Other Costs & Strategies
Put yourself in your buyer's shoes to make sure you have everything covered. A home inspection before you put out the for-sale sign will run you $200 to $300 but could save you a lot if your buyers discover something before you do -- and you can bet their inspector will find it. Heating, air conditioning, water, electricity, plumbing and gas should all be in good condition before you think of putting your house on the market. Don't forget to check for mold in the basement or signs of termite damage.
If you have any home projects you've been meaning to finish, now is the time. The National Association of Realtors suggests that buyers will automatically subtract double the cost of any unfinished projects when they make an offer. Think of these unfinished issues as repair problems with the house, and deal with them accordingly.
Whatever improvements you do make, double-check that they're in line with your neighborhood. Research shows that projects and renovations made too much higher or lower than the neighborhood average won't make back their investments, and they could scare off potential buyers who expected something different from the area. Visit other open houses nearby to get a feel for what's normal in your area.
Remember that you want your buyers to imagine themselves in the house. You want it to be both comfortable enough to seem like home, and just generic enough that it doesn't feel like somebody else's personal space. While high-tech kitchen or bath amenities are a nice touch, they don't make the decision for your buyers: The overall look and feel is what makes your property memorable as a place for buyers to start a new home.