The longer a house is on
the market, the more likely prospective purchasers are to suspect that
something is wrong with the house. Remember back to all the times you
have looked at properties during a home search. Chances are that whenever
you came across a property that had been on the market for a while, the
first thought that went through your mind was, "I wonder what is wrong?
Why isn't this property sold?". Don't let that happen to you! Complete
all of your repairs, improvements, and enhancements prior to your first
The following pages will
guide you step by step through the process of preparing your home for sale
to achieve the highest possible sale price in the least amount of time.
Your concentration will be in six areas: repairing, cleaning,
neutralizing, space management, atmosphere, and staging. None of these
activities are fun to do, but all are an extremely important part of
marketing your home.
6 Key Points for Focus
1. The rule of thumb is,
if something needs repair, fix it! There are probably many things in your
home that you have simply become used to over time, things that you have
been "promising yourself" that you will attend to. Well, now is the time.
The buyer will mentally add up the cost of repairing all those minor
flaws and end up with an amount that is generally much higher than what it
would cost you to do the repairs.
You might be saying to
yourself, "These repairs aren't any big deal, " but the buyer is thinking,
"If the owners didn't take care of these little items, then what about the
roof, or the furnace?"
Needed, small repairs and
perceived owner neglect will either lower the purchase price or lengthen
the time required to sell.
2. Check all walls for
peeling paint and loose wall paper.
3. Large repairs: In
today's climate of open disclosure and vigilant professional home
inspections, the rule is: Treat a buyer as you would yourself. Repair any
problems with major systems or offer an allowance for the buyer to make
repairs after closing. Always disclose anything that you know about the
property. Having been a consumer yourself, you know that buyers will more
readily make a purchase decision with someone whom they can trust.
4. Every area of the home
must sparkle and shine! Each hour spent will be well worth it. Would you
rather buy a clean car, or a dirty one? Would you hurry to buy a pair of
shoes with mud on them?
5. Clean all of the
6. Clean all wall-to-wall
carpeting and area rugs. Clean and polish linoleum, tile and wooden
floors. Consider refinishing wood floors if necessary.
7. Clean and polish all
woodwork if necessary. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bath
8. Clean and polish all
the light fixtures.
9. Be cautious about
selecting colors when painting or replacing carpeting. Your objective
here is to make your home appeal to the largest possible buying segment.
Ask your self, "How many of the available buyers would be able to move
into your house with their own furniture and not have to replace the
carpeting?" Position your home on the market to be as livable to as many
people as possible, and to allow the buyer to mentally picture the home as
10. Forget your personal
taste -- the market is always demand driven! The average buyer will have
a hard time looking beyond blue carpeting and bold wallpapers. Consider
replacing unusual or bold colors with neutral tones. Two coats of
off-white paint may be the best investment you have ever made.
This involves creating the
illusion of more space.
11. Arrange furniture to
give the rooms as spacious a feeling as possible. Consider removing
furniture from rooms that are crowded. If necessary, store large
12. Pack up collectibles
-- both to protect them, and to give the room a more spacious feel. Leave
just enough accessories to give the home a personal touch. Dispose of
13. Remove all clutter,
and make it a habit to pick up clothing, shoes, and personal possessions
each day for possible showings.
14. Empty closets of
off-season clothing and pack for the move. Organize them to demonstrate
the most efficient use of space. Leave as few items on the floor or
shelves as possible.
15. Use light to create a
sense of space. All drapes should be open. Turn on all of the lights
throughout the home.
When placing yourself in
the potential buyer's shoes, you will want to consider the overall
atmosphere of your home. Keep in mind your sense of smell as you go
through this check list. Create the atmosphere of your home as a shelter,
a place that is safe and warm, and in good condition.
16. A clean-smelling house
creates a positive image in the buyer's mind. Be aware of any odors from
cooking, cigarettes, pets, etc., that may have adverse effects on
potential buyers. Remember that some people are much more sensitive to
odors than others. Smokers rarely notice the odor of tobacco that fills
their homes, and pet owners may be oblivious to objectionable doggy odor.
17. You can use products
like carpet deodorizers, air fresheners, and room deodorizers; but the
best strategy is to remove the source of the smell rather than cover it
18. Unfortunately, often
the only way to remove the smell of pet urine from flooring is to rip up
the carpeting, padding and underlayment and replace them. If this is
preventing the sale of your home, don't hesitate to make this investment.
19. If smoking and cooking
odors have permeated your home, have your carpets and furniture cleaned,
and air out or dry-clean your drapes.
20. Mildew odors are
another no-no. Don't allow wet towels to accumulate in hampers, or dirty
laundry to pile up in closets.
