Preparing Your Home For Sale

The moment we sign a listing agreement, I will get to work selling your home. But, unless you’re a natural-born perfectionist, chances are I’ll provide you with a list of things to do in order to spruce it up, like: mulching the front yard, touching up some paint, cleaning the carpets, etc. We’ll talk about what I’ve found to be particularly impactful over the years and will enhance your home’s marketability. I believe it’s important for your property to make a strong first impression on the greatest number of buyers, so I’ll probably have a few requests to add to your to-do list leading up to the time of listing.

Studies show that, from the time they park in the driveway or step through the front door, it usually takes minutes for a potential buyer to decide whether or not they’re interested in your home. I’ll work up a list that’s specific to your property, but here are my typical suggestions for low-cost, proven ways for making your home as attractive as possible:

Exterior touch ups

Your home’s exterior serves as its front-facing feature. Get this one wrong and some folks won’t even stop their car for a closer look. Curb appeal is everything, so:

  • Touch up paint on trim, doors, window frames, fascia and pretty much any other painted surface that’s in view.
  • Your lawn is a big part of curb appeal. If it shows no signs of life, add a little fertilizer and some water to bring it back. Then, keep it neatly mowed and edged until your home is sold.
  • Buyers want to see as much as possible of your home’s exterior, not your shrubberies. If they’re overgrown, trim them back and shape them to show off as much of your home’s exterior as possible (and don’t forget to touch up anything they may have been hiding, like mildew or damaged paint).
  • Weed any landscaping beds and add additional mulch anywhere necessary.
  • Spend a few dollars on seasonal flowers and other plantings. They’re cheap and they add a personal touch to spruce up your lawn’s perimeter.
  • Ensure that your gutters are clean and replace any missing downspouts, as well as any damaged or missing shutters.
  • Inspect your roof for any missing or damaged shingles and have them replaced or repaired. (You might as well get it out of the way, before the inspector arrives.)
  • Cracks in the driveway and/or sidewalks can be easily repaired using a little ready mix cement or pre-packaged asphalt repair. While you’re at it, easy to use cleaning agents can be applied to remove any excessive stains. They just spray on and rinse off.
  • Water stains can be removed using a mild bleaching agent. (As with anything of this nature, be sure to test your mix in an inconspicuous area prior to cleaning the full area.)
  • Fences are part of your home. Clean, repair and paint those while you’re at it.
  • Wash all windows, both inside and out.
  • Lastly, give the area in front of your curb a good cleaning. Clear out debris, then wash them down with water.

Interior touch ups

It might sound obvious, but give your house a thorough cleaning from top to bottom, including dusting, vacuuming and mopping. And be sure to hit the spots you don’t look at frequently. You’d be shocked by what potential buyers notice. Also:

  • Put all of your valuables in a safe place. A professional Realtor will accompany every person who comes through your home, but there’s no need to take chances.
  • If there are any cracks or holes in your walls, repair those and touch up with paint.
  • Clean and then touch up doors and door frames.
  • Repair or replace any torn screens. Believe it or not, this is a hot button for most buyers.
  • Rent a carpet cleaner, or hire a professional cleaning service. While you’re at it, be sure to clean your drapes.
  • If you have a fireplace, be sure that its surround (bricks, tiles, etc.) is in good shape. Otherwise, give it a good cleaning and ensure that the screen is in good shape, too.
  • Nobody likes a house with creaky features, so get rid of any annoying squeaks in doors, windows and cabinets by adding a little lubricant.
  • Get rid of clutter in your closets and stow as many clothes as you can to make them look as large and tidy as possible.
  • Clear out as much general clutter as possible—remove any misplaced pieces of furniture and any other items that may make rooms look smaller than necessary.
  • Go out and buy a few houseplants to add here and there. You’d be surprised how inviting this makes a home’s interior. And if you aren’t particularly good with plants, just remember that you won’t need to keep them alive for long.

The kitchen

We all know that this is one of the most (some would say definitely the most) important rooms in the house. Make it a focal point with a few plants and as much sunlight as you can bring in. Also:

  • Pack up small appliances and clear off your counters.
  • Clean every appliance thoroughly and organize the fridge. Even if they aren’t part of the deal, trust me—someone’s going to take notice.
  • It may sound like a no-brainer, but never leave dirty dishes in the sink. If there are any food stains, scrub to get rid of them.
  • Scrub that kitchen floor. One good cleaning and then you should be able to just swipe it with a Swiffer before every showing.
  • Don’t forget to clean fans and vent hoods. They’re easy to overlook.
  • Check and tighten every knob, slider and hinge.


This is the quickest place to offend and turn off a potential buyer. In addition to thoroughly cleaning and removing stains from your sinks, toilets, bathtubs and showers, also be sure to:

  • Replace any old, discolored or cracked caulking, especially around tubs and showers.
  • Repair or replace any leaky faucets.
  • Unclog any clogged drains and sanitize to remove odors.
  • Clean your mirrors.
  • Whatever your philosophy may be, keep the toilet seat lids closed.
  • Perform the same cabinet check here: tighten all knobs, sliders and hinges.
  • Keep fresh (and matching) towels in place at all times.

Garages, basements and attics

These are the places where we store any and everything, but no one’s interested in seeing junk. They’re interested in seeing how much space they may have for their own storage, so pack it up and store it, or have a yard sale. And just as with any other valuables, store anything of value safely out of sight. Also:

  • Get rid of oil, grease and other stains on the garage floor by applying an inexpensive degreaser.
  • Remove cobwebs.
  • If your basement or attic is part of your living space, ensure that they’re clean and in good repair, just like the rest of your home.

That’s it for cleanup and repairs. Once your house is listed for sale, all you’ll need to do is a little touching up before each showing. But, take my advice—you never know when an anxious buyer is going to contact us hoping to see the inside of your house right away, so do your best to check off the items below before leaving the house each day.

When it’s time to show

Showings are a potential buyer’s best opportunity to spend a little time with your home to determine if it’s the right place for them to live—unencumbered by a seller’s presence—so arrange to leave and stay away from your home. Having a seller present not only can intimidate or unsettle some potential buyers, but it can also open a can of worms. If you’re there, it’s inevitable: They’re going to ask you questions. And one wrong answer could affect their interest, so it’s best to let me tackle those with their Realtor after the showing.

But before you go

  • Give the house a fresh dusting and vacuuming.
  • Lightly clean and straighten up all living areas.
  • Open all of the drapes and blinds in order to let in as much light as possible.
  • Turn on lamps and lights in every room to brighten them. (Don’t worry, they’ll be cut off at the end of every showing.)
  • Stow any household items or children’s toys, including outdoor items, like bikes or skateboards.
  • Turn off your television sets, but turn on a radio with soft music at a low volume.
  • Keep all pets away from potential buyers and, if possible, remove them from the premises to avoid any issues. This applies to more than just dogs, but also cats, birds, hamsters—you name it. If you have fish tanks, keep them clean and odor free.

What to do with unexpected visitors

Every showing will be scheduled with as much lead time as possible, but it’s inevitable that someone will eventually stop by unannounced. If an unexpected buyer drops in on you, don’t panic. Answer a few questions to break the ice, but immediately refer them to your agent for further questions. If they have a buyers’ agent, advise them to have that person contact me directly. The fewer questions you can get away with answering, the better. Also, if you’re going to be out of town, please let me know, as well as inform me of how I should contact you if needed. I’m not going to interrupt your vacation for the little things, but you never know when an offer could arrive.

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