First off, don’t sell your house unless you really must. There are few things that will take you back financially faster than selling your home. If you must, there are some things you can do to maximize the value you get and shorten the time you have your home on the market.
The reason that selling your home may be a bad idea is that it will likely eat too far into your net worth. Let’s assume for a moment that you are in your 30s and you are thinking of selling your first home, one that you’ve been in for about five years. If you’ve been lucky enough to have some appreciation, it likely hasn’t been much. For the sake of example, let’s say your home has increased in value from $200,000 to $210,000. At the same time, your mortgage has declined from $180,000 to $175,000. Your original equity of $20,000 has now become $35,000.
Your home equity is likely the biggest part of your net worth. Your retirement savings is likely to be smaller than your home equity. The value of your cars (after deducting the loans on them) is likely inconsequential. The cash in your checking account isn’t likely to add much. If you sell your home, you can expect to pay about 10 percent of the value of your home in closing costs on the sale and the purchase of your new home. That means, you’re giving up $21,000 of your $35,000 of equity. You’ll actually have less equity in your new home than you had in the home you’re in now when you bought it.
So, you’re better off to stay where you are as long as possible. If you’ve reached the end of that road and you must sell, here are some tips to help you maximize the value:
1. Hire an agent
Many people are tempted to sell their homes by owner; this exposes you to the risk of being taken by unscrupulous buyers and is unlikely to net you any more money. While you will pay the cost of the commission when you use an agent, on average you can expect to get most of that covered by getting top dollar for your home, rather than having to discount it.
2. Optimize the appearance
Inside and out, do everything you can to affordably improve the condition. Get rid of stuff, including old furniture that is cluttering your home and making the spaces look cramped and small. Add light and open windows to give your home a bright feel. Paint over unusual wall colors with more neutral colors inside and out. Give the yard a more manicured or well-tended look.
3. Keep it clean
Inside and out, be sure to keep your home clean so that it can be shown on a moments notice and prospective buyers will be impressed with what they see.
Your real estate agent can help you determine the value of your home and work with you to develop strategies to get full value in an offer. By moving as seldom as possible, you eliminate the expense and hassle of frequent moves and create more stability for your family.