Step 3: List It at the Right Price

You may have a dollar figure in mind—perhaps based on what you paid originally, plus a little extra. Because homes appreciate, right? Maybe yes, maybe no. While a hefty increase in value is nice in theory—and in general, it’s expected to be a seller’s market this year—“ultimately, it’s up to the market.”

Think of it this way: Would you buy a banana for $1 if those same bananas were on sale down the block for 69 cents? Of course not! And, of course, a home ain’t no banana.

No matter what you paid for your home, market values fluctuate—both up and down. This can work for you or against you. But all that matters on the open market is what buyers are willing to pay now.

Use all your tools: Comps, AVMs, and your Realtor®

The best way to get a handle on your home’s sales price are the prices of similarly sized homes in your neighborhood—otherwise known as “comparables,” or “comps.” For example, if a house near yours with the same square footage and numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, and in similar condition, sold for $230,000 within the past three months, you can bet your own price will be in that ballpark.

Factor in upgrades with a grain (or two) of salt

Yep, you poured $10,000 into your brand-new chef’s kitchen, or $15,000 to install an in-ground swimming pool. Sweet! So it stands to reason that you’d make that money back when you sell, right? Well, not quite. Surveys by the National Association of Realtors® show that your return on investment for home improvements depends on what kind of renovation you’ve pulled off—and how much prospective buyers want it in your area. Refinishing hardwood floors, for instance, will reap a 100% return, paying for itself. Convert a basement to a living area, and you’ll recoup only 69% of those costs. The harsh truth: Not everyone is going to fall head over heels with your five-seat built-in hot tub.So do your research and find out what those upgrades will really get you.

Price with Internet browsing in mind

Once you find yourself a ballpark price you’re happy with, it’s time to fine-tune it. Keep shoppers’ online search parameters firmly in mind—small differences in your price can spell a big difference in your exposure.

“Home buyers typically fill out a Web form that has a minimum price and maximum price,” says Crouch. “If you’re a dollar outside of that range it is going to be like your house didn’t exist—they’ll never see it.” In other words: Price your home at $300,000, and you could miss out on a whole lot of people who are searching in the $250,000–$299,999 price range. So if you’re on the cusp, consider rounding down to capture more eyeballs. Remember what we said about padding? It cuts both ways.

Test the waters with a soft rollout

While choosing a price can be scary, consider this one small loophole: Some brokerages offer a “soft” rollout plan in which they highlight the house as “coming soon” online, without officially listing the house in a multiple listing service. That buys you time to test the market, see if people will click at that price—then adjust accordingly without having to officially lower or raise your price on the record.