Preparing Your House to Sell

Prepping Your Home

Do not underestimate the importance of preparing your home for sale. While not everyone notices a neat and tidy home, they will certainly notice a messy cluttered home. With the proliferation of shelter shows on TV, people‘s expectations have greatly increased and customers are expecting your home to be its best at the open house. A good deal of thought should be put into this process, and doing it right can mean a difference in the perception of your house and ultimately the offers on your home. Here are some tips for prepping your home:



This is a win-win-win step. Not only will it produce a better open house, but it will also reduce your cost to move (fewer boxes), and reduce work on the back end of packing up and unpacking them in your next home.

A thorough clean-out will start you off right – throw out what is broken, donate what can be reused (such as the Veterans Association who will pick up items), or call an estate sale expert who can sell them for you.

Pack up your “collections”. Not everyone shares your love of shot glasses, antique spoons, and figurines and that’s okay. You want people to see the house (not comment – and they do – on the hobbies of its residents).


Minor repairs go a long way. When you live in a home for a long time, it's easy to ignore or not even notice the small cracks or aging floors. But customers notice everything, especially if it means that they will have to spend extra money repairing them. Repairing and painting is an important step, but keep in mind it should be done in comparison to how much return on investment you expect. 

  • Dirty or faded walls, peeling paint, damaged molding should be repaired by you or a handyman.  All these little nicks register in a buyer’s mind as elements they can deduct from the asking price. The less wear and tear people see the better your offer will be.
  • Refinish floors if they are worn. Floors are something the buyer notices first.
  • Repair minor cracks in walls. Houses settle but they don’t have to look like it.
  • Paint rooms that are faded or beyond cleaning. Also, paint those rooms that have paint colors in vibrant shades (your personal favorite is not everyone’s favorite). Select white or neutral colors, but don’t go crazy and don’t overspend.
  • Repair leaky faucets.
  • Re-caulk bathroom (tub, sink, and shower). If possible bleach or scrub grout. This will make a big difference. Old peeling caulk and dirty grout detract from the appearance of a bathroom and makes it look in worse shape than it actually is.  

Service Your Mechanicals

Call your mechanical contractors for service. Your furnace, water heater, HVAC, and pool all should be checked to ensure that they are in good working order. And DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE the value of giving them a good cleaning. Just be careful when doing it, we don’t want you to shut off any vital switches or get burned. When mechanicals are dirty or grimy, they look old and not maintained.

If you do nothing else, clean.

As a real estate agent who has seen countless homes, I can see value through the mess. Most clients cannot. When I am showing clients homes, and we come across one that is messy, you would be shocked to hear how many clients have remarked, “Do these people really want to sell the house? I thought you were supposed to clean up?”

  • Replace any burnt-out light bulbs.
  • Clean windows both inside and out.
  • Polish wood floors. Try a product like a restorative wood cleaner. Orange Glow floor polish works quite well.
  • Clean wall-to-wall carpets (professionally if possible).
  • Vacuum and sweep floors regularly.
  • If curtains or shades are dirty, clean them or take them down altogether. In fact, the brighter the better, and shades often detract from this.
  • Polish bathroom fittings.
  • Make sure the sink, toilet, and tub are cleaned before showing.
  • The shower curtain should be clean or better yet new.
  • Kitchen countertops should be clean and cleared.
  • Make sure all dishes are cleaned and stored in their place.

Odors are a major detractor. I have had clients literally turn on their heels and walk out of a home when they smell odors. All houses have their own scent, but certain odors from pets, cigarette smoke, mustiness, or just basic stagnant air will have an immediate negative impression. First, if possible, eliminate the source of smells. For example, long-term smoke exposure will sink into carpets and furniture. Throw these items out or have them cleaned. Open windows, leave out bowls of vinegar, and separate bowls of baking soda. Activated charcoal absorbers will also help.



Staging is an extra step that may not be available to everyone. Staging a home will help de-personalize your home while simultaneously making it appeal to a larger audience. Having  outside experts like your real estate agent and a stager working together will help you to take a step back from how you have been living in your home and position it to what the market is currently demanding. You may be using an extra room upstairs as a bedroom; the stager may re-purpose it as an office. You may have been using your basement as storage; the stager sees it as a rec room. If you are selling your home, ask your agent if staging is within your budget.

  • Edit down your furniture so people can move freely throughout the room. The space will feel larger.
  • Remove knick-knacks from tabletops – limit to 1-3 items at MOST. 
  • Update lamps with new lampshades if yours are faded or torn.
  • Personal Papers should have a place out of sight; this is also a security issue. Get a box to store personal items that are in use (bills, notes, etc.) so they can be stored away at a moment’s notice.
  • Kitchen counters should only have the bare essentials of appliances.
  • Consider removing (or replacing) patterned curtains or tablecloths.
  • CLEAN SOLID towels in the bathroom.
  • Closets should be edited and arranged neatly (this is where de-cluttering comes in handy). This seems extraneous but it is not – it demonstrates that there is enough storage space.
  • Fresh flowers throughout the home always freshen a room.

Some realtors advise you to remove your personal photos. I don’t subscribe to that (unless it is for privacy). Having too many photos is an issue – having none is strange. If you have raised a happy family in your house, then having evidence of that in the form of (a few select) photos only signals to the next potential buyer that it could be them. And as weird as it may sound, it shows the home has good karma. You may laugh, but there are homes that do not…and they stay on the market for long.

Curb Appeal

The outside impression is the customer’s first experience with your house. Like the inside of your house, the front and back yard should be neat and tidy.

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