Selling Your Home in 2014? Here’s What You Need to Know

With winter behind us, many homeowners are now preparing to plunge into the new-and-improved housing market. Just in time for the spring and summer home-buying “season.”

It’s good timing too. The U.S. unemployment rate has fallen below 7% for the first time since before the recession. Mortgage standards are easing to some degree. And consumer confidence is once more on the rise. As a result of these and other factors, the spring and summer of 2014 could be a busy time for the real estate industry — and a good time to sell a house.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®:

“The National Housing Trend Report for February 2014 shows signs of seller confidence. As prices continue to rise, more sellers are putting their homes on the market than this time last year, a sign of confidence in the gains sustained through the winter and an indication of a strong early beginning to the spring home buying season.”

The real estate industry group also points to list-price increases as a sign of growing confidence. According to their data, the median list price (nationwide) climbed 7.6% over the last year or so.

Still, homeowners would be wise to bring their ‘A’ games when marketing and selling a home in 2014. In many housing markets across the country, there are plenty of homes for sale but not enough buyers to “absorb” them all. This forces sellers to compete fiercely for what has become a precious commodity — the well-qualified buyer.

Even in California, where sellers have benefited from strong demand and low inventory for the last few years, things are beginning to change. Inventory is actually growing in many metros areas across the Golden State. So here again, sellers must work hard to stand out from the competition.

Bottom line: If you want to sell your home quickly in 2014, you need to (A) price it realistically, (B) polish it like a diamond, and (C) leave your emotions out of it. Here are some more tips for selling a house in 2014.

How to Sell Your Home Fast in 2014

If you want to sell your home quickly in 2014, you should start planning and prepping right now. You may think you have plenty of time before you actually list the home, but that time will go fast. There’s usually a lot of work to do before selling a home — more than you think. So the sooner you start, the better. Here are some key areas to focus on.

Staging & Curb Appeal

When preparing your house for the market, try to look at it through the eyes of a potential buyer. Try to view it objectively, without the emotional attachment that comes with homeownership. Start in the street to judge the curb appeal of your home, and then proceed inside the house.

Curb appeal is one of the most important aspects of home staging. It belongs at the top of your list for two reasons. First of all, curb appeal creates a first impression among home buyers. House hunters often make an emotional decision about a particular house as soon as they pull up to the curb, before they’ve stepped foot inside. You want it to be a favorable emotion.

The second reason to get a jump on curb appeal is that it takes time. Improving your yard and/or the outside of your house can take time. So if you’re planning to sell your home in the summer of 2014, you should start working on curb appeal ASAP.

Follow these tried-and-true staging tips for best results.

Market Awareness

Start tracking the real estate market in your area. Pay close attention to home prices, sales, and other market activity. Researching the local housing market will help you understand where it has been and where it is going. You’ll also know whether you are operating in a buyers’ market, a sellers’ market, or the “neutral territory” in between. All of this becomes useful when it’s time to set your asking price.

Pricing the Home

How long have you owned your home? More than five years? If so, the price you originally paid for the home could be vastly different from the current market value. Home prices nationwide have been on a roller coaster since the market crashed, with more downs than ups. So you should start at square one when pricing your home. If you want to sell your home in 2014, you need to make sure the asking price reflects the current market value of the home.

Read: Finding the fair market value of a home

Sellers have a tendency to price their homes above market value because of the emotional attachment they have. It’s human nature. In such scenarios, the property will usually sit on the market for a long time. That’s the last thing you want when selling your home. This is where all of your market research comes into play. By following your local real estate market, you’ll know how to price your home realistically.

Remember this: A home that is staged well and priced competitively will sell quickly 90% of the time. On the other hand, a house that is overpriced and/or under-prepared will attract few offers. It’s real estate reality.