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Once you decide to sell your home, you want the process to go as quickly and smoothly as possible. Top money would be nice, too. So, besides hanging a "For Sale" sign out front, what can you do to improve your chances of getting the sale you want?

1. Get Your House in Shape for a Successful Sale

Walk through your home, looking at it through buyerWalk through your home, looking at it through buyer's eyes. The crayon marks Junior made on the wall may be cute to you, but they won't be to a potential buyer. Then walk outside and assess the curb appeal (how buyers will view the house when driving up). Is the lawn brown? Is the window trim peeling? Invite a few realtors over. Besides interviewing them, you'll learn what they think you should do to get your home ready for sale. They can also give you a comparable market analysis (CMA), which tells you what similar homes have sold for in your neighborhood in recent months. Agents use comps as a starting point for determining what price tag you should put on your home.

Make repairs and changes that aren't expensive but could raise the selling price. Paint the walls. Mend the fence. Plant some flowers. Move excess furniture and trinkets out so the house looks bigger. When considering home improvements, realize that you won't always get back the amount you spent on the project when it's time to sell.

Percentage Cost Recouped for Home Improvements - New Roof 71.6%, Bathroom Remodel 70.0%, Major Kitchen Remodel 67.8%, Ramily Room Addition 64.1%, Master Suite Addition 61.7%, Deck Addition (wood) 80.5%, Entry-door Replacement (steel) 101.8%

2. Decide Who'll Sell the Property

91% of sellers used a real estate professional *National Association of REALTORSAre you going to use an agent or will you sell the house yourself? Real estate commissions typically run around 6 percent of the sale price (half goes to the buyer's agent), though they might be negotiable. Because of the cost, many sellers decide to handle the sale themselves. Many of those sellers change their tune after they realize how much work and specialized knowledge it takes to make a successful sale. If you still want to avoid paying a full commission, at least hire a real estate agent or attorney on an hourly basis to give you advice and help you through the paperwork once the offers come in.

3. Avoid Surprises by Getting an Inspection First

ItIt's worth the few hundred dollars it costs to get a professional home and pest inspection. Do this shortly before listing your home so that the information in the report is as current and accurate as possible when prospective buyers start touring the property. The report will give you an idea of what items might trigger an interested buyer to start bargaining. While most buyers will still want to have their own inspections done, having one done yourself and making copies available to shoppers prepares you for negotiations, shows you have nothing to hide, and improves the quality of initial offers.

4. Set the Right Price

Your real estate agent will recommend a specific price or a range based on the recent sales prices of similar homes in you neighborhood. You might also want to go to neighborhood open houses to compare them to your property and see what sellers are asking. Research prices on the Internet. Check your local newspaper. Home prices fluctuate based on both the national and local economy, so pay attention to the news. If you're still not sure how to price your home, you may want to pay for a professional appraisal. Be prepared to make a counter-offer if someone makes an offer that is significantly below the price you are willing to accept.

5. Open Your Home to Shoppers

Your agent may schedule open houses, and will probably also bring prospective buyers through from time to time. You never know when you'll get a call saying a buyer wants to see your home in 30 minutes, so keep the place neat and clean the entire time it's on the market (this is the biggest challenge for some sellers).

Move your valuables out or keep them hidden. Buyers will open doors and look in closets. They're not being nosy -- they want to know if there's enough room for their own things.

Even if you've already moved out, keep the temperature at a comfortable level and add a few pieces of furniture and plants to make it look more like a home.

6. Accept an Offer and Pack Up

All your preparation is paying off and you're finally getting offers from interested buyers! Your realtor will help assess the strength of each offer, considering not only the offer price, but also whether the buyer is pre-approved (already has a mortgage commitment from a lender) and what contingencies he or she has written into the contract.

Once you've accepted an offer and the deal goes into escrow, it's time to plan your move. You'll need to be out by the close of escrow unless you've agreed to rent the house back from the new owner for a while.

After all this effort, you can finally put the money in your account and take your real estate agent's number off your speed dial.

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