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Best Practices - Preparing Your Home For Sale

You’ve made the big decision to sell your house! Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Selling a home entails a lot of considerations, planning, and executing before that “For Sale” sign is planted in your front lawn - especially if the net proceeds are critically important, and for most of us, that is the case.

So, before you put your house on the market, peruse this checklist of things to do in preparation. Some of these tips are surprisingly easy, while others might require more elbow grease and a bit of cash. However, they’re bound to pay off once buyers start oohing, ahhing and visualizing their family living in your beautiful home.

I am going to assume that you have selected a great real estate agent (step #1) to partner with for the sale of your home. It’s imperative to have a detailed conversation with your agent and to agree on the scope of work and a timeline in order to meet your goals. The timeline need not be too rigid, but each side needs to have benchmarks to strive for.

1. Consider your curb appeal

For better or worse, buyers do tend to judge a book by its cover. You want to make sure potential buyers’ first impression of your home is a good one and inspires them to stop by the open house or schedule a tour—so they can see the real good stuff. This is also the last view they see when leaving and you want to leave a positive imprint.

By investing some effort in relatively easy fixes, like planting colorful flowers and repainting your front door, the outside of your house can beckon prospective buyers to come on in.

2. Declutter living areas

Less is definitely more when it comes to getting your house ready to show. Do a clean sweep of counters, windowsills, tables, and all other visible areas, and then tackle what’s behind closed doors: closets, drawers, and cupboards. Virtually nothing is off-limits for curious buyers.

If the house is overflowing with stuff, buyers will question whether the house has ample space for their own belongings.

Go through your home one room at a time and collect all your excess stuff. Then, have a garage sale, donate to your favorite charity, or just toss that excess stuff. The excess you intend to keep is ideally to be stored off-site; a good solution is often a pod, or the garage as a last resort. Not only will clearing clutter help your house look more appealing to buyers, but it will also give you a huge head start in preparing for your actual move once escrow has opened and the clock is ticking towards closing day.

3. Depersonalize your space

The next step is to remove anything that may prevent buyers from visualizing themselves and their family living in their new home.

I recommend that my clients remove personal items and family photos, as well as bold artwork and furniture that might make the home less appealing to the general public. The goal is to create a blank canvas on which buyers can project their own visions of living there and loving it.

4. Minor repairs: doorknobs, lights, drawers

Some of these issues may seem small in the grand scheme of a home sale, but you’d be surprised by the potential negative impact they can have on a prospective buyer.

Go through your home thoroughly and repair or replace: all doorknobs and locks not operating properly, sticking windows and closures, and doors not opening/closing properly. Also consider replacing dated light fixtures, drawer, and cabinet hardware to freshen up the look.

The majority of today’s buyers are looking for a home that is fixed up and move-in ready. Buyers encountering a lot of small repairs will think “What else is broken here?” and it may cause pause when considering an offer or committing to a mortgage.

5. Repaint walls to neutral tones

You might love that orange accent wall, but if it’s your potential buyer’s least favorite color, it could scare them off.

You’re pretty safe with a neutral color because it’s rare that someone hates it. The other benefit is that a light color allows buyers to envision what the walls would look like with their favorite color and treasured artwork.

It’s the seller’s job to help buyers picture themselves in the house. If they don’t feel at home, they’ll probably continue their search elsewhere.

6. Touch up any scuff marks

Even if you’re not doing a full-on repainting project, pay special attention to scrubbing and then touching up baseboards, walls, and doors to make the house sparkle and look cared-for.

Selling almost any home can be tricky but selling a home with a lot of little problems and small repair needs can be downright difficult. When buyers walk into an open house or go on a home tour, they want to fall in love with the house, without creating a long to-do list in their mind.

7. Add some plants and fresh flowers

When you’re adding the final touches, remember that green is good; plants create a bright and more welcoming environment. You might also want to consider a bouquet of flowers or a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or dining table. These natural elements enhance the serenity of your home that is sure to be noticed by prospective buyers.

8. Clean, clean, clean

Once you’re done cleaning your house, clean some more.

You’ll probably have professional photos taken of your house when it looks its best and you’ll want your house to always look like it does in those pictures.

When selling your home, it’s important to keep everything tidy for buyers, especially since you never know when a buyer is going to schedule a last-minute tour. Remember to take special care with the bathrooms, making sure the tile, counters, shower, and floors shine.

9. Conduct a smell test

Foul odors, even slight ones, can be a deal breaker, and the problem is that you might not even notice them. I suggest inviting an unbiased third party in to try to detect any pet smells or lingering odors from your kitchen.

If the smells are pervasive, prepare to do some deep cleaning as many buyers are on to seller’s “masking techniques,” such as candles or plug-in room deodorizers. Plus, covering up odors with a stronger scent might backfire if the buyer doesn’t like the smell of lavender or artificial citrus. You may want to consider trying some natural remedies,which are subtle and often less expensive.

10. Consider staging

Does your house scream 1985? Nothing invigorates a house like some new furnishings or a perfectly chosen mirror. The key is getting your home staged by a professional.

Home stagers will evaluate the current condition and belongings in your house and determine what elements might raise the bar. They might recommend you buy or rent some items, or they might just reorganize your knickknacks and bookshelves in a whole new (that is, better) way.

Stagers know the real estate market and what sells, so it’s important to take their advice and not take offense when they make big changes. Their job is to stimulate interest and offers from potential buyers, which is the goal, right?

Prepare your home properly and you will see more interest and, most likely, multiple offers.


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