As 2013 emerges with signs of a bottoming out of the real estate slump, homeowners who have been sitting on the sidelines may finally be ready to take the plunge and put their homes on the market. But for those hoping to sell in the spring, the most popular season for home sales, now is the time to make a few New Year's resolutions to pave the way for the best deal. Some real estate agents say 2013 is as good a time as ever to sell, as the housing market is slowly creeping back — though still far below the peak. Spring is a popular time to list a home for a number of reasons. In the past, corporate executives got their bonus checks in January and began to house hunt, while others received tax refunds. And a spring purchase gives buyers time for the kids to settle down over the summer before heading to a new school in fall, said Cindy Marsh-Tichy, president-elect of the New Jersey Association of Realtors. One downside to spring selling is the increase in competition, which can be avoided by listing a home a little earlier, perhaps in late January or early February.
To even consider listing a property, a lot of planning and preparation are needed. Here are some tips from pros.
Choosing an agent
It is key for sellers to interview many agents, to find the right one for their needs and to ask the right questions.
Sellers should inquire about an agent's negotiating skills, her experience, her handling of situations like bidding wars, where she lives, what region she covers and her past transactions.
Ask for references, how long it takes an agent to complete a sale and if she works full time.
Where to look
Once an agent is hired, the next step is to discuss the bigger picture: Where do the homeowners want to live next?
Before listing their own home on the market, take a day or two to drive around to see what's available for them.
How much to ask
Then, it may be time to consider setting the asking price. Homeowners need to be realistic about the asking price.
This becomes more important for owners looking to sell their properties fast. They have to look at what other people have received for their homes.
But it takes more than putting the appropriate price on a home to sell it — houses need to be prepared to be shown, to become neutral to all potential buyers.
Make sure everything is free of clutter, looks bright, smells good and is organized well. Homeowners also need to remember not to overlook the little things, like replacing a burned-out light bulb.
Pre-inspection may also help. Home inspection companies can do a modified, shortened inspection for people who are looking to sell. It's not as costly as a full inspection, but prices vary by home.
Consider getting a home warranty to give potential buyers peace of mind.
And remember that no amount of money they put into the house to fix it up will be fully returned. Seek professional advice before throwing tons of money into what may be unnecessary home improvements just to sell their home.
Ready for photos
Once the house is fully staged, it is time to schedule a professional photographer.
"That's the one way for us to communicate with all these prospective buyers who start their searches on the Internet."
Web marketing is crucial, with so many prospective buyers who start their searches on the Internet. Many agents set up individual websites with video clips, details and photographs to help sell houses.