The military has issued orders, and you’re selling your home while also trying to coordinate the five million details of not only finding a new house in a new location but also setting up the foundation for a successful transition for your family. You need your current home to sell quickly and for as much money as possible. While lots of variables outside of your control can affect the housing market, you can stack the deck to your advantage.
Make it feel like home. Do you remember what made you decide on your home when you bought it? Maybe you had to find a place quickly. Or maybe it was the right price. But chances are good that you also walked through each room imagining who would sleep in what room and where you’d eat meals together, etc. That is what you want potential buyers to do—imagine themselves living there. You want people to walk into your house and picture it as theirs already. You want it to feel like home to them…if “home” were clean and organized.
So clean out the junk and clutter. Wipe down surfaces. Fix the broken and banged-up things that you can within your budget and timelines. Then go a step further and make it appealing. Your house should look pretty, smell good, and feel warm and welcoming. You can easily and inexpensively evoke these feelings with something as simple as fresh cut flowers, fluffed sofa cushions, a cute welcome mat, bright lighting, smartly grouped furnishings, or any other number of details. Your real estate agent can help you to stage your home for maximum effect.
Remember curb appeal. Getting folks in the door is half the battle. So make sure the distance from the street to the door is attractive and well-maintained. Grass mowed or raked, depending upon the season; trash cleared; siding power washed; kids’ stuff put neatly away—the details matter. Bonus points for colorful landscaping or tasteful seasonal decor.
Maintain the order. Once you’ve decluttered and cleaned up both the inside and outside of your house, do your best to keep things that way. Assume someone could be stopping by at any time and act accordingly. Remind all family members, even if nagging is required, that they share responsibility in keeping things nice. That means making sure everyone stays on top of washing dishes, doing laundry, clearing surfaces, and the like. Whenever you’re leaving the house, do a quick scan of things to make sure everything’s neat and tidy. That way, if you’re away from home and someone wants to look at the house, it’s ready.
Be honest. Don’t oversell features or hide broken things. A home can be appealing without being deceptive. Otherwise, an inspection will likely reveal what you’ve been hiding. And then you’ll find yourself going back and forth negotiating over repairs or allowances/credits that must be made, which can cost you both time and money when all is said and done. That’s not to say you need to point out every scratch and scrape, but represent the condition of things honestly. Your agent can showcase what’s special about your house while also managing a potential buyer’s expectations.
Price your house right. A good price will bring motivated buyers in quickly. Haggling and bidding wars take time. The right price, even if it’s not your dream price, is more likely to result in a good offer made quickly. Too high a price and you turn potential buyers off. Too low and you take a financial hit and cause potential buyers to question what’s wrong with the property that you’re willing to sell for too little. Your agent knows what the local marketplace looks like and can help you find that pricing sweet spot.
Promote your house. Get as many eyes on it as possible. Your agent will be able to help with listing and posting/sharing via his or her network. But you can do your part too. Share that it’s for sale. Encourage your family and friends to do the same. Word of mouth, social media—it’s all fair game. Does your house have an interesting history or unique features? Tell its story. Storytelling can do so much more than pretty pictures. And if you’ve got the story and the great photos, you’re in even better shape.
Give folks a feel for your neighborhood. Don’t just include the minimum info about numbers of rooms and baths; give them a sense of what it’s like to live in your current town. Where do people like to gather? Who makes the best pizza? How close is the nearest movie theater, mall, library, or park? People buy houses, but they crave community. So share what your community is like.
Make yourself available. Easier said than done if you’re juggling the sale of one house with the whole process of uprooting your family to be planted wherever the military has decided. Still, say yes to as many opportunities to show your home as you possibly can. Even if it means asking someone to watch your kids or temporarily pet sit for you to make it happen.
Partner with a great real estate agent. There’s a lot to be done if you’re going to get a good price on your home and get it finalized quickly. Your agent is invaluable here. From helping you stage your home, to listing and sharing it, to pre-qualifying potential buyers, to showing it, and ultimately—ideally—to going through those fantastic offers you get, at every stage of this process your agent is your advocate. A positive outcome is in everyone’s best interest, and top-notch real estate agents will fight to make that happen for you.
In a perfect world, your home sells quickly and for more than your asking price. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Keep in mind that a quick sale and a sale that yields the most income for you can be at odds with each other. Only you know how much or how little time you have before you need to be at your next duty station. Only you know what your bottom line is financially. Communicate this information honestly to your real estate agent so he or she can best represent your needs. And help you get as close to the best of both worlds as possible.