When you’ve decided to sell your home, you may be eager to get the property on the MLS, get a sign in the yard, and let the offers start rolling in! However, if your goal is to maximize the sale price (and your eventual proceeds), it’s crucial to make sure that the home is properly prepared and looking its best before going live.
Even in a seller’s market, it’s worthwhile to invest some time, effort (and in some cases money) up front to prepare your house for photos and showings. At this stage, it’s important to detach from your home emotionally, and look at it through the lens of a potential buyer. Ensuring that your property looks and feels well-maintained, polished and presentable will greatly improve the home’s appeal, and will ultimately lead to more interest, more showings, more offers, and the highest possible price!
These are the fundamental principles to follow when getting ready to list your house. In general, the goals of prepping your house for sale should be to:
• Create a clean and clutter-free environment
• Go for a light and neutral color scheme
• Minimize wherever possible
• Assume visitors will get nosy, and plan accordingly
• Enhance curb appeal
• Make your home photo (and video) ready
• Address any obvious fix-it items
• Add some light “staging” touches
• Have a plan for showings & open houses
Now that we have the basics down, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and tackle these home prep projects! Follow this comprehensive checklist to ensure that you are properly taking care of all the areas of your home that could use attention
If there are any fix-it list items that have been on the back-burner, especially the more noticeable ones, this is the time to knock them out! A buyer wants to see that the home has been well cared-for! If they see obvious damage or defects, it will make them wonder what other areas have been neglected.
OPTIONAL – Order a Home Inspection and address items in the report. Some sellers choose to order (and pay for) their own home inspection before listing, then hire a contractor, handyman etc. to fix any issues that were noted in the report. This can help make the home feel like it’s in tip-top shape, and minimize the potential issues that a buyer could discover in their own inspections during escrow.
* If you’re considering ordering a home inspection before going on the market, check with your listing agent to see if it makes sense!
Walls and surfaces (tables, desks, countertops etc) should be largely cleared of clutter and knick-knacks. Remove and pack away personalized items like photos of the owners, children’s artwork, and decor pieces that are specific to your tastes or hobbies. You may love your collection of Egyptian cat statues, but they will NOT show well in photos… and they will only distract buyers from all the great features of the house! A good rule of thumb is to remove at least 50% of your “stuff” from view.
However, select decor pieces, non-personalized artwork, houseplants etc. are encouraged! In general the place should look stylish, welcoming and lived-in, just not overly busy. When in doubt, you can work with your listing agent or stager to figure out what can stay and what must go.
The walls and ceiling are the largest visible surface in any room – so buyers will notice if they’re looking dull, stained, or damaged! Start by patching any holes, and clean any scuffs or smudges.
Touch-up paint can be helpful if you have your original paint colors. Preferably though, a fresh coat of light, neutral paint will go a long way to making the home look new, clean, bright and full of possibility! Buyers want to see a blank canvas, where they can envision putting their own personal touches on the house to make it into their home.
New interior paint is particularly impactful in the most visited (and most photographed) areas of the home like the living room, kitchen and primary bedroom.
This should happen right before photography. Whether you maintain the yard yourself or hire a gardener, a thorough landscaping clean-up will make a big difference in property photos!
This could include blowing / removing any fallen leaves, pulling weeds, trimming / pruning bushes and trees, and clearing the driveway, walkways and patios.
First impressions are crucial! The exterior of the home, especially the facade facing the street, will almost always be the first thing that a buyer sees online or when they pull up to the house. So the home’s curb appeal needs to look as clean and inviting as possible.
Exterior siding can fade and collect stains and dust. Consider power-washing and/or adding a coat of paint to the front exterior. Also inspect any trim, eaves, or shutters to see if any cleaning or touch-ups are needed.
If needed, consider painting or upgrading your front door and garage door.
Make sure that the address numbers are visible, or add new ones.
A few plants along the front of the house, and/or potted plants and flowers on the front steps can add a much-needed pop of color and life!
The house should be as spotless as possible for photos and showings! If you can swing it, it’s usually best to pay for a professional deep-clean – they clean areas that most homeowners miss, like grout, baseboards, and inside cabinets and drawers.
If you’re doing a deep-clean yourself, make sure to be as thorough as possible. Remove cobwebs, dust and clean around all the edges and corners that are usually out of reach. This will help to give the buyer the feeling that the property is tidy, sanitary and well-maintained. Clean window interiors and exteriors. Scrub all appliances, inside and out, as well as cabinets and closets. Even areas that aren’t normally on display should be spotless – Buyers are nosy, they WILL poke around and open doors and drawers while touring the home.
Because visitors will be going through your personal spaces, make sure that anything valuable is stashed away ahead of time. While theft is unlikely, it never hurts to be cautious and prepared and to remove any temptations!
Find a safe place to secure valuables like cash, jewelry, silverware, and collectibles, as well as prescription medications. Place these items either in a home safe, hidden out of reach, or remove the items from the property altogether.
Now that you’ve cleaned, spruced, decluttered and depersonlized, it’s time to add some final touches back in! A few little details will go a long way to give buyers the best impression of your home. Think of a high-end hotel or your favorite architectural magazine. Some light staging touches could include:
• Fresh flowers in the kitchen, dining room or breakfast table
• A runner and simple place-settings on the dining table
• A simple, decorative tray on the bathroom counter with a candle or high-end hand soap
• Fresh, white fluffy towels folded neatly on towel bars
• A sanitizing station near the entrance with hand sanitizer and wipes!
It will be helpful for your listing agent to know specifics of the home’s systems, appliances, upgrades and renovations. When were home systems (like electrical, plumbing, roof and HVAC) last updated? Are there any special upgrades that you have completed since you purchased the home? Any smart home or energy efficient systems that you’d like to highlight? This will all come in handy when your listing agent is putting together their marketing materials and talking with potential buyers!
Depending on your area, price point, and the condition of your home, it may be worth it to pay for professional staging. This can be expensive – often costing thousands of dollars – but it can really pay off in the final sale price!
Homes with professional staging look stellar in property photos and video, and make a terrific impact at showings and open houses. According to 2020 data from the Real Estate Staging Association, 85% of staged homes received offers between 5% and 23% above list price!
It’s showtime! Before any open house or private showing, make sure that your home is looking its absolute best, and as welcoming as possible.
☐ Check each room for clutter
☐ Make all beds
☐ Fluff and arrange throw pillows and blankets on armchairs & sofas
☐ Wipe down faucets
☐ Make sure bath & hand towels are folded or hung neatly
☐ Wipe down kitchen countertops
☐ Take out the trash & replace with fresh bags
☐ Put away pet food & water bowls
☐ Stash your valuables and prescription meds
☐ Sweep dirt & leaves from walkways and front porch
☐ Open all curtains, blinds and shades
☐ Turn on all lights and lamps
☐ Set the thermostat to a comfortable temp
To achieve a quick sale and the highest possible price, it’s crucial to polish your home’s image to make it as inviting as possible to potential buyers! In this guide, we lay out a step-by-step process to make sure you are covering all your bases when preparing your home for sale.
Part 2 – The continuation of our podcast-style interview with a lender! In this interview we dive deep into the topic of loans to answer some of the biggest questions, including what mistakes you should avoid!