Cheap Tips #1... Getting Ready to Sell.

Real Estate Agent with Century 21 Results Realty
Yard Sale Northern California May 2005. This i...
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For many sellers, there isn't a bottomless pit of money to get the house ready to go on the market.  Simply put, between pressure to get to market, the need to pay sales fees, buyers needing concessions like closing costs and even the cost of moving expenses, there isn't enough money to go in and make major renovations to the house before selling...

In fact, it is seldom worthwhile to make major changes to the home prior to going on the market.

But there are some inexpensive and relatively simple things that can increase the sales price of your home and decrease its time on the market.

Tip #1...  FREE!

Image by lane.bailey via Flickr

Perhaps the VERY first thing a seller should do as they prepare to bring their home to market is get rid of stuff.  Not only can this be free, but it can actually bring IN cash.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Go through your stuff...  Look at the kids toys and clothes, see what really needs to make a move and what doesn't.
    • Are the kids still playing with that toy?
    • Can they still fit in those clothes?
    • Are you still wearing all of the clothes in your closet?
    • Do you really want all of the furniture that is in your house?
  • Now that you have a big pile of stuff, figure out what needs to be in the house while it is on the market (major furniture like dining room tables, beds, sofas, etc. may need to stay.  Minor things, like extra dressers, tables or chairs may not need to be there).
  • Talk with a Stager...
    • I recommend doing this, but it isn't my money.  The Stager might be able to help you figure out which items should stay and which should go... they also may suggest alternate arrangement for the remaining items.
    • A Stager is NOT the same as an Interior Designers.  The goals are different.  A Designer wants to make a space you like.  A Stager is trying to create a more appealing environment for Buyers.
  • great_room_3
    Image by lane.bailey via Flickr

    Get rid of stuff that needs to be gotten rid of...

    • Garage Sale (maybe it will cover the cost of staging... and even a nice dinner to relieve some stress from doing all of this work.
    • Donate some things to charity.  Often, when we have a garage sale, everything that is left ends up with a local charity.  If we don't feel like having a garage sale, everything goes to a charity.  Our toys and clothes that have been outgrown usually find their way to charities like Family Shelters.
    • Give stuff away to family and friends that may be able to use the items.
    • Finally, throw away things that are at the end of their useful life. Don't donate junk just to try to get a tax write-off.

We aren't done yet...  We have removed things that we can't use anymore, or that are worn out.  That doesn't mean that the house is ready to show...  That just means that we are a big step closer.

Remember when I said that you should talk with a Stager? The Stager will likely have told you to "declutter" and "depersonalize".  That means that there are probably some things that you intend to keep, but they don't need to be on display in the house.

Pack It Up...

BRAC will cause hardships, expanded HAP could ...
Image by familymwr via Flickr

Whether you get a storage unit, move items to your new home or just pack things away in boxes to neatly store in the basement or garage, you NEED to clear out the house of excess stuff.

I hate saying it to you as much as you hate hearing it.  Seriously.  I don't want to do it in MY house, and I don't think you want to, either.  But it is important. The goal is to allow the buyer to be able to visualize THEIR FAMILY in the home... not your family.  That can be kind of tough with your "World's Largest Collection of Plaid Fishing Lures" or "The Ultimate Precious Moments Collection".  I regularly see buyers spending more time looking at the items in the home and wondering about the people that live there than looking at the home itself.

A final note...

I hate to even have to say this, but it HAS to be said.  Absolutely pack up things that can't be replaced or that you don't want folks to see. "Strangers" will be wandering your home.  They should be accompanied by a real estate agent, but one agent (or even two) can't see everything happening at once.  Kids might bump something.  An item could turn up missing.  I've never had it happen to my sellers, and I've never gotten a call related to one of my buyers, but it CAN happen.  Be proactive.

Some of the things I recommend locking away or packing up include:

  • Jewelry
  • Cash  (I have walked into a house and seen several hundred dollars laying on a dresser, out in the open)
  • Prescription Drugs (and other things that might be related...)
  • Guns (an agent that I know had a kid walk out of a bedroom with a handgun that belonged to the owner...  EVERYBODY was a little freaked after that)
  • Collectibles
  • "Adult-themed" items...  I have stories about things that have been out in plain view ;^ )

Assuming you didn't go out and get a storage unit, and you were able to score some boxes from a local liquor store or grocery store (they often will keep boxes assembled and give them to you if they know you are coming for them), you might actually have come through this step with a little more change in your pocket than when you started.

That is the ultimate "Cheap Tip"...

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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Gene Riemenschneider 02/02/2011 03:45 AM
  2. Linda Esposito 02/02/2011 11:54 PM
  3. Bill Burchard 02/03/2011 01:50 AM
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Jeanne Kozak
RE/MAX In Action - Martinsburg, WV
REALTOR and Broker/Owner in WV and VA

All very good ideas, and cheap! Actually some could even make you money if you had a big enough yard sale, and how about a tax deduction for the donations.

Feb 01, 2011 02:42 PM #4
Kristi DeFazio
RE/MAX Advantage - Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs Rea lEstate 719-459-5468

Excellent tips. I also recommend putting away the knife block that sits on the counter for safety just in case. This is a great post! Decluttering is a must!

