How To Prep Your House Before You Sell

Ready, Set, Show…

Dear Glen,

We are getting ready to sell our house, and we want to do all we can to show it in the best possible light. Any tips for putting some lipstick on this place? Please be gentle–we don’t have a lot of money to spend on this.

Thanks, and love your site!

Eager in Englewood.

Dear Eager,

Thanks for the kind words, and yes, of course, I have a few tips for you. Just keep in mind this process requires you to be harsh and honest with yourself. Let’s get to it.

Here is my quick checklist of easy things you can do before a buyer drives by. Focus on the outside first since buyers usually drive by before they set up an appointment to look inside. Start with the inexpensive items. You can always negotiate with the buyer on the more expensive repairs at the time of sale if you have to.

If you do NOTHING else – clean, clean some more, then clean it again, then hire someone to clean it again. I can’t tell you how many times I have shown the “perfect” house to a family only to have a dirty bathroom, carpet, etc, blow the deal.

Why? Because buyers figure (probably correctly) that if you don’t keep it clean, you probably didn’t do all the other things you needed to do, like service the furnace, routine maintenance, etc. That will kill a deal faster than you can say, “Where’s the magic eraser?”

I know it sounds like hell, but the bottom line is your house is where you live, but buyers need to be able to imagine themselves living there, so you need to open it up, declutter it, and keep it sparkling clean until it sells. If a buyer is put off by your 400-piece troll collection and the giant portrait of uncle fester in the living room, you’re out of luck. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Since we love checklists, here are a few to get you started. If you’re really good, check out the end of the post, and we will show you the motherlode of checklists for selling your home. All free. All for you.

[box] Outside:[/box]

Since the outside is your first live impression from a potential buyer, let’s start there. Once you finish the outside, grab your camera/phone and get some photos of your house looking its best. It’s like getting a haircut right before picture day.

[ ] Pick up any clutter from Front Yard
[ ] Remove any yard equipment (if it looks like work, they won’t like it)
[ ] Mow and water lawn
[ ] Trim weeds and sweep concrete of all grass clippings
[ ] Trim trees & bushes away from the house
[ ] Plant colorful flowers – or get potted flowers to put around
[ ] Clean front entrance/Stoop/Porch
[ ] Clean entryway of dirt/cobwebs
[ ] Repaint the front door
[ ] Fix broken windows, shutters, screens
[ ] Polish door handles, address numbers, light fixtures
[ ] Replace burnt-out bulbs
[ ] Replace the welcome mat with something colorful/seasonal
[ ] Wash windows/eves
[ ] Clean out gutters if they need it
[ ] Clean back yard (trash/leaves/stuff you don’t notice anymore)
[ ] Remove gardening equipment (reminds them of work—no bueno)
[ ] Clean outdoor grill, barbeque, and lawn furniture
[ ] Repair missing/rotted deck boards
[ ] Seal any concrete patio cracks
[ ] Store items that make the yard look cluttered
[ ] Store offsite as much as you can from the garage to make it look HUGE
[ ] Take down the 10,000 things you have hanging in the garage
[ ] Wash and/or paint the garage walls
[ ] Wash and grease the garage doors
[ ] Make sure sprinklers and faucets are working
[ ] Get rid of any broken hoses/reels
[ ] Clean and repair pumps/filters for swimming pool, hot tub, etc.
[ ] Clean ponds and fountains (Goal is to make it look easy to maintain)
[ ] Remove ANY signs of smoking outside (pick up butts, remove ashtrays)
[ ] Weed yard and garden

[box] Inside:[/box]

Once you finish the outside, you can turn your time and energy to the inside. Remember to keep a notebook handy to write down anything you discover while you’re cleaning. Often sellers find little hidden repair or maintenance issues during this process, so write them down for later.

[ ] Remove excess furniture — Make your house look as big as possible
[ ] Rent offsite storage or beg someone to let you store anything you don’t need daily
[ ] Remove excess collectibles and depersonalize as much as you can stand
[ ] Remove excess artwork and photographs
[ ] Repair any nail holes in the walls
[ ] Clean out (empty out) closets and cabinets
[ ] Clean out the basement and get it all out of the house
[ ] Clear counter and tabletops of all unnecessary clutter
[ ] Clean appliances and then clean them again (remember the top of the fridge)
[ ] Scrub bathroom over and over
[ ] Replace showerheads and shower curtains (think new and simple)
[ ] Remove carpet stains and any signs of pet damage
[ ] Shampoo carpets/mop floors
[ ] Remove cobwebs from ceiling corners
[ ] Clean ceiling fans and light covers (get the bugs/dust out)
[ ] Replace all burned-out light bulbs
[ ] Wash all light switch plates and outlet covers with cleaning wipes
[ ] Clean fireplace and fireplace tools
[ ] Clean or replace drapes
[ ] Clean/dust all window blinds
[ ] Wash pets and remove them during showings if at all possible
[ ] Clean litter box and remove during showings if at all possible
[ ] Remove ANY signs of smoking anywhere in the house
[ ] Remove mildew
[ ] Add fresh scents like potpourri
[ ] Buy and use a set of furniture/wood touch-up markers everywhere
[ ] Consider having a professional cleaning team go over the house again
[ ] Consider having your home Staged by a professional ($200-$500)

[box] Repairs:[/box]

Now that the cleaning and decluttering are done take a little time to fix the little things you found. Just like cleaning, a crooked gutter or a light bulb that needs to be replaced can send the wrong subconscious message to a potential buyer. Most of these are cheap and simple fixes. If you’re confused, check out any number of videos on the web for repairing household issues. What did we do before YouTube?

[ ] Look High and Low
[ ] Make Necessary Repairs
[ ] Remove debris from roof and gutters
[ ] Inspect and clean the chimney
[ ] Repair/replace worn shingles
[ ] Wash or paint the exterior if needed (Peeling paint is an appraisal issue)
[ ] Clean, paint and align gutters and downspouts
[ ] Clean grease and old spills from the driveway, sidewalks, garage floor, patio
[ ] Check the foundation for cracks and repair
[ ] Caulk windows, tubs, showers, and sinks
[ ] Make sure toilets and faucets work well and are tightly secure
[ ] Touch up or repaint walls with a neutral color
[ ] Replace switches and outlets that don’t work
[ ] Replace switch covers and outlet covers so they are all new and matching
[ ] Replace the furnace filter
[ ] Fix any fence holes, missing parts
[ ] If you can’t afford to fix it, you need to disclose it…trust me.

Once you’ve completed these checklists, you are that much closer to getting on the market and finding the right buyer. But before you actually stick that sign in the yard, make sure you and your property are 100% ready.

Just to help you, here’s our Ultimate Seller Bundle. It’s a comprehensive collection that covers everything from prep to closing and everything in between. With over 50 pages of forms, checklists, and templates, you won’t miss a thing. Pick up your free set here.

Best of luck with your transformation. I don’t envy some of the work ahead of you, but I promise you that anything you can do to prep your home will help you get it sold faster and for more money. Many times a successful sale can be traced back to the dirty work of prepping the home. Let me know how it turns out, and best of luck.

Hit me up HERE with your thoughts and comments. I read and respond to every email…eventually.

Take care,

glen whitten ohio mls flat fee real estate broker
Ohio MLS Flat Fee Glen Whitten


Ohio Property Group, LLC
Author: “You Can Sell It”

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