Whether it’s because you need more rooms for your growing family, you’re ready to downsize or you want to move to a new city, you’ve decided you’ll be selling your house come spring 2017.

Spring is traditionally the hottest season for home sales. School will be out of session soon, the weather is warming up and people get antsy to make a change. In May, U.S. homes were on the market an average of 78 days before closing – more than a week less than May 2015, and more than a month less than the long-term monthly average of 111 days – according to real estate information site Zillow.

The decision to sell your home once the thaw begins is a big step, but you’ve got a lot to do before spring. If you’ve already been in touch with real estate agents and even selected one to list your home, you’ve likely received a list of tasks to make your home market-ready.

“A lot of sellers have a long way to go on their home, but they’re just never going to get it done in time. They don’t have the wherewithal and the resources, so you’ve got to be careful what you recommend,” says Geoffrey Green, a real estate agent and owner of The Green Team Home Selling System in Warwick, New York.

You'll need to perform basic maintenance to keep appliances and systems such as plumbing fixtures and air conditioning running smoothly, complete repairs you’ve been putting off and clear all the clutter that’s built up over the years, not to mention actually make your home attractive to potential buyers. It’s probably best to get started now.

A primary concern for many homebuyers is knowing what they’re buying and how much work is needed. If you start repairs and updates now, you and the buyer are less likely to come across any surprises once the home is on the market, explains Michelle Farber Ross, real estate broker and manager partner of MMD Realty in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“They want to know that this home was very well-maintained and that they’re not going to come into a pile of problems,” Farber Ross says.

Here are six things you can start doing now to make selling your home in spring a breeze.

[See: 13 Tips When Shooting Your Home to Put It on the Market.]

Take exterior photos. You want to take exterior shots of your home when it looks best, and in some northern states that time of year is almost over because bare trees and dirty snow on the ground don’t exactly entice buyers to take a tour. Especially if you live in a part of the country where spring doesn’t set in until May, it’s best to at least have solid exterior photos to start with.

“The exterior appearance of a home in January or February is not the same as a beautiful time of year like now,” Green says.

Pare back your garden. No one can deny curb appeal is important, and you can even do some maintenance now to avoid overhauling your garden in spring.

“It’s kind of easy enough to trim things back and take care of things, so when they do start growing in the spring, they’re not out of control,” says Krista Deacon, designated broker for Silvercreek Realty Group in Meridian, Idaho.

A lower-maintenance garden will also be more attractive to younger, first-time buyers, Green says: “The younger buyers today want nothing to do with [gardening] for the most part. I’m constantly encouraging clients to thin out their gardens.”

Relieve the load in your master closet. While your closet may be the size of a small apartment, somehow you've managed to pack it full of clothes, shoes and miscellaneous items.

“Have your stuff, organize it, and put some of it into some of the other closets that you don’t use. I don’t want someone walking in here, seeing that it’s piled to the gills and that you don’t have enough room – because all that says to them is that it’s a small closet,” Farber Ross says.

[See: From the Front Door: Making a Welcoming Entryway in Your Home.]

Freshen up the kitchen. The kitchen is one of the make-or-break rooms for many homebuyers, so it never hurts to give it a little extra love when you’re making changes around the house. Since you're planning to sell in just a few short months, it's best to focus on projects that will make the biggest difference in a home sale.

“It may not hurt to reface the cabinets and put in a quartz countertop or something that is fresher looking,” Farber Ross says.

As a more cost-conscious option, Green says sprucing up your existing cabinets can make a big difference: “There’s a lot of really good painting techniques for cabinetry these days.”

Start the depersonalization process. A big part of successfully selling your home is making potential buyers picture themselves living there. That means photos of your family, a collection of figurines or sports memorabilia and other personal touches need to go. It also means repainting the walls in a neutral color.

It may be difficult to pack away family photos and cherished items before the holidays, but Deacon says starting early makes it easier down the line.

“[Sellers] can leave some things up so it still feels like their home, but they need to put themselves in the buyer’s shoes – when [buyers] walk in the door, they want to feel like they’re not in somebody else’s home,” she says.

[See: 13 Things to Know About Selling Your Home in Fall and Winter.]

Make your to-do list obvious. Already lost track of everything you need to do before putting your home on the market? Farber Ross shares a trick to keep a visual to-do list throughout the home: a piece of blue painter’s tape on anything that needs work.

Whether it’s a wall that needs new paint, scuffed molding or a switch plate that needs replacing, the tape serves as a constant reminder. Complete the marked tasks when you can in the months leading up to spring “so when people walk through, it’s pristine,” Farber Ross says.

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, home prices, home improvements, existing home sales


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.