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Top 10 tips to sell your home for top dollar

By Trulia | Published: Oct 14, 2009 | 42 Comments

Hey - isn't this the worst real estate downturn since the Great Depression? If that's true how are some sellers still able to successfully beat the odds and sell for top dollar despite the market conditions? The answer is that they employ time tested and market approved techniques and strategies that give them an all important edge over their competition.

To model the success of these savvy homeowners, let's take a look at the top 10 tips to sell your home for top dollar:

  1. Price your home aggressively

    Setting the right price for your home is the single most important decision you will make when you decide to sell. Go too high and you risk turning off every buyer in the marketplace, go too low and you leave money on the table. One simple but powerful technique for pricing your home aggressively is to spend the day looking at your competitors' homes. By doing so you will be seeing the world through the buyers' eyes. Be tough and honest with yourself. Compared to the competition what would be a price that would position your home as the best value proposition for buyers in your marketplace?

  2. Use price points

    Buyers don't walk into an agent's office and announce that they would like to see homes priced at a specific price like $227,900 dollars. Instead they ask to see homes between price ranges that are separated by five to ten thousand dollar increments. Because of this, consider setting your price near one of these natural price points. For instance a price $229,900 would probably net you exactly the same number of buyer inquiries as a price of $227,900, but moving your home down to $224,900 (the next price point down) would widen your potential buyer pool.

  3. Consider value range marketing

    Another pricing technique that may be the ticket to more showings and more offers is to use value range marketing. Value range marketing is a pricing technique in which you choose a listing price based on what you would sell for today if a buyer wrote you a check. You then choose another lower price - one that you wouldn't reject if offered but would use as a starting point negotiate towards some middle ground. So instead of listing your home at a specific price of $496,000 dollars, you list the home between $459,000 and $496,000.

  4. Offer a bonus to selling agents

    The agent who brings a buyer to your home is typically referred to as the selling agent or the buyer's agent. In a market crowded with inventory many sellers find it wise to provide an incentive to motivate these agents to show their home more frequently. While you may cringe at paying real estate brokers even more money, the fact is it may provide just the push they need to work a little harder to sell your home for top dollar.

  5. Hire an aggressive listing agent

    Not all listing agents are created equal. To find an aggressive full time agent, take the time to research the market, talk to friends, neighbors, and colleagues about who they recommend, and interview multiple agents before making a hiring decision. In addition, be sure to come to an agreement about a specific, documented marketing plan before signing a long term listing agreement.

  6. Encourage two way critiques

    Successful sellers aren't afraid of a little (or a lot) of constructive criticism. In fact, they invite agents to give them helpful suggestions on everything, from pricing to curb appeal, to help them secure the highest possible price for their home. On the flip side, when hiring an agent, be sure to find an agent that is open to suggestions. For instance, as a seller you may find ways to improve advertising copy, flyers, photographs, or even virtual tours.

  7. Offer incentives & pre-paids

    A buyer who has narrowed their search down to two or three top choices may need a little push to motivate them to take action. To encourage buyers, many sellers offer incentives like buying the interest rate down on the purchaser's loan, paying for closing costs, inspections, or repairs, or providing allowances or credits for home upgrades after closing. In addition, many sellers prepay for services like internet services for a year, taxes or homeowners association dues, or even golf club memberships.

  8. Stage the home & use curb appeal

    Buyers won't pull the trigger unless they become emotionally invested in your home. To help build a stronger first impression start from the outside first by working hard to improve your home's curb appeal. Next move inside and stage each space by creating a focal point and a story for each room. A set dining table, a book by the bed, or a game in the kids room are all simple examples of staging.

  9. Use a pre-appraisal and pre-inspections

    A pre-appraisal is an appraisal of the home before a buyer has made an offer. By having this done early you will have an objective voice that has provided a value for the property independent of your own opinion and may be a great tool in talking with buyers. In addition, many sellers do pre-inspections of the home to provide buyers with a clear whole home inspection or pest and dry rot inspection. (A word of caution: anything discovered during a pre-inspection will likely need to be disclosed whether you fix the issue or not).

