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What You Need To Know About Selling Your Home: How To Get Your Property Ready For the Market

Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to our inbox.

You've found a realtor and you're ready to put your abode on the market. But wait, your place might not be up to par with the competition just yet. Here's what you need to do next.


Simply put, the best way to sell a house- besides pricing- is to remove both the occupants and their detritus, paint it, and have someone come in and redecorate it to look like a West Elm catalogue. It's going to take a few more percentage points of the sale price, but decent staging has proven to bring higher sale prices, and faster. We'll go deeper into staging in a future post; but for now, know your bottom line- can you afford to move out and stage your place, and will it be worth it?


How much work does your property need, and how much can you afford to get done? Will your house be marketed as "vintage," "ready for renovation," or "ready to move in?" The thing to remember is that selling something involves removing a buyer's potential objections, although in this current market, you may not encounter as many objections as you would in a more buyer-friendly one.. Also, consider renovations may not even be necessary: Some buyers are looking for vintage bathrooms and want to put in their own kitchens, or despise the polished black granite and stainless appliances you've just installed. Repairs aren't really the same thing as renovations though. A leaky roof, cracked foundation, or pest problem will indeed impact your home's sale-ability. We'll talk more about this in a future blog. But repair or renovation, you'll likely need city permission...which brings us to permits?


Is all the work you've had done been done with the required building permits? or did you buy a house with un-permitted work? That in-law unit you put in behind the garage may be cute and revenue-producing, but if it was done without permits it could cause problems for potential buyers, and some won't be willing to touch it. Read all about the crazy world of SF's permit process here. And keep in mind all this fixing of stuff has to be disclosed, which brings us to the disclosure report?


You read one of these when you bought the property. It's headache-inducing, and your agent will help, but remember, it's your signature at the bottom and you're responsible for its contents. Pre-2008, many buyers waved these off because they were only interested in winning a bidding war and felt flush enough to deal existing conditions. That may be happening again due to today's low inventory and high demand, but really, you don't want the potential legal headache. Just disclose candidly.

What's a contingency, again? Anything that will allow either the buyer or seller to back out of, or modify, the deal. Remember, selling is about removing obstacles, and that's exactly what a contingency can be, so tread carefully. You may have waived contingencies when you bought the property, but they still exist, usually having to do with buyer financing, unfavorable inspection reports or existing conditions.

Next up, someone wants to buy your home. What's that entail?
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