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As the housing market recovers and prices rise, more Americans are considering a sale this spring. Here are a few things owners should know if they're preparing to list a home.

Price It Right

Realtors say the most important thing to get right is listing price; price too low and you are giving away money, but price too high and your home will languish on the market. Here's why that's an issue: The first three weeks of a home’s entrance on the market are the most critical for creating interest and attracting buyers, and buyers often dismiss a listing that is perceived as old and stale. That means that the longer the home stays on the market, the likelihood is that the selling price will be lower -- both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of list price.

The corollary to overpricing is not recognizing that you need to reduce the price. Generally speaking, if there hasn’t been a bite for three to four weeks, it’s probably time for a price cut.

Use Your Realtor

It's critical to engage a good real estate agent, who can help you navigate pricing and other issues. By all means ask friends and family for referrals, but once you have a set of names, make sure that you invite at least three agents to create a comparative marketing analysis. This process will help you see which of these professionals has leapt into the digital age, with a variety of ways to reach potential buyers. You may even want to ask for a marketing plan in writing.

Once you hire a realtor, allow him or her to handle the negotiations. Your reactive or emotional responses can impede the process -- or worse, kill a deal -- and a pro should be able to stay calm through the process.

Prep Your House

We all know that first impressions matter, but what are the important home improvements that must occur before the open house? Most of them aren't terribly costly. If you haven’t done so in a while, you will probably have to paint the house, clean or replace old carpets, cut the lawn, plant the flowers, and tend to the garden. Even small stuff counts, so make sure all light bulbs in the house are working, remove clutter from closets and surface areas, fix any leaky faucets, and recaulk the showers and tubs.

If all of this prep work sounds like too much, you can hire a professional to “stage” your home, which takes this process to a more professional level -- but costs more.

Be Flexible

Even though the market has rebounded considerably, you don't want to take buyers for granted. Make it easier for buyers to see your house, putting fewer restrictions on showing times (such as “home can only be shown on Tuesdays 1-3pm, when the baby is napping or dog is being walked.”) You don't want potential buyers to simply move on to the next home in their price range.