The Ultimate Guide to Selling A House Fast
(And How To Get The Most Money For It!)
When you need to sell your house, you almost need to do it yesterday. Depending upon your market, it can often take anywhere from 60 to 180 days to sell a home (unfortunately some require more).
So, how is it that some homes sell quickly, and other homes sit around forever?
Most homes sell fast because they are priced at market value, in ‘move-in-ready’ condition, and in a great location. Houses that are not in a great location or that need repair, can sell quickly by lowing the price to determine what a willing buyer will pay. Any home can sell quickly with the right preparation, marketing and pricing. The trick is to walk the fine line of a fast sale and selling it for top price.
This article provides you the 10 step process to selling your home fast and putting the most money in your pocket. Any owner or agent can drop the price below its market value to sell it quickly, but most homeowners have more cash in their home than they realize. Many neglect to do the important work prior to listing their home and they miss out on fully maximizing their equity.
My name is Paul Holub and I’m a local Houston area Realtor®, and I know from experience how many homes sit on the market for too long because they don’t do these 10 Steps.
Who This Guide is For?
This is the perfect guide if you are selling your first home or tenth home. It is for the homeowner who wants to sell fast, but wants to put the most cash in their pocket at closing rather than having to sell fast to an investor for less.
Why Would You Want to Sell Your House Fast?
I mean, who wouldn’t want to? The faster you sell your home the less time you need to spend keeping it clean and accommodating buyer tours. Plus, homes that sell faster, sell for only 1% less on average. Homes sold after two months on the market sell for an average of 5% less, and homes on the market for 11 months or more sell for 12% less than their list price. So, fast is the best way.
To make this happen, you as the homeowner must be willing to do the hard work up front, so your house doesn’t sit on the market long.
This post is extensive, but if you’d like to go into further detail about how to sell your home fast, check out my book The Real Estate Game Plan – The Step By Step Strategy to Sell Your Home for Max Profit. You can buy the paperback or sign up to receive a free ebook copy, today!
Table of Contents
Step 2: Prepare Your Home to Sell – Declutter & Depersonalize
Step 3: Do Home Repairs that Help Sell Your Home (and Not Those that Lose You Money)
Step 4: Stage Your Home
Step 5: Take Professional Real Estate Photography
Step 6: Make Your Home Stand Out on the Market
Step 7: Price Your Home to Sell
Step 8: Make Your Home Available to Buyers
Step 9: Market Like Crazy
Step 10: Negotiate & Accept the Best Offer
Step 1: Hire the Right Professionals
Okay, it makes sense that a real estate agent (yes, guilty as charged) would recommend hiring the right professional. It may sound a bit self-serving, but this article is coming from a place of contribution, and as one who has been in the industry since 2012, I know there are many agents you don’t want representing you as hiring the right agent can put thousands of extra dollars in your pocket.
The first professional you look for is your real estate agent (I prefer this term over Realtor® because it’s fun for people to say “my agent said…”). There are many ways to find a great real estate agent and this article reviews the top 7 tips to hiring a great Houston Realtor.
Unless you have been given a great referral to an agent, or you have a good friend who is a real estate professional and you are okay doing business together (not all friends prefer to do business together), then I would recommend you interview 3 professional agents (13 Questions to Use When Interviewing a Realtor).
Your agent will make or break your time selling your home, so make sure you find the right one.
If your real estate agent doesn’t provide a complimentary staging consultation, then you need to go out and find a stager to help you get the home ready. I prefer to hire a professional stager for all my clients occupying their house because I know that it will help their home sell faster and for more money.
The stager usually takes three hours for a professional consultation and inspects each room with the clients. They help to pack up items, move furniture, give suggestions on updates & repairs, and great home design advice. If your agent doesn’t provide these services in your agreement, then I’d recommend hiring a stager on your own as they are very affordable and can provide a great ROI (Return On Investment).
If you need a great home stager in Houston, check out this great post on the top 23 Houston home stagers and the biggest mistakes homeowners make when preparing their home for sale.
I would suggest having the stager come by prior to doing any repairs on your home so they can give you suggestions on paint and design choices. The purpose for selecting these professionals early is to prevent you from over-spending on updates that won’t generate a ROI.