21. Once offensive odors
are removed, consider adding delightful ones. Recent studies have shown
that humans have strong, positive responses to certain smells. Cinnamon,
fresh flowers, breads baking in the oven are all excellent ways to enhance
your property for sale.
This part of preparing
your home for sale is the most fun and involves the use of color,
lighting, and accessories to emphasize the best features of your home.
22. Study magazine ads or
furniture showrooms to see how small details can make rooms more
attractive and appealing. The effect of a vase of flowers, an open book on
the coffee table, a basket of birch logs by the fireplace, etc., can make
the difference in a room. Be careful not to create distractive clutter.
23. The use of a brightly
colored pillow in a wing chair or a throw blanket on a couch can add
dimension to a sterile room.
24. Soften potentially
offending views, but always let light into your rooms. Replace heavy
curtains with sheer white panels. Never apologize for things you cannot
change. The buyer will either decide to accept or reject the property
regardless of the words you say. Just present the home in the best way
possible with complete honesty.
25. Go through your photo
albums and select pictures of your house and yard during all four
seasons. If hung at eye level in a well-lighted area, the pictures will
speak for themselves and give you yet another selling edge.
26. Take advantage of
natural light as much as possible by cleaning windows, opening shades and
drapes, etc. Add lamps and lighting where necessary. Be sure that all
fixtures are clean and have functioning bulbs. Increase the wattage of
the bulbs in the basement area.
Check your home for any
needed maintenance just as a buyer would. Repaint or touch up as
necessary. You can't make a better investment when you are selling your
house! Don't let the outside turn buyers off before the inside turns them
27. Color has the power to
attract. A tub of geraniums, a pot of petunias, or a basket of impatiens
on the front steps is a welcoming touch.
28. If you are selling
during the winter months, consider using a wreath of dried flowers on the
front door, or an attractive milk can on the porch.
29. If you have a porch or
deck, set the stage with pots of flowers and attractively arranged
30. Check to see that all
doors and windows are in good working order. Give special attention to
your home's exterior doors and front entry. Clean and paint doors if
necessary. Remember, first impressions are likely to color the remainder
of the house tour.
31. Wash all windows and
replace any broken or cracked window panes.
32. Screens should be
free of any tears or holes.
33. Inspect all locks to
ensure that they are functioning properly.
34. Check for cracked,
loose or missing shingles or tiles. Clean out gutters and down spouts.
Touch up peeling areas on gutters.
35. Invest in a new
doormat that says "Welcome".
36. Make sure the yard is
neatly mowed, raked and edged.
37. Prune and shape
shrubbery and trees to compliment your house.
38. Consider adding
seasonal flowers along the walks or in the planting areas. Plop the
plants into a well-placed wheelbarrow, an old-fashioned washtub, or what
have you. Such standbys as nasturtiums, petunias, impatiens, and verbena
are easy to maintain if you only remember to water them regularly. Try a
row of sweet smelling alyssum to line a short sidewalk or pop in some
perky dwarf marigolds to form a cheerful oasis of color in your yard.
39. Weed and rake around
40. Set up your old
badminton or volleyball net -- suggest a scene of family fun!
41. It is important to
devote at least one area of your yard to outdoor living. Buyers will
still recognize a scene set with picnic table and chairs and respond
positively to it. Cover your picnic table with a fringed, red-and-white
checked cloth, set out some plastic plates and glasses, bring out the
barbecuing equipment, and buyers will almost smell the hot dogs cooking!
42. The driveway is no
place for children's toys. Not only are such things dangerous, the
clutter is unsightly.
43. The surface of your
driveway should be beyond reproach; after all, it's one of the first
things a buyer will see when he drives up. Sweep and wash the driveway
and walks to remove debris, dirt and stains. Repair and patch any cracks,
edge the sides and pull up any weeds.
The Front Entry:
Whether a graciously
proportioned center-hall or a small space just large enough for a coat
rack and tiny table, this part of your home deserves your particular
44. Study your entry hall
and ask yourself what kind of impression it makes of your home. Dried
flowers or a small plant can make a striking focal point on a hall table
any time of the year.
45. Virtually any entry
hall will benefit from a well-placed mirror to enlarge the area.
entry hall's flooring will be observed carefully by the prospective
buyer. Make sure the surface is spotless and add a small rug to protect
the area during showings.47. The entry hall closet is the first one
inspected -- make it appear roomy. Add a few extra hangers. Hang a bag
of cedar chips or a pomander ball to give a pleasant, fresh scent. Remove
all off-season clothing.
Think of these areas as if
they were furniture showrooms. Your job is to make each room generate a
positive response. Add touches that make a room look truly inviting.
