A thorough and professional cleaning will communicate to buyers that your house has been well maintained.

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Time to Sell Your House

Whether or not you're working with an agent, there are some standard practices you should follow when selling your home.

We've said it before, but it's probably the most important part of selling your home, so we'll say it again. Don't overvalue your home. Using an appraisal helps, but in the end the market determines the price. Consider also the various attributes of your home and the area -- location, schools, weather, housing market, special amenities and home prices in the neighborhood. If working with a broker, sharing this information will allow him or her to better sell your home. There's more of a danger in pricing your house too high. If you happen to price it too low, you will likely receive multiple offers, which should drive up the price.

Prepare your house before putting it on sale, and be ready to look at it with a critical, objective eye. Consider hiring a professional service to clean your house thoroughly, including carpets, appliances and windows. Get rid of any excess clutter. You want to communicate that this is a home that has been well maintained, and even a pile of old newspapers or kids' toys strewn in the hallway can drive a buyer away from your home and towards another.

Does your home need painting? Do any moldings, shutters or trim need to be replaced? Off-white is recommended for the inside of the house, while touching up cracked or peeling paint on the exterior can greatly enhance "curb appeal," or what a buyer sees when standing in front of your home. Make sure your trash cans are put away. Put some flowers out front. Stand at the curb and consider whether this is a house that you'd want to visit if you happened to be walking by.

How to Choose an Offer

Your agent should be able to weed out buyers who can't afford your home by looking at a prospective buyer's credit and debit history, income, employment status, the amount he or she has available for a down payment and the time needed before closing on the house (which should be six to eight weeks).

While your agent is required by law to disclose all offers to you, insist once again that he or she does so. There should also be a clause in your contract requiring all offers to be reported to you.

Think about your own finances. You probably have an ideal price in mind, but, ultimately, at what price are you willing to settle? Do you require a specific amount of money in order to make a down payment on a new home or for car payments? Also keep in mind the fees incurred by the sale process -- agent's commission (if you have an agent), closing costs, attorney's fees and so forth. Factor these numbers into your accounting so that you can have a good idea where you will stand when this process is complete.