With Austin, Texas’ hottest real estate season rapidly approaching, sellers need to start getting their homes ready now. From decluttering and staging to landscaping, owners who complete their to-do lists well ahead of time have the best shot at a quick sell come spring.
“Springtime is the best time to sell a home. When you have a few months to prepare and do the due diligence, that’s a great luxury,” explains Ben Caballero, CEO and president of HomesUSA.com.
To help you prepare for a spring sale, U.S. News spoke with some of Austin’s top real estate agents about what you should tackle now.
Find the right experienced agent.
Before you spend a dime prepping to sell, you need to hire a veteran agent who can point you in the correct direction and make you feel comfortable with your decisions. Once the agent has created a to-do list with you, get his or her recommendations for a stager, photographer and other vendors to avoid spending more cash than necessary.
“No. 1 is work with an expert agent who does a lot of work in your neighborhood. Every neighborhood has nuances in terms of pricing and the market, so it’s important to work with someone who knows the area,” says Hilary Herrin, Realtor and listing agent for Mueller Silent Market.
Speak with a stager.
Herrin and Caballero agree that speaking to a stager, or an agent who’s an excellent stager, as early as possible is a must. That way, you know what needs to be done and how long each task takes, which can help you prioritize and complete your to-do list.
Once you’ve finished the staging process, which could take a few months, wait until you’re ready to list to have the photography appointment. You want your home in the best possible, and most accurate, condition for the listing photos.
Make necessary home repairs.
If home maintenance items aren’t taken care of ahead of time, they’ll surface during the inspection and slow the closing process. Because you’re thinking about what needs to be done now, you can find the right vendors, grab good prices and eliminate the stress of time constraints.
“If you know your dishwasher isn’t working, or a mechanical issue, like your air conditioner, isn’t up to par, get that done because you’re going to have to do it anyways,” Caballero says. “You have to be ready for prime time when the home goes on the market because you get your best traffic within the first two weeks.”
Herrin says some of her clients chip away at their list a little bit at a time to make it manageable, while others complete the process in as little as a week. Cosmetic fixes like new carpet and paint should be done close to putting your home on the market because you want them as new as possible.
Declutter and depersonalize.
“Decluttering and staging are No. 1 in terms of getting top dollar for your house. If you’re going to move anyways, you might as well start packing up and getting boxes out of the house,” Herrin says. “You want people to see the house, not your stuff, and making sure your house is showing the best it can is literally money in your pocket.”
As a seller, you should look at your home as a commodity that will be competing with other homes and detach from it. Although you might feel an emotional connection to your property, a buyer may find it hard to walk around in, due to extra furniture, or be distracted by excessive personal photos or knickknacks.
To make the home as appealing as possible, Caballero says less is more. He recommends depersonalizing by storing, selling or giving away things you don't need. He also says visiting a model home can help you understand what depersonalizing looks like – there won’t be any additional furniture, photos or pieces that detract from the home’s beauty.
Work on repairing the exterior.
Thinking about landscaping and curb appeal in advance can help you put your best foot forward come spring. “Exterior items like roof, sprinkler, concrete and fence repair, and landscaping such as tree trimming, are things you should get done now because they’re time-consuming, weather-dependent tasks. Those vendors also have less work to do in winter, and you can probably get a better price,” Caballero says.
Working on home tasks early not only helps you have your choice of vendors, but because of the lower demand, you’ll have an easier time scheduling service and negotiating project price. And if you listen to your landscaper’s advice about maintenance, your updates will stay fresh and provide great curb appeal when your house goes on the market.
Looking for a real estate agent in Austin? U.S. News’ Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who’s most qualified for the job.
10 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast
Set yourself up for a quick sale.
The peak homebuying season may be over, but there are still steps you can take to ensure a speedy sale. Setting the right price and making an excellent first impression are both essential to attracting buyers, but what else can you do to get the offers rolling in? Here are 10 tips to help you sell your home as quickly as possible – even in the offseason.
Price it right from the start.
Sellers often think they should start the asking price high and then lower it later if the house fails to sell. But that can result in a slower sale – sometimes even at a lower price. “The first 30 days’ activity of your house being on the market is always the best activity you’re going to see,” says Michael Mahon, general manager of HER Realtors in Columbus, Ohio. If the price is too high, many buyers and their agents will stay away, assuming you’re not serious about selling or you’re unwilling to negotiate.
Enhance your home’s curb appeal.
This could mean adding new sod, planting flowers, painting the front door or replacing the mailbox. Prospective buyers form an opinion the moment they spot the home. "Curb appeal is everything,” Mahon says. “Driving into the driveway and walking into that front door sets the expectations.”
Update the interior and exterior.
(Valua Vitaly/Getty Images)
New fixtures, fresh paint and updated landscaping are all fairly easy and affordable ways to give your home a makeover. “It’s got to look up to the current market conditions and what’s in style,” Mahon says.
Clean, declutter and depersonalize.
The fewer things there are in the home, the larger it will look, so remove knickknacks and excess furniture. Also take down family photos, religious items and political posters so prospective buyers can envision their family in the house, not yours. Finally, you may want to hire a cleaning service to do a deep cleaning.
Stage the house to show how the rooms are supposed to be used.
If you have odd rooms with no obvious role, give them one. An odd alcove off the kitchen could be staged as an office or a pantry, for example.
Make the property easy to show.
The more flexible you are about visits, the more people will be able to see your home. Be ready for prospective visitors early in the morning, at night and on weekends, with little notice. Also, leave when the house is shown so would-be buyers can feel free to move about without feeling like intruders and discuss the home's pros and cons honestly.
Remove your pets.
Also remove their paraphernalia, such as dog dishes and cat litter boxes (or at least hide them). A prospective buyer shouldn’t even know that a pet lives in the home if you can help it, Mahon says.
Make sure your listing is on all the major online portals.
This is usually part of an agent’s service, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check that your listing is on Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. It also helps if your agent showcases the home on social media. “We sell as many homes off Facebook as we do off the [multiple listing service],” Mahon says. Both the agency and the individual agents have Facebook business pages where they share listings.
Ensure the listing has good photos, and lots of them.
Most homebuyers start their search online and decide which homes they want to see based on the photos. You probably want something better than snapshots taken quickly with your agent’s phone.
Share information about life in the neighborhood.
The listing should include photos not only of the house, but also of nearby recreation, dining and shopping areas. If the schools are good, make sure that information is in the listing. “You’re not only marketing the home – you’re marketing the lifestyle,” Mahon says.
Ellis graduated cum laude with a bachelor's in English from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Texas Freelance Association, Freelance Austin, and Women Communicators of Austin. You can find her on LinkedIn and her website, or email her at email@example.com.