Secrets to sell your house

HOUSTON - Houston's housing market is hot right now and it's a great time to sell. Low inventory and low interest rates are making the market ultra-competitive.

So if you're looking to sell, start with the basics. Is your house clean, inside and out? Is everything organized?

Angie Hicks from Angie's List said when buyers are looking at property, they're looking for reasons to rule it out. Simple things like a leaky faucet or bigger issues like a faulty water heater can be a turn-off.

"Look at your house as if you are getting ready to buy it. No one looks at their house in a more critical way than at the point when they are deciding to buy a house. So walk around your house go in doors you've never looked in and make a list of things that need to be improved," Hicks said.

Jennifer, a homeowner, recently listed her house. She finished major updates before putting it on the market.

"So we've done granite in all the bathrooms and the kitchen, we've redone flooring, added a new shower, new toilets throughout, we're about to put new carpet in downstairs, we re-carpeted all the upstairs last year. So we've did quite a bit of work," Jennifer explained.

Older fixtures can date your home. So consider investing in new lighting and plumbing fixtures to make the home look updated.

Jennifer took the advice of her Realtor, who told her the bathroom was too dated.

"We had the gold shower, brass. It had the regular glass doors, but with the hard water that we have here, it was just limed up … it was very hard to maintain."

Real estate agent Paula Smith said the more pictures of the property, inside and out, the better for potential buyers.

"Online photos, in today's society and the real estate market, is the only way that houses sell. Most people will automatically assume if there is one picture on the Internet that means the inside of the house is not in good condition. That's not necessarily true, but it is for a lot of homes," Smith said.

When choosing a Realtor, look into their record of success. Ask how long their average listing has been on the market and if their most recent listings sold for close to the listing price.

Angie's list tips: Four ways to sell your home fast

  1. Make repairs: When people are thinking about buying a house, they are looking for reasons to rule it out and simple things like a missing floor tile can be a turn-off for buyers. Take the extra step and make these small repairs, service your home's mechanicals regularly.
  2. Keep it clean: You never know when someone may stop by and want to see your home, so keep it clean and tidy. Remove as much clutter as you can -- this will help make the house look cleaner. Don't forget the outside too -- keep your grass mowed and weeds out of flowerbeds
  3. Stage your home: If you have fewer personal belongings, prospective owners can picture their own belongings in the home more easily. Bring in some furniture pieces to fill an empty room.
  4. Online listings: The Internet is a popular place for people who are looking to buy a home and it's one of the first places they look. Find a real estate company that has online listings and offers a virtual tour, photos. Attractive, high-quality photos are crucial. The first image is very important to buyers using online search tools. They will either click on that home or skip it and move on.

Open houses are becoming a seldom-used item in many real estate agents' tool boxes, according to real estate experts who talked recently with Angie's List. Highly-rated real estate pros said few sales are made at open houses and often they're just opportunities for the neighbors to check out your house. In years past, open houses were a popular way for would-be buyers to see properties they were considering. But with the rise and convenience of online listings, featuring photo and/or video tours, experts say open houses are just not as necessary.

Angie's list tips: Working with a real estate agent

  • Ask questions: Many agents offer free market analyses. Before choosing and agent, ask how they came up with their price, their opinion of what's happening in the market, etc.
  • What experience do you have? You want an agent with a proven history of sales in your area. Ask how long they have been in the business, how many homes they sold last year and the average number of days those homes were on the market.
  • Do you have references? Ask for references and talk to former clients whose homes they've sold to get their experience on how the process went.
  • Marketing plan: Get a copy of the agent's marketing plan, review it and make suggestions if appropriate. A good agent should tailor a marketing plan specifically for your home -- not just list the home online. He or she should be creative in making your home stand above the rest.
  • Communication is key: Your agent should be in contact you frequently and keep you updated on your home and other homes for sale in your area. If you decide yours isn't doing enough, find another again who will.

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