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HACKENSACK, N.J. – As 2013 emerges with signs of a bottoming out of the real estate slump, homeowners who have been sitting on the sidelines may finally be ready to take the plunge and put their homes on the market.

But for those hoping to sell in the spring, the most popular season for home sales, now is the time to make a few New Year’s resolutions to pave the way for the best deal.

Some real estate agents say 2013 is as good a time as ever to sell, as the housing market is slowly creeping back – though still far below the peak.

Spring is a popular time to list a home for a number of reasons. In the past, corporate executives got their bonus checks in January and began to house-hunt, while others received tax refunds. And a spring purchase gives buyers time for the kids to settle down over the summer before heading to a new school in September, said Cindy Marsh-Tichy, president-elect of the New Jersey Association of Realtors.

One downside to spring selling is the increase in competition, which can be avoided by listing a home a little earlier, perhaps in late January or early February.

“The spring market doesn’t begin in the spring. It begins right after the holidays,” said Marsh-Tichy, who primarily sells in Morris County, N.J.

In her experience, late winter months also tend to bring out more serious buyers. “If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be out in bad weather looking for a home,” she said.

But to even consider listing a property, a lot of planning and preparation are needed, according to some North Jersey agents.

Choosing an agent: Mary Premtaj, a sales associate at Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Franklin Lakes, N.J., said it is key for sellers to interview many agents, to find the right one for their needs and to ask the right questions.

Sellers should inquire about an agent’s negotiating skills, her experience, her handling of situations like bidding wars, where she lives, what region she covers and her past transactions.

Nicole Idler, a sales associate at Friedberg Properties & Associates in Tenafly, N.J., also suggested asking for references, how long it takes an agent to complete a sale and if she works full time.

How much to ask: Then, it may be time to consider setting the asking price.

Marilyn Nuber, a broker associate at Keller Williams Village Square Realty in Ridgewood, N.J., said homeowners need to be realistic about the asking price.

“They can’t be emotional about it. They have to look at what other people have received for their home,” Nuber said.

Looking good: “It’s very, very unusual that we walk into a property that doesn’t need anything done, regardless of the price point,” Premtaj said.

She said it helps to “walk through your senses” to ensure everything is free of clutter, looks bright, smells good and is organized well.

Ready for photos: Once the house is fully staged, it is time to schedule a professional photographer, Premtaj said.

“It’s one of the most important aspects,” she said.