The last place you want to find yourself is forced to relocate but unable to sell your house. Carrying two housing payments at once is a surefire recipe for financial stress.
If you can’t sell your house, you can always opt to keep it as a rental property. But being a landlord comes with its own headaches, and not everyone is cut out for it.
The best choice for many? Sell your house quickly, pass Go, and collect your $200,000.
Here are 30 tips to sell your house in 30 days or less. Keep in mind that even once you sign a contract of sale, you can expect at least another 30 days before the buyer can settle, so the clock is most certainly ticking.
Market Your Home for Sale
Yes, your real estate agent will list your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and they might hold an open house or two. But if you want to sell your home quickly, prepare to participate and support your agent’s marketing efforts.
Still, as a real estate marketing expert, your agent makes a huge difference in the speed of sale.
1. Hire the Best Real Estate Agent in Your Market
I’ve known a lot of agents in my years as a real estate investor. In my experience, most are part-timers, newbies, or just plain mediocre.
The simple fact is, the mandatory real estate licensing class and exams don’t cover marketing at all. I know because I’ve taken them.
They cover legal compliance, not the hands-on skills required to be a real estate agent. That training falls to brokers, but because it costs almost nothing for brokers to keep agents under their license, many offer little in the way of marketing training.
If you want to sell your home quickly, you need to hire an outstanding real estate agent, not a typical one.
Ask around for recommendations from everyone you know who’s bought or sold a home recently in your market. Go online to local real estate investing groups on Facebook and ask in there. Drop by a real estate investing club and ask for referrals there.
Keep asking for referrals until you feel extremely confident you’ve found the absolute best real estate agent in your market, and only then sign an exclusive right-to-sell agreement.
2. Hire a Professional Real Estate Photographer
Once you’ve found an outstanding real estate agent, ask them about how they typically handle photos. They may have developed excellent real estate photography skills over their years of experience, but not necessarily.
If they recommend that you hire a real estate photographer, do so immediately.
These professionals use the best cameras, use subtle lenses that make the rooms look bigger without an obvious fisheye effect, bring in lighting units to cast each room in perfect light, and adjust color levels digitally in each shot for maximum effect. Few real estate agents can or will do all that for you.
Also consider a “flash staging,” where the photography company stages your home solely for the purpose of taking perfect marketing photos. As soon as the photographer is finished shooting, they remove all the staged furniture and décor and return the house to its original state.
Talk to your agent about creating a video tour as well. They may be able to shoot it for you, or you can have the photography company handle it.
Offers come from showings, and showings come from irresistible photos. Don’t skimp on the photos, because they’re one of your best marketing tools.
3. Promote Elsewhere Online
The MLS is a great start, and many other real estate buyers’ websites scrape it for listings. But don’t stop there if you want to sell quickly.
Shout your home sale from the digital rooftops everywhere you can think to do so. That includes Craigslist, local real estate Facebook groups, and local community websites like Nextdoor. Run some Internet searches about other real estate platforms popular in your area.
The more eyeballs you can get on your listing, the more showings you’ll get and the faster you’ll see an offer.
4. Promote Offline Too
The world isn’t all ones and zeroes. Real estate is inherently local, so promote it locally offline as well as online.
Design a real estate flyer with the best photo of your home, and start hunting for places to post it. That could mean bulletin boards at local coffee shops, cafes, gyms, grocery stores, and any other physical community boards.
Ask your friends and family to spread the word. Tell your coworkers. Share information about your home at your church, synagogue, or other religious institution and any other organizations you belong to.
Everyone within three degrees of separation of you should know that your home is for sale, where it is, and how many bedrooms and bathrooms it has.
5. Make Showings Flexible & Available
In a perfect world, prospects would tour your house while you’re away at work, and you’d never have to interact with them. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
When you hire a real estate agent, they’ll ask you about availability for showings. The more flexible you make showings, the more showings you’ll get, and the faster your home will sell.
Ideally, agree on a reasonable set of hours that your home is available for showings, such as 8am to 9pm daily. Ask your real estate agent to call you to give you a head’s up when a prospect plans to come view the house, but otherwise, make your house maximally available every single day.
