10 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Sold My First Home

Thinking about listing your house for sale? Follow these tips to maximize its potential.

By: Emily Nonko

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Sold!

So the time has come for you to say goodbye to your house. Selling can be an emotional process, and also one that’s full of surprises. To get that listing just right, run open houses with ease and bring in strong offers takes serious work. So we spoke with a home seller, a seller’s agent and an online listing expert on what to expect. Here are their ten best tips, from simple curb appeal to acing the open house.

See More Photos: 10 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Bought My First Home

Find A Local Expert

It might seem easy to forgo the agent and list your home online "for sale by owner." Resist the temptation, says Ban Leow, a seller in Brooklyn, New York who also works as an agent with Halstead. "Your agent is your neighborhood expert," he says. "They know the inventory and what your house is up against." They’ll also help promote and run open houses, bring in potential buyers and assist with price negotiations.

Research Nearby Sales

The internet is an essential tool, as online marketplaces will tell you how much nearby properties have sold for. It’ll also show you agents working in the neighborhood and the prices they’re bringing in for properties similar to yours. "Look for someone with a great track record in strong sales," says Nate Johnson, chief marketing officer at realtor.com.

Leave It To The Professionals

Selling your house is undoubtedly an emotional experience, but don’t let that get in the way. "You need a professional looking at your home with fresh eyes," says Julia Boland, an agent with the Corcoran Group. Don’t be offended when they’ve got suggestions about potential home upgrades before selling, strategies for open houses or the right offer to accept. To them, it’s just another day at work — and selling for a high price is in their best interest, too.

Refresh Your Interior

You’re preparing to move, so look at selling as an opportunity to declutter and clean out that closet you haven’t looked in all year. The way you present your home will have an impact on potential buyers. "Declutter and move items into storage," says Leow. "You want to give people access to the space." He also recommends a fresh coat of paint as "a way to refresh the interior at a minimal cost."

Drool-worthy Images

You want your home to stand out among countless online listings. That means good photography is crucial. Not only that, you want to capture a home other people can see themselves living in. "It should look like a blank canvas where a potential buyer could see themselves for the next five to ten years," says Johnson. "You don’t necessarily want your bottlehead collection overtaking the den."

Staging Works

Presenting a blank canvas, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the house should be displayed empty. If you’ve moved everything out before photography and open houses, consider staging. According to Johnson, "Our research shows a staged house can sell up to 88 percent faster than a non-staged house, at a 20 percent premium."

Don't Forget Curb Appeal

Don’t spend so much time on the interior that you neglect what’s happening outside. "Curb appeal is important — it’s the first thing potential buyers see," Leow says. He recommends placing plants and window boxes out front so buyers get the impression they’re walking into a welcoming home.

Smart Marketing

What does your property have going for it? Figure it out, then milk it in the marketing. "Maybe it’s a ranch home that can be marketed to a downsizing buyer, or the home has environmentally-friendly features that are appealing to millennials," says Johnson. Make sure your agent highlights such unique features in the listing.

Ace The Open House

You’ve decluttered, taken great photos, now it’s time to let strangers walk through your home. It’s okay if you don’t want to be there — have a reliable agent on hand who knows every last detail of your home and is able to offer it to visitors. Also, make sure the space is comfortable — from proper air conditioning to having water available. "It’s the little things that make it comfortable," Leow says.

Seize A Good Offer

Sellers often balk when they receive a strong offer soon after they listed their property, Boland says. "Don’t dismiss those early offers," she urges. If a buyer decides to wait, and a better offer never comes along, they risk decreasing the value of the home the longer it sits on the market.

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