The Seven Key Steps You Need to Take Before Putting Your Home on the Market

Mar 18, 2022

Your home is your biggest investment, so it’s understandable if you want to get the most out of it when you sell it. And there are seven easy steps I recommend every homeowner take before they put the home on the market help them optimize their return on investment – whether it is a condo, townhome, or free-standing house. They are:

  1. Research: You need to have realistic expectations when selling your home, so your first step is to understand what you can get for it (and if you are planning to move to a new home in the area, what you would need to spend to achieve your goals). Look at the sale price of the closest comparable units in your neighborhood, including the type of home (house, condo, townhome), square footage, overall condition of the mechanicals and appliances, and other key features. You will never find exact matches, so you’ll have to adjust the price based on your home compares to the other one considering everything from the relative size of the homes to the conditions of the appliances. For example, if you’re comparing your house to smaller homes, you might be able to ask for more – and if your home is smaller, you might need to set a lower asking price. Even a small shift in location can change the asking price. As part of my comprehensive list of services, my team and I can help identify the comparable homes and determine your listing price.
  • Inspect: You need to look at your home with fresh eyes. We often recommend that you hire an independent home inspector to help you identify anything that might need to be repaired before you try to sell your home, eliminating any potential “deal killers” as well as enabling you to set a realistic asking price. This step is important, because any serious interested buyer will hire a home inspector before the closing, so even if you don’t make any repairs, you should at least know beforehand what the buyer will soon discover. To help you find a reputable independent home inspector, particularly for Evanston or the surrounding area, feel free to refer to ‘Jackie’s List” – my directory of trusted resources.  These home inspectors have been vetted by my team and I as well as by countless home sellers and buyers. Of course, if you need more information about these inspectors or other referrals, please feel free to contact me.
  • Declutter: Knick knacks, souvenirs, an extensive array of family photos, books, and other items might help you make your house or condo feel like your home, but they often get in the way of purchasers seeing it as their potential home.  As a result, one of your first concrete steps is to declutter your space, cleaning off shelves, countertops, and closets. Just as an inspector looks at your mechanicals, appliances, and overall physical structure with fresh eyes, you also need to look at your rooms the same way. For items you want to keep but are taking up space in your home, you should also consider renting a nearby storage unit (we have plenty around Evanston). If renting a storage unit is not an option, you can also place the unused items in boxes in your garage or basement just so long as you make sure they are neatly arranged and don’t make the space seem any smaller. To help you organize your approach to decluttering, I invite you to download my booklet, The Jackie Mack & More Guide to Downsizing, which includes tips I’ve learned over the course of my career as a realtor helping my clients aiming to declutter and downsize. 
  • Clean: You want to make the best first impression possible with your potential buyers. Check to make sure your address is attractively presented and clearly visible. You also want to make sure your lawn and bushes are neatly manicured as well. Inside the home, you want to ensure that your appliances, baseboards, bathroom fixtures, carpets, doors, lighting fixtures, walls, wood flooring, and your other surfaces are clean and dust free – and that any smells, particularly from pets, have been removed. I often recommend that my clients hire an outside service to do the deep cleaning. If you don’t have a cleaning service that you like, I have several firms listed on my directory of trusted resources that my clients have used and recommend. You can also find professionals to clean up your lawn as well as clean your carpets, windows, and more in the directory. This will ensure your home looks like it’s in move-in condition.
  • Fix: It is not just any dust, grime, and pet odors that you want to eliminate, you should also aim to make sure major repairs are complete. Outside, you want your walkways to be free of major cracks and other impediments. Inside, you will want all your appliances, doors, hardware, locks, sinks, and toilets to be in working condition – nothing squeaky, leaking, or otherwise questionable – and you want to eliminate any cracks in the walls. These are all things a handyman can handle. If not, potential buyers might question how well you cared for your home and lose interest in the property or will not want to accept the top asking price, because they know that they would have to make these obvious repairs. Of course, you might not be able to make all the possible repairs you identified, and some of them might not generate the return on investment for your time. My team and I can help you prioritize which home repairs you should make – and my directory can help you locate trusted resources to help you affordably complete the projects.
  • Paint: Nothing spruces up a room more than a fresh coat of paint. To help brighten your home as well as make it seem bigger, you should select a neutral shade such as a white, light beiges or grays, or a “greige,” painting over the red, yellow, green, and other colors that enable your home to express your personality. Just like removing any knick-knacks, this step helps to “depersonalize” your home, so your potential buyers can better see themselves in it.  What’s more, the fresh coat of paint will help cover any imperfections in the walls. Then to further brighten your home, stock up on light bulbs – the brighter, the better – and change them when needed to ensure all your lamps and light fixtures are working when showing the home to potential buyers. These two steps are key to making your home feel warm and welcoming, just the right combination that you need to help sell your home.
  • Estimate: If your appliances are still working, but aging, and have other expensive items such as carpeting, hot water, furnace, or roof that might need to be replaced in the near future, I recommend that your get estimates for new ones, including installation costs, as these will help potential buyers decide if they can afford the home (and demonstrate that you understand the condition of them, which could help you set the expectations during negotiations). I also suggest you locate the warranties and other documentation, such as your owner’s manuals, that you’ll give to the new homeowner. You might think that this is something you can do right before you move but doing it now can help sell your home by reassuring the potential buyers as well as make your eventual move less stressful.  

While these are the key initial steps, some additional steps you should take after you retain us or another listing agent include staging your home both inside and out, which can help you sell it faster and for a higher amount, hiring a professional photographer to help merchandise your home online, which is how people identify potential properties, and continuing the process to depersonalize your home by culling down family photos (you’ll still want a few) and, if you have children, putting away any toys.

As you can see, selling any home can be a stressful time, but it also can be a rewarding time. My team and I are here to help remove any stress. We can advise you on how to get your home in the shape that will enable you to get top dollar, the amount you should list, and strategies you should take.

We have been helping people buy and sell homes in the Evanston, Illinois area since 2000, and as a team of realtors and other marketing specialists, we’re recognized as the Evanston experts and are among the top performers in the area. Ask us about our experience, our firm attention to details, the plans we have for selling your home, and how we help the buyer understand the home’s actual value. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you. So feel free to contact us today for details.

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