Updated: Aug 22, 2020
One of the most crucial steps before placing your house on the market is to make sure it is in prime condition, prepped, and ready for showings. Depending on how much work needs to be done, this process can take weeks, so try not to rush unless you are on a serious time crunch. As you determine what needs to be done prior to listing, set a target list date, and work backward from there to create a plan. Selecting a date will give you a goal to work towards and allow you to break down the steps to get there. Your Realtor® can help you determine what a realistic time frame might be, given the specific work that needs to be done. This process is super important because getting your house in tip-top shape will help you sell it for top dollar and maximize your investment.
NOTE: This isn’t the time to build a deck or start a huge remodel project, we're just talking about the essentials to get your home show-ready. Please, even if you are in a hurry to sell, don't skip this step. Your time frame might be shorter but listing a home that hasn't been adequately prepped will just make it more likely that the home will sit on the market longer and sell for less money. The goal is to get the most interest from buyers as quickly as you can after you list and that takes some effort!
1. Declutter- If you do absolutely nothing else this is perhaps the MOST crucial. The great thing is, the more you declutter the LESS you have to pack so now is the perfect time to go through items that have been sitting and collecting dust, unused for years. Why is this so important? Clutter distracts from the house itself, makes it feel smaller and more dated. Remember, they’re not buying your stuff, they’re buying your house, so remove all the excess and it will make the process much easier. It is difficult to appreciate the house and its features if there is a ton of extra stuff everywhere. There are a lot of different strategies out there for exactly how to go about decluttering. I recommend not thinking too hard about it and creating donate and trash piles of things you either haven’t used or know you won’t use. If your closets are bursting at the seams buyers will assume there’s not enough storage for their own stuff. Plus, buyers will look everywhere including every closet and kitchen cabinet so it needs to be tidy and neat. Want some evidence? Check out these before and afters of bloggers who have undertaken the decluttering challenge: These Jaw-Dropping Before and After Pictures will Finally Inspire You To Declutter. Some specific areas of focus should include:
Closets – No matter how small, make sure there is additional un-utilized space in your closets or other storage areas. A closet packed to the brim looks small and makes the storage in the home appear insufficient. Take down clothes that are out of season or that you rarely wear and either donate, trash or store them elsewhere. If your closet is still full, consider what you can live without through the showings and store it. After all, you're going to be moving soon anyway so you might as well get a head start on packing! Use cute opaque storage baskets for any remaining loose items. The bins will make the space look much more attractive and organized and are easy to simply toss items in if you're in a hurry. Other spaces to declutter include coat closets, pantries, the garage, and any other storage areas. Buyers will look everywhere and want to feel like there is enough room for their own belongings. Overpacked, cluttered spaces will make the buyer feel like they too will run out of space.
Shelves, Counters, Floors, and Other Horizontal Surfaces – Remove and store any nicknacks, personal items, or picture frames. Try to have as few things on your horizontal surfaces as possible. Less is more and I promise the listing photos will look 100x better this way. Also, store nothing directly on the ground and make sure everything has a place. These strategies will help keep your home tidy so that every showing appointment doesn't result in a mad dash to clean your entire home.
2. Make Repairs – Now is the time to get all of the cosmetic jobs done that never quite got finished. It is easy to forget about small things like unpainted trim, chipped paint, scuffed walls, or that leaky faucet when you’re in the home every day. Remember your house will be under a microscope as prospective buyers walkthrough. It is helpful to have someone else walk through your home to help you pick these things up. Your Realtor® or an honest, detail-oriented friend might point out things you would have otherwise missed. Repainting a railing, fixing a rotted trim piece, touching up paint, or correcting a broken light fixture can make a big difference in making a home feel “finished", move-in ready, and well taken care of. Small defects may not seem like a big deal but they signal to a potential buyer than there could be larger issues hiding.
3. Paint – Do you have any highly personalized accent walls, color choices, or strongly themed/bright kids rooms? Now is the time to change that. Paint is the single easiest (and cheapest) way to make a home feel fresh and updated. It is also one of the fastest ways to turn buyers off. More and more buyers will walk away from a home because they don't want to deal with repairs or painting. Like it or not, people are looking for move-in ready homes. Lime green walls or a Star Wars-themed kids room might be a great fit for your family but odds are it won’t be for your potential buyers. It’s just another project they have to complete after they move in. In fact, these colors can make your home sell for thousands less than an identical home with a neutral palette. Neutralize highly personalized, bright, or outdated spaces with a can of paint and resolve the issue in one afternoon right then and there. The cost is minimal and it will save you a huge headache later.
4. Clean Up the Yard – First impressions matter. A weed-filled flower bed or a yard full of toys or tools does not show well in pictures or in person. Take care of some basic landscaping like cleaning up garden beds and adding a fresh layer of mulch. Consider adding a fresh coat of paint to your mailbox and touch up any trim. Remove tools or toys from the yard and stage any larger outdoor spaces with furniture to add the appeal of even more living space. The goal is to get your potential buyers to fall in love with your home before they even step foot through the door! Check out some easy (and budget-friendly) curb appeal tips and tricks
5. Clean Clean Clean! – Now that you’ve decluttered and gotten rid of a lot of extra stuff, it's time to give your home a good scrub down. If you don’t feel like doing it yourself, you can always hire a professional to perform the deep clean for you. But, and I cannot stress this enough, next to decluttering this is the most important part of the process. A deep clean means dusting, carpet cleaning, vacuuming, a good bathroom scrub, washing windows, taking care of light fixtures and a kitchen scrub down. Polish all fixtures and appliances to really make them shine. Remember, buyers will look EVERYWHERE, stoves, cabinets, and refrigerators included. Plus, a good deep clean of the carpets, bathrooms, and kitchen can rid the home of many unpleasant or lingering smells that might be a turn off to buyers. Want a checklist to keep you organized? Clean Mama has some great free deep cleaning, decluttering, and packing lists to help you!
6. Staging - Last step I promise! The goal with staging is to make your home look as attractive to buyers as possible and help them figure out how to use each space in the home. First, take down personal items and pictures. You want the buyer to be able to picture themselves in your home, which becomes increasingly difficult if they are constantly reminded of who the current occupants are. You've already made any necessary repairs so now be sure to clean off countertops and keep décor to a minimum. Make the space look pretty, not personal, removing any loud colors or highly personalized pieces. Add crisp white towels to the bathrooms and fresh throw pillows on the couches. Have an awkward space you don’t quite know what to do with? Your realtor can help here. Adding a small desk or cozy chair in a nook can make an otherwise unused space feel cozy and warm, adding to the home’s appeal. Here are some simple DIY staging tips to attract more buyers and get your home sold quickly! Want more specific tips? I'll have you covered soon with a full staging guide and checklist!
Yes, I know all these things take time and a little financial investment. but, if done well, these prep strategies can save you a lot of headache and time sitting on the market. Home showings are inconvenient (particularly when still living in the home and especially if you have children). Having a space that appeals to the most buyers will increase the odds that your house will sell quickly at or above your listing price so you're not dealing with the inconvenience for months on end. It will be worth it. I promise!