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Preparing Your Home for Sale

What you'll learn: Keys to getting your home ready to sell for the most money

EXPECTED READ TIME: 5 MINUTES

When it comes to preparing your home for sale, you may feel overwhelmed about where to start. For example, you may be wondering which repairs and upgrades to make and which to leave to the buyer. This list of tips will provide you with a framework that will help you do everything you need to do when it comes to preparing your house for sale. After all, you’ve got plenty of other tasks to focus on, like packing, moving, and purchasing or renting your next home. This list is designed to save you both time and money.

  1. Make the house sparkle. Your first — and most time-consuming project — is to clean and declutter your home. Be prepared. Cleaning is an ongoing process and includes both small tasks like vacuuming and dusting and larger undertakings like cleaning out the garage. If you need some help getting started, try this approach: divide the work into two lists. One list is for ongoing projects like packing your belongings into boxes and giveaway piles. The other is a checklist of items to clean before showings. This to-do list includes quick tasks like straightening your counters and wiping down faucets. You may even consider hiring a professional cleaning service at the beginning of the cleaning process, or scheduling regular cleanings, depending on how long your home remains on the market.
  2. Paint the walls. Once you’ve cleaned out each room and donated old belongings, cover up the remaining furniture and give your walls a fresh coat of paint. Start with a layer of primer and pick neutral colors like light blue or eggshell white. Painting the walls is an easy way to cover up scuffs or small holes, making the home appear well-maintained and potentially reducing any old smells lingering in the home.
  3. Make minor repairs. Whether parts of your home are truly broken — like that doorknob in the bathroom — or just need a quick sprucing up, making minor repairs makes your home look fresh and appealing to buyers. Create a list of needed repairs, including loose fixtures, leaky faucets, missing screws, and the like. Add to your list any easy upgrades you might be able to do. Upgrades might include switching out stove plates or old faucets. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on these projects. A few strategic undertakings can go a long way toward making your house look its best.
  4. Freshen up the entrance. The first impression a prospective buyer gets of your home is the front yard or your door. Make sure a buyer is excited to see what’s beyond the front door by creating a bit of curb appeal. Busy yourself with small tasks like mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and cleaning the pavement. You should even give the outside of your mailbox a quick scrub down if you have time.

    Finally, remove any questionable flourishes or yard signs, and consider adding a fresh coat of paint to the front door and buying a new welcome mat. A word of caution on welcome mats: stay away from mats with phrases that remind buyers they’re in an occupied home. Instead, opt for generic mats and colors.
  5. Get the roof under control. One sure turn-off for buyers is sure to see a worn-down roof that appears to be an expensive repair or replacement. Often, a perfectly sturdy roof looks like it’s in worse shape than it is because of moss and leaf build-up. Clean your roof before your home hits the market.

    If you don’t want to do it yourself, hire a service to power wash the roof and seal up any leaks. Not only will this make the roof look appealing to buyers, but it will help you have a better home inspection during the selling process.
  6. Depersonalize — inside and outside. Think about a buyer’s experience. A potential couple will want to be able to picture their family together and having a life in your space. Any personal items you have out in the open could distract them from envisioning that. Instead, remove photos, birthday cards, diplomas, and other personal effects — even DVDs and art can feel like personal items to a buyer.

    Employ a friend’s help in this endeavor. You’ll appreciate having a fresh pair of eyes because it can be tricky to see your home from an outsider’s perspective. The same thing applies to the outside of your home as well. Take down old holiday decorations and put away anything nondescript in your yard that could raise an eyebrow.
  7. Add homey touches. While you don’t want buyers to feel like they’re intruding on your home, you do want them to feel like they’re entering a home — specifically one that could one be theirs. Here, it’s best to take the approach of an Airbnb host in creating a homey atmosphere. Lay out fluffy towels in the bathroom, throw pillows on the bed, and a plant or two on the counters.

    Finding the right home is also a sensory experience, so make sure your home smells nice. Some real estate agents will even go so far as to having freshly baked cookies at an open house. The smell of cookies can fill buyers with a sense of nostalgia for home. An added bonus: the smell of baked goods may help hide any smells that may have been absorbed into your walls or carpets over the years.
  8. Stage each room. Before you host any showings, walk through each room of your home and position the furniture welcomingly. For example, place the chairs around the fireplace to encourage thoughts of warm nights around the fire.

    Many times, staging a room will mean removing objects to make the space feel open and spacious. Open the curtains to bring in natural light and store the odds and ends you use every day like brushes, pens, and chargers in attractive boxes out of the way.

Making small adjustments over time and following this framework will make selling your home easier. Preparing your home for sale can take some time, but it is worthwhile in the end. 

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