fridays than Sundays. So aim to post your listing on Thursday or Friday. And make sure you have the pieces in place before posting, especially the visuals. Some sellers debut their listing without the photos, thinking they can upload them later. But by that time, much of the traffic will have moved on.

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)    

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