48. Sweep and clean the
fireplace. Place a few logs on the grate to create an attractive
appearance. You are welcome to have a fire going for showings during the
winter months - it creates a great atmosphere.
49. Place something
colorful on the mantel, but don't make it look like a country craft
50. Improve the traffic
flow by removing excess furniture. Have easy traffic flow patterns. Be
sure that all doors open fully and easily.
51. Draw attention to
exposed beams or a cathedral ceiling with special lighting. Be sure to
remove any cobwebs and dust.
52. Remove oversized
television sets if they dominate the room. If necessary, substitute with
a smaller one until you move.
The Dining Room:
Avoid going overboard. To
be effective, any stage setting that you create should reflect the
character of your entire home appropriately.
53. Set the scene by
setting the table with an attractive arrangement. Add fresh or silk
flowers as a centerpiece.
54. Visually enlarge a
small dining area. If your dining table has extra leaves, take one or two
out. Consider placing your dining table against a wall. Remove any extra
"company" chairs. Consider putting oversized pieces in storage until your
house is sold.
Pay particular attention
to your kitchen -- this room continues to be the "heart of the home." A
pleasant, working kitchen is near the top of most buyers' list of
priorities and is a room that buyers always scrutinize closely.
55. Avoid clutter! Clean
counters of small appliances and store whenever possible to maximize the
appearance of work space.
56. Check the counter top
around your sink, and remove any detergent or cleanser, etc., that may be
cluttering the area.
57. Sinks, cabinets,
appliances and counter tops should be clean and fresh.
58. All appliances should
be absolutely clean, bright, sparkling and shiny!!
59. Clean off the top of
the refrigerator! If you must use that space for storage, use baskets and
bowls to camouflage the items kept there.
60. Set the scene with an
open cookbook, a basket filled with fruit, a basket of silk flowers, or a
ceramic mixing bowl and wire whisk.
61. Create the aromas
associated with happy homes! Bake some cookies from pre-mixed,
refrigerated cookie dough, start baking a loaf of refrigerated bread
dough, or pop a frozen apple pie in the oven. A delightful kitchen aroma
can be created with commercial pot pourri preparations or mix up a batch
from scratch on top of your stove:
Cinnamon Pot Pourri
1 T grated nutmeg
5 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole
1/2 tablespoon whole
Add all ingredients to 2
1/2 cups of water in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer.
62. In the heat of summer,
place a bowl of lemons or limes on the counter to provide a fresh and
63. Clean and organize all
storage space. If your cabinets, drawers, and closets are crowded and
overflowing, buyers assume that your storage space is inadequate. Give
away items you don't use, storing seldom-used items elsewhere, and
reorganize the shelves. Neat, organized shelves and drawers look larger
and more adequate for prospective buyer's needs.
64. Large, cheerful
kitchen windows are an advantage and should be highlighted as a special
feature of your home. Take a critical look at the window treatment -- is
it clean, sharp and up-to-date? Do the curtains need washing or the
blinds need cleaning. Would the window area look better without any
65. If you have a counter
top eating area, set two attractive place settings with coordinating
napkins and placemats, and place cushions on the stools.
66. Set the table for an
informal meal with bright place mats and a generous bowl of fruit as a
A separate laundry room is
a true asset and is one of the most frequent requests that buyers make
during a home search. Don't hide this treasure behind closed doors.
Spruce up the room and open the door proudly for inspection.
67. Add a fresh coat of
paint or put up cheerful wallpaper.
68. Organize all closets
and storage areas.
69. Remove all dirty
laundry. Keep current with your laundry or store all dirty laundry in a
70. Clean and polish the
washer and dryer.
71. Consider adding an
attractive, coordinated throw rug.
Stairways should provide
an attractive transition from one level of your home to another.
72. Make sure the stairs
are safe! Stair lighting should be more than adequate, stairs
must be clutter free, stair railings tight and secure, and runners or
carpeting tacked securely. Remove any items from the surface of the
stairs and store elsewhere. Check the condition of the walls, and paint
or re-wallpaper if necessary.
73. If the stairs are a
focal point of the main living areas, carefully choose accents to improve
the visual appeal. If you have a wide, gracious staircase, emphasize this
feature by hanging a few pictures along the wall. Draw attention to a
handsome lighting fixture by polishing the brass and dusting each small
light bulb or crystal prism. Any stair landing should also have an
attractive focal point, be it a fern on a plant stand, a dramatic poster,
a chiming clock, or a special chair on a large stair landing. If the
staircase is narrow, fool the eye by minimizing clutter.
