FSBO Seller's Checklist

Up front work nets big returns

Selling your home yourself isn't hard, but it does take some front end work if you want to see maximum rewards for your efforts.

  1. Hire a building inspector to go through your home and assess its condition. This is a step that you can easily skip if you're confident that everything is up to date and you've been a champ with maintenance. However, nothing is more discouraging than getting your home all spiffed up outside with a buyer ready to sign when their building inspector finds something HUGE that needs to be taken care of before the sale can proceed. If there is going to be bad news, at least you'll know ahead of time and can take appropriate action. The cost is usually reasonable. And you'll be able to use the inspection as a sales tool. Advertising your home as move-in ready is a great benefit for the buyer and can close a deal faster for you.
  2. Make small repairs. Those little things you've been putting off? Time to get them done now. Hire a professional plumber or electrician for larger plumbing and electrical tasks so you know it's done to code.
  3. Make improvements if they make sense, but don't over improve. You've seen the statistics about how much money you'll get back on improvements, but as often as not those numbers are a tad inflated. Remember, prospective buyers have their own tastes and may not share yours. If the lighting fixtures don't work, repair or replace them with comparable fixtures. If they work, but seem dated, hold off. You probably won't get a return on investment and buyers may forgo making an offer because they don't want to replace new fixtures and they don't want to pay for your improvements.
  4. Clean and stage your home inside. Start packing now. Hold a garage sale. Do what you must to clear your home of the really personal "you-ness" and set a stage for the buyer to imagine how it would be for them to live in. Strip each room down to its bare necessities. And don't imagine you can hide stuff in the closet. Rent a Pod or storage space for a month or two if you can't actually get rid of stuff. Look at a few model homes to see how they arrange the furniture, the types of window treatments, flower arrangements and so on. Buyers need to experience the benefits of the space. Emphasize light, space, coziness, character, and those special features that each room has. Buyers also want to see how a house functions. They want to be able to open a closet door and find a vacuum cleaner or towels in a logical, convenient place. If you are visually talented at arranging furniture and choosing color, have fun with this stage. Worried about your choice? Hire a color consultant who can help you put together a palette that is appropriate to your home's architecture and lighting, but works with your furnishings. If you can't get the flow to work, there are consultants who specialize in staging homes for sale.Take advantage of the talents of others who do this for a living. When all is said and done, the services may pay off with better offers.
  5. Deep clean each room from top to bottom. A dirty house is a huge turn off to any buyer. Hire a carpet cleaner to get those carpets really clean.
  6. Repaint with light neutral colors, especially dark rooms a if your teenaged son insisted on painting his room black. Neutrals like ivory, grey, and beige are fine, but boring. Don't overlook other neutrals like sagey greens, caramelly browns, and other rich colors that can create an inviting background.
  7. Assemble home documentation. Anything concerning home improvements or appliances you intend to leave should be assembled into a notebook or folder so you can answer questions quickly. It's another great sales tool for showing that you have consistently maintained your home.
  8. Appeal to all the buyer's senses. Create a visually appealing space that smells good. Address all the senses including touch and hearing. The only sense you probably won't worry about is taste. No one is likely to lick your house. If doors or floor boards squeak, take care of the noise. When you schedule showings make apple cider with cloves and cinnamon; set it on low heat to create a wonderful smell. Or make cookies.
  9. Work on curb appeal. Curb appeal is that special look that attracts the second glance and makes the buyer want to come in. The yard should be tidy with flowers deadheaded and lawns mowed. Trees should look lush and healthy and shrubs should be neatly shaped. Fences should be in good repair. Clean up toys, equipment, and garbage cans; store out of sight. The front entry should be welcoming and obvious. The buyer should know where to go. Window boxes and planters should be freshly planted with healthy flowers to attract the eye. Curtains or window treatments should look good from the street.
  10. Price to sell. Assess the comparable values of homes in your neighborhood. There are a number of services available on the Web, but they require opting in to spammy email or being called on by real estate agents. Other websites that provide comparable sales prices include www.domania.com and www.homeradar.com. ElectonicAppraiser.com provides an appraisal based on detailed property information combined with comparables in the area for less than ten bucks. However, none of the online sources can provide the targeted evaluation available from a professional appraiser with current market experience in your area.
  11. Price fairly. Because you are selling your home yourself, you can price your home at the current appraised value. To ensure a quick sale, the value needs to stand out compared with other area homes. In a hot market a slightly lower price could result in several offers that top your list price. Use grocery store marketing too. Instead of pricing your home at $200,000, list it at $198,900. Compared with other similar homes in your immediate neighborhood listing at $201,000, the buyer is going to perceive that difference as much larger than it is in reality.

This is an overview of some of the key actions you'll want to take care of before placing your home on the market. Find a good book to help with additional tips.

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