How to Sell Your Home and Hold on to Your Sanity (and your Money)

The complete guide to selling your home

Are you wanting to move into a bigger home? Looking to downsize? Career change leading you to a new town? Whatever the reason, you are now trying to sell your current home, a daunting task. You probably have plenty of questions. How much will I spend on improvements? Is selling a home without a Realtor possible? What are the tax implications of selling a home? Don’t worry. Before you starting preparing your home to sell, consider this guide.

Preparing Your Home for Sale: Which renovations are worth the Money and Which Aren’t?

Attempting to sell your home as is without performing repairs or doing away with eye sores could mean it will sell for much less than what you hoped for, if it sells at all.

You could spend a great deal of time and money on improvements to your home before you sell it, but some projects offer a greater return than others.

Improvements that are worth it:

  1. Paint. A fresh coat of paint goes a long way toward giving your home a new look. And it’s a fairly inexpensive improvement. Go for neutral colors that are likely to please more people. Avoid bold colors that make a strong statement. Buyers should be able to envision their own style in the home.
  2. Clean windows and curtains. Windows and window treatments matter for more than one reason. Windows let light in and are often the first thing people notice about each room. Cleaning curtains or replacing them if they are outdated is a worthwhile upgrade. It’s not hard to find simple, inexpensive curtains in neutral colors to match any décor. Clean the windows well so the glass is clear and the area between the window and screen is free of bugs and dust.
  3. Fix things. That leaky faucet in the master bathroom, the closet door that’s off track, the hole in the screen door—these need to be repaired. Fixing small details, or hiring someone to fix them if necessary, is well worth the time and money. Little problems, no matter how small, give the impression your home is in bad shape overall.
  4. Update hardware. Door knobs, cabinet pulls and handles, and other hardware should be in good shape and match throughout your home. If your cabinets are plain front, consider adding hardware to spruce them up. Replace or polish any damaged or tarnished hardware.
  5. Clean carpets and grout. If you have carpets in your home, have them professionally cleaned to remove any stains or odors. Depending on their condition, carpets may need to be replaced. Make sure the grout between tiles in your kitchen or bathroom is clean, especially if it is white or a light color.
  6. Improve lighting. Make sure as much natural light as possible enters your home. Add new light fixtures, get new lampshades, even consider replacing lightbulbs with higher wattage bulbs (within the maximum suggested by the light fixture). The majority of buyers consider lighting to be the most important feature of a home after location.
  7. Focus on the kitchen. The kitchen is the most important room in your home when it comes to selling. If you’re going to spend money on home improvements, the kitchen is the place to do it. And the good news is you can expect about an 85% return on your investment in this case. An outdated kitchen will make a home more difficult to sell and could mean potential buyers offer you as much as $10,000 less than your asking price. The cheap, easy fixes are paint and hardware. The more expensive (and more worthwhile) improvements are countertops, cabinets, and appliances. Even if you purchase just one quality stainless steel appliance, it will make the entire kitchen seem more expensive and sophisticated.
  8. Hire a home stager. There are home staging specialists who can help present your home. Arranging furniture, lighting and décor in the right manner will make your home look beautiful to potential buyers. Whether or not you have an eye for decorating, a home stager is an expert and knows what buyers are looking for when they walk into a home. You may use your breakfast nook as a kids’ playroom, but if a potential buyer sees a table and chairs with flowers and place settings, they envision a lifestyle they want. You want to remove all personal items so potential buyers can see themselves living there. Your home stager will take care of all these details to make each room in your home inviting.

kitchen photo

Improvements that may not be worth it:

  1. Complete home makeover. Now is not the time to renovate your entire home. If you fully remodel each room in your home from top to bottom, you will likely not get back even half of what you spend. And you won’t even get to enjoy the improvements you poured so much time and money into. Address the areas needing the most work and tackle those as frugally as possible.
  2. Expensive flooring. Do not install high dollar hardwood floors or expensive marble flooring. If the original hardwood floors have been covered up with carpet, do consider removing it and refinishing the floors. Do polish marble or stone flooring to give it a fresh shine. But don’t pour all of your fix-up budget into flooring that won’t add much to the price of your home.

Some of the Best Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Home for Sale Cost Nothing at All

If the costs of selling a home are overwhelming, you can do many things to improve its appearance that won’t cost you anything. Even if you have made other more significant improvements, these small items still appeal to potential buyers touring your home.