Oftentimes, I tell clients that they shouldn’t spend any more money on their home, other than staging it with their own furniture. This is due to their home being in too much of a disarray or fully updated for the neighborhood.
General Contractor or Handyman
If you are not very handy like me, then you may already know a few good contractors. If not, ask your agent and your stager for some recommendations. If you are in the Houston area, here are some that myself and my clients have had positive experiences.
Your agent and your stager will give you direction as to what updates and repairs they would suggest completing. It’s your job to make sure your contractor does a professional job.
There is nothing worse than walking into a house that has been “updated,” but the work was completed by the homeowner or a terrible contractor, and it looks and feels like poor quality work. The texture repair sticks out, the paint is spotty, some blue tape is still left on the ceiling edge, the new flooring is squishy, and the trim isn’t straight.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
You are probably thinking that this is going to cost you a ton of money and for most homeowners, usually a couple hundred dollars can really impact the value and the speed to which your home sells.
It is the little things that will make the biggest difference.
For larger projects, you will have to decide with your professionals if it is worth the trouble and expense. If you spent $10,000 but had the potential to receive and extra $40,000 for your home, is it worth it to you?
How is this Faster?
How is taking time to interview and hire the right professionals “fast?” Great question! Getting the wrong advice can have your home sitting on the market for an extended time with little buyer activity and no offers.
You can always just list your home on the market “as is” or sell it to an investor for a steep discount, but I’m advocating doing the hard work prior to listing so that your house sells quickly and for top dollar.
Pretty and move-in-ready homes sell faster and for more money because the majority of buyers just want to move into their new home and not hassle with major updates.
Now that you have the professionals in your corner, your next major task is to begin to get your house ready for the market.
Step 2: Prepare Your Home to Sell – Declutter & Depersonalize
The real estate market is a competition and to make sure you win, your home needs to stand out for all the right reasons. If it does, it will attract a top paying buyer fast.
Far too often a home stands out for all the wrong reasons: funky layout, weird smell, dated design, thousands of dead bees on the counter and in the walls (true story) and it makes buyers pass for more beautiful homes.
It’s no mistake, pretty homes sell faster.
And the best way to make sure you stand out for all the right reasons is to get rid of all your junk and your very personal home design tastes.
That is why it is incredibly important to declutter and depersonalizing. Not only that, it can be used as “pre-packing” for your move. 😊
The best way to start the process of getting your home ready to sell is to declutter your home. That means you need to remove your junk (I mean stuff), so that there is a smaller contingent of furniture, décor, and other necessary house hold items.
Your staging professional will give you direction as to what items could likely deter a potential buyer, so be open to their suggestions.
We also tend to accumulate treasures that we thought we would need, but often sit collecting dust. Isn’t it amazing that trash goes out twice a week but we all still accumulate more every year we live in a home?
I thought it would be easy moving out of our one-bedroom apartment into our first home, so I procrastinated on boxing up our things. After all my buddies moved the furniture and larger items, I still had to make four trips with my car. By the end of it, I was literally throwing everything away because it was just too much stuff (and if I didn’t get out by 5 pm then I would have had to pay an extra fee).
Don’t be like me. Don’t procrastinate.
There are two reasons decluttering your house is helpful:
- It allows buyers to better see the space in your home.
- It will make packing and moving easier when you get closer to closing
How to Declutter
I like to start decluttering one room or area at a time and work from there. This way, if you are interrupted and have to stop your work, you are left with just one messy room rather than an entire house. Plus, it’s less overwhelming.
There are tons of cookware and cookbooks you are not using that you can begin boxing up. The best way to stage a kitchen is to have very few items on the countertops so your stager will most likely not need much to decorate with.
This tends to be more straight forward as there is usually less storage to clean out. DVD towers, pet pillows (actually, any sign of pets), and most toys need to go. Clean out all items in desks and hall closets that are not essentials. Let the stager make the call on the furniture layout.