Is it convenient? No. Will your family dinner get interrupted? More than once, probably. But it’s not forever. In fact, it’s quite the opposite as it will help you sell your house faster.
6. Price Strategically
Pricing real estate to sell quickly is a tricky proposition. Go too high, and buyers ignore your listing. Go too low, and not only do you potentially miss out on tens of thousands of dollars, but you can also position your home as being worth less than it truly is.
This is where hiring an outstanding real estate agent can deliver for you.
They know your neighborhood inside and out and have a finger on the pulse of what’s moving at what pricing. They can help you price your property appropriately to attract showings without undermining its value.
You put in a lot of effort to find the best real estate agent. Now that work pays off, and you can defer to their experience.
Add Curb Appeal
It’s a cliche for a reason: First impressions matter. Curb appeal sets the tone for how prospective buyers interpret everything else they see in your home.
Buyers make a subconscious snap decision about whether they like your home or not within a few seconds of seeing it. They then look for justifications to reinforce that decision — again, subconsciously.
That means you need buyers to like what they see when they first pull up to your property.
7. Make Sure the House Number Is Visible
You don’t want buyers driving around for 20 minutes trying to find your house, either giving up or getting irritated by the time they find it.
Clip back any vegetation or other encumbrances blocking your address number. If you’re expecting a showing, turn on the porch light, or just leave it on every night until your daily availability hours end.
It sounds simple, but showings start with prospective buyers actually finding your house.
8. Power-Wash the Siding
Houses, like everything else in life, get dirty. After all, they’re outside all day every day. That means you need to clean the exterior of your house so it looks as shiny and new as possible.
Power-washing is an affordable way to do this. You can hire a company to do it for you, or you can rent a power-washer and do it yourself.
If your siding still looks dirty or stained, grab a giant sponge and a ladder and start scrubbing. Break out the steel wool if necessary. Just be careful not to wear off the paint or finish.
9. Refinish the Front Door
If your front door doesn’t positively gleam, then it needs refinishing to make a stellar first impression.
That could mean simply cleaning it, or it could mean repainting, re-staining, or otherwise refinishing the door. For wooden doors, that often means a glossy sheen of finish or shellac.
Don’t be afraid to go with a bold color on the front door, such as a bright red, blue, or green. But check in with your real estate agent before buying the paint. You’re paying them for their expertise, after all.
10. Get Detail-Oriented About Landscaping
For the next month, your front lawn should look better than it ever has since you’ve lived there.
Feed the grass. Water it religiously. Edge the walkway leading to the front entrance for a crisp, clean appearance. You can even consider adding solar-powered lights along the walkway to show off your lawn at night. You can get them for as little as a few dollars apiece and slip into the ground with ease.
Don’t stop at the lawn, though. Trim any hedges, bushes, and shrubs. Add a thick layer of mulch underneath them and along flowerbeds.
It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to landscape. It just costs your attention and a little time to implement do-it-yourself landscaping.
Your home is yours. It looks like yours, it feels like yours, it smells like yours. Which is exactly what you don’t want when marketing it for sale.
Your prospective buyers need to envision the home as theirs, and you must do everything you can to make that easier for them.
11. Strip Nonessentials From Entry Rooms
The first few areas prospects see when they enter the house matter. That includes the living room but might also include the entryway, hallway, foyer, or whatever else they see upon entering.
Start by removing all magazines, knickknacks, tchotchkes, and other small decorations you keep in these areas. You might think they’re tasteful and elegant, but that’s exactly why they need to go: Because they represent your taste. They hurt more than they help.
Then, get rid of all but the most essential furniture. The less furniture you have in these rooms, the larger they look.
The one possible exception to this rule is plants. Plants often add a splash of color and vibrancy to the room, and in some cases, they even purify the air. When in doubt, ask your real estate agent’s opinion.
12. Clear Out Your Storage
Buyers love storage space. And they need to be able to actually see it when they tour your house.
So empty most of your stuff from storage areas like the basement, closets, attic, and garage. It makes these spaces look far roomier, and it assures buyers there are no nasty surprises hidden behind your stacks of boxes and belongings.
