Not every home-seller has speed as a priority — for many, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get under contract and to the closing table. However, for some sellers, speed is definitely a must, and in almost any circumstance, a fast sale is preferable to a slow one. Faster sales usually mean less hassle for the seller keeping the home clean and presentable for showings, and fast sales also mean you’ll have access to your equity that much sooner, which is a big bonus for just about any seller.
Is there anything you can do as the seller to make sure your home sells as quickly as possible? Absolutely! If you can accommodate one or all of the following 15 tips for a quick sale into your process, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fast everything unfolds, and how soon you get access to your money. Even if only one or two of these tips is realistic for your current situation, it can make a big difference to the overall timeline.
Consider timing, if you can
Sometimes you don’t have a lot of options around exactly when to sell your home. If you are moving because of a new job and you need the money to buy a new home where you’re going, or if there’s a divorce involved — or any number of other life circumstances — then you may need to list your home as soon as you know you need to sell it.
But if you do have some wiggle room in terms of when to list, then consider putting your home on the market in either the springtime or the summertime. These are typically the best seasons in most markets to try to sell a house because buyers tend to be thickest on the ground — both because of the weather (it’s a lot more convenient to drive around looking at houses when there is no snow, ice, or rain to contend with on your journey) and because buyers with kids in school are already going to be thinking about how to make the transition easiest for their kids. Most parents would prefer to start their children in a new school at the beginning of the school year, when everything is relatively new, which means that ideally, they’ll find their new house well before autumn.
If you can’t wait a season or two to list your home, that’s perfectly fine, but sometimes holding off until you know buyers are going to be ready can really pay off for you. And it also gives you time to tackle the tasks you’ll need to complete in order to get your home in perfect condition for selling.
Rent a storage unit ASAP
For most sellers, the most painful part of the sales process happens before the home ever hits the market. Preparing your home for sale means cleaning, decluttering, repairs, more cleaning — it’s a lot of work, and just when you think you’re almost finished, something else emerges that you need to tackle.
One of the most difficult tasks for sellers is the decluttering and cleaning. Even if you’re a neat freak with the most impeccable decorating taste around, you’ll still have to rearrange your home so that it doesn’t look like it belongs to you at all — and any random seller could picture themselves filling your kitchen with their appliances and your bedroom with their furniture. No matter how lovely your home looks today, you’ll need to remove some of the furniture and all of the personal items in order to facilitate a fast sale.
It’s much easier to manage the decluttering and cleaning phase of a home sale if you have a place to put the things that you know you’ll want to keep, but can’t have in the house right now. For most people, renting a storage unit makes the most sense: You can store items big and small in the unit, access it whenever you want, and feel confident that your things are safe and sound in a climate-controlled environment. Some sellers who have friends or relatives living nearby might also ask to use a garage or a storage shed, but if you can afford it and it makes sense, a storage unit will mean less stress for everybody involved.
Make all the small upgrades upfront …
Chips in the paint. Scuff marks on the floor. A loose board on the deck or a missing spindle on the staircase. There are probably several small repairs that you’ve been meaning to make for so long that your brain doesn’t even register them when you look at your house — and there’s no time like the present to take care of all those picky details that you never got around to finessing.
One of the keys to a quick sale is for buyers to feel safe; they want to be assured just by looking at your house that there are no big issues lurking underneath the surface. Buyers who feel safe about a home are buyers who are willing to make an offer on a home, maybe even for above asking price just to make sure they’re seriously considered. Ceiling stains and chewed-up crown molding aren’t necessarily signs of a bigger issue, but the more pristine everything looks on the surface, the safer qualified buyers will feel about putting an offer on your house.
Ask a friend to walk through your house with you and point out anything that you need to fix before listing — or better yet, ask a real estate agent. Your friend might not want to hurt your feelings, whereas an agent understands that this isn’t personal; it’s business.
… And think about the big ones
When it comes to the larger, more expensive upgrades and repairs you could make to your home before selling, you really want to be strategic. It probably doesn’t make sense to renovate your kitchen, for example — you probably aren’t going to see a full return on that investment, and what’s the point of installing a brand-new kitchen that’s exactly to your tastes if you aren’t going to be there to enjoy it? A better plan in that scenario would be to adjust the asking price so that buyers (if they so choose) have some wiggle room to do their own kitchen upgrade.
But there are some larger upgrades and repairs that you probably want to at least consider. If your roof is 20 years old or your furnace is about to fail, those are both issues that will be raised during the home inspection, and many buyers will rightfully dig in their heels and ask you to fix them or at least contribute to the cost of fixing them. If you’re not sure whether an issue should be addressed before you list the home, talk to your agent, and seriously consider getting an inspection so that you know about any potential roadblocks well before they arise.
