Preparing a Home to Sell

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There’s just no getting around it: if you want top dollar for your house you’ll have to do some work. Just as you’d wash or detail your car before putting it on the market - and maybe glue down something that’s come loose - so goes your house.

If you think back to when you were house hunting, you can most likely vividly recall the messy, dirty houses. The ones that made you hesitant to touch anything. The ones you wouldn’t consider buying because they were such a mess. Are you getting the picture?

Moving is hard work. The last thing a potential buyer wants to think about is yet more work to do on their new house before it’s fit to live in. In fact, there is a Maritz research study that proves this: 63 percent of homebuyers are willing to pay additional money for a home that they can move right into, according to Atlanta INTown magazine. Even a fixer-upper will bring more money if it’s tidied up.

So, disengage your emotions and roll up your sleeves. It’s time to whip that house into market-ready shape.

Preparing the Exterior of Your Home

Stand out at the curb and take a look at your house. Better yet, enlist a dispassionate third party, such as your real estate agent or a neighbor to evaluate the exterior of your house. If what they see doesn’t urge them on to the interior, you have some work to do.

Start with the landscaping:

  • Remove toys and trash.
  • Fertilize, weed and mow the lawn.
  • Trim trees and shrubs.
  • Pull up dead or dying plants and replace them.
  • If they’ll match your current landscaping, plant new flowers in the beds to add color.
  • Spread fresh mulch in the planting beds.

Move on to the exterior of the house:

  • Power wash the exterior.
  • Check the window screens for rips and replace them if necessary.
  • Wash the windows.
  • Remove all the cobwebs from the front porch.
  • Repaint the door and railing, if needed.
  • If your house number is located near the door, is it large enough to be seen from the street? New numbers can be purchased inexpensively at hardware stores. If yours are large, you may want to repaint them to make them pop when folks drive up to the home.
  • Add a new doormat.
  • If there’s room, add a small tree or flowers in attractive pots next to the front door.

Preparing the Interior of Your Home

The most efficient way to deal with whatever is going on inside the house is to grab a clipboard and a pen. Start at the door and work your way around each room, from top to bottom. Make notes about any of the following:

  • cobwebs on the ceiling, especially around light fixtures
  • water stains on the ceiling
  • dusty or dirty ceiling vents and fans
  • smudges on the walls
  • dirty windows
  • bent blinds or torn drapery
  • scuffed baseboards
  • personal items that need to be removed

The last item on the list is the first place to start. Homebuyers need to be able to picture a house with their belongings in it, not yours. Grab a box and walk through each room, removing anything of a personal nature. These items include:

  • family photos
  • awards, diplomas, degrees, certificates
  • stacks of magazines, compact discs, movies
  • toiletries and cosmetics in the bathrooms
  • toys

Your next task is to remove 50 percent of the remaining clutter, especially in the kitchen:

  • Put small appliances, such as the coffeemaker and toaster or toaster oven, into a cupboard if you use them frequently.
  • Remove stacks of bills or other mail that may be lying on a kitchen counter.
  • De-clutter the top of the refrigerator as well as anything stuck to the front.

All surfaces in the home, especially kitchen and bathroom counters, should be clear of everything, except for decorative items.

Once the clutter is out of the way it’s time to clean. Don’t neglect the items on the list you made when you toured each room. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, the house should be immaculate and remain that way during showings.

To Stage or Not to Stage Your Home?

While a thorough house cleaning reaps big rewards when it comes to extra money at the closing table, staging a house – hiring a decorator to add furniture and provide decorative accents – may help to sell a house quicker and for more money. Stagers typically charge between $500 and $6,000, according to the National Assiciation of Realtors®. Ask your real estate agent for a referral to a professional home stager.

Depending on how well you’ve maintained it, preparing a home to sell may require a lot of work. Just remember, each task you complete could mean more money when the sale is final.


Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Gabe Sanders 05/27/2012 09:47 PM
Home Selling
real estate

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Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Eric- Congratulations on your Feature.   I agree that houses fare better when made "market ready".  The simple act of editing can make a huge difference.  One point I would mention is that a Home Stager is not necessarily a decorator and vice versa.  And Home Stagers, while often adding furniture and accessories, what we do is much more.  And, while we do feel that presenting a home in Market Ready Condition will help a home sell quicker, that is IF the home is priced correctly.  Most Professional Stagers today do not make the claim that staging will help the house sell for more money.  And a final point, while I don't profess to know what fees are charged by all stagers, many Stagers offer  consultations beginning at $150.