Feb 01, 2011 02:42 PM #5
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes


I have commented on your Post but have never reblogged one  - until now!  Great post.

Feb 02, 2011 03:42 AM #6
Ellen Kippel
Weichert Realtors - Suffern, NY
Licensed NY and NJ realtor 914-588-2365

Decluttering and depersonalizing is very important when selling a house, that's for sure.  And, as you say, the client might even make some money, during a garage sale.  It is sometimes hard for clients to do this, but it is so important!

Feb 02, 2011 10:02 AM #7
Ellen Kippel
Weichert Realtors - Suffern, NY
Licensed NY and NJ realtor 914-588-2365

Decluttering and depersonalizing is very important when selling a house, that's for sure.  And, as you say, the client might even make some money, during a garage sale.  It is sometimes hard for clients to do this, but it is so important!

Feb 02, 2011 10:05 AM #8
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Lane, that declutter, storage, and put things away theme is right on the money. Great advice...

Feb 02, 2011 10:10 AM #9
Peg Barcelo
Fluff My House! Home Staging Inc. 250.486.6369 - Summerland, BC
The FlufftasticStager from Summerland, BC

Lane, Thank you for the excellent post! I am a stager and everything you say is exactly what people need to do! Right down to the storage facility (NOT the garage or attic, buyers look in there too) and keepsakes and expensive items. Stagers can do as much or as little as the seller wants; just giving them a list of things to do and letting them get to it, or the stager can take care of everything on the list for the seller to lessen the stress level. It's up to the seller. Thank you for helping educate people on the value of what I do.

Feb 02, 2011 10:54 AM #10
William James Walton Sr.
WEICHERT, REALTORS® - Briotti Group - Waterbury, CT
Greater Waterbury Real Estate

Lane, this is excellent advice, and a good way to jump back on the frontpage. Haven't seen you here in a good while.

Feb 02, 2011 10:56 AM #11
Joy Daniels
Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd. - Harrisburg, PA

Thank you - this was a great post with great advice!  We definitely need to educated our sellers and much of what they can do won't cost them money!

Feb 02, 2011 01:07 PM #12
Jason Crouch
Austin Texas Homes, LLC - Austin, TX
Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653)

Lane - Nice cheap tip for sellers!  Very thorough coverage of the topic, too!  Great job, my friend.

Feb 02, 2011 02:39 PM #13
Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D.
Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 - Santa Maria, CA
Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879

I love the garage sale picture.  Great post.  It's true there are plenty of thing s that can be done prior to sale that do not cost a lot of money.  A little preparation can pay off big time.

Feb 02, 2011 03:55 PM #14
Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ
Weichert - Lopatcong, NJ


One of my sellers had lived in her home for over 40 years.  Frankly, I never expected it to get decluttered.  Her adult children helped her deliver truckloads to her favorite local charity - and she was thrilled to be helping others!

Feb 03, 2011 01:37 AM #15
Bill Burchard
3B Realty: 951-347-3818, CA - Murrieta, CA
Broker, Realtor, Representing Buyers and Sellers

Good morning, Lane. This is some excellent advice for home sellers. (Actually, it's a lot of excellent advice!) Great job!

Feb 03, 2011 01:42 AM #16
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Great tips, Lane. We all have too much stuff (well most of us, anyway) and weeding through it is expecially important when selling your home. Pre-pack, donate, sell, give away or trash - all are a necessary part of clearing the clutter.

Feb 03, 2011 01:47 AM #17


Good advice.  I especially like the info about valuables being stored away.  Why would anyone leave money, guns and drugs visible in a home for sale?

Feb 03, 2011 08:25 AM #18
John Novak
Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace - Las Vegas, NV
Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate

Good tips for sellers, Lane. The physical act of packing and decluttering also mentally prepares them for the eventual sale.

Feb 03, 2011 08:35 AM #19
Michael Eisenberg
eXp Realty - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham Real Estate Guy

Great tips for sellers, they're going to be moving soon so time to get started and get rid of the clutter,

Feb 03, 2011 09:37 AM #20
Joshua Vensel
VENVISIO - Real Estate Photography - Atlanta, GA - Marietta, GA

The garage sale is great two-fer advice!  I've heard sellers say, "I'm not putting another dollar into selling this house," meanwhile it's cluttered to the ceiling with things they just can't possibly use or need.  With a garage sale, they can clear out clutter - making it more attractive to buyers - and bring in a few bucks to "polish" the property even more.  

Feb 03, 2011 02:36 PM #21
Craig Hatcher
Georgia Residential Realty, LLC - Atlanta, GA

I agree with others, good tips. Clutter can be a real turn off to buyers.

Feb 04, 2011 08:07 AM #22
Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy

Gene - Thank you.  That is a high compliment. 

Irene - When my grandmother moved from her house, she left a family home that had 5 years of history.  Her grandfather built the house and nobody had ever moved out before. 

Thank you all ofr the comments.  There are more parts of this coming.

Feb 04, 2011 02:13 PM #23
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