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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 white, and have someone come in and redecorate it to look like a West Elm catalogue. Lots of big mirrors leaning against the wall, a trick which not only makes rooms look bigger but makes buyers look slimmer. 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. Bottom line- can you afford to move out, and will it be worth it? (We covered the magic of staging in depth in an earlier post. Check it out for a refresher.)


How much work does your property need, and how much can you afford to get done? Will your house be marketed as vintage and ready for renovation, or ready to move into? The thing to remember is that selling something involves removing a buyer's potential objections- it's why Realtors are so relentlessly upbeat. It's a tough call, since some buyers are looking for vintage bathrooms and want to put in their own kitchens, or despise polished black granite and stainless appliances; so if you spend money upgrading, you may not get return on your investment. Still, repairs are different than remodels, and can make a sale more complex if left undone. But repairs brings us to permits, which we have detailed before with expert help. Below is a rough outline as reminder.


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. And all this 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 indeed happen again, but you might not be totally off the hook if something goes wrong later. All in all, a candid disclosure report is highly advisable.

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.


Deals involving second mortgages and creative financing are less common in these competitive buyer days, which is better for sellers. Keep it simple, if possible. Ask yourself how long you're willing to be involved with both the property and the buyer after the close of escrow.
Next up, someone wants to buy your home. What's that entail?
· Wield The Magic of a Well-Staged Home [Curbed SF]
· Navigating the Treacherous and Tumultuous San Francisco Permitting Process
· All Curbed University coverage [Curbed SF]