It's a good idea to place your home on the market as far in advance as possible of purchasing a new one. If you find a new home first and then try to sell your present home, you may wind up with two mortgages. If this does happen, ask your real estate agent or banker about a bridge loan to help you make the double payments. Lenders use the same criteria for offering bridge loans as they use for mortgages. Should you choose to accept a bridge loan, beware of the expense; during the term of the loan you must continue to pay both mortgages. Shop around for the best terms.
Keep in mind that when people move, sell and buy, there usually is a domino effect. Closing and moving dates have to be coordinated, and the more firmly everyone commits to a window of dates and sticks to them, the better for all involved. Put all agreements about dates in writing, and protect yourself by negotiating financial penalties for failure to comply.
A home that's visually appealing and in good condition will attract potential buyers driving down the street. Use this checklist to view your property through an outsider's eyes.
Strong curb appeal will lure potential buyers inside, where you have to live up to their expectations. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy improvements you can make to your home's interior without spending a lot of money. Cleaning is No. 1. Your windows, floors and bathroom tiles should sparkle. Make sure you have clean heating and air conditioning filters. Shampoo dirty carpets, repair dripping faucets and oil squeaky doors. It may not seem fair, but a peek in the oven may be the hallmark by which a buyer judges how well you have kept up your home.
Remove unnecessary clutter from the garage, basement, attic and closets. If your home is crowded with too much furniture, consider putting some things into storage. If a room needs a fresh coat of paint, use a neutral off-white. Think, too, about how your home smells. You may be used to the smell of a pet or cigarettes, but such odors can be a strong turn-off to others. Finally, set a mood for the buyer. Make your house homey with live flowers and fresh guest towels in the bathroom. Place scented potpourri around the house or, on the day you're expecting a potential buyer, pop a batch of frozen cinnamon rolls into the oven for a welcoming aroma.
Remember, cosmetic changes do not have to be expensive. In fact, costly home improvements do not necessarily offer a good return on your investment when you sell. It's attention to the basics -- anything that says ''this home has been carefully maintained -- that will help you get the price you want.