Get an inspection
We’ve already discussed how a buyer who feels safe about your home is going to be more likely to make a reasonable offer — and what better way to help a buyer feel safe than by ordering a pre-sale inspection and making the results available to buyers at the open house or any showings you have scheduled?
A home inspection is likely going to be part of the sales process no matter what, especially if the buyer is receiving financing from a lender — lenders want to know that the home is in good condition and that there won’t be any unknown issues suddenly emerging that could render it uninhabitable (and possibly compromise the repayment of the home mortgage loan). Getting an inspection before the sale might seem redundant, but if you already know what the major issues are — and have fixed them — before an offer ever comes to the table, this can help speed along the sales process, and it will almost certainly eliminate the time it takes to get those issues resolved by hiring a contractor, plumber, electrician, or someone else to fix it.
Clean it thoroughly
Some sellers neglect cleaning because they think that most buyers should be able to see past any dust and clutter to the “good bones” of a house and use their imagination to see themselves there. Although it’s possible that buyers are short on imagination, ask yourself for a moment which home you’d rather occupy: One that’s pristine and clean, or one where layers of dust and the whiff of animals are present everywhere?
First impressions matter, and buyers can feel uncomfortable in a house without being able to pinpoint exactly why if the floor feels sticky or there’s a weird odor in the air. If a fast sale is really your goal, then your house has to be clean — spotless, even — for each and every buyer who sees it in person, and for the photos, too. A clean home will be appealing and enticing to many, many more buyers than a semi-clean home will, and the more buyers are interested in your home, the more offers you’ll generate, and the faster you’ll be able to sell.
Make a plan for pets
Showing a house or hosting an open house can be hazardous for pet owners and their pets. On one hand, you want to make your home available to the widest possible pool of qualified buyers to facilitate a quick sale — this means being able to vacate at a moment’s notice when a buyer wants to stop by to look at your house, and it probably also means hosting an open house at some point during the sales process. The fact of the matter is that any buyers walking through your house don’t know your pets, might not necessarily like animals at all — or could have some very real allergies to animals. Furthermore, opening and closing doors can be problematic for pets; even if you post signs asking buyers to please not shut Fluffy in the bathroom, they may accidentally close the bathroom door out of sheer force of habit, trapping poor Fluffy inside.
Opening and closing the front door also creates an opportunity for any pets who moonlight as escape artists to test their skills at sneaking outside, and you definitely don’t want to return home after a showing or open house just to find your pet missing. The potential number of ways that things can go wrong when you have a pet in the house while it’s on the market are myriad, so do yourself a favor and make a plan for your pets that does not involve “shut them in a room or a kennel and pray nobody lets them out.”
Ask a trusted friend if they can take your pets for a few days or weeks while the house is on the market, or board them at a facility. Even with the transition, they’ll be much happier without the anxiety of strangers walking through their space at all hours, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing they’re safe and cared for during the process.
Staging can matter
In many markets, staging is considered a must — but in others, it’s more of a nice-to-have. Staging can make a big difference in terms of the speed of a sale; it can help buyers feel as though the house they’re walking through is already theirs (or is ready for them to move into immediately).
If you’re not sure about the return on investment when it comes to staging, talk to a local real estate agent. There are plenty of statistics online that state that staging leads to faster home sales and higher offers, but that might not necessarily be true in your area; it could be enough that your house is in a desirable school district and is a good size for a family, and that you’ve priced it well. An agent can help you figure out whether staging would be a good way to get your house sold more quickly, and if you decide it’s an idea you should consider, an agent probably also knows a local stager or three who can give you some price quotes and get you started down the road toward staging.
Get some great photos
Maybe it’s been a decade or so since you bought a house; if that’s the case, then you might not know that most buyers find their homes online. Yes, they usually will still visit a house in person to make sure that it’s the right fit, but the very first place where your home makes a first impression on a qualified buyer is on the internet.
This means that your house has to look like a winner in the listing photos — because that’s where most qualified buyers will first encounter your home and decide whether or not they want to take a look in person. So it’s not the time for you to test your amateur photography skills or trust your iPhone to take the best possible pictures. If you’re unsure of what a quality photograph of a home looks like, spend some time poking around on the portals — Zillow, realtor.com, Trulia, or a local brokerage site — and ask yourself which photos look the best. You’ll probably notice that the self-serve images are very obvious and look pretty awful online, while the professional images are the best at showcasing the beauty of a home.
When your house is clean and staged (if you’re going there), get a professional photographer in the door to document it. Your agent may already have a photographer they use for listing photos; be sure to ask your agent what their plan is for marketing, and if they say “Oh, I take the pictures myself on my smartphone” — maybe consider one of the other agents you’re interviewing more seriously.