  10. Learn to fail fast

    If something isn't working, successful sellers have the strength to fail fast by making adjustments to their strategy quickly. For instance, if after implementing your marketing plan buyers don't begin to view your home on a regular basis, this is a clear indication (a red flag) that the market is rejecting your price. There is only one solution: lower your price. On the other hand, if you have steady stream of buyers touring your listing, yet you aren't receiving any offers, this is often a symptom of buyers rejecting, not the price, but the home itself. Something about the home is turning them off. Savvy sellers attempt to identify the problem and take proactive action to correct it.

To sell your home for top dollar takes hard work and a commitment to position your home in a way that attracts the maximum number of prospective buyers. By implementing one or more of these techniques you will be taking the first step towards a successful sale.


By Diane,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 07:23
This is soooooo true! I wonder if any of the realtors in South Dakota pay attention to this advice? I am a frustrated buyer that has found a handful of homes that I would absolutely love to buy - the homes are wonderful, BUT, I feel that they are way overpriced. I must be correct in my thinking because these same homes have been on the market for at least a year (in some cases, longer than that) and with no change in price.

I will be patient with my money and wait until these homes I have my eye on come down to a more reasonable price - OR, those sellers are going to miss out on my money because a new seller will pop on the market in the future with their home appropriately priced and I will buy their home instead. I don't mind paying a high price for a home, BUT, I do want to get my money's worth!!!
By Katherine,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 07:36
I know I pay attention to it in Ohio...(which is why I have not listed any of my own 4 homes I have to sell). If you are moving up, great time to transition as you are going to getting deal on other end..if liquidating like I want to do...probably not time to do it. However, prices have just started to increase for 1 st time in a couple years so provided the foreclosures continue to lessen..we should very slowly inch up.
By Dan Chase,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 08:09
Use price points Buyers ask to see homes between price ranges that are separated by five to ten thousand dollar increments. HUH???

Speaking for myself, I look at EVERYTHING I can afford. if I could afford to buy I ask what is there UNDER a certain price. Not around that price. And being smart I look at overpriced houses also, just know they have to drop in awhile.

Just because I can afford to buy a house at 100 does not mean I would reject a house at 30. I would take a house for 1 if it fit my needs. I refuse to think that I NEED to spend every penny I can get when buying a house. I look from the bottom up. NEVER the top prices down. After all, I just might find a house for 1/10 of what I COULD spend if I wanted to. A smart man or woman does not think I have to spend everything I have and can borrow in order to buy something I like. They look and buy what is in the cheapest range that fits their requirements.
By Tina Holan,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 08:59
From an MLS standpoint, you might consider pricing your home at an even $230,000 or $225,000. If your home was priced at $229,900 and another agent was searching homes for their client in the "$220-230,000 price range, yours would come up. BUT, if they were searching for homes in the $230,000-$240,000 price range and yours was priced at $229,900 - it wouldn't show up in the search, yet you were within $100 of their price!!
By Cher Wulff,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 09:05
All good points & comments! Thank you, Cher
By Voices Member,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 12:01
Knowing your market helps but I never put a minimum in my search unless I have someone in the $250k range. They are not going to be happy with a $75k house so typically knowing what is on the market I might search $125-$260k for a $250 buyer & then narrow the search results on the lower side. Typically I send them all and let them narrow themselves. Someone searching for $100k isn't going to be happy with $30k unless they want a fixer upper. They might want a $75k though. It all comes from getting a feel for what your client wants.
By Nick Alameddin,  Thu Dec 24 2009, 16:31
I believe pricing the home a bit under market will generate a buzz about that home. In most cases it will end up selling at or above market price. People like getting a bargain. However once they see compition, they also want to win.
By Kate Case,  Sat Jan 9 2010, 17:47
Great points, I am also glad to see you added home staging to your list. Presentation of the property is very important in a buyer's market.
By Douglas Fuller,  Sat Feb 20 2010, 08:46
I think too many people fall into the trap of over pricing their homes because they look at the asking prices of some of the other homes in their areas and feel they should ask about the same… but many of those homes have been on the market for a long time (with little or no showings). I have been told by some of my clients, "a buyer can always make an offer"… but over-priced homes don't get showing... let alone offers in today's real estate market. According to the Northern Arizona MLS, most homes in Flagstaff sell within 5% of the list price. So, if you want to sell your home you need to get look at the sales prices (which is what appraisers do)... and price your home within 5% of that data.
By Cinnamon Boffa,  Mon Mar 8 2010, 11:42
I agree pricing the home right is very important, but I think the appearance will make or break the price point.

