Ask Money

Selling a home

Chris Farrell Feb 11, 2010

Question: We have to sell our home this spring. Are there special conditions or terms we should ask realtors for to help us secure the most for our home – or at least help assure that we can sell it? Tracy, Omaha, NE

Answer: I don’t need to tell you that it will be a tough market in the spring. Still, the old adage about real estate remains true: What matters is location, location, location. That’s why it’s key to press the realtors you’re thinking of hiring to give you a realistic picture of a selling price based on what is going on in your neighborhood and surrounding area. You can do some of your own homework by checking real estate web sites like and These websites also offer up information for sellers.

You’ll want to make sure the house is in good condition. There’s a reason why its called a “buyer’s market”–they have lot of choice. A savvy realtor will help you figure out what improvements will pay off. It’s worth spending some money to spiff up the home and enhance its appeal to potential buyers. But in most cases I wouldn’t invest a large sum of money getting it ready. That was a popular sales tactic during the heady boom of the 2000s. I didn’t like it then and in today’s stagnant market I doubt you’ll ever get even a fraction of that investment back.

There’s no shortage of advice books on selling real estate. I would check out the website of personal finance columnist Ilyce Glink at One section of the real estate portal focuses on selling tips. She also wrote a book you might want to look at, 50 Simple Steps You Can Take to Sell Your Home Faster and for More Money in Any Market. I like the down-to-earth perspective of Elizabeth Razzi. She’s the former real estate editor at Kiplinger’s and a real estate columnist at the Washington Post. Her book that addresses your question is The Fearless Home Seller: Razzi’s Rules for Staying in Control of the Deal.

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