Selling your home can be exhilarating, terrifying, stressful, and joyous — all at the same time.
It can also be tremendously lucrative, especially in today’s hot seller’s market. But experience (and hard data) shows that the longer your home lingers on the market, the less chance it has of selling and the lower the probable sale price dips. That means you really do want to sell your home as fast as possible — not only for your heart but for your pocketbook too!
1. Don’t Let a Seller’s Market Make You Complacent
It’s a great time to sell your home in most of the U.S., with most local markets heavily favoring sellers. If you live in one of those seller’s markets, you’ve probably heard stories about homes getting multiple offers after the first showing and selling far above asking price.
Those stories are probably true, but don’t use them as an excuse to cut corners. Even in the strongest seller’s market, you still have to present your home in the best light possible if you want to get the highest possible price. If you put an unstaged, as-is condition home on the market, you may still get a quick sale, but you’ll probably leave quite a bit of money on the table.
2. Find an Agent You Vibe With
The right listing agent will make your home sale faster, smoother, less stressful, and more lucrative.
This is true on two levels. The first is expertise. A great listing agent will be familiar with the local market and will know how much similar homes sold for. They’ll be able to advise you on everything from pricing strategy, to pre-listing prep, to selecting the right buyer, to closing.
The second is personal rapport. You’ll want an agent who’s as responsive and communicative as you are. If you’re the type of seller who's going to expect a quick response when you text your agent at 11:30 at night, make sure you get the right fit. On the other hand, if you're after a fast, frictionless sale with a minimum of personal interaction, make sure you find an agent who has similar priorities.
3. Brighten Up
You want your home to look bright, cheerful, and inviting. Remove heavy drapes or window coverings to maximize the amount of flattering natural light that comes in. Replace any low-wattage light bulbs with high-wattage, high lumen bulbs.
Make sure you turn on all the lights and open all the blinds and curtains before any showings; this includes when you take your listing photos! If you’re offering on-demand showings, make sure you leave all lights on when you leave the house in case a buyer comes through when you’re gone.
Visual clutter has been shown to cause anxiety, and that’s not how you want to make buyers feel! Make sure you declutter your home before you show it; as a general rule, experts suggest removing at least half your furniture from your home before you start conducting open houses.
You should also remove clutter from shelves, kitchen and bathroom counters, and fireplace mantles. (Do leave out a few tasteful items such as a painting you got while traveling, though — you don’t want your home to feel too impersonal.)
When you’re decluttering, don’t forget storage spaces! Buyers always investigate cupboards, pantries and closets, and cluttered, full storage will make them think your home doesn’t have adequate storage. Try to leave your closets and cupboards half-full, so buyers get the impression there’s more than enough storage.
5. Deep Clean
You probably keep your home pretty clean as a matter of course. But when you’re selling your home, you should really do a deep clean.You want to scrub behind and under appliances, scour tiles, clean basements and attics/crawl spaces, dust ceilings, and everything in between. A true deep cleaning will make your home look brighter, newer, and, yes, cleaner than you ever thought possible.
6. Be Objective
You probably love your home; it’s the site of many happy memories and milestones, and it’s come to reflect your personal tastes.
But buyers may not share your personal tastes. When you’re preparing your home for the market, you must look at it with a ruthlessly objective eye. Those quirky accent walls may not appeal to everyone, and even though the renovations you did 10 years ago may still seem fresh to you, they’ll likely look outdated to current buyers.
The more buyers you can get interested in your home, the higher it’ll sell for. Keep this in mind as you depersonalize, renovate, and stage your home for potential buyers. Cast as wide a net as possible!
7. Go Neutral
Buyers want to be able to project their own tastes onto your home, so make it easy on them by painting walls in neutral colors.
Experts recommend gray, beige, taupe, cream, eggshell, or “greige” (a combination of gray and beige). Avoid white, which can seem harsh and institutional and gets dirty quickly.
8. Produce a 3D Tour
The pandemic really popularized 3D tours, as they allowed buyers to scrutinize properties without physically visiting them. Even as the pandemic wanes in much of the country, 3D tours have become a standard expectation in many markets, and it’s common for buyers to put in offers sight unseen.
A good 3D tour can be made with a smartphone, but just keep in mind that a 3D tour will show your home in much more detail than photos, so make sure it’s in excellent, fully-staged condition.
9. The Right Price Sets the Right Tone
It’s understandable that some sellers, especially in a hot market, want to shoot for the stars and set a high listing price. After all, the logic goes, they can always drop it later if the offers don’t come in. But this isn’t a great strategy.
Buyers and their agents have likely done a comparative market analysis (CMA) so they know what your home’s true market value is — meaning they’ll know if it’s overpriced. And if your home lingers on the market for a while and then has its price cut, a lot of buyers will assume there’s something wrong with it.
Many experts suggest pricing your home on the low side. This will generate interest and multiple competing bids, which will drive the price up. Remember, you can just decline any offers that are too low.
10. But Don’t Get Stuck On a Number!
Setting the right listing price gets your sale off to the right start, but don’t fixate on an arbitrary number before negotiations start.
Most buyers consider the listing price to be a starting point for negotiations, so you need to show some flexibility once the serious offers start coming in. You want to get a good price for your home, and the buyer wants to get good value for their money, so you’ll likely need to meet somewhere in the middle.
11. Pay Attention to Seasonal Trends
Even the hottest seller’s markets experience ups and downs throughout the year.