This can get messy because the master tends to be a catch-all for family items. The treadmill is a clothes rack, the bed has bills spread out on it and the sitting area has boxes of toys that should have been donated last spring. Just like the previous rooms, box up the unessential items, throw away things you don’t need and leave the décor for the stager to work with.
Kids bedrooms can be a challenge, partly because they are always a mess, but mostly because their items keep multiplying. Remove or add storage to hide the majority of their toys, and talk with the stager about the blue and pink walls (there’s always a pink wall).
Stick to the motto of 1) removing trash 2) boxing up items you don’t need but want to take with you and 3) leaving décor for the stager.
I also like to start with the main areas and then go back and do the closets, attics, basements and other storage areas. Buyers will understand a cluttered closet over a clutter living room.
If you have not met or picked your stager yet, then I suggest to hold off on removing furniture or home decor because they may have a use for your items. If you have met with the stager, get the extra furniture and home decorations out of the house. We don’t want it to be cluttered.
Depersonalizing your house doesn’t mean you remove its personality, it means you scale it back. Most people think that I or a stager will tell them to paint all the walls a neutral color and take everything out of the house. Sometimes painting the house a neutral color will be a vast improvement and sometimes it will just make sense to remove all the items in the home.
The majority of the time, your house needs a balance of neutral and a pop of color and personality. Also, I almost never ask someone to remove all their belongings from the home. Homes with furniture show better because buyers have an example of how it would look if they lived in the house. Plus, it just feels more inviting.
It’s a difficult balance to have a home neutral but with a special (and appealing) pop, but that is why you have your professionals on your side.Depersonalizing your house is important because you want the buyer to walk in and feel like they have just come home, and not feel like they are just intruding into someone else’s house. Click To Tweet
There are a few general rules with depersonalizing a home:
- Take Down All Family Pictures (that includes the refrigerator) – Large family portraits can be replaced by some great wall art. You can find some at Home Goods, a local thrift shop, or wherever you find a starving artist. *Please just make sure it’s not cheesy 1980’s art…*
- Remove Religious Items – We want your home to sell fast to the highest paying buyer, even if they are of a different faith or political persuasion.
- Get Rid of the Smell – Every house has a smell, make sure yours is a positive one. Strong ethnic cooking smells can make a perfectly good home linger on the market and eventually sell for less than it should.
- Hide Pets and Their Accessories – I briefly mentioned this earlier, but it is best to remove all pets and their items. The smell of a litter box and easily be a deal breaker for an otherwise interested buyer. The same thing can happen with lizards and snakes. Here are the top 7 things you can do with your pets while you sell your house.
I do hate having to ask the owners to remove their family pictures, religious items and to do a smell test, but if it didn’t help the house sell faster then I wouldn’t do it.
Now that you have all this stuff that needs to be removed from the house, you will need to find a place to store it. Here are a few options:
- Put it in the Garage – Buyers understand you are moving, so its not outside the norm to see a bunch of boxes and furniture in the garage. Just have it so they can take a quick look inside to get an idea of what the garage looks like.
- Get a Pod – The storage pods are great for temporarily storing your treasures and moving them to your new casa.
- Give Away or Throw Away – Downsizing? Moving overseas? Get rid of what you don’t need and be happier. 😊
- Rent Storage – I hate to recommend paying to store the stuff you never use, but sometimes it’s the only way.
Declutter and Depersonalizing is great to help buyers better fall in love with your home. Make the extra effort to start “pre-packing” your treasures so that your home shows better to buyers and sells fast. The next step will review repairs to make and repairs that you should stay away from.
Step 3: Do Home Repairs that Help Sell Your Home (and Not Those that Lose You Money)
When considering doing repairs to your home to help sell it, my personal philosophy is to take on the mentality of a home flipper. Their mentality is “how can I add the most value for the lowest price?”
Think Like a Flipper
Some investors go overboard and just slap a little lipstick on a pig when they remodel a home. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the solid home flipper that provides a great product that buyers love and often bid up the price.
Flippers will still do the major home repairs to the structural and mechanical parts of the home if they are in disrepair, but if something is older and still in good condition, they most likely won’t touch it. This is a great rule to live by.