One option is moving them to a storage unit. But cheaper alternatives include friends’ and family members’ storage spaces or even strangers’ storage space. Check websites like Neighbor.com or Store At My House to find people near you who have surplus storage space you can rent for less than a storage unit.
If you do leave a few odds and ends in your garage, make sure you organize the storage space for maximum efficiency.
13. Depersonalize Your Home
You’ve already started doing this by removing much of the decor in the living room. But you need to go further than that in depersonalizing your home so your prospective buyers can envision their own decor in it.
Remove all family photos from the walls, shelves, and tabletops. Don’t fret — they’re coming with you to your new home. Taking them down now helps you get a head start on packing.
Ask your real estate agent for their thoughts on less-personal artwork on the walls. If they advise you to take certain pieces down, don’t take it personally. It’s not a statement about the quality of your taste, but rather a marketing strategy to make the house more of a blank canvas.
Look for other nonessentials you can remove to an off-site storage space. If it isn’t a piece of furniture you use every day, like your bed, remove it from the house. Again, the less stuff there is in each room, the larger it looks.
As a final thought, make sure the purpose and value of each room is obvious. Talk to your real estate agent about how to present small or awkward rooms in a way that shows off their value to maximum effect.
14. Clear Space in the Kitchen
If your kitchen is anything like mine, it’s probably cluttered.
But kitchens are arguably the most important room in the house for making a good impression. You want yours to be clean, well-organized, and clutter-free.
You may have to forego using your slow cooker and put it in storage for the next few weeks while you sell your house — along with almost every other item not stored in a drawer or cabinet in your kitchen.
15. Contain Your Kids’ Toys
Kids make a mess. All day, every day, wherever they go.
Parents of young kids accept this as just another reality of parenting. But when you’re marketing your house for sale, you need to contain the hurricane.
When possible, send your kids outside to play, ideally somewhere beyond your property’s borders and without any toys. That’s not always possible of course, so for their indoor activities, try to isolate their play in one single room.
That room might get messy, but it’s better than having toys strewn all over the house when prospects come for a showing. And it’s far easier to tidy up one playroom in a few minutes to prepare for a showing than it is to try to tidy up the entire house.
Clean, and Then Clean Some More
For the next few weeks, your house should remain spotlessly, obsessively clean.
It’s not necessarily easy or fun to do this if you’re not a neat freak by nature. But it will help you sell your house quickly.
16. Do a Deep Clean – and Maintain It
When was the last time you did a top-to-bottom deep clean of your home — the kind that takes all day, not an hour.
Every cobweb should disappear from every corner, including the deep, dark recesses of the basement and garage. The grime in the grout and cracks between tiles needs to go. Dust the shelves.
Empty the refrigerator and scrub every shelf. Thaw and empty the freezer to remove ice buildup and clean it thoroughly. Empty all the cabinets and drawers and wipe them clean, and if you notice any catching or sticky drawers, fix them.
Not everyone is detail-oriented and patient enough to clean properly. If you know you’re not going to do the job right, hire a maid service to deep clean for you.
Then keep the house spotless until it sells. As soon as dinner’s over, clean every dish. No dishes in the sink, no half-cooked food bits on the stovetop. That might mean several thorough cleaning sessions over the course of the next month or two.
Because you established such a flexible showing schedule with your real estate agent, you might only get 15 minutes’ notice before prospects come over for a showing. That means your house needs to look pristine, every minute of every day, until it sells.
17. Make the Bathrooms Gleam
Bathrooms get dirty, and the constant exposure to water adds to the problem.
Start by scrubbing limescale from all bathroom surfaces. You don’t notice it because it builds up gradually over time. But it’s there, so apply elbow grease until your tile surfaces positively shine.
Next, tackle the bathtub. Tubs develop a similar coating and stains as the months and years go by. Buy special tub cleaner, such as Bucko Soap Scum and Grime Cleaner, and attack your tub with every ounce of strength you have.
If the stains don’t come out, consider coating the tub with a fresh white finish. It costs far less than replacing the tub but makes it look brand-new.
