The Washington area’s long-running challenge of tight housing inventory means it’s a seller’s market in many neighborhoods. But that doesn’t mean sellers can command any price or that they don’t need to take steps to prepare their home for sale. Not, at least, if they want to sell quickly and for the best possible price. Today’s buyers have high expectations.

If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market this spring, it’s smart to start preparing at least a month ahead of time. Consider starting with these steps to a successful sale:

Set your priorities
If you’re relocating for a job change, your priority is clear: You need to sell and move by a specific date. But if you’re thinking of selling for other reasons, understanding your “why” can drive your decisions about when to put your home on the market. The spring market has already started so there is nothing to be gained by waiting at this point.

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While every seller hopes to gain a substantial profit on the sale of their home, a realistic look at home values and the cost of selling can give you important perspective on your bottom line. If you need to make a certain amount of money to move, consult an experienced real estate agent for a comparative market analysis to help estimate whether you can achieve your goal.

Interview agents

It’s tempting to choose the real estate agent who recommends the highest list price for your home. It’s best to talk to an agent and honestly seek to understand their analysis of the market for your property. While it’s true that home prices rose in 2017, values vary from one property to another, based on their particular condition. Homeowners sometimes overestimate the value of their property in relation to neighboring homes, but agents have real-time data at their fingertips that can help you determine an appropriate listing price.

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Ask the agents you interview for advice about how to prepare your home for sale without overspending, and about how they plan to market your home. As the seller, you control the condition of the property, they control the marketing and together you are a team to sell the listing.

Explore every scenario
In a tight housing market like the Washington region, you’ll need to consider whether to attempt to sell your current home and buy another at the same time or to do one transaction before the other.

Consult a lender to discuss financing options such as a bridge loan, which could help you make the transition from one home to the next.

Your real estate agent can help you estimate your chances of a sale within a time frame based on local market data as well as help you start your search for your next home.

Work through different potential situations and how you might handle them, such as a quick sale of your home before you’ve found your next home or the reverse.

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While few people want to move twice in a short period, sometimes it turns out to be the best option if you want the peace of mind of a sold home and more time to find your next place.

Think like a buyer
Selling your home requires a shift in your mind-set from homeowner to seller. It’s also a good time to put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. Think about what attracted you to your home in the beginning as well as what you love about it or your neighborhood now. The things you know about your property can be helpful for marketing.

Tour nearby homes on the market and model homes to assess your competition and get inspiration for small improvements you can make to boost your home’s appeal for buyers.

You may also want to consider hiring a home inspector for a prelisting inspection, particularly if you have an older home. If the inspector finds something that needs work, it’s better to repair it and provide receipts for the buyers than turn the issue into a negotiating point.

It’s never too early to prepare for the spring housing market. The sooner you define your priorities, enlist experts and begin making necessary repairs or updates, the closer you are to a successful sale.

Jon Coile, chairman of Rockville-based multiple-listing service Bright MLS (formerly MRIS) and president of Champion Realty in Annapolis, Md., writes occasional commentary on the Washington-area housing market.