You can see my simple line graph with how the increased improvements to your house adds more value to your home. There is a sweet spot that you can find with your real estate professional depending upon how many updates you have already completed. At some point, adding more improvements provides little to no added value.
Before flippers do any repairs, they calculate what the top selling price for a home will be and make sure they don’t lose money by over-improving. It is very important that your agent does a great market analysis and provides you a realistic perspective of what your house can sell for after all the work has been completed.
So, let’s first dive into repairs that you should NOT do.
*I’ll be speaking in generalities through the rest of this section (the entire post, actually) talk with your professionals to get their advice as it will vary mostly on what is common for your area.
Updates Not Worth the Investment
- Install new windows – If your home has older single paned windows, then spending the money for double paned windows won’t provide a positive return. Installing $5000 worth of new windows throughout the home will not raise the selling price much. As a homeowner, you will begin to see an overall savings after installing new windows around the seven years mark or so, and therefore it’s a long term investment. If you have to replace some windows, I would recommend replacing just the windows on the first floor or a particular area rather than the entire house.
- New Mechanicals – This includes your air conditioner, heater, plumbing, electrical, water heater and so on. If it’s working, then don’t replace it. If it’s working but it is about to break at any moment and could cause more damage, then by all means replace it. This part of your home is expected to be working and worry free to the buyer. Any problems you have with them will definitely hurt your final sales price but adding a brand new HVAC for $10,000 won’t increase your sales price $10,000. If they ask for concessions or for you to repair it, see if you can negotiate to give them a credit or split the cost.
- Pool & Outdoor Kitchen – The value an update gives to a home will ultimately be at the discretion of the home appraiser (unless the buyer is paying cash or they have a non-conforming loan). Unfortunately, appraisers usually only add a few grand for outdoor kitchens. It hurts to see the $5k boost to your value after you spent $20k on your beautiful outdoor five star restaurant quality kitchen. Pools fare little better. A $50k pool will often get a $20k to $25k bump with an appraiser’s valuation. This obviously changes based upon your price point.
- Brand New Roof – This one can fit in with the mechanicals section as to how to treat it but since it’s so visible, it deserves its own section. If your roof isn’t leaking but it’s toward the end of its normal life, then I would recommend negotiating with a buyer to share some of the costs. A new roof can cost around $10k for a normal home and with a good agent, you can probably settle on way less. If the roof is past it’s life and without leaks, then I like to try to negotiate the best possible deal, but I am usually able to get at least a 50/50 split for the roof (5k in savings (hallelujah emoji)). If the roof is leaking or there is an overlay roof (multiple layers of roofing over top one another), then I would recommend replacing it prior to listing as the buyer could have difficulty getting insurance.
- Expensive Drapes – Drapes become dated very quickly and can keep your home a few decades behind.
- New Driveway – Overtime soil moves and cracks can form in your driveway. I wouldn’t recommend replacing an entire driveway unless it is just in poor shape. Usually repairing one section or a good power wash can have a positive improvement.
Updates that Can Provide a Great Return
These are less expensive repairs and updates that can provide a great return on your investment:
- Fresh Paint Throughout
- Freshen up the Exterior
- Add Mulch and Fresh Flowers
- Replace All Cabinet Hardware
- Replace All Door Hardware to Match
- New Backsplash
- Add More Lighting and Replace Burnt out Lightbulbs
- New Vanity Lights in Master Bathroom
- Refinish Hardwood Floors
- Caulk where Needed
- Repair Damaged Siding and Rotting Boards
- Power Wash Siding and Sidewalk
- Refinished Front Door
- If the Carpet is in Terrible Shape, Replace it
- New Tile Grout
Often times, it is the accumulation of small, rather inexpensive projects that make the entire house feel new and fresh.
I believe many homeowners miss out on some equity when they sell their home because they don’t do the right updates & repairs. If they do spend money on updates, they don’t do them well or they do work in all the wrong areas.
My book, The Real Estate Game Plan, helps to create your own personal game plan to sell your home fast and get the most money. Sign up for a free ebook or contact me to create a personalized game plan for your home (example of a personalized Game Plan).
Next I will cover what is needed to get your home in perfect condition for buyers.