When my friend Emily inherited the home her mother lived until her death, it raised a number of issues. Besides the emotional toll of losing her mother, Emily is facing all the decisions required of an heir with no siblings and as executor of her mother's estate.

She thought she would be selling her mom's house, but she's taking some time to decide how best to proceed. She knows there are advantages to working with a cash buyer. She briefly considered moving in herself. Another option was to turn the property into a rental investment she could manage for a cash flow. 

Because she lived close to her mom's house, because it's a seller's market now, and because she had profitably sold a home of her own five years ago, she's pretty much decided to work with a local real estate company to sell the house.

Once she's made that decision, these are the steps she'll take. If you want a handy cheat sheet for selling a home you've inherited, here's your list! 

Tap into other brains

Emily tends to approach situations intellectually. She's big on doing her homework, researching everything online, seeking expert opinions, and brainstorming with friends. Since I live in North Carolina and she lives in Washington State, there isn't much I can offer in terms of labor, but we've certainly discussed possibilities. 

We both agreed that research is always the best beginning. You can google your questions, and you can also meet face to face with experts. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with the kitchen, but since the 
neighborhood has improved over time, some money spent on 
upgrades would bring the property up to neighborhood values.  

Educating yourself about the condition of an empty house is easier than examining an occupied one. That's a distinct advantage to prepping an empty home for market, whether you inherited it, or bought it to flip, or moved out already. Even though you may have spent your childhood in this property, there are bound to be surprises. Inside, look for uneven flooring, leaks, mold, mildew, and evidence of rodents or insects. 

Outside, you can look for foundation damage, water ponding in the yard, and roof damage such as missing shingles, gutter damage, or loose gutters. If you're going to repaint the house, you'll need to tackle these repairs. Emily knows a good local handyman who could handle some of these repairs, but you can ask neighbors, and read online reviews. Some contractors, like electricians, need licenses to do work. 

You can get free examinations of your home from a pest control company. You can get estimates on plumbing, electrical work, painting, and roof repairs. I find that if I talk to more than one of each of these types of service people, I can make a more informed decision. You don't want to waste their time, but tradespeople realize that they will be giving some price quotes without eventually getting the job. That's just the way business works. 

Repairs like these are worth your money. In order for any house to command both a good listing price and a good selling price, you'll need to take care of any of the little things that get black marks on any home inspector's report.   

Budget your project

A home inspection is one thing. A home appraisal is another. Although you can probably fix much of what the home inspector didn't like, some of what the appraiser didn't like can't be changed. Examples would be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the size of the lot, construction materials used in the house, age and general condition of the house and its important systems, square footage, homes in the neighborhood that have sold in the past few months, and amenities in the area (such as beach access, hiking trails, businesses, and schools).    

Once the home is in your name you can feel secure about spending some money to get it ready for buyers. Professional home stagers like to quote the guideline that the money spent on staging a home for sale should be calculated as 1% of its listing price. But one of the benefits of DIY home staging is that you will save the money a stager will charge for services. 

I've advised Emily to work her math backward from the selling point to determine how much she should budget for repairs and home staging. If she works with a savvy Realtor, they'll be able to determine the best listing price. It's a hot market there, so she might even get offers above asking. But it would be unwise to count on that happening, so she'll spend sensibly, and only where there is a reliable ROI.    

I've blogged about how to save money when you stage your own home, how to stretch that home staging budget, and which home improvement projects give you the best return on your money

Emily will be using some of her mom's furniture to stage, much of it updated with a fresh coat of paint. I doubt she will have to buy anything new to stage because she can use some accessories from her own house temporarily. 

You can prune or replace overgrown shrubs
to make an older house look younger. 

Stage with all buyers in mind

It's never a good idea to assume a certain kind of person is going to buy your house. 

Is it a retiree? An extended family? A first-time homebuyer? A single woman? There are different reasons each group buys a home. But some home characteristics make favorable impressions across all demographics. 

You can't change the appearance of your neighborhood, but you can create a sense of a getaway with your staging. You can't change the square footage measurement, but you can stage to make rooms look more spacious. You can't change the age of your home, but you can stage it to look spotless and a little trendy, the way new homes look, and the way HGTV depicts homes getting remodeled. 

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, most Realtors say that their buyers are influenced by what they see on television's home buying and decorating shows. Also, 82% of agents say their clients found it easier to visualize a staged property as their future home. These statistics emphasize the importance of home staging and making a home look fresh and fashionable.

Staging an empty house has its advantages over staging an occupied one, but there are still challenges Emily and others in similar situations are facing. No matter what kind of home you plan to stage, you'll benefit from my eBooks on homestaging. You can download now and begin planning and staging today.