So you’re getting started on the process of selling your home. Maybe it was your first house and your family has grown and now it’s time to upgrade. Maybe this is a family home you’ve lived in for over 30 years – filled with countless memories, and… stuff. Either way, you need to prepare it to be listed for sale. Here are the steps I suggest my listing clients take to maximize the potential sale price and minimize the amount of stress involved in such a large transaction.
- Sell, donate, or throw away as much as possible. All those old pictures and memorabilia on the wall, give it away to friends and family. Any excess furniture that’s just taking up space and making your house look cluttered. All your shot glass collections and old star trek memorabilia. If you have a lot of stuff that can be sold, either sell it yourself on eBay and craigslist one by one, have a garage/yard sale or hire an estate sale company to go through everything – if you have a lot of stuff this is the best option because they can get everything sold for you quickly with less hassle. Ideally, you want the house to be completely vacant so you don’t have to worry about moving stuff by close of escrow.
- Do some repair and touch up work throughout the house. Fix those flickering lights and squeaky doors, rip off that old wallpaper and paint it a neutral color, replace those old outdated windows with double pane glass. You might need to do some significant work like repaving the driveway or upgrading original kitchen and bathrooms to fully maximize value – if you have the money of course. If there’s hardwood floors that are in rough shape then all you need to do is resurface and stain them. If there is dirty or ripped up carpeting then replace it with brand new carpeting. The idea is that you want prospective buyers to visualize themselves living in the home. it’s very hard to accomplish that objective if buyers are distracted by various trinkets or random damage in areas of the house. All this work that I mentioned is mostly inexpensive and pays for itself many times over once the home is sold.
- If you haven’t done so already, talk to your CPA to find out the tax implications associated with selling your home. Find out if you qualify for the $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples) home-sale exemption. Figure out whether you (or your parents) qualify for Prop 60 / Prop 90 tax assessment carry over and depending on where you’re moving to if you could carry it over. Based on this information, you may decide you don’t want to sell your home after all, or you may have to wait a few months to qualify for certain tax credits and exemptions.
A good real estate agent should recommend that you do these things and give you additional recommendations based on your specific situation, home, and area. They should also give you a list of service providers that they use (handymen, painters, contractors, cleaners, stager, CPA, lender etc.). You may choose to bring these people in for an estimate and then decide to go with someone else – it’s always good to get multiple opinions. Check out some nearby open houses for at least a few weeks to get a good idea of what a home should look like when it goes on the market.