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Selling your home can be a long and frustrating process. The winter is generally the low point for home sales in the U.S., which makes it the perfect time to prepare for a successful sale when the weather begins to warm in the spring. 

Here are three things you can do right now to improve your odds for a quick, profitable sale.

1. Begin talking with potential real estate agents
For the vast majority of sellers, hiring a professional real estate agent is an absolutely critical step. A good real estate agent will provide invaluable assistance with pricing, how to prepare for the sale, marketing the house, and negotiating a deal.

How do you choose a high-quality real estate agent? First, make sure to shop around. Ask your friends, your colleagues, and even bankers, appraisers, or builders. Those in the industry know who the high-performing, high-integrity agents are, and most will be more than willing to help. 

As you're interviewing potential agents, make sure to ask these five questions every time.

You can also use step two as a step in the interview process.

2. Determine what your home is worth
For this step, it is often prudent to take a multi-pronged approach. There is some science behind the valuation of your home, and oftentimes, sellers have expectations that simply don't sync with reality. By going through this exercise now, when the selling season comes around, you'll be able to confidently price and negotiate the sale of your home.

To avoid this pitfall, do your own research first, ask potential real estate agents to make recommendations for you, and then pick up the phone and call bankers and appraisers. By involving many different real estate professionals, all with different specializations in the process of buying or selling a home, you can be sure to have a very realistic expectation of your home's real market value.

Helpful tips to research your home's value
To do your own research, start by searching,, or another Internet based listing service. Make sure to search for homes that have actually sold -- listings are not a viable point of comparison. We want to see where buyers and sellers meet, not what sellers are asking.

Find homes in your neighborhood with similar sized lots, similar square footage, and of similar age. Compare your home based on a price per square foot basis. When you think you have a good understanding of the pricing in your area, after reviewing 10 to 20 different sold homes, it's time to see what the real estate agents think.

Ask a few different agents from different agencies to provide you with comparables. They'll happily do this, knowing they have a chance to win your business. How do the agents' opinions compare with yours? Which agent did you work best with? Did they listen to you and appreciate your concerns, or did they jump straight into their sales pitch? 

Armed now with your own research and the opinions of the potential agents, call a local appraiser or two and ask if what you've learned syncs with his or her experience in the area. Don't expect the appraisers to give you a value or comparable homes, but they should be able to discuss and validate your research.

From here, you can begin formulating a plan to price the house to sell quickly and maximize the price.

3. Have an inspection completed
For less than $300, a professionally licensed inspector will come to your house and find any underlying issues that may turn away a buyer. The last thing you want is for your house to go under contract, only to lose the deal when the buyer finds a cracked foundation, termites, or several thousand dollars worth of minor, but necessary repairs.

By hiring an inspector on your own now, you can begin making the necessary repairs over time. Every repair you can complete now is one less thing to worry about when the pressure to sell is high.

Need to update kitchen appliances? Now is the time to do that. Do the hardwoods need refinishing? Don't wait until the last minute. Shingles showing some wear and tear? Go ahead and patch them now. 

Spreading out the expense can ease the pain on your budget and also can be a useful selling tool for prospective buyers. Who wouldn't like to know that that house they're about to buy has been proactively maintained? It speaks to quality -- and a premium price.

The 5 Ps -- Proper preparation prevents poor performance!
Homes are typically the largest purchase of an individual's life. The process can certainly be overwhelming, frustrating, and stressful for both buyers and sellers. Proper preparation and planning are the best method to achieve success.

If you do these steps now, you'll have plenty of time to fully prepare to sell your home quickly and painlessly.

Fool contributor Jay Jenkins has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Zillow. The Motley Fool owns shares of Zillow. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.