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For Sale: When and How to Sell a House

Thinking of putting your home on the market, but not sure how to start? Learn what buyers are looking for and what to consider before putting up that for sale sign.

If you’re planning on selling your home in the near future, you want to sell it quickly and for as much money as possible. So when is the best time to sell a house?

According to a 2016 study, the best time to sell a home is in the first half of May. Nationally, homes sold between May 1 and May 15 sell about 19 days faster and for 1 percent more than the average listing. This is because buyers with children want to purchase a new home and settle in before school starts in the fall.

You can’t control certain factors that affect home sales, like location, but home improvements can help you sell your house more quickly. By understanding what buyers are looking for in a new home, you can take steps to make your home more appealing before you try to sell it.

How to Sell a House to Young Buyers

The National Association of Realtors’ 2016 study of generational housing trends found that millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) make up the largest segment of the buyer market (35 percent), with Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) accounting for 26 percent of home buyers. 

Young buyers are looking for these features in a new home: 

Updated kitchens and baths. Young buyers may spend all their money on the down payment, so they don’t have a lot of money to spend on upgrading the kitchen and bathroom. According to the National Association of Realtors’ Home Features Survey, new appliances and eat-in kitchens are more important to home buyers than granite countertops. 

Home office. More than 13 million Americans work from home, and many younger home buyers may work from home occasionally, if not full time. You may want to stage your dining room (less appealing to younger buyers) to show how it can be used as an office.

Staging. Buyers who have grown up with home makeover TV shows expect showcase homes. Staging refers to arranging furniture to make rooms look bigger and more appealing. Fifty-two percent of realtors agree that staging your home can increase the amount buyers willing to pay for your home by at least 1 percent. The most important rooms to stage are the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, dining room and bathroom. 

Professional online photos. Eighty-eight percent of home buyers — and a whopping 94 percent of millennials — use the internet to search for homes. Posting excellent photos of your home online will entice buyers to walk through your house.

Energy efficiency. If you’re planning on buying new appliances before you sell your house, be sure they are efficient Energy Star models.

Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

To help your home make the best first impression:

  • Fix peeling paint, broken gutters and a damaged roof or siding. When home buyers see problems on your home’s exterior, they may wonder about other hidden damage.
  • Sweep your front walkway and porch, and purchase a new welcome mat. Show buyers that you take good care of your house.
  • Improve your landscaping. A neatly mowed, landscaped yard makes a home more appealing.

Get the Most Bang for Your Home Improvement Buck

Home buyers may want splashy new kitchens and bathrooms, but spending too much money to upgrade these rooms may not pay off when it comes to selling your home.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ Remodeling Impact Report, home sellers will recoup only about 67 percent of their investment for a complete kitchen remodel.

Instead of doing a full-on kitchen remodel, choose to upgrade a few key features and spend the rest of your money on these six home improvements that yield the highest returns on your investment (shown in parentheses). 

  • New roof (105 percent)
  • Refinish existing hardwood floors (100 percent)
  • Upgrade your insulation (95 percent)
  • Add new wood floors (91 percent) 
  • New garage door (87 percent)
  • New vinyl siding (83 percent)

If you’re planning to sell your home, put it on the market in the spring so that it’s ready for the eager buyers in May. Spend time and money enhancing your home’s curb appeal, making a few improvements and staging your home so it looks dynamite in those professional photos that will attract both young and not-so-young home buyers.