If you need to sell a house and can’t wait for next year’s warm-weather sales surge, you’ll need to act fast. To get to the closing table sooner rather than later, sellers may need to adjust their expectations and approach. Here are six steps you can take now to sell your home before the new year is here.

1. Rely on comps — not emotion — to set a realistic asking price

Experts recommend jumping into the market with a realistic asking price. This part can be hard for sellers who want to “test the market” with a higher price, knowing they can drop it later.

“If your home is priced too high,” says Chicago real estate agent David Cahill, “it can be very difficult to overcome, even when you eventually reduce the price.”

A good agent will do a comparative market analysis that helps you price your home based on recent sales in your area — not just hopes and dreams. The best agents will also find the prices of comparable homes with a pending sale, Cahill says.

You’re paying your agent for professional advice and expertise, so when he or she suggests a price based on mountains of research, you should listen.

2. Ask your agent for “first look” feedback

Homeowners need to enter the market with their best foot forward. This means having a house that is easy to sell and free of glaring problems.

Michael Kelczewski, a real estate agent with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in the Greater Philadelphia area, says you should not only ask for the real estate agent for feedback, but also review all of their notes — both positive and critical. It’s also a good idea to have your agent gather buyer feedback from people who tour your property so you understand what buyers love (and don’t love) about your home.

Your agent may be able to point out defects you’ve overlooked, such as forgotten windows with cracked seals or your teenager’s heavy metal-posters plastered wall to wall. Or perhaps you’ll be reminded that most people want to park in their garage, instead of using it for storage.

3. Clean, organize, and declutter

It’s possible that your agent will advise you to take down family photos and clear out your closets right away, but you should make time for a major cleanup, as well.

Cahill says you should “do everything within your budget to ensure your home gives a great first impression.” For example, give your front door a fresh coat of paint, trim back overgrown shrubs, and keep your lawn in tip-top shape.

While your home is on the market, the interior should be ready for a last-minute showing at all times. Cahill says to start by removing clutter, getting rid of any oversized furniture, and taking down busy decorations.

“Rent a storage unit if you need more space,” he says.

4. Consider hiring a professional stager

If you need help making your home visually appealing, consider hiring a professional stager. Home stagers have furniture, art, and decor to make your home feel modern and increase your chances at a speedy offer — an important consideration for anyone, but especially if your home feels especially dated.

Does staging work? A recent study from the National Association of Realtors showed that 83% of buyers’ agents said staging helped their clients envision living in that specific home. Also, 28% of sellers’ agents said they staged all of their clients’ homes before putting them on the market. However, 13% reported staging homes only if those properties were difficult to sell.

Real Estate photographer Kate Devlin checks out the LED screen on her camera to look at the composition of the photograph of the foyer in a home that is for sale in Laverock, Pa.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Real Estate photographer Kate Devlin checks out the LED screen on her camera to look at the composition of the photograph of the foyer in a home that is for sale in Laverock, Pa.

5. Spring for professional photos and video

Pretty much all home marketing is done online now — either through multiple listing services (MLS), real estate websites, email marketing, or a combination.

That’s why high-quality pictures are crucial if you hope for a quick sale, said Susan Bozinovic, a Realtor with Century 21 Town & Country in Troy, Mich. Hire a photographer to take high-quality pictures and consider having your real estate agent’s office create a marketing video, she says.

Bozinovic also emphasizes the importance of social media marketing — especially on Facebook. “I found that running ads on the Facebook platform is superior to any other social media space because the audience can be targeted very specifically,” she says.

6. Get an optional presale home inspection

Paying for a home inspection upfront is typically a safe bet. With prior knowledge of issues such as missing shingles on your roof or faulty electrical work, for example, you can buy time to fix these problems before they become a problem.

Cahill also says that having a thorough inspection before you list your home may “inspire greater confidence in your home’s condition among potential buyers.”

This is true even though most savvy buyers will likely hire their own inspectors.

If you take the time to fix big problems discovered in an inspection before a sale is underway, the negation process could be “short and sweet,” Cahill says.