Make small fixes.
Inspect your home with a buyer’s eyes, and correct the flaws that are most egregious (if affordable) or can be relatively easily fixed—from repairing cracks in the walkways to repainting dingy walls or oiling creaky hinges.
Decide whether to work with an agent or self-sell.
For a commission, an agent will take care of many details you may not want to be bothered with (placing ads, fielding calls, making signs, etc.) and bring experience to the table. To find a good one, ask friends and relatives, then interview several candidates. Have each one walk through your house to see how he or she would price it and how the two of you get along. Sign an agreement for the shortest commitment possible, usually three to six months. If you self-sell, help is available (for a fee) at forsalebyowner.com.
Set a price.
A real estate agent will give you a market analysis free of charge or commitment. Ask a few to get a broader picture of the market, then ask to see listings for properties similar to yours that have sold in the past six months. Check out comparable listings yourself in the real estate section of your newspaper or on websites. Or get an analysis from a certified appraiser (appraisalinstitute.org). Then decide whether you want a quick, easy sale or the highest possible price.
Clean and declutter.
Weed out excess furniture, knicknacks, and “stuff”—toss it, donate it, give it away, sell it at a yard sale, or put it into storage—so the house seems more spacious and buyers can imagine themselves in it.
Decide whether to do a prelisting inspection.
It may save you time, especially with older homes, to identify—and potentially solve—problems your buyer’s inspection will discover later.
Stay vigilant about maintenance.
From the moment you start showing your house, keep the lawn mowed, shrubs trimmed, gardens weeded, rooms spotless and clutter-free.
Ready your home for show days.
Hide pocketable valuables, display fresh flowers or bowls of fruit, bake a batch of cookies for the homey smell, open the drapes, keep pets out of sight, and stay quietly in the background (or leave, if an agent is showing your property).
Consider consulting a lawyer.
If you do hire one, make sure he or she has real estate experience.
Start organizing for your move.
Once the sale is final, use the Moving Checklist to help you hire movers, order supplies, and pack up your belongings.