Ready to Sell? 17 Things to Do First

To increase your chances of a quick sale, there's a long list of tasks you should complete before you post a "For Sale" sign in your front yard. If you're getting ready to put your house on the market, check off these 17 to-dos to ensure that every potential buyer feels at home.

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  1. Get a Presale Home Inspection

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    Before your house goes on the market, hire a certified inspector to point out potential problems that could deter would-be buyers. This way, you’ll be able to make the necessary repairs before the first house hunter walks through the door.


    Related: 7 House Sounds You Never Want to Ignore

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  2. Meet the Right Real Estate Agent

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    Not all real estate agents are created equal. It’s important to interview at least three prospective agents before you decide which one is right for you. If you spend the time now, you'll reap the rewards later. Remember, you want a real estate agent with a track record of success in good markets and bad—and don’t be fooled into believing that an agent who sells fewer homes will give you more personal service. 


    Related: Find the Right Realtor: 9 Tips from Happy Homeowners

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  3. Set the Stage

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    Because many sellers confuse staging with decorating, which can seem so intimidating, they resist doing anything at all. But a professional staging service can make your home feel larger, brighter, and more welcoming—all qualities that rank high on potential buyers' must-have lists. If you're cost-conscious, you can opt to use your own furnishings. And if professional staging is truly not in the budget, borrow a few ideas from the pros' playbook: Set the dining room table, display fresh flowers, and always cut out the clutter.


    Related: 11 Big Ideas for a Small Dining Room

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  4. Boost Your Curb Appeal

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    Make no mistake: Curb appeal counts. Spend a weekend getting your exterior in order to ensure that your home feels welcoming to buyers the second they arrive. Power-wash the driveway and sidewalks, clean light fixtures, trim the greenery, and don't forget to throw down a welcome mat. Be sure to include the backyard in your curb-appeal checklist, so plan on sprucing up the patio, staining the deck, trashing old furniture, and getting your grill station in order before you open your home up to potential buyers.   


    Related: 12 Expert Tips for Eye-Catching Front Yard Landscaping

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  5. Clear the Closets

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    Storage space is a key factor buyers consider when deciding whether or not to take the plunge. Spacious and organized closets will help sell your home faster—and possibly at a higher price point. Remove excess clothing, organize shoes, and leave only a few attractive pieces hanging for show. A fresh coat of light, reflective paint will help visually expand the space and highlight your home’s storage potential.


    Related: 10 Closet Cures That Cost Less Than $100

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  6. Work the Web

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    Because 90 percent of home buyers shop online first, sellers should consult with their real estate agent about devising a social media marketing plan that extends beyond the standard MLS listing. Some agents will create a video to upload to their own YouTube channel, or offer to profile your property on their Facebook page. It’s important to get as much online exposure as possible to increase the number of potential buyers.


    Related: 12 Reasons Why Your House Isn't Selling

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  7. Lighten Up

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    Good lighting is crucial in making a home more sellable. Take down heavy drapery, open the curtains, and let the sun shine in. Cut back branches and shrubbery around windows to maximize natural light, and replace burned-out or inappropriately low-wattage bulbs with higher-wattage versions to create the impression of a bright, cheery interior. And remember to turn on all the house lights just before showing.


    Related: 9 Smarter Spots for the TV

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  8. Fix Floors

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    Nothing makes a home feel less inviting than dirty carpets; home buyers really don’t want to see evidence of your everyday wear and tear. If your carpets are in good condition but just a bit dingy, have them cleaned. Replace outdated or badly stained floor coverings, however, with fresh, neutral-colored substitutes. If you have hardwood floors, use specialty stain pens to hide scratches and scuff marks. In addition, screw down loose floorboards to prevent disruptive squeaks that might negatively affect house hunters taking the grand tour.


    Related: 7 Secrets to Keep Your Carpet Looking New

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  9. Store Extra Stuff

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    To give the appearance of greater square footage and airiness, remove any furniture that’s not absolutely necessary. Placing excess sofas, cabinets, and chairs in storage is a great way to free up space and showcase your home's architectural features and potential. 


    Related: 11 Easy DIY Projects to Declutter Your Home

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  10. Spruce Up Spaces with Paint

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    While you may love your hot-pink wall color, chances are most buyers will not. To make your home attractive to the widest range of buyers, consider repainting rooms that may not be universally appealing. Home stagers and design professionals recommend that walls be swathed in warm whites, light beiges, or neutral grays.


    Related: Hard Sell: 7 Pretty House Colors That Scare Buyers Away

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  11. Incentivize with Insurance

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    Consider investing in a home buyer's warranty, especially if you live in an older home. You can transfer this specialty service contract to buyers, providing them with a form of insurance that will cover certain repairs or replacements within a specified amount of time after purchasing. Although it’s worth the investment, be forewarned that a warranty will set you back anywhere from $400 to $900, depending on the location of the house and the coverage options you choose.


    Related: 9 Mistakes Not to Make When Selling Your Home

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  12. Make Pet Provisions

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    Although it seems hard to believe, not everyone loves your dog as much as you do. Obvious evidence of pet residents, such as tufts of hair on the sofa or litter boxes displayed in plain sight, could deter and distract buyers. Remove your pets during showings, or at least contain them in a side room. Hide anything related to their maintenance routines, and make sure to pick up any waste from the yard on open house days.


    Related: 7 Super Simple Ways to Make Your House Smell Fresh

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  13. Remove Fixtures You Plan to Keep

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    If you’re planning to keep certain window treatments, light fixtures, or built-in appliances, remove them now. If you don't, potential home buyers might assume these items are part of the package, which could cause problems down the line. Put away those special pieces—like that crystal chandelier you've grown to love—and replace them with inexpensive substitutes where necessary.


    Related: 12 Confessions of a First-Time Home Seller

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  14. Empty the Garage

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    Buyers will want to evaluate the garage, so don't plan on using it as a catchall area for storage bins or moving boxes. Organize the space as much as possible, and power-wash the floors so guests can see the potential—not the problems—of this utilitarian room. 


    Related: 7 Things Every Great Garage Needs

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  15. Make Small But Mighty Updates

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    You may be under the impression that your home will sell faster if you first complete a few large-scale remodeling projects. But oftentimes these expensive upgrades don't really pay off. A more cost-efficient route might be to make small but impactful changes, such as regrouting tiles, replacing outdated hardware, or swapping out old light fixtures, to lend spaces the modern look they need without breaking the bank. 


    Related: 21 Brilliant Hacks for Everyday Home Repairs

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  16. Locate Manuals and Warranties

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    While you may not have seen them in years, now is the time to track down all the user's manuals and warranties for the water heater, HVAC systems, appliances, swimming pool, and other amenities that will remain in the house once it’s sold. Having all this paperwork organized and available will not only make you appear more trustworthy as a seller, but will also eliminate some of the last-minute issues that could pop up during closing.


    Related: 9 Home Organization Secret Weapons

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  17. Clean Up the Roof

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    Potential buyers are frequently put off by what they perceive as high-dollar risks, and one of the biggest red flags here is a dirty, dingy-looking roof. If you clean your roof's shingles and remove any discoloration, you’ll not only amp up your home's curb appeal, but you'll also curb any reservations interested parties may have about the age and condition of your exterior.


    Related: 7 Signs You Need a New Roof

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