Back in 2005, we were renting a one bedroom apartment for $500 a month. After following the advice of well-meaning friends and relatives that we were “throwing our money away” by renting, we decided to purchase a home. We were adults, after all. And buying a house is what responsible adults do, right?
We bought our house at the exact wrong time. A few years after we moved in, the housing market crashed and we were immediately underwater on our mortgage. After waiting around for over a decade to catch up, and feeling like we did a 13-year prison sentence for a crime we didn’t commit, we were more than a little antsy to sell our house.
We were also scared. We didn’t know the first thing about selling a house, and we weren’t clear on if the local market had recovered or if we could break even on our “investment.”
We had an offer on our house within a week. Even though we listed it in autumn, the non-prime house selling season. And we don’t live in an up-and-coming area with a hot market.
Did we get lucky? Luck might have had something to do with it, but we also worked our asses off to make it happen.
Nothing to do with buying or selling a house is a fast process. For most people it’s a gigantic decision, and they understandably take their time in making it. There’s a mountain of paperwork, and the whole thing is bogged down in legal, financial, and regulatory requirements.
However, there are a few things you can do on your end to help sell your house fast.
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Purge and Clean
One of the downsides of owning a house is that it gives us a lot of room to accumulate a lot of stuff. Go through the garage, attic, closets, and cabinets and purge everything you don’t need. If you can’t remember the last time you used it, you probably don’t need it. Donate, sell, or give your stuff to friends.
After you’ve pared down your belongings, go through your house and clean, clean, clean. An organized and clean house will give buyers the impression that it’s well-cared for, and they’ll be more likely to consider it. You’ll also save on storage and moving costs by having less stuff.
Back when we bought our home, DIY renovations were popular because the economy was better and people had money to do them. They didn’t mind buying homes that needed work. Today’s buyers are attracted to move-in ready homes, and getting your clutter out helps your home give that impression.
You want potential buyers to see themselves in your house, and it’s difficult for them to do that when the walls of your office are lime green and your bookshelf is filled with photos of that time you dressed up your pet ferret for Halloween.
Home buying is an emotional decision. Although real estate listings focus on the tangible aspects of homes, such as how many bedrooms they have or what kind of siding is on them, buyers make decisions based on how your home makes them feel.
What can you do to make home buyers feel like they belong in your house? Make your home a blank canvas by storing personal objects and painting over crazy colors.
I went the evil route and had bread baking every time someone came to see the house. People liked it so much that it was mentioned in the showing report. And when we eventually met the buyers, they mentioned it again!
Give Every Area a Purpose
It’s important to help your buyers imagine themselves in your home. Depersonalization is a great first step, but staging and giving each area of your home a purpose is important, too.
Put yourself in your buyer’s situation. Home buying, just like home selling, is a stressful process. They’re spending their free time looking at listings on the internet and going to see homes. It’s a big, scary investment. They’re thinking about all the stuff they have to move. All the while trying to keep up with their daily life.
Making your buyer do all of the work and use their imagination when viewing your home is another burden on them, and they aren’t likely to put much effort into it.
We have a patio area on the side of our home, and before we listed it the patio area was empty. We prefer to use the backyard for sitting and grilling out, so the side patio wasn’t impressive.
We moved a grill, a pot of flowers, and two Adirondack chairs to our neglected side patio, and our realtor was able to advertise our home as having two outdoor sitting areas. Had we not given our side patio a purpose, it might have been completely ignored.
Give every area of your home a purpose, and highlight the unique benefits.
Mind the Outside
First impressions are paramount when you’re trying to sell a home. If your house gives a poor first impression, buyers are unlikely to waste their time on it. When someone pulls up to your house, what do they see? If you saw your house from the outside and it wasn’t yours, what would you think?
Mow the grass, pull weeds, and add some attractive landscaping. Replace the front door if you need to. Do whatever it takes to make the first impression of your house a positive one.
Home buyers don’t even have to visit your house to begin judging it. They can simply bring up sites like Zillow, take a quick peek, and decide if they want to see it in person or not within a few minutes. That’s why it’s important to have fantastic listing photos of your property.