When you put your home on the market you should think of a sample home in new construction. Your house should be free of a clutter, it needs to be clean and it has to smell good.

If your closets are bulging at the seams and there is not enough room for your things, the buyer is going to think the house is too small for them.

Everything should sparkle.

Cinnamon Boffa
Re/Max Realty Services
By Debe Maxwell, CRS,  Fri Mar 12 2010, 20:47
All of this is EXCELLENT advice! The #1 tip listed besides pricing right is learning quickly that if something isn't working, you need to make a speedy adjustment. Many will let issues linger and then the home becomes 'stale' on the market.

Another tip--be sure that your agent is marketing HEAVILY online--and Trulia is one of the most searched home-finder sites online. Be certain that your agent is adding photos and more description than is in your MLS or on Realtor.com. Photos is KEY to promoting your listing and Trulia allows their agents to add multiple photos for your potential buyers to see. If they can see your home well and it shows well, they'll tour your home; if they don't like what they see online, they've saved you time leaving your home for a viewing that is all for naught anyway!
By Rick & Donna Hamblen,  Sat Mar 13 2010, 08:02
These are all great points. For us, Pricing & Staging are equally important today. Great staging won't overcome bad pricing. And unless the price is TRULY aggressive enough, price won't overcome buyer's objections to the home if it isn't presented/staged well. There's simply too many choices out there today & every day new opportunities crop up. When you signed the listing agreement your home became a product -- your temporary residence -- so you need to make it shine, remove your personality from it, & make it appeal to the most buyers possible. It is also important to remember that time is our enemy in a buyers market. The more time a home sits on the market the more the price is eroded. So, putting a higher price on a home to see what may happen -- to test the market -- is the kiss of death. Multiple, great looking photos & a great story help too. You need to appeal to the buyers emotions from the time they see it online to the time they see it in person.
By The Mills Team,  Tue Apr 6 2010, 18:28
Pricing and marketing go hand in hand, one doesn't work without the other!
By www.AtlantaMyHome.com,  Sat Apr 17 2010, 20:56
Pricing your home aggressively is very important in todays market
By Monica Murphy,  Sun Apr 18 2010, 08:00
Great checklist. If a seller did them all, their home would sell very quickly - possibly with multiple offers.
By Dolores Pallan,  Thu Jul 1 2010, 07:10
Take the base price of our house, add the improvements made, adjust for the "realtors 6%" and we came up with the price we could afford to market our home. Of course the price was "outside" the market value set by the realtors (lowball pricing always brings them an income); therefor advertising on Trulai (for free) works every time as does "Open houses." No newspaper ads and no agent showings; and, agents get 3% for showing/selling new homes. Hmmmmmm. What a delimina!
By Dolores Pallan,  Thu Jul 1 2010, 07:13
Great info for sellers.
By Angela Gomez,  Tue Jul 27 2010, 23:25
Yes, this is so true, especially staging your home both on the outside and inside! Great article!
By Linda Burson,  Thu Aug 19 2010, 13:18
It is very important to look at the actual sales price for recently sold comparable homes. These prices give a far better indicator of actual fair market value than the other houses currently on the market. These should be considered your "competition" - but not as good an indicator as prices on homes that have actually sold.
By Fran Rokicki,  Thu Sep 16 2010, 15:28
The over priced homes are the ones that you notice, have had several agents, and finally, are priced below the market. Now, the buyers are wondering, what is wrong with that listing? Price it right the first time, and sell it sooner for a better price.
By Anna Corvo Tallarico,  Mon Dec 6 2010, 23:19
Pricing it write day will give your seller a fighting chance.
By Kim Callaway,  Wed Dec 15 2010, 07:31
I have received multiple offers on each of my listings in the past year, have never let a property sit on the market longer than 90 days, sell at an average of 98% of list price, and the key has been to have the home priced competitively as well as staged to some degree and/or improved in line with the demographic buyer and with the competition in mind; I have added small touches from a koi pond to a ceiling mount rain shower head to glass vessel sinks to a solar heated outdoor shower, all costing around a couple of hundred dollars each and making the property unique to the competition and appealing to the typical buyer in a given market. Once I have a property that is clean and unique and well-priced, market it online, keep MLS clean and not too fancy on wording-it makes a huge difference... on the agent bonuses, I like them and won't refuse one if it happens to be attached to the property a client is interested in, but they should not be the basis for showing one property over another, and are truly a discredit to our fiduciary duty to a client... I know they aren't equal to the return seen by very happy clients. Referrals become exponential when we are able to remain educated, learn something new, and provide the highest level of agency we are capable of performing by acting in the best interest of our client in each and every transaction... not by searching for and showing preference to the houses/listings that offer an agent bonus. That has always bugged me, and I've dipped my toe in the water, but I believe in agency... the principle in offering a bonus runs in conflict with our moral/ethical code and fiduciary duty to the client. If a client wants to offer a bonus, I offer my opinion and reasoning along with alternatives (that cost less and increase the marketability much more than a bonus would) and do what they decide, so I got that out of my system-phew :-) That's all I have to say about that. Otherwise, great article!!! :-)

