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Whether you're planning to sell your home in the next few months or just studying up for that eventuality, there's no time like now to prepare. If buying a house seems complicated, selling involves even more responsibilities and expenses.

Here are some common steps to selling your home:
1. Prepare Your Home for Sale
Well before you're ready to plant that "For Sale" sign in your front yard, there is work to be done to prepare your home for sale.

Remember how keen your eye was to every small detail and defect in the houses you saw as a buyer? Now that door to your bedroom that never quite closed properly or that leaky faucet that you never got around to fixing will be seen by a potential buyer with that same keen eye.

Start making the obvious repairs today - even if you don't plan to sell until a year from now. These repairs can cost money and take time. Plus fixing it now will allow you to enjoy the results before it's time to move out.

If you plan on doing some improvements before the sale, the best place to start is where the buyers start: at your curb. Potential buyers base a large part of their decision on a property's "curb appeal," so make yours say something positive. That means a tidy front yard, a house with well-painted trim, a tidy driveway and a clear, welcoming entryway.

Inside, the biggest return on your investment continues to be improvements to the kitchen, followed closely by improvements to the master bedroom. If you're making these improvements shortly before selling the house, consider painting and decorating the rooms in neutral colors, the most appealing choice to the greatest number of potential buyers.

Inside and outside, start reducing the clutter. When it comes time to show your home, less will mean more. Potential buyers don't want to see how your closets overflow with clothes, how every room feels cramped with furniture, or how the yard is difficult to maneuver with that rusty swing set in the way. So downsize now; it not only will make the preparation for showing your home easier, it also will make packing for your move faster.

2. Find a Real Estate Professional
If you've been through the home-buying process, you already know how complicated the real estate business can be. While you can opt to sell your home yourself, it can be time-consuming and often not worth the money saved on commissions.

However, if you do hire a real estate professional as your selling agent, do your homework. Ask friends and family for recommendations, interview several candidates, attend a few open houses and watch the professional in action. Do you think this person would present your house well to potential clients?

When interviewing me or another candidate, ask him or her to prepare a "comparative marketing analysis" for your house. This might include a demographic of the neighborhood, the quality of schools in the area and a suggested list price for the property.

If you've chosen me or another real estate professional to help sell your home, you'll have to sign a contract stating that you'll work solely with them for a designated number of months, often between one and six months. This means no other real estate professional will be allowed to sell your home on your behalf during this time.

So put some thought into the professional you choose and if you decide to choose me, I will help you sell your home to a qualified buyer for the highest market price in the quickest, most convienent timeline.

3. Get Your Paperwork Together
After you sign the Listing Agreement with me she will need a lot of documents from you to prepare your home for sale. Among the things she will want to see are:

You'll want to make it clear now which items in the home you want to take with you - the heirloom chandelier in the dining room, the washer and dryer set you just bought last month - and which can stay behind as part of the home sale. I can help show you which items you should put away or replace before your house goes on the market.

4. Price Your Home
There are a number of factors that will affect the success of your home sale. They include: location of the home, interest rates, economic conditions, time of year, condition of the home, marketing the home, terms of the sale and accessibility to the home.

Some of these are not within your or my control - location of the home, interest rates, economic conditions. The other factors are items you should discuss with me to determine what would benefit the sale of this property most.

For example, marketing your property in more innovative ways, such as on an Internet site like this one, may broaden the pool of potential buyers. If you can, waiting for a good time to sell your home - spring or fall, the most popularly home buying times - also may help it sell faster except in this Seller's market, anytime is a good time. And pricing the home properly can make a huge difference in whether a house is snapped up within the first several weeks of listing or sits on the market for more than a year.

To price a home properly, you and I will have to study the local market, research comparable properties and consider current market conditions. This is where the "comparative marketing analysis" you requested when interviewing for a listing agent will come in handy as a place to start.

Now check around your neighborhood, your newspaper and Internet sites like this one for:
Based on these findings, I have the experience to help you price your property at the right price for a sale that benefits you.

5. Market Your Home
Products that sell well usually have a good marketing strategy. The same can be said for your home. Work with me to decide where you want to advertise. Will the house be advertised only with a yard sign? Do you want your house listed for sale not only in newspapers but also on Internet sites like this one? When can you make your house available for an "open house" showing?

When a potential buyer arrives for an "open house" or drives by and sees the for sale sign, you'll want to provide a home profile handout that they can take with them. Decide what information should be included in the description of your home that will make it a must-see - and hopefully, a must-buy. Include one or more photos of the home to showcase the most appealing features of your property and help remind potential buyers of what they saw as they visit home after home.

You may even want to include a few lines about benefits of moving to this property, such as good schools, convenience to mass transit and other desirable community features. You'll work with me to discuss what the features and benefits of your property are.

6. Prepare Your Home for Showing (Your Job!)
Now that you've decided with me on the market price and how you will market your home now there's little time left to get your house ready for visitors.

Now is the time to put on the finishing touches, just like that quick housecleaning you do before company comes over for dinner.

Outside: Keep your lawn trimmed, the rose bushes pruned, the weeds tamed. Put away the garden hose and the tools. Make sure the bulbs in your home's exterior lighting fixtures are all in working order. Be vigilant about removing flyers, handouts and newspapers left on your front doorstep or driveway.

Inside: Brighten the rooms by opening the drapes, turning on the lights, cleaning the windows. Clear the clutter on the kitchen counter, bathroom sink, coffee table and couches. Make all the beds. Clean all your bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Do a quick vacuuming of the entire house, being sure to catch any cobwebs in the corners along the ceiling. Finally, take out the garbage.

If you have pets, find a safe place to keep them during a house showing: in the garage, in the basement or at a friend's house.

Now leave the work to me. Try to be away from home during a showing, but if you happen to be home when the potential buyers arrive, greet them at the door then politely excuse yourself. Make yourself scarce or go take a walk. It's easier for a buyer to picture himself or herself living in the house when you're not there. This is your home's time to shine.

7. Respond to an Offer
Depending on market conditions, you may receive one or more offers for your property from interested buyers. Each offer will include the proposed offer price, proposed closing date, proposed move-in date, financing, and contingencies that may include an appraisal or sale of the buyers' current home. Let me help you sort through the variables to determine whether you should accept, counter-offer or reject the offer.

If there are multiple offers, each offer will be presented to you in the order registered. You don't need to decide anything until after you've seen all the offers. If you do accept or counter more than one offer, you are required to establish an order of precedence noting which is the primary offer, followed by the backups in order. This will help you avoid selling the house to more than one buyer.

8. Complete the Settlement
Once you have accepted an offer to buy your house, expect to make your house available to a housing inspector, a termite inspector, an appraiser and other inspectors. After seeing the results of the inspections, the buyer may request additional work is completed before purchase, such as repairing a damaged roof or fixing a leaky faucet. You should consult with me to determine whether to comply with the buyer's request or risk losing this offer.

During this flurry of activity, try to keep your home in show condition. The deal has not closed and still may fall through, which may mean showing your home to more potential buyers.

In the meantime, the buyer is working with a lender to secure a loan for the purchase. When the buyer has written loan approval, a closing date can be set.

There will be a final walk-through before all signatures are collected and the deal considered done. The buyer will go room by room to check that everything is in working condition and, if you had agreed to do so, any additional work requested after inspection is completed.

Now you can prepare for your own move, notify your utility companies of the date to transfer your account to a new address and start packing. Congratulations, you've sold your home!

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