Top 5 Things to Do Before You Sell Your House

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Most homeowners who put their home on the market already know that they should make their home at least as clean and tidy as they would for invited guests. But before hiring a real estate agent and hanging out that For Sale sign, there’s a lot more you can (and should) do to make your home competitive and to increase the likelihood – not merely that your home will sell—but that you will get multiple bids and a final offer above your asking price.

5 Throw in Some Free Stuff

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If you were buying a home instead of selling one, and you were trying to decide between two houses that met your other requirements, wouldn’t you be impressed by a seller who threw in the refrigerator (especially a newer one), or the air conditioners, or the washer and dryer? Or all of these? Extras like these can add up to significant inducements for many potential buyers, especially if they are stretching a bit to meet a price.

4 Offer a Home Warranty

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This is a good thing to do if your house is older and the new homeowner is likely to incur repair expenses in the first year after purchase. A home protection plan might cover the cost of damage to the heating system, the roof and anything else that might need attention in an older home. A home warranty should not be used as a replacement for making immediate repairs—the purpose is to give the potential buyer some peace of mind about repair expenses that might come up in the first year or so in an older home.

3 Set the Stage

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Just as set designers use furniture, lighting and the placement of objects to create a particular emotional response in the audience when the curtain goes up, you should stage your home to create a great first impression when potential buyers walk in. As hokey as it may seem, there is a direct connection between staging and how quickly a house sells, and at what price. Some ideas for staging your home: place fresh flowers in the rooms; open the curtains or blinds to let the light in; and in the evening turn on all the lights in the house. Have something like bread or chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven so a delicious aroma fills the home. If your home has a formal dining room, set the table as if for a fancy dinner party, complete with floral centerpiece. Also, don’t overlook the obvious: Make sure the house is dusted, scrubbed clean and clutter free.

2 Enhance Curb Appeal

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Curb appeal is about the way your home looks from the street—that first impression people have when they step out of their car, or even when they drive by the house. The number one thing that makes or breaks your home’s street presence is paint— both the quality of the paint job and the colors. That said, don’t forget to mow the lawn and dispose of the clippings, prune the bushes, pull the weeds and clear the garden of dead leaves and other debris.

1 Make Repairs

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You don’t have to go to huge expense to do this. Every homeowner has a list of small- to mid-sized repairs to get done when there’s time and/or money. Some examples: fixing torn window screens; replacing broken or missing tiles on the roof and also in the bathroom or kitchen; pulling up and replacing peeling linoleum; regrouting cracks in every surface where they appear (bathroom, kitchen, etc.); and taking care of any plumbing problems with sinks, toilets, shower stalls and tubs.

Kathy Kattenburg has been a writer for more than 30 years. Her articles have been published in "N.J. Jewish News" and "Suburban Essex," and she is a contributing writer at the political blog The Moderate Voice. Kattenburg has a B.A. in English literature from Drew University in Madison, N.J.

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