Likewise, consider painting the tiles white or some other neutral color if they look dated or ugly but are structurally sound. You don’t have to replace them entirely to give your bathroom a new, fresh look.
18. Find a Pet Sitter
Your pets may be part of your family, but they make it nearly impossible to keep your house spotlessly clean.
Pets shed, and their fur and dander coat every surface in your house. Pets also have an odor. You’re so used to it, you don’t notice it, but buyers will.
Which says nothing of allergic buyers. If a prospective buyer has an allergic reaction within five minutes of stepping foot in your house, how likely do you think they’ll be to submit an offer?
Ask a friend or family member to watch your pets for a few weeks. Offer to help them with that home improvement project they’ve been putting off or with taking their kids while they take that vacation they’ve been talking about.
It’s all too easy to fall into a never-ending cycle of making home renovations “to prepare your home for sale.”
But there’s no single home renovation with a positive return on investment for the average homeowner, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 report. You’ve had years to update and maintain your home, and you’ve either done it well or you haven’t. It’s a little late now to go on a renovation spree.
However, that doesn’t mean your house is perfect as is and you shouldn’t touch it up. Here are a few simple, low-cost DIY home maintenance tasks you can do to maximize your home’s appearance without calling in a contractor.
19. Touch Up Caulking & Grout
I might be the least handy man alive, and even I can touch up caulk and grout.
Start by removing any crumbling caulk or grout and cleaning the area thoroughly. Then take your caulk gun and simply move it steadily along the seam until you’ve touched it up.
Don’t worry about minor mistakes or not-quite-steady hands as you go. You can always touch them up with a spackle tool or paper towel as soon as you finish beading.
Still not convinced you can do it? Pull up a few how-to videos on YouTube to reassure yourself.
When you’re finished, every crack and seam in your house should look fresh.
20. Touch Up Nail & Drill Holes
Pulling down your family photos leaves a series of ugly nail holes in your walls.
Pick up a little spackle and touch them up, coating them with some leftover paint from when you initially painted. If you don’t have any leftover paint, take a paint chip to the store and have them match it exactly.
If your walls are white, you can take an even lazier approach and touch up the holes with plain white Colgate toothpaste. Keep a light touch, and aim to only fill the little nail hole, not spread any toothpaste on the surrounding drywall.
Keep an eye out for doorknob dents behind the doors and touch them up too while you’re at it.
21. Repaint Where Needed
Not every wall can get away with a touch-up. Walk through your house with your real estate agent and look for any walls that are either badly scuffed or painted with non-neutral colors.
Don’t go overboard by repainting your entire home unless your agent recommends it. In many cases, buyers like to come in and repaint in their own color scheme, anyway. But you should address any walls that are in particularly bad shape and repaint them with neutral colors.
Repainting is one of the few DIY home projects anyone can do. The trick is taping and draping: Tape along all edges, being careful to keep a perfectly straight line, then drape the floors and furniture carefully to avoid paint splatters.
22. Obsessively Address Moisture
Nothing turns buyers off faster than moisture problems. That includes leaks, water damage, discoloration, mold, water odors, and any other evidence that the house might have a moisture issue.
Buyers see these and immediately jump to the worst-case scenario, imagining the roof needs to be replaced or there’s toxic mold behind the walls. You need to eradicate not just all moisture problems, but all evidence they ever existed.
Tighten any dripping faucets. Fix plumbing leaks and patch roof leaks. Repaint ceilings. Treat mold. And assess plumbing issues before jumping to spending hundreds or thousands on a plumber, as some plumbing repairs you can easily do yourself.
Let There Be Light
You see the words “bright and airy” all the time in real estate listings. What you don’t see are words like “dark and dreary.”
Here’s how to present your house in the best possible light, literally.
23. Add Lamps to Dark Corners
Overhead lights don’t always bathe the whole room in light. Seek out any dim corners and add a standing or tabletop lamp nearby to keep the entire room bright.
The last thing you want is your home to feel like a haunted house, with shadowy nooks and corners adding an air of darkness and uncertainty. When your real estate agent alerts you that a buyer is on the way for a showing, turn on all the lights in the house to make sure each room is lit properly.