Imagine for a moment that
you're in the "bed-and-breakfast" business. How would you change your
home's bedrooms to appeal to a paying lodger? Naturally you'd make up the
beds with your prettiest sheets and comforters. Maybe you'd add a vase of
flowers on the dressing table or a cozy armchair in the corner. Every
bedroom in your home should invite prospective buyers to settle right in.
74. Large master bedrooms
are particularly popular among today's home buyers. Make your bedroom
larger. Paint the room a light color, remove one of the bureaus if the
room is crowded, minimize clutter to maximize spaciousness. Aim for a
restful, subdued "look".
75. A private bathroom off
the master bedroom is a real sales plus...decorate to coordinate with the
color scheme of your bedroom, creating the "suite" effect.
76. Virtually all buyers
are looking for a house with plenty of closet space. Try to make what you
have appear generous and well planned. Remove and store all out of season
clothing. Remove any items from the floor area -- this will make a closet
seem more spacious. Arrange all shelves to maximize the use of space.
77. Make sure all articles
in the closet are fresh and clean smelling. When prospective buyers open
your closet door, they should be greeted with a whiff of fresh smelling
78. Make sure all closet
lights have adequate wattage and are operating. Add battery operated
lights to those closets that lack them. Lighted closets look bigger, are
more attractive, and allow buyers to inspect the interiors easily.
79. Take the time to
explain the importance of marketing to your children. Encourage them to
participate in preparing your home for showing; particularly the principle
of appealing to the widest possible market segment. Ask your children's
cooperation in making their beds and picking up their rooms prior to
showings. Consider promising a special reward if they willingly
participate in your house-selling goals.
80. Have them pack up any
items that are not currently in use and dispose of unused possessions.
81. Remove any crowded,
unusual, or personal wall hangings such as posters and store them until
your home is sold.
Wise sellers take special
pains with preparing their bathroom(s) for scrutiny by strangers. The
bathroom is a room after all, and a very personal one. Prospects will
inspect yours carefully, so be sure it is immaculate. Cleanliness is the
key! Make sure that all surfaces are spotless.
82. Replace worn or dirty
shower curtains, clean and repair caulking, and remove non-skid bath
surface decals that are in poor condition.
83. Clear off countertops
and store all personal care products out of sight.
84. Repair any faucets
that leak or do not function properly. Clean off mineral deposits with
vinegar or commercial products.
85. Clean and organize all
cabinets and drawers. Don't forget the medicine cabinet: dispose of old
prescriptions, and polish the shelves. The same goes for the storage
cabinet under the sink.
86. Remember to appeal to
a wide range of buyers. Play down dominate colors with contrasting
neutral colored towels and accessories. If your bathroom is mostly white
or neutral, add a few cheerful accents of color: use towels in the
popular new shades. Don't hesitate to buy a few new towels and a rug;
you'll be taking them with you to your new home.
87. Scrub and wax an old
floor. Cover the largest area you can with a freshly washed scatter rug.
88. Decorate and
personalize -- create a pleasing, individual look. Consider bringing out
your best towels and perfumed guest soaps. Add a plant for color and
89. A gentle hint of
fragrance in the air is fine, but keep it subtle.
90. Clean and organize the
garage. Remove and dispose of any items that you will not be taking with
you. Pack other items neatly in boxes and arrange them neatly in the
center of the room so that walls can be inspected.
91. Make sure your major
systems, such as the heat pump, air conditioner or cooler and electrical
service are operating properly. Install a clean filter.
92. As a final touch, take
a damp cloth and wipe off any dust and grime from the surface of your
water heater. Apply a coat of wax when you are finished.
93. Sweep and wash the
floor to remove dirt and stains. Organize tools, garden equipment,
bicycles, etc. A clean, organized garage appears larger.
94. If the area is dark,
add more light. If it is small, and accommodates only one car, remove
your car before buyers visit. An empty garage always looks larger. If a
two-car garage with very little extra room, remove one of your cars so
that buyers can make their inspection in comfort.
95. Clear off and organize
the workbench and draw attention to it as a sales feature. Make sure the
lighting is excellent and stage the area as a comfortable place in which
Overgrown shrubs pruned
plantings fully mulched
hoses/accessories neatly stored
in good condition
in good repair
in good repair
stained or painted
operating and polished
cleaned & clear
free of stains
Appliances in good working order
cabinets sparkling clean
Cupboards/drawers neatly arranged
in ceiling & walls repaired
Furniture positioned to show space
in ceiling & walls repaired
in ceiling & walls repaired
opened to view
Toys/hobbies put away
Furniture arranged for space
personal care products stored
Clean/replace throw rugs
in ceiling & walls repaired
free from clutter
toys/personal items stored
cleaned and organized
Fireplaces swept and glass doors cleaned