In many markets, the cold months are extremely slow. Wintry weather can make traveling even short distances unpleasant, and showings can be complicated when there’s a foot of snow on the ground. On top of that, the holidays keep people busy, and the aftermath can be a financial drain as people pay off bills. Bargain hunters target these slow months because they know there’s little competition, and sellers may accept lowball offers.
On the other hand, spring and summer are very busy months, as pent-up demand floods onto the market and families look to move into new homes before the start of the new school year. Selling in a busy time of year can add tens of thousands of dollars onto your sale price, so choose your list date carefully!
12. Nail the First Impression
An open house is a lot like a job interview for your home; first impressions have a ton of weight.
Many experts say buyers make their mind up about a home within seconds of seeing or entering it. That means you should put a lot of thought into your home’s “curb appeal,” which is exactly what it sounds like: Assess your home from the perspective of someone who’s just gotten out of their car and is going up the front walk. This could translate to power washing your driveway, repairing cracked sidewalks, and putting a little extra effort into getting your landscaping just right.
Extend that logic to your entryway, too. Make sure their first impression of your home is of a bright, clean, decluttered, attractive home. It’s really tough to overcome a first impression that’s not quite right.
13. Carry Appropriate Insurance
Make sure you have homeowners insurance in case someone touring your home has an accident. A lawsuit can seriously complicate and delay your home sale.
Even if you do have the appropriate insurance, it never hurts to take common sense precautions such as cordoning off your pool before showings and removing pets from the premises before having strangers in.
14. Disclose Everything
It may feel counterintuitive to tell buyers about everything wrong with your home right off the bat, but it’s actually better if you do.
Think about it this way. If there are any physical problems with your home, those will almost certainly come out in the inspection. When that happens, it may look to the buyer like you were intentionally trying to deceive them. On top of that, they’ll likely try to negotiate down the price based on how much it will cost to fix the problems.
Many agents say that buyers won’t be scared off by your disclosures, no matter how bad you think they might sound; they just want you to be honest and open about them.
Of course, when it comes to disclosures, you should abide by your local- and state-required disclosure laws.
15. Be Flexible and Accommodating to Buyers
Selling a home is a 24/7 gig, especially if you live in a hot market. Buyers who find your property online will want to take a look at it ASAP, so be prepared to show your house on a moment’s notice, even on evenings or weekends. If you go with a more traditional “24 hours' notice” for showings, the most motivated buyers may skip you over entirely.
Make sure you understand exactly what this entails, too. You’ll be living in your staged, decluttered home, which you’ll have to keep clean, as you likely won’t have time to clean before any last-minute showings. It can also be awkward to have the owner there during a showing, so you should be prepared to leave the house quickly with short notice.
16. But Not Too Accommodating!
Don’t get blinded by the big number on the first offer that comes in. Work with your agent to make sure your buyer is qualified. It’s not unreasonable to ask them to show you a pre-approval letter from their mortgage lender or, if it’s a cash sale, a proof of funds form.
Also clarify if the sale contract is contingent on the buyer selling their own property. If their sale runs into snags or delays, that will affect your own sale, too.
17. Think Ahead
A lot of sellers get so absorbed in their home sale that they forget that they’re soon going to be buyers in the very same market (if they’re staying local).
The hotter your market, the more complicated this can be. In a strong seller’s market, it may be extremely easy to sell your home — but equally difficult to snag one. If your home search drags on and on, you might find yourself having to move out of your previous home without a new one to move into.
You could try to get around this by putting in offers that are contingent on selling your current home, but sellers know that this could get complicated and will likely not entertain your offer. Your only solution? Planning aheadv— and a little luck.
18. Keep Your Bags Packed
But let’s think positively! Sometimes, everything goes as smoothly as you dreamed, and the perfect offer comes in right away. If you’re in a hot market or selling a highly desirable property, you should be prepared for a fast offer — and a fast move-out!
19. Consider an iBuyer
If speed is your highest priority, and you’re not intent on getting the highest price possible, you could consider selling to an iBuyer.
To sell to an iBuyer, you typically fill out a form, upload photos of your home, sometimes have an in-person visit from a company rep, and then receive a cash offer for your home within hours or days — and sometimes instantly.
The upside? Speed, simplicity, flexible closing date, and certainty. The downside? No bidding war, iBuyers often charge steep service fees that can be even more than a full agent commission, and the cost of repairs is often deducted from your sale price.
20. Consider an FSBO Sale
If you’re in a hot market or selling a highly desirable property, you might be able to pull off a quick for sale by owner (FSBO) sale.
Because you won’t have the benefit of an agent and their networking and marketing skills, the speed of your FSBO sale is going to depend, in large part, on your ability to get the word out about your home. If you’re confident you can do that and that there will be a lot of serious interest, it’s worth considering.
One thing to keep in mind: According to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), FSBO sales typically close for significantly less than agent-assisted sales.
21. Find a Cash Buyer
Closing and underwriting a mortgage takes time — well over a month in many cases. If you go with a cash buyer, you can skip that whole step, as they have the money in hand. There’s also no risk of the financing falling through at the last minute.
Just be aware that cash buyers know that sellers covet all cash transactions, so they may drive a hard bargain, asking for all kinds of concessions — especially price discounts.
22. Stoke Demand
The more interest there is in your home, the more competition, and the higher the price will climb.
That means you should do everything you can to get the word out about your listing. Your agent can help you with this — experienced agents have robust networks and valuable marketing experience. You should also leverage your own network — you never know if a friend from college or an ex-coworker is looking for a new home.
One last suggestion — the MLS now offers a “coming soon” listing that gives buyers a preview of your home before it actually hits the market. This can be a great way to build up anticipation, so buyers are ready with their offers on day one.