You don’t have to be a professional photographer or have an expensive camera to take great photos. We used an old Nikon D90 with an inexpensive tripod and lighting kit purchased on Amazon. With good lighting and some basic compositional knowledge, you could get attractive photos of your home with a point and shoot camera or your smartphone.
While it’s important to have lots of photos on your listing, don’t take photos of every inch of your home. Focus on taking great photos of the most important parts, such as the living area, kitchen, and outside first.
Try to highlight the best features of your home in your photos. Got a great fireplace in your family room? Definitely photograph it.
Make sure all photos are sharp and well-composed. Crop awkward objects, straighten crooked photos, and use natural lines to draw the viewer’s eyes to the things you want them to see. And for flip’s sake, keep your fingers out of the photos. (Do you know how many real estate photos I’ve seen with fingers in them? Sorry, it’s a pet peeve of mine. 😂)
If you don’t have the time or desire to put effort into your listing photos, consider hiring a professional real estate photographer. Your investment will pay off in more showings and, hopefully, better offers.
Be Flexible When Showing Your House
Showing your house is, without a doubt, a pain in the ass. Keeping it magazine clean and organized and getting the hell out with not much notice isn’t fun.
However, each time someone wants to come see your home, try your best to accommodate them. People work and have other responsibilities, so the time they schedule to see your home might be the only time they have to see it. If people can’t see your home when they have time, they’ll move on to one that they can see.
Do Small, Modernizing Projects
While large, costly renovations aren’t likely to pay off, small upgrades won’t take much out of your pocketbook and can make a difference to buyers.
My 1940s home had brass door hardware. Not only was it worn and out of date, it never looked clean. A screwdriver, a can of Krylon spray paint, and a little bit of my time later, I had attractive and modern-looking rubbed oil door hardware. And I didn’t have to spend a bunch of money to get it.
What small, inexpensive things can you upgrade in your home to make it look clean and modern?
Throw in Some Perks
Because we didn’t want to drag our appliances across the country, we decided to sell them with the house. We knew it would be attractive to a first time home buyer or someone like us who didn’t want to move their old appliances and didn’t have the cash to buy new ones.
Also, because our appliances have some age on them, we opted to offer a home warranty with our house. In addition, we paid our buyer’s closing costs, which gave us leverage when negotiating repairs and ultimately sped up the closing process.
What perks can you throw in with your home to make purchasing it a no-brainer or save you time in negotiations?
Have an Inspection Done
Before I sold my home, I thought that home inspections were only for people buying a house.
A home inspector will review every inch of your home and identify issues that may appear when a potential buyer orders their own inspection. They’ll go to areas in your home you may have forgotten about and bring your attention to things you didn’t realize were deficient.
Finding and correcting issues before someone puts an offer in can not only speed up the home selling process, it will also help you save time during negotiations. You won’t have your back up against a wall trying to get repairs done before closing.
Home inspections run in the neighborhood of $200-$400 and can prove to be a worthy investment to save you time and frustration.
Hire a Realtor Who Knows Your Area
While our realtor didn’t end up selling our home, (A realtor from another town did, which brought its own issues. A story for another time!) her experience and knowledge of our area was helpful in setting a price, and it will also help us during closing.
For instance, our realtor told us it wasn’t likely that someone from our town would buy our home. It was more likely that someone from a neighboring county would, as people in that county are looking to escape high taxes and home prices. We wouldn’t have known this information had we not talked to our realtor, and it was vital insight that helped us decide how to price, feature, and market our home.
Obviously, every market, home, and buyer is different. The things that worked for us might not be appropriate for your situation. The strategies above paid off for us, and we hope they help you sell your house fast. Or at least get you closer to being on the road!
Hi! I’m a web developer in training, artist, and full-time RVer. I sold my house in Indiana and most of my stuff to realize my dream of moving to Tucson, AZ. I enjoy reading, hiking, bird watching, playing video games, and blogging.