24. Make Sure Bulb Color Temperatures Match
Most homeowners today are familiar with the concept of color temperature — light bulbs that give off a warm, yellowish glow versus cool bulbs that cast a bluish light.
You probably matched each room’s bulbs instinctively, since warm and cool color temperature bulbs tend to clash with one another. But make sure that in any given line of sight, the color temperatures align.
It’s all right if the upstairs bathroom has a cool light bulb while the kitchen has a warm one, but if the living room and kitchen meld in an open-air design, the color temperatures of those rooms should match.
25. Utilize Mirrors
Mirrors do two favors for your home: they create an optical illusion of additional space, and they spread light.
Don’t go crazy with adding mirrors to every room, but talk to your real estate agent about any rooms that might benefit from minor staging with a mirror or two. Added thoughtfully, mirrors can do wonders for small or awkward rooms.
26. Window Coverings
Bare windows look drab. But closed blinds and curtains darken the room and block both the light and the view.
Consider hanging tasteful curtains on any bare windows. It can spruce up the room, add a splash of color, and even add a luxurious feel to the room.
Just make sure you leave the curtains open during showings.
Create a Homey Atmosphere
It’s a paradox: you removed all of your own personality from the house, everything that made it feel like home to you. Yet your goal remains to make it feel like a potential home to every buyer who walks in the door.
Here are a few ways to make your house feel like home to strangers, even though it no longer feels like home to you.
27. Remove Bad Odors
When you live in a home, it’s often hard to notice the odors. You don’t smell your pets, for example, but your guests do.
You sent your pets to live with a friend and did a deep clean, but what other odors remain? Ask your real estate agent and friends if they notice any odors in the house. If any odors remain, find their source and eradicate it.
Don’t be afraid to use bleach or strong chemicals. Regardless of your feelings about using natural products rather than chemicals in your home, now isn’t the time for kid gloves. You need those odors gone, today, whatever it takes.
28. Create Good Odors
There’s a classic trick clever real estate agents use before an open house: baking brownies or cookies. It floods the house with that delicious home baking smell and instantly calls up pleasant memories of home.
Plus, you get to ply prospective buyers with treats, which never hurts.
But you can’t bake brownies before every single showing. Instead, consider some faster, easier ways to create pleasant odors in your home. That includes plug-in air fresheners like this inexpensive kit from Febreze, or lighting scented candles, which has the added benefit of creating a relaxing atmosphere.
Just don’t go overboard with strong scents. No need to flood the house with smells, which can make prospects wonder if you’re trying to cover a bad odor. Aim for a pleasant, homey odor to invoke the feeling that buyers have found their new home.
29. Offer a Beverage
If prospects arrive for a showing while you’re home, offer them a drink. That could mean coffee, tea, water, lemonade, beer, wine, or whatever else you have readily on hand.
Beyond being courteous, it can help prospects feel more at home as they tour the house. And an alcoholic beverage has the added benefit of physiologically relaxing them as they explore your home, which can help create the impression you want.
30. Keep the Temperature Perfect
Believe me, I’m sympathetic to the argument for minimal air conditioning and tricks to save money on heating bills and reduce your environmental footprint. But once again, now isn’t the time for being a stickler. It’s the time to market and sell a product: your house.
Reprogram your thermostat to set an ideal temperature — somewhere in the 68- to 74-degree Fahrenheit range — in your home at all hours of the day.
You might spend a few extra dollars, but it’s worth every penny to keep buyers comfortable as they tour your home. It also dispels any doubts in their minds about the efficacy of your heating or air conditioning system.
Nothing’s guaranteed with real estate. You can do everything right and still not find the perfect buyer.
If the worst happens, and you’re home still isn’t selling, you have a few other options at your disposal.
You can keep the home as a rental property and potentially earn some passive income from it. You can auction it. Or you can sell it to a corporate homebuyer. Just don’t expect it to sell for what it’s actually worth using these methods.
But by following the steps above, you can maximize the odds of attracting showings and offers. Hire the best real estate agent in your market, listen to their advice, and optimize your home for sale, and you should have a fair market offer in no time.