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Things to do before listing your home 

Even in a seller's market, details matter

It is not new news that the real estate market across the country is on fire. The limited inventory and high demand are driving one of the most competitive markets that we've seen, and it truly is a seller's market. Does that mean that selling a home is as easy as popping a for sale sign in the ground and watching buyers flock in droves to the home, all of them clamoring to pay over list price? No; there still is work to be done prior to listing the property for sale—especially if one wants to command the highest return on their investment. Here is a checklist of things to prepare prior to listing a home. It may seem like an inconvenience, but surely will help lead to less stress or repairs and the best offer.

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Curb Appeal: Regardless the type of market, buyers do judge a book by its cover. There is only one shot to make a good impression and the initial impression sets the tone. Tidying up the yard, some fresh mulch or bark dust and pops of color with some flowers, go a long way to create the impression of a well-kept property. If the paint or stain is looking tired, freshen it up with a quick coat. The front door needing some love, a fresh coat of paint or stain is crucial, as that is the door that opens the possibility of the buyer's dream home.

Declutter the living areas: This step is crucial. Less is truly more in this situation. Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in the space and when a seller's prized collection of over a 100 knitted cat dolls is wall to wall, it is a huge distraction. The idea is to move, right? So, why not start clearing things out and packing away prior to putting the house on the market? Do a sweep of the counters, windowsills, tables and all other visible areas. It is a great time to clear out the closets, cupboards and drawers, as buyers will be looking in those areas. It's tough to gauge just how much storage space is available in a home when the closet is crammed and overflowing with personal belongings.

Depersonalize the space: I cannot stress this enough. Personal items and family photos should be safely tucked away. Keep the prospective buyers focused on the space and not who is occupying it.

The SMELL test: Odors, even slight ones, can be an absolute deal breaker. While we all loved and adore our furry friends, be sure that they haven't left an everlasting odor mark in the space. Same goes for the kitchen. The lingering odors from last night's dinner or that glass of milk that was left on the counter tend to hang around and will ultimately leave a foul impression for a buyer. The same goes for air fresheners. If the home has been doused in Febreeze or essential oil diffusers, it most certainly leaves the buyer's focus on what is trying to be covered up.

Fix the little things: A loose handle or missing lightbulb can have a surprisingly negative effect for a buyer. When there are little things, it leads to the questions of "what are the big things? What else is broken or not in proper working order?" This leads to the ultimate question of whether the home has been well-cared for, and that ultimately determines the value and how much a buyer is willing to pay.

CLEAN!: Clean literally everything. Walls, windows, showers, baseboards and all of the dust, dirt, pet hair and life in general that magically gather. The property should be spotless, as again a dirty home can lead a buyer to wonder what else may be wrong or what are they not seeing under the dirt. Think of it like going to a hotel; no one wants to stay in a dirty space for a couple of days, much less imagine themselves living in a dirty space! If cleaning is not one's forte, consider hiring a professional to come in a do a deep clean.

The first impression is crucial in the sales process. I haven't met a seller yet who didn't want to get to most money for their home, and the first impression determines whether a buyer will pay that extra amount. Taking the time to property prepare will yield far more and help to make for a smoother sales and negotiation process.

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