Opinion August 17, 2015 | 12:09 pm

Getting your home ready to sell

As the economyimproves, today’s sellers are facing a very different environment than theywere before the housing market stumbled in 2006.

Today’s housingmarket features new procedures and standards, not the least of which arecontinuing borrowing hurdles for prospective buyers. If you are thinking abouta home sale in the coming months, it pays to do a thorough overview of yourpersonal finances and local real estate environment before you put up the"for sale" sign. Here are some general issues to consider:

Make sure you’re notunderwater. You may want to buy a new home, but can you afford to sell? Theterm "underwater" refers to the amount of money a seller owes on ahouse in excess of final sales proceeds. If what you owe on the home –including all selling costs due at closing – exceeds the agreed-upon saleprice, then you will have to pay the difference out of pocket. If you’re not ina situation where you absolutely have to sell now, you may want to wait untilyour financial circumstances and the real estate market improves.

Evaluate yourfinances. Before you sell, make sure you are ready to buy or rent. Making sureall three of your credit reports(https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action) are accurate is an importantpart of that process.

Consider "forsale by owner" vs. "for sale by broker." "For Sale byOwner" (FSBO) signs were a common sight in many neighborhoods during thehousing crisis. Shrunken home values convinced many sellers to sell theirproperty themselves rather than pay 5-6 percent of profit in broker commission.However, consider what a licensed real estate broker could accomplish in yourspecific situation. Many experienced brokers have market knowledge andnegotiating skills that could potentially get a better price for your property.Deciding which route to take shouldn’t be an overnight decision. Check leadingFSBO and broker sites and talk with knowledgeable friends, attorneys and realestate professionals to learn as much as you can.

Think twice beforespending on improvements. Not every home construction project pays off at saletime. Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report (http://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2015/)tracks both pricing and cost recovery for leading remodeling projects. Beforefixing up a bathroom, kitchen or any other area of your home, research whetherthe work will actually pay for itself at sale. For many sellers, it might beadvantageous to hire a licensed home inspector to identify any structural,mechanical or major appliance repair issues that could delay or compromise asale.

Don’t forget movingcosts. According to the American Moving and Storage Association, a leadingindustry trade group, the average professional interstate move of 1,220 milescosts an average of $5,630; in state, the average moving cost is $1,170. Afterall the costs involved in selling a home, don’t forget how much it costs torelocate.

Bottom line: Sellingyour home requires planning. Before putting it on the market, get solid,qualified advice on how to sell smart in a still-recovering housing market.

Nathaniel Sillindirects Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skillson Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.

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