Tips from the ExpertsHere is some of what experts advise to speed up your sale:
Finish the "honey do" list. Just about every homeowner has a string of little repairs that never quite get done. Now's the time. Fix the screens, oil that squeak, patch the cracks, paint the trim. Stuff that you've long since stopped noticing could be shouting "Deferred maintenance!" to every potential buyer.
The cost: A few bucks if you're handy, a couple of hundred or so if you hire someone who is.
Get inspected. A pre-sale inspection can help in two ways, says real estate columnist Tom Kelly. Professional inspections can identify problems that could thwart a sale in time to fix them. And if there are no major problems, he said, an inspection can publicize that fact to skittish buyers.
"Having an inspection (report) right on the counter during the open house . . . shows the buyers that the seller's got nothing to hide," said Kelly, author of several real-estate books.
The cost: Around $400.
Pack up the clutter. "Clutter eats equity," said real-estate broker Barb Schwarz, CEO of StagedHomes.com and a pioneer of the concept of professionally preparing houses for sale.
Too much stuff makes rooms look smaller and focuses buyers' attention on your possessions rather than the home you're trying to sell. That's why many professional stagers recommend removing as much as a third of your things to better show off rooms and closets.
"Since you're going to have to pack it up anyway, do it now," advised Schwarz, who said she has staged more than 5,000 homes. Buyers "can't imagine themselves living there if they can't see the space."
The cost: $150 to $300 a month for three months' storage.
Depersonalize and neutralize. The first items that should go in those packing boxes: family photos, collections and just about anything else that says "you." Streamline your artwork and consider toning down bold decorating statements, said Ilyce Glink. That means neutral shades if you need to repaint walls or replace carpets.
"Buyers have a hard enough time envisioning how their stuff will look on your walls," Glink said. "By neutralizing your decor, you can help give them the blank canvas they need to imagine your house as theirs."
The cost: $10 and up for paint; $500 and up for new carpet.
Clean like a fiend. "I mean Q-Tip clean," said Schwarz, who recommends taking a cotton swab to faucets and fixtures, scouring fingerprints from all the switch plates, shining windows until they're spotless and vacuuming up every last dog hair from the baseboards. "You should be able to eat off the kitchen floor, the bathroom floor."
You'll need to banish suspect smells as well; you don't want your house to become known in real-estate circles as "the cat pee place." If your pets have had one too many accidents, you may need to replace the affected carpet and padding and have the underlying floor sealed. If you're not sure how your place smells, get your least tactful friend to take a few whiffs and tell you the honest truth.
The cost: $10 or so in home cleaning products, if you do it yourself; $75 and up if you hire help.