There are three steps you should take before putting your home up for sale:
1. Have your home inspected by a professional.
2. Make necessary repairs and upgrades.
3. Improve your home’s appearance, inside and out.
Have Your Home Inspected
A home inspector is a professional trained to examine the interior and exterior of a home in order to uncover problems such as broken appliances or faulty plumbing. Though your buyer will hire an inspector to inspect your home later in the selling process, you should commission your own inspection at the outset. That way you’ll be able to make repairs or upgrades before you start showing your home to potential buyers. Clearing up problems before you list can prevent your sale from hitting a snag when the buyer conducts his or her own inspection. There are two inspections that you should consider having done:
- Interior and exterior components inspection: Covers the foundation, insulation, kitchen, bathroom, plumbing, heating, cooling, electric, walls, roof, and gutters. Most inspections last two or three hours and cost about $325, depending on the size and location of your home.
- Pest-control inspection: Checks for signs of pest or fungal infestation; usually costs $75–150.
How to Find and Select a Home Inspector
Hire an independent inspector who has no ties to your real estate agent. A quality inspector can save you plenty of money in the long run and should:
- Belong to the American Society of Home Inspectors
- Have errors-and-omissions insurance that will be paid to you if the inspector makes a mistake
- Provide you with an extensive written report
- Let you attend the inspection
- Provide references and have satisfied clients
Make Necessary Repairs and Upgrades
The home inspection may reveal problems that you’ll need to resolve by making repairs or upgrades. Many sellers err by refusing to make investments in their home because they no longer intend to live there. This shortsighted view can be costly because the buyer (or his or her inspector) will most likely uncover the problems that you were reluctant to fix and charge you for them anyway. Many sellers are forced to reduce their sale price during negotiations with buyers whose inspections reveal necessary repairs or upgrades. Two rules of thumb apply to making repairs and upgrades before selling:
- If you have the money to make repairs and upgrades: Make them before you list your home and start showing it to buyers. In addition to avoiding problems later in the selling process, you’ll make your home look more up-to-date, appealing, and hassle-free to potential buyers. On the other hand, some agents advise offering a credit to buyers that’s equal to the cost of the repairs or upgrades rather than making them yourself. That way, buyers can decide who does the work, what types of upgrades to make, and so on.
- If you don’t have the money to make repairs and upgrades: Disclose major problems to potential buyers right off the bat, and reduce your asking price to accommodate the expense of resolving those problems. For instance, if your home needs a new $3,000 furnace, your asking price should be $3,000 less than that of comparable homes in your area.
Improve Your Home’s Appearance
There are a few steps you can take to improve the appearance of your home before you begin showing it to potential buyers. These improvements can sometimes justify a boost in your asking price.
- Improve curb appeal: Spending a little time and money to spruce up your home’s exterior is a wise investment. Doing so will improve your potential buyer’s first impressions of your home. You can increase your home’s curb appeal by having its exterior painted, keeping the lawn and landscaping well-groomed, and cleaning the windows, driveways, and sidewalks regularly.
- Replace carpet and paint: If you intend to improve the interior of your home before selling, it’s usually best to have the walls professionally painted and the carpets replaced. These improvements tend to make a home look newer and have been shown to make a particularly positive impression on potential buyers.