Over the next few months, we’ll look at what buying and selling a home entails, from preparing a home for sale, preparing to search for a home to buy, what happens behind the scenes for both buyer and seller while a home is under contract, through to the closing itself.

First up, a general observation. The internet can be a wonderful resource. More information is out there than any single person could absorb in their lifetime. As we are learning daily, much of this information can be unsubstantiated, out of date or outright erroneous.

This particularly applies to real estate, where algorithms for calculating home values lack local nuance, market statistics can be incomplete or out of date, rules and regulations change with regularity, and market overviews tend to take a 10,000-foot view, rather than a more localized focus.

That said, you’ve decided to sell your home. What are the first steps? The obvious one is to ascertain your home’s value. There are several ways to do this. Ask friends and neighbors. Consult an algorithm. Research recent home sales via county records. Or, talk to a local Realtor who can perform a comparative market analysis, based on the most recent sales of similar homes in your area. Accurate pricing ensures a quicker sale and leaves less likelihood of a seller leaving money on the table.

National Association of Realtors home sale statistics show that homes sold through an agent earned the seller an average of $60,000 more in sales price. Why? There are multiple reasons, chief among them accurate, market-specific pricing, professional marketing, negotiating skills and providing an important buffer between buyer and seller.

Next, deciding what to fix and update, and what to leave alone, can have a significant impact on both the time it takes to sell a home and the eventual sales price. A little money spent on cosmetics – a fresh coat of paint, some new flooring in a bedroom – can go a long way. For example, while your man cave painted in Broncos colors might be your pride and joy, the prospective buyer could be a Cowboys, or heaven forbid, Raiders fan. Converting it to a neutral color, while on one level might seem a sacrilege, can actually be a blessing in disguise.

Other, big-ticket improvements, such as installing an air conditioning system or new window coverings, can turn out to be money down the drain. Once again, your local Realtor is in constant contact with dozens of buyers and knows what it is they value, and don’t, in a home.

So, you’ve settled on a price, and decided on what improvements to make and not to make. Now comes perhaps the most difficult part for many sellers – depersonalizing your home. We all have refrigerators plastered with testament to significant mementos of our family life – graduations, proms, friends from out of state. We all have hallways lined with family portraits and desktops arrayed with kids’ sporting trophies, or living room corners jammed with Great-Aunty Edna’s antique armchairs that are too sensitive to sell.

Unfortunately, while these items may have significance for you, to a prospective buyer, they become an impediment. Studies show that when entering a home for the first time, it takes a buyer 90 seconds to decide if they can see themselves living there. A buyer needs to immediately be able to envision how they would live in your home, not how you live in it currently.

Getting reliable advice on staging your home for sale and making a head start on moving by packing away personal items ahead of time can make all the difference between a quick sale for full price and waiting six months before selling at a reduced price.

Accurate, informed pricing, professional marketing at the local, state and national levels, wise improvements and tasteful staging are all key elements to be considered before selling your home. Why wouldn’t you consult a professional?

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