1. Find an experienced, honest, straight shooting, full time real estate agent. Again, this is not a shameless plug! I sincerely believe that smart, successful people surround themselves with smart, experienced, experts that can help guide them to a well thought out decision. A serious listing agent will know the comps, will have been inside similar homes in your neighborhood and will have sold homes in the neighborhood recently. Have the agent show you comps of similar homes that have SOLD in the past 6 months and within a reasonable proximity to your home. Ask the agent what the average sale time is in your city and then ask what price you should list at for your home to sell in the average amount of time in your market. I personally allow clients to "test the waters" at a slightly above market listing price provided we are clear on what I believe the accurate listing price should be and provided the seller is willing to make price changes if feedback or showings (lack of) indicate the need to do so. Good real estate agents will communicate that the two most important criteria that buyers look for are price and condition. Sellers should do everything in their power to make sure the home shows well and is priced fairly.
2. Internet and Social Media - I decided to make internet and social media have its own section to emphasize the importance of what I'm about to write. If your listing agent does not have a website, a blog (with daily or weekly contributions), and accounts with Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and Google+ you probably have the wrong agent. Recent studies show that somewhere between 80% and 95% of home buyers are searching for homes on the internet. If your agent isn't a major internet presence in your city then you are not maximizing your advertising and marketing and you probably have the wrong agent.
3. Comps - Valid comps are homes that have sold in a given area, in the past 6 - 12 months, with similar square footage, beds, baths, and finishes as your home. Things that don't matter at all are 1) what you paid for the home 2) what you owe on the home 3) what your neighbor paid in 2007 or 4) the amount of money you lost by not selling at the peak of the market. Be realistic, look at the data and listen to your agent's advice. Upgrades or renovations made after purchasing a home merit consideration when determining the value of the home but seller's should recognize that they will only recoup a percentage of the entire cost of the renovations, not all of the money spent.
4. Showings - An absolute, immutable law for my team is to try to never say no when a client suggests a time to view a property. Being available when the client prefers is one of the keys to our success in my mind. The same holds true for the home seller as well. Try to never refuse a REASONABLE showing request if it's at all possible. Reasonable showings to me take place between the hours of 9am and 7pm and give at least the minimum amount of notice that is required when setting up the appointment. Obvious exceptions are made if the home owners have young children or unusual work hours but allowing as many home showings as possible drastically increases the likelihood of sale. The automated showing systems many of us use can be set up to notify owners or tenants via email and phone 24 hours in advance of any showing.
5. See Things From The Buyer's Perspective - Nobody is easier to work with than a home seller who is simultaneously a home buyer. Almost every home seller was a home buyer at one point and it makes sense to consider the Buyer's perspective when selling a home. Remember what mattered to you when you were deciding between a few different homes. Also consider the available inventory (your competition), the seasonality of the real estate market, the lending environment, and the economic environment. Seeing things from the buyer's perspective helps a seller to be reasonable, realistic and fair.
6. Offers - If you are not getting showings and offers within the first few weeks after listing your home for sale you are probably priced too high for the current market and should reduce the price. Remember that listing a property for sale invites criticism and comparison and although your home is perfect in your eyes a potential home buyer may have different taste and may be considering large scale changes to your home. Be prepared for low ball offers from people trying to "steal" properties and don't be offended. Be thankful for every offer your listing agent receives and make a counteroffer that makes sense to you. Refusing to counter is counterproductive and does not make any logical sense. Balance the emotion of the sale with logic and data. Feel confident that you are making the right decision for you or don't sign the contract. REMEMBER that all offer terms matter NOT just the price - carefully consider the lender, mortgage down payment, good faith deposit, seller assist, settlement date, buyer strength, appraisal contingency, and home sale contingency. When you do accept an offer remember than buyers almost ALWAYS ask for credits or repairs after inspections - even if they have to take the home in "as-is" condition. Review the inspection report carefully, be fair and at worst split the costs of all REASONABLE repairs with the buyer.
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