The Realty Geek's Blog

Preparing a Home to Sell

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.

Comment balloon 15 commentsEric Proulx • May 25 2012 03:45PM
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