If you're thinking about selling, you'll need to have a pretty good idea how your house stacks up against the competition. And when I say competition, I mean the other houses currently on the market in your area that are comparable to yours. All those competing houses will give you a sense of what you need to do to get your house up to speed and up to top price. If buyers are going to be looking at similar houses in the neighborhood that are well manicured, beautifully maintained, and well dressed, then you better match their level of quality to compete. You won't be able to command top dollar if your house looks a level or two below a neighbor's.
Knowing your price range is critical, too. Are you in a $200,000-home neighborhood or an $800,000-home neighborhood? You don't want to over-improve and try selling the only house with a newly added hot tub. You want your house to be just slightly better than the best house that has sold.
What Does the House Down the Street Have that Yours Doesn't?
I've always been smart enough to know what I don't know. When it comes to upgrading and adding just the right amenities to get top dollar, I continuously seek out the help and advice of others. Your real estate agent is always a good source for ideas about what needs to be repaired, improved, and upgraded. Ask him, "What do the houses in this neighborhood that have sold for more money have, that my house doesn't have? Is there any amenity that the average buyer in this neighborhood will expect that this house doesn't have?" Whatever his answer, include it in your selling plans.
You may be surprised by his answers. There may be certain things about your home that your realtor will insist you do, yet other things he'll say are overkill for your particular neighborhood. But you'd be shocked at how many sellers don't do this market analysis first. They just redo or upgrade…or do nothing at all. They act blindly with no consideration to their market competition.
Keeping Up with the Joneses
You've likely seen what neighbor's homes are like, you've seen what's on the market in your neighborhood, and you know what buyers are looking for. You've heard of the "Keeping up with the Joneses," right? Well, now you are going to take it two steps further. You're going to kick some butt and leave the Joneses in the dust! Why? Not out of pride or because you don't like the Joneses. You want your house to be the hot commodity in the neighborhood when you put it up for sale, because that means you'll make more money when you sell your house. And now that you have a clear understanding of exactly what the Joneses have got, you're able to go that two steps better, but not three. Being just slightly better is the key. That way you have the decided edge in capturing buyers, and you expend just enough time, energy and resources…but not a minute or penny more than you need to.
-Michael CorbettMichael Corbett Michael Corbett is Trulia's real estate and lifestyle expert. He is also the host of EXTRA's Mansions and Millionaires on NBC. In addition to his regular segments on ABC's The View and Fox News, he is a national best selling author with three critically acclaimed real estate books: Find It, Fix It, FLIP IT!; Ready, Set, SOLD! and Before You BUY! His years of experience in buying, renovating, and selling homes have made him a sought-after nationally recognized real estate expert.