We have finally sold our house, and are in the process of attempting to buy a different one. This has given us some insight into the process and, I like to think, a little wisdom, which I will now share with you.
If you are attempting to sell a house, here are some things that you can do to improve your chances of success:
Clean. Bugs, dirt... buyers don't need to see it.
Price. Base your asking price on the market, not on what you want to get. Unfortunately lots of people are underwater; unfortunately nobody's going to come and pay thousands of dollars more for your house than it's worth.
Fix broken windows. Not much more needs to be said.
Replace urine-stained carpet. It doesn't cost as much as you'll get back in the price. You'd be amazed how many people don't do this.
Don't leave the TV on during a showing. It's really distracting. Possible exception: if the TV is included with the house.
Have the house ready 20 minutes before the agent says they'll show up. Better too early than too late. They're frequently early.
Keep the house clean after you return home after a showing. They frequently show up late.
Turn the lights on before a showing. It makes the house look brighter and nicer.
Conform to the buyers' expectations. For example use the master bedroom as a bedroom, not as a workshop.
Paint. It's cheap and makes walls look nice. It also lets you cover up your bad color choices with something neutral.
In this terrible economy there are no guarantees, but following these steps will help.