The best tips to prepare your home “for sale”

clean-up equipment
clean-up equipment

Reader Question: Monty, we are getting our house ready to put on the market. The advice from different agents has generated a variety of contrasting opinions about how to prepare the house for showings. We feel like two of the agents are asking for way more tasks than is necessary. Do you have a specific plan or recommendation to follow? Mark and Jamie  A.

Monty’s Answer: Every home is unique in a variety of ways. Without touring your home it is not practical to guess, but if two out of three agents have similar independent opinions about the volume of work, it suggests they may be on the right track. Here are some tasks to consider, beyond a typical house cleaning, that will help most any home put on a great showing performance.

Why Is This So Important?

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Assume two homes are virtually identical. They are both the same price and in the same neighborhood. Except, one of them is unkempt. Which one will you buy? If you chose the unkempt one because it was three blocks closer to work, how much less would you be willing to offer because you know you will have to spend time and money to freshen it up? There can be a thin line between upkeep and repair – condition and cleanliness, but sharp homes usually sell faster and for more money.

The clean up checklist:

  • Wash all the windows inside and out.
  • Oil hinges on squeaky doors.
  • Use paraffin wax to coat the runners the windows slide on, so they open easily.
  • Remove items from closets you plan to give away or throw away now. Thin out and organize them to show off the functionality.  Or, store items off-site. Do not wait till you move.
  • If the carpets show wear or have spots have it cleaned commercially.
  • Make sure all the light bulbs are in place, clean and working properly.
  • Wash the walls and woodwork in high-traffic areas that show dirt easily.
  • Both the basement and garage add value, especially when clean and well organized.
  • Clean light fixtures, air vents and fan blades as these are items we tend to overlook.
  • Clean around light plate switches.
  • As kitchens accumulate more dirt,  wash the cupboards inside-out and scrub the floor.
  • Pay particular attention to the bathrooms. Mirrors, sink, toilet and tub or shower should be clean and bright.
  • Make sure the bathroom fans are working and quiet.

The paint up, fix up, check list:

  • Weed and feed the lawn to kill weeds and refresh the grass. Trim the edges.
  • Trim the shrubs, trees and bushes so they do not dominate the appearance or street view.
  • Freshen up the front door with paint, stain it, or if it is plastic – just wash it.
  • Check to see that the weather stripping around outside doors is intact.
  • Check and repair the trim around windows and soffit for peeling, cracking or chipping paint.
  • Repair or replace broken concrete in the sidewalk and on the porch.
  • Replace open seals and broken windows, replace failed grout and caulk and repair or replace inoperable door hardware.
  • Have a handyman plane the top or bottom edge of doors that do not close properly.
  • Replace worn carpet or carpet with non-removable  stains.
  • Give “tired” rooms a coat of light colored or off-white paint.
  • Replace or repair broken, cracked or weathered trim boards and threshold on the exterior.
  • Repair any appliances and equipment that will be staying, so they are fully operable.
  • Have an electrician fix or remove wires hanging out of unused or broken electrical equipment.
  • Look for any leaks around plumbing under sinks or in the basement and have repaired.
  • Install shutters on the front windows of the house if you have the room.

When Should I Do The Work?

Ideally, do it before the first prospect walks through the front door. The list seems unwieldy, but it is not as hard as it looks. Some of these tasks are easy. Others, a handyman, can combine into a single trip and take care of in a few hours. If the prospect cannot find anything wrong (they look for issues ), going ahead becomes easier. In most every case, the effort  is well worth it.

Many homebuyers tend to overestimate the cost and effort in doing the work. Remember you are competing with other neighbors who are also trying to sell their homes. You are either helping the neighbors sell their home or they are helping you sell your home.


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