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After years of declining home values and a buyers’ market, 2013 could be the year of the seller.

Though the situation varies by region, we’ve seen a glimmer of hope for sellers and the housing market in general over the past six months. Homes that didn’t move for a year started getting activity as buyers came off the sidelines, their confidence in the housing market and their financial situations greatly improved. That confidence, coupled with record low interest rates and rising rents, has been the fuel the real estate market needed. Add to this the low inventory seen in many markets, and you’ve got buyers motivated to make a purchase.

If 2013 might be your year to sell, start planning, engaging professionals and doing as much of the legwork as soon as possible. You only have one chance to be “Just Listed” in this new market. More than ever, you’ve got to put your best foot forward when presenting your home to motivated buyers.

Here are three things you can do now to transition from homeowner to successful home seller.

1. Know the comps

One of the first people you’ll want to reconnect with is your real estate agent. They are your “feet on the street” and have their finger on the market’s pulse. Real estate agents generally pick up on trends or shifts in your particular neighborhood or market before the press or the bloggers.

So get on your agent’s radar as soon as possible. Start going to open houses to see what’s selling and to get a feel for values and how homes are being presented. Likely a home you see at an open house in February could sell by the time you list in May or June. Future buyers will probably use this home as a “comparable” sale. Having seen the “comps” yourself puts you in the buyers’ mindset. It enables you to get ahead of the curve or learn from the mistakes of other sellers.

2. Have your property inspected

The buyer, after they have a signed contract on a home, is supposed to pay for an inspection, right? While that’s true, you can beat them to the punch and know what needs to be repaired before you go on the market.

Imagine if you list your home and have a great offer from a solid buyer. But the buyer finds out through the inspection that the roof needs replacement and the deck has dry rot. That excellent offer may not seem so great if you have to negotiate thousands of dollars in credits with the buyer.

Having your property inspected months in advance will allow you time to make a plan to get the big (and small) things repaired. If you can identify the problems upfront, you can fix them for a lot less money than those repairs would get negotiated for down the road. Or, you can price your home factoring in the needed repairs. Plus, a home with a clean bill of health can be advertised as such. Many buyers are looking for a home in “move-in” condition, free of any needed repairs or fixes.

3. Hire a designer or stager

Your real estate agent should have a good designer or stager they like to work with — someone who can help you start to view your home as a product to be marketed. This should be someone you reach out to once you have the place inspected and know the property’s condition.

Many people think a designer means big money or a wasted expense, but this isn’t always the case. Many designers charge by the hour. It could be as easy as hiring a designer for two hours to help you decide on colors to paint a room or two; a stager to help you declutter or decide which furniture to move out to make some rooms show better.

Based on your real estate agent’s feedback, you may decide to engage the designer on a minor kitchen or bathroom remodel. An old kitchen with linoleum countertops, knotty redwood cabinets and avocado-colored appliances can easily be updated with an inexpensive cabinet makeover and new stainless steel appliances.

You’ll save money in the long run

Like any major decision, selling a home takes a lot of planning, timing and consultation. Consulting with professionals and getting the facts in advance will help the process go a lot smoother, will help you make an informed decision and will most likely save you a lot of money when you sell.

If you’re a homeowner, transitioning to a seller mindset isn’t necessarily easy. The sooner you start that transition, however, the easier the process will be. But be aware there can be an unexpected, if ironic, outcome: Some would-be sellers do the fix-it work to their homes, clean up some rooms, or paint and update the entire place — only to fall in love with their home all over again and decide to stay.

Related:

Brendon DeSimone is a Realtor, a regular HGTV contributor and one of the nation’s leading real estate experts. He has collaborated on multiple real estate books and his expert advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets like FOX News, CNBC and Forbes. An avid investor, Brendon owns real estate around the US and abroad and is licensed to sell in both California and New York. You can find Brendon online or follow him on Twitter.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

About the Author

Brendon DeSimone is the author of "Next Generation Real Estate: New Rules for Smarter Home Buying & Faster Selling," the go-to insider’s guide for navigating and better understanding the complex and ever-evolving world of buying and selling a home. DeSimone is the founder and principal of DeSimone & Co, an independent NYC real estate brokerage providing individualized services and a fresh, hands-on approach. Bringing more than a decade of residential real estate experience, DeSimone is a recognized national real estate expert and has appeared on top media outlets including CNBC, Good Morning America, HGTV, FOX News, Bloomberg and FOX Business. Consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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