My described approach is just an "amen" with my twist on the action items and "I respectfully disagree" on the agent bonus marketing strategy. Good, great point on the fail fast, or learn fast part! Too little or enough too late never works... any realistic and reasonable seller (or close) will strive to understand, trust, and work with an agent that has a good track record and an educated plan that implements the tips in this article, minus the agent bonus :-) in my humble opinion. I hope I'm not alone on this!
By Rex,  Thu Dec 23 2010, 18:15


By Jim Garcia Real Estate Agent,  Tue Mar 8 2011, 11:24
I like to make sure most of the sellers goods are put away, so the rooms look larger. I also recommend painting the interior walls a generic color - soft tan. That way buyers can visualize their furniture in the house.
By Brian J Cody Mass Real Estate Agent,  Wed Jun 8 2011, 06:03
In addition to pricing and marketing strategies, You should encourage your sellers to CLEAN, bathrooms, & Kitchens, as well as power wash the exterior of the property. Enourage your sellers to clear out the clutter. In a recent Boston Globe article at least 4/5 out of 10 buyers start their housing search online. An aggressive on-line market strategy is critical to your success.
By Jeff Lurie,  Sat Jul 16 2011, 00:52
One of the greatest hurdles to overcome in today's market is convincing the seller that the "improvements" that they have done to the home over the past 10 years may be outdated or not necessarily improvements at all. There are very few, if any, improvments that can be done to a resale home to recoup 100% of the investment. The purpose of these updates are not necessarily to "get rich quick" like we saw in the 2006-2007 boom. The purpose is simply to level the playing field and bring your home one step above your neighbor's home. But the reality is, in a "bad" market, we buy low and sell low. In a "good" market, we buy high and sell high. But for a first-time homebuyer, there is no better time than now!
By Joann Christmann,  Wed Oct 26 2011, 16:14
Great comments from all. I tell my sellers how buyers are searching for homes today. Buyers are very informed about the product available. Searching the internet they find for sale and sold properties. These informed buyers know when a house is over priced. They will not pay more for a home when there is a comparable substitue at a better price. Next show them the comps ask which home they would purchase. If you get an honest answer or not it makes them think about the point
By Bill,  Tue Nov 29 2011, 08:37
Have you real estate agents ever thought of bringing your comissions down to a reasonable sum so that a house can be priced fairly. With in home offices, internet and email, the work you do any more is hardly worth the size of the comission you get.
By Shawn Rosa,  Tue Dec 13 2011, 10:30
#1 seems contradictory - to sell your home for top dollar, price your home aggressively (i.e. lower)
By Dan V.,  Tue Jan 17 2012, 18:10
I agree with comment on agents' commission. Everything has dropped -home prices, buyers qualified to get a mortgage loan, then, I noticed the only thing that has not only not decreased, but in some areas, it is 1% higher, is the agents' commissions. I was told the cost of advertising had increased. I think it is the only job I have not heard anyone say "I will take a lower compensation" when the homes are extremely below what the actual price should be.
By Voices Member,  Fri Apr 20 2012, 19:56
Here in Silicon Valley, well-priced homes get multiple bids and that is how homeowners can get top dollar for their properties.
By Matie,  Tue Jun 26 2012, 05:11
Referrals become exponential when we are able to remain educated, learn something new, and provide the highest level of agency we are capable of performing by acting in the best interest of our client in each and every transaction... not by searching for and showing preference to the houses/listings that offer an agent bonus. That has always bugged me, and I've dipped my toe in the water, but I believe in agency... the principle in offering a bonus runs in conflict with our moral/ethical code and fiduciary duty to the client. If a client wants to offer a bonus, I offer my opinion and reasoning along with alternatives (that cost less and increase the marketability much more than a bonus would) and do what they decide, so I got that out of my system-phew

