How to make your custom home presentable before it’s put on the market

Selling a home isn't easy, especially during the winter. Researchers from Zillow found that the best time to sell a home in the U.S. was between mid-March to mid-April. However, if you live in colder climates, it may be best to wait until late April because of harsh weather conditions. 

But what if you need or want to get a head start on the competition, and feel like putting your home on sale during the colder months is in your best interest? In this case, you need to do everything you can to make sure it looks presentable and ready for open houses. Here are five ways to start :

"You can't just put your home on the market and expect it to sell."

1. Form a strategy
You can't just put your home on the market and expect it to sell. Even during the winter, your neighborhood, town or state will have other home sellers. You must form a plan that will give you a leg up on the competition. 

The first step is to understand your market. Do you live in a wealthy part of town? Are certain cultures predominant? Does it consist of mainly younger home buyers? It's critical you understand your target audience so you can update, renovate or simply give your home an inexpensive face lift before potential home buyers walk through your door. 

The second step is to figure out how home buyers generally think, no matter who they are. Alice Chan, a professional stager in San Francisco, said that home owners want to feel like they can purchase a move-in-ready home – a residence that looks presentable, warm and friendly prior to purchase.

"Buyers really want turn-key these days," Chan said to HGTV. "If a buyer can actually get a loan right now, they're so strapped after they purchase a property that they literally just want to move in and live. Even if they want to make upgrades later on, they want to feel like they're getting the best value possible. So give it to them."

Finally, it's time to actually get your home ready by decluttering, organizing, landscaping and upgrading to more energy-efficient appliances and devices. At the same time, it's important to not make critical mistakes that befall even the most savvy home sellers. 

2. Declutter your home 
Take a step back from reading this article and look around your house. 

Does it look unorganized? Do you feel overwhelmed?

If you answered "yes" to both of those questions, you'll need some help organizing. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask for help: Don't try to organize your home alone! Not only will it stress you out, you may make mistakes, such as throwing out some of your favorite items when you're feeling fatigued and forgetful. Instead, ask a family member or a professional to assist in cleaning.
  • Purchase storage bins after your organize: Catrin Morris of Apartment Therapy offered a great piece of advice when she suggested purchasing storage bins after you've already organized your home. This saves money and also prevents you from having to weave in and out of stacks of empty bins as you're trying to clean. While her tip wasn't geared specifically for home sellers, it can still apply to this situation too.
  • Pick a room and begin cleaning: You don't have to organize your entire home in one day. In fact, we advise you don't. Instead pick a room and work your way around your house. This will actually help you keep better track of areas you've already decluttered.
A messy home can cause potential homeowners to lose interest.A messy home can cause potential homeowners to lose interest.

3. Think energy efficiency 
Did you know that energy-efficient homes can often sell higher than those that aren't energy efficient? People love to save money, especially those who are planning on purchasing a home. 

According to Energy.gov, Energy Upgrade California in Los Angeles County and the Green Label Rebate Program funded three case studies to add support to a larger research study and found that energy efficient homes sell nearly 10 percent higher than ones that aren't. 

"Energy efficient homes sell nearly 10 percent higher than ones that aren't."

Here are a few ways to make your home more energy friendly:

  1. Install solar panels to power devices.
  2. Use cool roofs to reflect more heat.
  3. Replace old incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR light-emitting diodes, better known as LEDs. 
  4. Insulate every area of your home, such as unfinished attic spaces, basements and even floors.
  5. Take advantage of natural sunlight by installing windows on the sides of your home that receive the most sunlight.

As you can see, creating an energy-efficient dwelling isn't as difficult as it sounds. If purchasing solar panels and cool roofs is out of budget, replacing old lights and installing windows might be something that's a bit more affordable.

4. Understand what not to do
We discussed a few things you shouldn't do when preparing your home for the market – such as organizing it incorrectly – but there are plenty of other things to keep in mind. These include:

  • Not understanding your home's worth: Before you make upgrades – especially eco-friendly ones – you need to set its market. You'll then have a better idea of what your home's worth once you talk to a real estate agent. He or she can also help you figure out how much new installations can improve the chances you sell it quickly and at the price you want.
  • Keep your home listed too long: If your home isn't selling, sometimes it's best to take it off the market for awhile, make some upgrades, evaluate its price and then relist it at a different time. Homes can become stale if they're on the market for a long time because homeowners may think there's something wrong with them.
  • Forget to market properly: Don't advertise your home with photos you took from your phone. These poorly quality photos will also make your home look undesirable. Instead, hire a professional photographer and have him or her take professional photographs. Also, make sure you're advertising your home in newspaper and online real estate listing and on social media. Make sure you also tell your friends and family who can spread the news by word of mouth.