  1. Clean your home. Give your home a thorough spring cleaning. Vacuum the areas you often forget about, like behind and under furniture. Dust the top of the fridge. Get cobwebs out of the corners. Remove bugs and dirt from inside the windows. Give special attention to bathrooms and the kitchen, as these are often the most important areas to potential buyers. Now that you’ve cleaned up, keep it that way everyday so your house is ready to show anytime.
  2. Declutter your home. The less furniture you have in each room, the bigger it will look. Remove extra chairs and tables and bookshelves that make rooms look full. Minimize the number of appliances and kitchen gadgets sitting on surfaces in the kitchen. Keep toiletries off the counters, tub or shower, and put them in drawers or cabinets.
  3. Remove personal items. You may have a wonderful collection of knickknacks, like, for example, your salt and pepper shakers from all over the world. They mean a lot to you, but potential buyers may be turned off. Go ahead and pack your personal items (including family photos) to get ready for the move to your new home. It is important for potential buyers to imagine themselves living in the home, which will be easier if it looks more generic and less like you.
  4. Stage rooms. You don’t have to hire a professional stager to make your rooms look presentable. You can use furniture and other items you have to make rooms look inviting. Get out the good China and set the dining room table with place settings, and flowers or fruit as a centerpiece. In the bathroom, make that garden tub you never use look like its begging to be relaxed in by laying out candles and a pretty towel draped over the side. These are just a few examples of room staging that can have amazing results.
  5. Empty half of your closets. Clean out your closets so they look only half full. Get rid of clothes you don’t wear anymore, and pack away the clothes you won’t need in the immediate future. Storage is a big priority for potential buyers, and your closets will look much bigger if they are not full. Show off your closet organizer by using it properly with shoes and accessories displayed in the way they were intended.
  6. Remove pets. Definitely take pets out of the home before a showing, and consider moving pets out of the home for the duration of the time your home is on the market. For potential buyers, whether they are animal lovers or not, seeing (or smelling) evidence of pets in the home could be a deal breaker. Litter boxes, food bowls, hair and other telltale signs of pets can be a real turn off. And it’s extremely difficult to keep your home spotless with pets around. Consider having pets stay with nearby relatives or friends during the selling process.
  7. Stage the backyard. Often overlooked, the backyard is just as important as the rest of your home to potential buyers. If you have a back deck, porch or patio, you should also stage it to be inviting. Arrange tables and chairs, open the umbrella, even set the table with picnic place settings. Hang up that hammock, clean up the kids’ outdoor toys and play area, keep the grass mowed and the weeds at bay.

greensboro home for sale

Curb Appeal: You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

What potential buyers see when they first pull up to your home is most important. If a potential buyer doesn’t like what they see at first glance, they may not even want to set foot in your home. Keep the front yard immaculate. Stage the front porch to be inviting. Plant flowers and keep shrubs trimmed. Clean out bird nests, spider webs and any evidence of bugs. Keep the front porch swept and power wash the front walk and driveway. Have all flower beds newly mulched. Power wash siding and even paint the outside of your home if needed. Consider adding outdoor lighting as well. Even if you have a limited budget, consider using at least some of it on the front of your home.

Tax Implications of Selling a Home: What You Need to Know

Now that your home is ready to sell, you may be wondering about the tax implications. The good news is taxes are relatively simple. If you have lived in your home for at least two of the past five years, you can exclude a house sale profit of up to $250,000. If filing jointly with a spouse, that amount goes up to $500,000. You can use this same tax exclusion as many times as necessary in your lifetime as long as at least two years pass between sales. Special circumstances may allow you to exclude higher amounts, the specifics of which can be discussed with your tax advisor.

Selling a Home Without a Realtor: Can it Be Done?

Yes. But is it easy? No. There are definite advantages to getting help from a realtor. A realtor is able to bring more potential buyers to your home, particularly ones who are looking for features your home offers. Realtors can advise you on how to prepare your home for sale, and are often staging experts themselves through years of experience. Your home will sell faster and most likely for a higher price when you work with a realtor.

Ready to start the process of selling your home? Contact Smith Marketing of Allen Tate Realtors® at (336) 451-4921 or (336) 215-7880.