When I was fresh out of college and starting my first serious job search, a friend who was a hiring manager offered to help me write my resume. He told me to list everything as an adult I had done that I was proud of, to list what I enjoyed doing, any jobs, awards, clubs, activities, hobbies, and special interests. It seemed silly, but he narrowed the list down to what would impress an employer, and it landed me a job I might not have landed otherwise. 

I suggest that you begin that kind of list about your home. You know what you love about your home, the many ways it serves you and yours. You know why you bought it and what you've changed about it to make it better. 

Be part of your selling team

Now that it's time to sell your house, it's up to your listing agent to convey to homebuyers the best points of your home. But it's up to you to communicate those selling points, all of them. You're not telling her how to do her job. You're just giving her the tools to do it well. A good Realtor will narrow down your list for the MLS listing, the way my hiring manager friend did for my finished resume. 

And just the way my friend knew what employers look for in a job applicant, your Realtor will know what your potential buyers look for.  

You could begin your mission by walking from room to room and making notes of what's important, what's useful, what's unique. You could ask friends, family members, and even neighbors what they like about your home. You might be surprised to learn that your cousin thought the stone fireplace in your basement family room that you hated, to her was to die for. Your next-door neighbor might confess that she's always been jealous of your large backyard patio. And your husband might reveal that the best thing about the garage was the utility sink.

You might get some negative comments as well, especially if you probe people and assure them you won't be offended if they offer criticism. Your best friend might admit that she finds the fake ivy on top of all your kitchen cabinets to be terribly dated. (She's right.) One of the benefits of home staging done well is that it helps a seller distance herself emotionally so she begins seeing her home more as a business to be sold than her personalized nesting place.  

If your Realtor says she doesn't see any benefit to home staging, find another Realtor to list with. You need to be surrounded by supportive people who understand salesmanship in today's market. You are paying her to work for you, so be courteous and businesslike, but be honest and forthright as well.        

Peek at your competition

Your Realtor should show you either printouts or online listings of other houses in your price range and area that have sold recently, and the ones that are still on the market. The unsold ones are your competition. 

With the addresses, you can look at these homes online. You can even drive by each and get a sense of its curb appeal and the neighborhood.  

Bedrooms can be staged to look luxurious
and elegant, but still uncluttered  
Take your cue from the ones that sold. Your Realtor should be able to provide info on what the asking price was for each one, what it actually sold for, and how long it stayed on the market. Ask yourself how your home compares. This will help you set a realistic listing price, along with advice from your agent. Know your bottom line so you are prepared to negotiate. 

If you are doing your own preliminary research to decide if you even want to sell, just enter your address on Zillow and you will see Zillow's estimate of its market value. Not all real estate experts agree with these Zestimates, but  Zillow will show on the same page homes in your neighborhood that have sold and at what price. You can view the photos and see how your home is similar and how it is different. 

It's helpful that Zillow lets you edit your home facts, so review things like number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, age of the home, and other pertinent stats to be sure they are accurate and up to date. 

Educate yourself 

You can learn from the homes that have been on the market too long. Your agent should tell you what the typical days on the market are for a home like yours. The ones that sit unsold can teach you some of the things that buyers see as hurdles, and what they are willing to pay. 

You can also learn from viewing new homes. Building contractors are in tune with trends. Especially local custom builders know what luxury touches today's buyers want.   

Part of your observations should be which houses were staged and how home staging might have made a difference in the sales price and how quickly it sold. Don't believe that a quick sale indicates an overanxious buyer. Realtors work with serious buyers who are ready to pounce on preferred properties as soon as they hit the market. The longer a home remains unsold, the lower the perceived value is.

In staged homes that sold, and sold quickly at a good price, observe in the photos how they were staged. You can imitate the look of well-done staging in your own home, especially after you have read my eBook, DIY HomeStaging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.    

Highlight unique features

Be sure your Realtor knows details of your home that may not be apparent to everyone. Perhaps you installed solar PVC panels as electricity backup or for your main power source. Make sure your Realtor knows all the benefits of having solar energy options like yours. 

If you installed luxury vinyl planking, let your Realtor know the brand and the thickness. If you have warrantees on any of the appliances that convey with your house, let your agent know. Brag about the age and quality of the roofing, the HVAC system, the electrical system, the newness of the carpet. The more specific you can be, the better. 

Make sure the listing of the school district is correct on the MLS form. With the rise of magnet schools and charter schools, your home may be in one school district but families may have other options for where their children go to school. Kids might be transported to a school in another district. This will matter to families who have school-age children. 

Some sellers actually prepare a photo album of their home that shows the building and grounds in different seasons. I think this is a grand idea, because most landscapes change with the seasons. That lovely bed of tulips that boom beneath the pink dogwood tree every spring won't be visible come June. And the autumn foliage in your neighborhood might be spectacular every autumn but look quite ordinary all summer. Make a brag book if your landscape merits it.

Every inch of your home's landscape won't look its best all year, but the front 
needs to have plantings like these small shrubs that look good in every season. 

Focus on that initial impression

We all make snap decisions. It's just the way our brains are wired. There are three important ways to get buyers at hello. 

The first is to have stunning curb appeal. If the front of your home -- most likely the view buyers see as the profile shot in your MLS listing -- doesn't impress them, you're not off to a good start. It has to look clean and cared for. 

If you need advice about shrubs and other plantings that are perfect for your locale and yard get advice from a local nursery

I've blogged about how to choose a front door color, how to get your shrubbery in shape, how to paint an overhead garage door, and other quick tips to nailing your curb appeal.

The second way to grab buyers' attention in the best way is to have professional photos taken inside and out of your property. Poor quality photographs never flatter your home. Cell phone pictures are not professionally lighted, composed, and edited to merchandise your home as a complete package. If your Realtor does not include this service in her commission, spring for the cost yourself, or negotiate with her on sharing the cost. It could be the best investment you will ever make! 

You might even request to see a listing that shows photos done by the photographer your Realtor will hire. Stand your ground and ask if there is another photographer available if the photos you see disappoint you based on what you see of your competition's photos.  

The third way buyers make quick decisions is the first sensation they have when they enter your home, their "gut reaction." Does it smell good? Is the entrance area roomy and clean? Is there a view into an adjoining room that looks inviting? Is the temperature comfortable? This is one of those times when advice from a good friend can come in handy, since we all become overly accustomed to the sights and sounds and smells of our own homes.      

Get the look, get the book

Your home's online specifics are like its resume, summing up all that is noteworthy about the property.  It takes some energy and know-how and expense on your part and your Realtor's part to get your home market-ready, but the time and money you invest will pay off for both of you at the closing table. Download my DIY homestaging eBook so you can get started today making your home more valuable.


All photos: Robert Elliot Custom Homes