Winter is here, but the spring housing market is not far away. If you’re selling your home in 2015, now is the time to do a little homework and concentrate on what really counts: properly pricing and preparing your house to sell.

Price your house right

While there’s always information in the news about average national home prices, using national sales forecasts to figure out how to price your house is like using a national weather forecast to decide whether to cancel an afternoon picnic in the park. All you really need to be concerned with is what is happening in your neck of the woods.

Here’s how to find out:

Ask your sales agent for the latest local market data from your multiple listing service (MLS). You can find some of this information from monthly market reports issued by, RE/MAX, and CoreLogic, to name a few. Look at these data for your market:

  • Year-over-year prices in the final months of the year. They will give you a sense of your local market’s direction.
  • Inventories of homes for sale. Inventories should grow during the winter. If not, and if they are lower or the same as last year, it could mean your spring selling season will kick off with low inventories, which will inflate prices.
  • Time on market or months’ supply. These are indicators of balance or imbalance in your local market. A larger supply or longer time on the market means houses are taking longer to sell.

Ask your sales agent to do a competitive market analysis (CMA) that will help you and your sales agent price your home. Once you have a good idea of where you stand, be as objective as possible when pricing your home. Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to raise the price once your home is listed, but price reductions can be an effective way to generate buyer interest.

Get your house ready

You’ll get lots of good advice on how to prepare your home, but here are some of the most important things to remember:

If you don’t prepare your house to sell, you will lose money when it languishes on the market. Painting, landscaping, de-cluttering, repairing—all are necessary to sell. However, you will most likely not recoup these investments when you sell, so be careful not to overdo it. View the repairs and staging as a necessary expense of selling a home, similar to the broker’s commission.

Remember to depersonalize your house. You want it to be as easy as possible for buyers to see your home as theirs. Remove every reference to you and your family before you start showing your house.

Reach the most qualified buyers

Who is the ideal buyer for your home? An executive relocating from another area? A first-time buyer? A city family moving to the suburbs?

Move beyond the obvious tactics, such as simply listing your home for sale with a real estate agent and having it added to a website, to reach your ideal buyer. Network through professional and social organizations to which you belong. Be sure your human resources department at work has the listing in case it has a new hire from out of town.

Get creative. For example, if you live in a historic area, volunteer your home for local home and garden tours. Make it available to local civic groups and charities to expose it to as many people as possible.

The coming year looks to be a good year to sell and to buy, with more stable inventories and prices than we have seen in recent years. Some real estate markets still have their problems—a lack of first-time buyers, tight lending standards, incomes lagging home prices in many markets—but these are minor compared to the challenges housing has overcome in recent years. If you start preparing now, you can make your home one of the successful sales stories of 2015.

Steve Cook is executive vice president of Reecon Advisors and covers government and industry news for the Reecon Advisory Report. He is a member of the National Press Club, the Public Relations Society of America, and the National Association of Real Estate Editors, where he served as second vice president. Twice he has been named one of the 100 most influential people in real estate. In addition to serving as managing editor of the Report, Cook provides public relations consulting services to real estate companies, financial services companies, and trade associations, including some of the leading companies in online residential real estate.