1. Do your Realtor homework. In a lousy real estate market, you want the best help you can get to sell your home. Take your list of questions to several Realtors and take a goodly amount of time when you interview them. Comparison shop. No one's rushing to buy homes this year, so don't be in a rush to choose a Realtor.
2. Get ready. Many Realtors agree it takes 30 days to ready a house before the "For Sale" signs goes up, because those first impressions often will prove the most important factor in whether a "looker" eventually becomes a "buyer." Make the investment in external repairs that can mean the difference between a quick "No" and extra time spent examining your house. This is the time to paint, patch and repair what buyers will see first. Buyers are more forgiving in a strong real estate market, not in a weak market.
3. Consult the owners of homes that successfully sell. What buyers consider valuable can vary from region to region. Ask those in your community with a newly placed "sold" sign for pointers on how to prepare your house for sale. What did they notice that most "lookers" paid attention to, or commented on, when exploring their house? Just ask - is installing new carpeting more important or is it better to freshly paint the walls. Ask several owners of recently sold homes, and take lots of notes. These can serve as your guide to using your time wisely to prepare your home for sale.
4. Actively engage your family. Let them know that there will be "company," and to assist you with their unique skills. Let the list-maker in your family make repair and "sprucing up" lists, and keep lists of Open House dates and other important information. Share the work of selling a home, and every family member will have a personal stake in your success. Delegating the work that goes into selling a home also will dramatically reduce your stress.
5. Be flexible with personal plans. Stay focused on the goal from the time you first plant that For Sale sign on the front lawn to the first Open House - no activity should become a distraction. Don't plan messy parties or major functions during this period, because you want your home to be tidy at all times. Arrange family gatherings elsewhere. You'll want to be particularly vigilant when homes aren't selling easily to make no mistakes.
6. De-clutter. A cluttered house looks smaller. Rent a temporary space at a local storage facility and fill it with seasonal items extra clothes and even extra furniture. A de-cluttered house also will reduce your stress levels by simplifying the sprucing-up process. Place personal items out of sight. If you're overworked and time-starved, place an ad on Craigslist.org and hire a college student or affordable cleaning service to help you. If you can't afford that, consider downsizing your possessions. Are they really worth cleaning, storing and stepping over year after year?
7. Disappear your pets. (temporarily, of course) Not everyone likes dogs; not everyone likes cats. Arrange for a day away in a boarding facility or away from home with a member of your family on Open House days. When the real estate market is slow, you don't want to offer any excuses to potential buyers that will make them turn away from your wonderful home.
8. Stage your house. Do a little research about "staging" your home, and if you're financially flush, hire a professional staging service to do this for you. Exchange harsh lighting for soft lighting. There's nothing like freshly baking cookies swear some old timer realtors. Sprinkle baking soda on your carpet before you vacuum. Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers such as inexpensive daisies to brighten up your room.
9. Be honest. No house is perfect. Be honest about shortcomings. The buyer will trust your honesty and be more inclined to trust a decision to make a purchase. It's a buyer's market, so become a trustworthy seller.
10. Be realistic. The higher the price, the longer it will take to sell your home, especially in a lousy real estate market with high foreclosure rates that are pushing home prices down. Have a frank discussion with your agent about what amount you will accept below the asking price, or how long it will take to find a buyer who will meet your price. Engage a practical friend or family member in this discussion.
Selling your home during a tough real estate market isn't impossible. It simply requires pulling out all the stops and being fully informed.