Again, thank you for your support of Staging and I look forward to seeing you around ActiveRain!

May 25, 2012 10:56 AM #1
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

This is a great checklist for sellers.. Not all of these items will result in actual dollars, but they will result in the home being sold faster than a home where the seller does not do these things.

May 25, 2012 11:39 AM #2
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


You  have mentioned the important things sellers must do to prepare their homes for a sale. 

May 25, 2012 02:18 PM #3
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Thanks Eric, great advice and I will ad this to my list of important tasks do do before listing a home.

May 25, 2012 04:20 PM #4
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Eric congrats on your feature, good blog post!!! hope your sellers are listening!

May 25, 2012 04:29 PM #5
Joshua Frederick
Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC - Defiance, OH
Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio

A Pre-listing Home Inspection would also be a huge benefit....

May 25, 2012 10:17 PM #6
Eileen Hsu
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

Excellent list for sellers to get ready for the home to be in the best shape for sale.

May 25, 2012 10:52 PM #7
Beth and Richard Witt
Long Island Cash Home Buyer - Huntington, NY
Long Island Cash Home Buyer 516-330-6940

I will never understand why people put dirty messy houses on the market... I mean would they put a For Sale Sign on a dirty filthy car... I don't get it and I have not gotten an answer to this question in over 30 years... Great advice... Congrats on the feature... and I hope sellers pay attention...

May 25, 2012 11:45 PM #8
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Fertilizing the lawn is something you don't hear much about...But if you saw one, it brings good thoughts with it

May 25, 2012 11:50 PM #9
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor

Great post! Congratulations on the feature as well!!!

May 26, 2012 12:01 AM #10
Bud & Beth McKinney
Cary/Raleigh/Apex NC - The Team That Cares, RE/MAX United

Great post! With all of the hectic events that surround a listing, or showing a home, it can sometimes be easy to forget to tidy up. Living in a house is one thing and we can certainly get used to certain things being around, but they may scare away potential buyers. What a great, simple checklist. Thanks for sharing.

May 26, 2012 03:02 AM #11
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

Curb appeal is very important for home selling for sure.

May 26, 2012 04:27 AM #12
Kevin O'Rourke - Keller Williams Miami Beach Realtor
Keller Williams Miami Beach Realty - Miami Beach, FL
CDPE Miami Short Sale Agent 305-520-9436

Eric, it is obvious from the eye pleasing layout of your blog post that you know a thing or two about how things should look.  So you clients would do well to heed your advice!

May 26, 2012 05:21 AM #13
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

This should be on the kitchen counter of every home listed for sale.

Great job.

May 26, 2012 08:42 AM #14
Eric Proulx - Kirkland, WA


Hey guys I’ve been away from Active Rain for a long Memorial Weekend with my family but I appreciate all the great responses.


Kathy – Good point, that’s an interesting perspective that I did not consider.


Joan – Thank you, it’s important to attract as much positive attention as we can to the home as sellers, so I’m happy to hear this helps!


Evelyn – Thanks, that was my initiative so I’m happy to hear I hit the nail on the head.


Bob – Right on! By doing so I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Endre – Me too! Thanks for stopping by for the read.


Joshua – Good call, that’s definitely something that needs to be taken into consideration in regards to the preparation of a home.


Eileen – Thank you, I hope it comes in handy.


Richard & Beth – Exactly, you get out of it what you put into it. You’re only going to get impressive offers on the house if you do your best to put an impressive looking house on the market. Thank you!


Richie – Oh yea! When people say grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, I want my property to be what’s on the other side of the fence lol.


Barbara-Jo – Thanks for the read!


Bud & Beth – My thoughts exactly, hopefully this checklist will help folks remember some of the little things that occasionally get overlooked.


Morgan – You betcha, need to dress to impress so to speak. Thanks for the read


Kevin – Thanks man, I’m doing my best to keep things looking professional. I appreciate the support.


Lenn – Thank you for that! Happy to hear this list is offering valuable information for so many people.  



May 29, 2012 01:37 AM #15
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