Descriptions that go beyond the house
Another good question to ask any agents you’re considering is how they handle the home description. It’s pretty easy for buyers to see that a house has however-many bedrooms and bathrooms, but buyers might not know about the amazing coffeeshop right down the road that makes a perfect latte every time, or that the house is within walking distance of the elementary school, or that the neighborhood block party is the best in the city.
The listing description is the perfect place to plug your neighborhood and surroundings a little bit, from parks and hiking trails to nearby restaurants and amenities. Give your buyers a taste of what it’s like to live there and appeal to their sense of atmosphere. You’ll find that the buyers who respond to listing descriptions like these are probably better fits for your particular home — and therefore are more likely to make an offer.
The price must be right
If you want to sell your home quickly, there’s one thing you absolutely should not do: Test the market through pricing. Consider again the fact that most buyers find their homes online, and then think about the methodology of finding a house online — buyers plug in a range of bedrooms and bathrooms, a neighborhood or ZIP code, and a price range, then start searching. When you test the market, you’re missing out on an entire pool of buyers who might be qualified to buy your house and even eager to buy your house, but don’t see it because you’ve priced it out of their range.
A better strategy, especially if there are lots of qualified buyers in your area, is to price your home realistically and talk to your agent about other ways you can make it more appealing. Offering incentives or creating a plan for showing can be one way (more on both tactics later), so talk to your agent about what they’ve seen work well in the area for a fast sale, and also get their opinion on which price would be fairest and most enticing to buyers. Obviously, you don’t want to under-price your house, but the biggest reason why homes linger on the market is because the seller is being unrealistic about the price, so if you’re serious about a fast sale, make sure the price is right, and don’t let your ego get in the way.
There are all kinds of incentives you can offer to buyers, from a key piece of furniture that helps tie the home together included in the sale, to offering to pay closing costs, or even more creative options — a year’s worth of free pizza delivered every week, for example. Not every buyer is going to need or want incentives, but there’s such a wide range of opportunity here that it’s very possible to sweeten the deal without incurring a lot of extra costs.
This is another good topic to discuss with your agent, who has likely used incentives before and can weigh in on which ones tend to work really well for buyers in the area, and which ones tend to fall flat. Get their opinion on whether to offer an incentive and, if so, which one to offer, then make sure it’s broadcast to your buyers so they know about it.
Have you ever heard of “coming soon” listings? This is one way to draw attention to your home before it ever hits the market, and sometimes you can wrangle timing in such a way to promote your home to a wide number of buyers and generate some buzz around it, which could get you more offers and a faster sale as a result.
For example, perhaps you host a broker’s open house so that local agents can come and see your place in person. Then you list it as “coming soon” for a week or two, and you let everybody who sees the listing know that your house will be open for buyers to walk through on Saturday and Sunday, and you won’t be accepting any offers until Monday morning. This strategy won’t work in every market, but in markets where there are lots of buyers eager to look at homes in certain areas, it can work very well to your advantage — you could wake up Monday morning to several offers, with a handful above asking price, if you play your cards right.
A real estate agent has seen all of the tactics you might use to generate some excitement about your home, so discuss options with your agent and ask their opinion about how to get attention from more buyers as soon as the house hits the market, which often means a fast offer and a fast sale — after just one weekend listed.
Tell them about it
Marketing your house is going to be at least partly your agent’s job, but there’s a lot you can do to help spread the word about your house and the fact that it’s going to be listed for sale. Share pictures and the portal listing on your social media profiles — Facebook, Nextdoor, Instagram. Put up a flier for the open house at the post office or your local coffee shop. Tell your neighbors and local friends that you’re selling and ask if they know anybody who wants to move into the area. You might be surprised by how much interest you’re able to generate all on your own, and adding your efforts to your agent’s efforts is just going to mean that more people see your house — never a bad thing.
Work with the right agent
Some agents know the tricks to getting a home sold fast, while others are less experienced in this particular aspect of real estate. When you’re interviewing agents, ask them how long it usually takes to generate an offer, assuming you’re taking their advice on pricing, staging, marketing, and everything else. Agents should be able to quote you a number of days or weeks off the top of their head — and they should be able to provide you with market information and statistics that helps you make an informed decision.
Ask potential agents what their strategy is around selling a home quickly and listen carefully to their responses. If an agent thinks the market will take care of you, be wary; it usually takes more than just relying on a hot market to get a house sold fast — and markets are shifting from a seller’s market to a more balanced market in a lot of the country, so that might be an outdated playbook, anyway.
Selling a home fast can be beneficial to both sellers and buyers in many ways. If it’s one of your top priorities when the time comes, ask your agent lots of questions about how to make it happen, and then cooperate with their suggestions, and you’ll hopefully be pleasantly surprised by how fast you go from listed to under contract.
2019 Real Estate Outlook
2019 Real Estate Outlook