Whether you want to trade up to a bigger and better home or you just can’t afford your current mortgage, selling your home may be the answer. But before you plonk a “For Sale” sign in your front lawn, there are steps to take to ensure that you sell your home quickly and get a fair price.

Schedule an Appraisal

What you paid for your home when you moved in may not be what it’s worth in the housing market today. Factors such as the quality of your house and the neighborhood will affect price. Sarah Max of CNNMoney suggests hiring a home appraiser to put a value on you home. Avoid a too-low home appraisal price by hiring an appraiser with a good reputation who won’t rush through the process.

Research Your Area

Look into the real estate market in your area to prepare yourself for the process. How much are people listing their houses for? How long are the houses on the market before they’re sold? Are home owners having to reduce their prices often? You can find out this information by talking to neighborhood friends or contacting real estate agents that worked on the properties. If you find out that the selling process took months or years, you’ll know not to expect a quick sale.

Fix Problem Areas

During the sale process, a potential buyer will hire a home inspector to look for any structural problems and needed repairs. Since buyers will often negotiate the repairs into the sale contract, it’s better to fix these problems before the sales process even starts. Stop that always-running toilet and renew the peeling paint. Fixing these problems ahead of time will also increase the value of your home. If you’re not sure what repairs are needed, hire your own inspector to find them for you.

Spruce Up the Curb Appeal

The curb appeal of your home--what it looks like when standing at the curb--is your house’s first impression. If you have a scraggly lawn and dead shrubs, many potential buyers won’t bother even coming inside. Increase your chances of a sale by fixing up the outside of your home. Paint your house, plant colorful flowers and keep your lawn watered. Dana Dratch of Bankrate.com recommends fitting your home’s style in with the style of the rest of the neighborhood so it doesn’t stand out as an eye sore.

Keep it Spotless

An unclean home will drastically reduce the chances of a sale. Before you start listing your home, make sure that every area is as clean as it can be. Scrub away soap scum on your shower doors. Make the inside of your oven look like you just brought it home from the appliance store. Every inch of your home should be spotless.

Show Off the Interior

Potential buyers want to be able to see themselves living in your home. To achieve this, take away the clutter. Remove any unnecessary furniture and keep counters cleared. Remove personal items such as family portraits. Generic yet comforting furnishings will help buyers visualize what it will be like to live there.

Take Clear Photos

Clear, well-lit pictures will help increase foot traffic to your home once it’s listed online. Before you start selling your home, take pictures of the interior and exterior. For indoor shots, wait until the room gets the most natural sunlight before taking pictures. If you’re going to sell your home during the winter, make sure to take pictures of it during warmer months so buyers can see the greenery and sunshine. If you’re not confident in your camera skills, hire someone to take them for you.

Decide Whether to Work With an Agent

You have two choices as a homeowner: You can hire a real estate agent or you can sell the house yourself. Margarette Burnette of Bankrate.com recommends that only homeowners that are willing to work with buyers’ agents should sell the house themselves. If you aren’t comfortable with sales and don’t know the process for listing your home, consider hiring an agent instead. While the real estate agent will get a small percentage of the sale as commission, this fee is worth it to hand off the responsibilities to someone else.





Photo courtesy of tkksummers via Flickr