By Elizabeth Sagarminaga,  Thu Oct 4 2012, 03:39
Great post. Thank you for posting this information and reviewing the information about the sale of the house.These tips can be really helpful for the readers.

Thank you once again.
By Lisa and Goran Forss,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 07:35
Good points and I'd like to highlight staging and aggressive marketing to get multiple offers quickly and sell for top dollar.
By Deb Landy,  Thu Jan 31 2013, 13:30
Sellers may be a little uncertain about what exactly is "Staging" their home. This is so very important to get right. Buyers look on line first and make their "must see" list from there. Staging will help you with great photographs. The best return on your investment would be to look for a stager to give you some tips. Most stagers will offer a walk through service and get you a specific list of things to do to attract and connect with buyers. There is nothing like a pair of fresh eyes on your home before you sell.
By Montana 406 Real Estate,  Tue Feb 5 2013, 11:21
Good advice for the most part and in soem geographical and cultural areas the Seller may find differing "best practices" - value ranging was all the rage for a bit and then our office figured out how to get a better price without it; then pricing below market to induce multiple offers was in vouge for a time as well. Look to your local Realtor and professional when it comes to strategizing in a particular market. I am now in Bozeman, MT and the strategies, culture, and temperature of the market (along with its velocity) are far different that coastal Orange County, CA - and I love it too:) Here's to a great 2013.
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Tue Dec 24 2013, 08:52
Price it right and the buyers will come.
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Fri Apr 11 2014, 08:51
#10 is by far the most important. Markets are dynamic and what made sense 2 weeks ago may not anymore. Listen to the market and act accordingly.
By Joseph Tsomik,  Thu Apr 17 2014, 08:04
Great post! Thanks for sharing.
By Kiara Jane Thorne,  Tue Oct 28 2014, 16:35
These are such great tips! My husband and I sold our home about two weeks ago. I wish I had found this while we were in the process of selling. It would have helped us tremendously. http://webuyuglyhouseshouston.com/sell_a_house.html
By calebhart54,  Thu Oct 30 2014, 12:21
I agree that it's very difficult to sell your home. You always need to find the right buyer who is willing to give you the price you're asking for. It helps if you sell it to an organization, or if you find an aggressive agent to help you. I've only had to sell one home in my life and it was a pain. http://ericbuyshousescash.com/looking-sell-home-buy-houses-rochester-ny/
By James Clarkson,  Fri Dec 5 2014, 17:45
These are some great tips to improve the process of selling your home. I think that learning to fail fast is very important. You must quickly make adjustments if something is not working. Using buyer points is also a great method that will expand your buying pool.

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It's a tough call. Naturally you want to do everything in your power to avoid giving up any hard won equity in your home, so adjusting the price is always a last resort. The question is - What's the best timing? How long do you wait from the time your home ...

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