Thanks to the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, many home sellers no longer owe taxes on the gain they make when they sell their houses. Married taxpayers who file jointly now get to keep, tax-free, up to $500,000 in gain on the sale of their home, as long as they lived in it for two of the prior five years. Single folks and married taxpayers who files separately get to keep up to $250,000.
If you're lucky enough that your profits on the house exceed this amount, don't panic quite yet -- not all of it may be taxable gain, for example if you invested in home improvements.
Beyond the obvious tasks normally provided by agents, such as advertising and marketing the house, preparing and showing up for open houses, and helping prepare documents and negotiate, good agents take care of a lot of behind-the-scenes tasks, like helping you decide which repairs need doing and getting recommendations on repair people, responding to questions by other agents or even unrepresented home buyers about the property, and even pulling out a mop when people at the open house are tracking in dirt.
Paying more money just to get money out of your home may be the last thing you were hoping to take on (or have the cash to complete). Nevertheless, some investment may be necessary in order to attract buyer attention.
At a minimum, you’ll want to fix obvious eyesores and danger spots, such as cracked windowpanes, tiles, and plaster. Correct high-priority issues like moisture leakage or rickety stairs. Walk around your house with a critical eye, noticing areas where you’ve always meant to deal with a problem – such as a light switch that doesn’t work or a window shade that’s lost its pull string -- but haven’t gotten around to it.
Staging never hurts a property, but sometimes not always necessary. Staging helps people in vision themselves in the house; giving prospective buyers a feeling of perfection, because reality is that no one lives are as perfect as they seem in a staged house.
According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that were vacant and professionally staged sold 68% faster in 2007, 85% faster in 2008 and in 2009 they sold 78% faster (with 2010 results pending).
In some cases having a staging consultation to give some advice i.e. moving furniture around adding art ect. That helps pull everything together with watching the budget.
It's important to prepare in advance for buyers' expectations about what you'll leave behind. As a general rule, you'll be expected to leave behind all "fixtures," defined in most states as things that are affixed, fastened to, or an integral part of the home or landscaping. For example, lights and their shades (the sort that can't be unplugged and carried away), built-in dishwashers and other appliances, window shades, curtain rods (and sometimes the curtains), built-in bookshelves, and all trees, plants, and shrubs with their roots in the ground instead of in pots are all normally considered fixtures. No matter how good they make the house look, if you don't want the buyer to keep them, replace them before you start showing the house.