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15 Must-Do Steps Before Listing Your Home on the Market

By Christy Bieber - Aug 13, 2022 at 2:16PM
A house with a Sold sign pasted over the top of a For Sale sign in a yard.

15 Must-Do Steps Before Listing Your Home on the Market

Thinking of listing your home? Here are some things you should do first

Deciding to list your home for sale is a major decision. You'll want to make sure you are as prepared as possible before moving forward, so you can maximize your chances of a successful sale at the best price.

It can be hard to figure out what you need to do to set yourself up for success, but following these 15 tips should help.

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Sold sign in front of brick single-family home.

1. Research your local market

It's important to get a good idea of what other homes are selling for and how quickly they are selling. This step will enable you to set realistic expectations and make the right decisions about pricing your own property.

ALSO READ: 3 Real Estate Market Predictions for August

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A stand-up monthly desk calendar with fluttering pages.

2. Decide the best time to sell

Certain times of year tend to be more favorable for listing properties than others. For example, more people are looking for properties in the summer than during the winter. As a result, if you have some flexibility in when you can put your property on the market, you may want to be strategic about when you act.

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A real estate agent handing house keys to a happy couple.

3. Decide whether to use a real estate agent

If you want to use a seller's agent, you will have to pay a commission to your agent and the buyer's agent. Many people find it is worth paying for the expertise and support an agent provides, but you need to decide what is right for you.

If you opt not to use an agent, it's important to get your home on the MLS since most people end up using that database to find properties. You can pay a flat-fee MLS service to list your property for you.

ALSO READ: How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent for You

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Items on a lawn at a garage sale.

4. Declutter your home

If your house is full of clutter, it's not going to be as attractive to potential buyers. So, try to remove any unnecessary items to make it look more spacious. You'll have to move once your house sells anyway, so it's helpful to start doing a purge and cleaning everything out early in the process.

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A wire basket containing cleaning supplies.

5. Do a deep clean

A clean, nice-smelling home will make a much better impression on potential buyers than one that is dirty and has an unpleasant odor. Make sure you clean your property well and do a smell test to confirm there's nothing that would turn off people who come to look at the space.

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Person sitting at desk in home office.

6. Give each room a job

Potential buyers need to be able to imagine what it would be like to live in your house. If you have a lot of rooms that are jumbled up, such as a guest bedroom that doubles as a playroom and office, it will be harder for them to know how they could use the space.

Take the guesswork out of using the spaces. Removing everything that doesn't fit the picture you're trying to paint and giving each room one designated purpose will make your house show better. Remember, buyers will likely change the rooms' purposes to fit their needs over the years, too.

ALSO READ: 5 Reasons It Pays to Stage Your Home, Even in a Seller's Market

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Person painting a wall in their home a neutral color while their dog watches.

7. Neutralize your home

If you have a lot of very customized details, such as unusual paint colors, it may be worth repainting before listing your house. Neutral colors can make your home seem much more attractive to those who don't share your specific tastes. And painting is a pretty inexpensive way to appeal to a wider pool of buyers.

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Inside of a self-storage facility.

8. Remove personal items

Since people need to imagine their own family in the home, you may want to remove specific details that showcase your own family life. For example, taking down family pictures and removing your calendar from the fridge can depersonalize the home, making it easier for potential buyers to imagine living their own lives there.

ALSO READ: Selling Your Home? You'll Want to Hear This First

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Several rings from an Etsy seller.

9. Put your valuables in storage

Hopefully, once your home is listed, you're going to have a lot of people coming to look at it. You don't want to worry about guests stealing your jewelry or heirloom silver, so put these items into a secure storage facility such as a safe deposit box.

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Person facing forward with a camera to their face as if taking a picture of you while you take one of them.

10. Get great pictures taken

Since almost everyone shops for homes on the internet before seeing them in person, having good-quality pictures is essential.

Your real estate agent should make sure you have great pictures that show the home at its best -- but check them out and speak up if you don't think they are right. If you're selling yourself, consider hiring a professional photographer rather than just taking pictures with your phone.

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Person in hard hat pointing at siding.

11. Consider a pre-sale inspection and appraisal

If you want to avoid any surprises once you've listed your house for sale, consider getting an inspection and appraisal.

Buyers will want to get both of these anyway, and if your inspection shows problems or your appraisal shows you are being unrealistic in pricing, it's better to find that out sooner rather than later so that you can address the issues.

ALSO READ: Home Appraisals: What to Know, How Much It Costs, and How It Works

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Person caulking the outside of a window.

12. Make smart fixes

You don't want to waste money doing a ton of upgrades that aren't going to increase the property's value. But at the same time, making some simple fixes can be very helpful.

If potential buyers see deferred maintenance, such as leaky faucets, they're most likely going to wonder whether there are other, bigger issues you haven't taken care of. So, hire a handyperson to come through and take care of all the little tasks that need to be done.

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Balance beam with sacks of cash on one side and a home on the other.

13. Set the right price

It's important to price your property correctly the first time so that you don't end up losing the "new home buzz" that comes when it's first listed.

If you have to drop the price later, you'll likely have missed out on potential buyers who first saw your listing and thought it was too expensive. You'll also look more desperate after a price drop and could end up getting lowball offers.

ALSO READ: Waiting for Real Estate Prices to Fall Before Buying? Here's Why That May Not Be a Good Idea

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A house with an Open House sign and people in the front yard.

14. Make a plan for open houses and showings

During the home-selling process, you're going to need to leave your home multiple times for open houses and showings. Plan for where you'll go and what you'll do during that time -- especially if you have kids and pets to manage.

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Labeled moving boxes, house plants, and coffee mugs in a den.

15. Decide where you'll go after your home sells

Finally, it's important to have a plan for where you'll go when your home sells. That way, if you get an offer sooner than expected, you won't be caught off guard.

Although property prices have come down a bit from recent record highs, the cost to purchase a new home remains exorbitant in some markets. You need to make sure you can afford to move into a new place that meets your needs once you've sold.

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People standing in home with sold sign and boxes.

Taking these steps helps ensure you're as prepared as possible

By taking these 15 steps, you can maximize the chances of getting the best price for your home -- and make sure you're ready to move on. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can get your home on the market and, hopefully, find the perfect buyer to make a fair offer.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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