When real estate prices are on the rise, it is always tempting to sell. Many things need to be considered before pulling the trigger.  The real estate market is challenging. Buyers have a lot of options—and they do not have to buy what you are selling. Your house is likely just one among a sea of for-sale signs, so you have to set your home apart from the others.  Every situation is different, but to get the best price for your property, follow these do’s and don’ts. 

Do not go at it alone, hire a professional  

If you are not a seasoned pro, hire a professional.  Most people will not buy or sell a house more than once or twice in a lifetime.  There is a lot of money at stake and there are so many laws that affect selling a home. Your are really accepting some liability by trying to sell it yourself.  Are you prepared to take on that responsibility?  Hiring a realtor is your best bet. They know what is selling around you, and for what price.  He or she can tell you whether an offer is reasonable and help you negotiate it smartly. A huge misconception is you will save thousands of dollars.  The truth is, you probably will not save as much as you think in the end.  Buyers who buy for sale by owner homes typically make low offers. Most feel the seller has extra money because they are not paying an agents commission. 

What to do: Hire a REALTOR.  Check references, conduct interviews and go with someone with a proven track record. 

Do not neglect to fix things that are broken.

If buyers walk through your house and spots a handful of items that need immediate repair, they are going to wonder how well you have maintained the things they cannot see. The entry way is a big tip-off. Got a loose hand rail on the steps, sagging screen door or jiggly door knob? Fix them. Clear your gutters, patch holes in your walls and address dripping faucets. 

What to do: Do a walk-through of your own home, pretending that you are seeing it for the first time. What things have you always meant to fix? Now is the time. Spend a few weekends dealing with all of those nagging projects to get your home in show-worthy shape. 

Do not get emotionally involved.

Yes, it is your house. Yes, you have put your blood, sweat and tears to get it just the way you wanted it. But, no, that does not make it someone else’s “perfect,” particularly when you have made some unique decorating decisions. Remember, once you put your home on the market it is no longer your home, it is a product for sale. You want the space to look as neutral as possible, so buyers can envision themselves in the space. So even if those teal walls in the bedroom look great with your duvet, it is likely they will not match anyone else’s things. Let go of the features you love, and make it a house most people could love.  

             What to do: Have a realtor walk through your home, and when she tells you what  you’ll need to change to make it marketable, listen to her. Start thinking about your house as a commodity, not an extension of your identity. If buyers don’t love it, it’s not a personal insult. It’s simply a deal that didn’t work out.     

Do not leave your stuff everywhere.

Buyers need to feel like they could move into your house tomorrow with their things. Often a lot collectibles, photos and clutter will make the space feel too personal. That first impression is the only impression.  

What to do: Before you put the home on the market, get a few boxes and grab every extraneous thing you see: photos, knick-knacks, books, etc. It often helps to take a few pictures of each room and look at them objectively. Try to view them through a buyer’s eyes. What could you remove from each room to make the space feel larger? You want it to look like a model home. Model homes look inviting, comfortable, spacious and they do not look like they belong to someone. They look lived in but generically.  A huge "NEGATIVE" is hanging out at the showings! While you may want to tell prospective buyers about all of the things you have done to the house it is best to leave them be. If there is some information you think is important for them to know leave a flyer for buyers to take with them.

Do not get offended by a low-ball offer.

Just because someone came in with a really low offer is no reason to reject the offer. Now is your chance to negotiate.  Remember buyers are trying to buy your house for the lowest price possible.  Do not blow them off because you are offended. It is always better to negotiate what you have than to anticipate something better.  They must love your house because they made an offer.  So you cannot blame them for trying to buy if for the lowest price. It is not personal, and it is not a slam on your housekeeping. It’s a business transaction.  You have a product for sale. Just remember, there is always a happy medium.  

What to do: Come back with a counteroffer. Typically, most buyers will come back with a second offer, which is a better indication of what they are really willing to pay. 

Do not lose a sale over something small or petty.

It is possible to get 99% of the way through a home sale, only to stall out at the end over a minor detail. Do not be that seller.  We have seen people throw away getting a $450,000 house sold over somebody wanting to take the screen door instead of leaving the screen door.  

What to do: Unless it is an heirloom that has been in your family for generations, remember that you can probably find another one—but you may not find another buyer at that price. To be safe, if there are things you are feeling like you cannot live without, replace them with something else before you put the house on the market or label them as items that do not convey with the sale.