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As you’re getting your home ready to sell, you’ll discover there are lots of factors you can’t control, like the mysterious wish lists on buyers’ minds, the temperature of your local market, or the size or location of your lot. But one variable is firmly within your power — and that’s how your home looks when it hits the market.
You need to make a great impression with buyers, but you don’t need a boatload of cash or special skills to whip your house into presentable shape. Simply muster up the energy and elbow grease to knock out this checklist, and you’ll find your home is a million times easier to sell for it.
Deep-clean the whole house
Dirt and disorder are among the biggest obstacles to selling a home. Take the time to give the entire house a thorough cleaning. Connie Taylor, a top real estate agent based in Amarillo, Texas, suggests tackling one room at a time to make it more manageable. Be sure to pay special attention to the hotspots that tend to get a lot of eyeballs during showings:
Freshly cleaned carpets are essential to showing the buyer that the home has been well-maintained. You can expect to pay anywhere from $175 to $600 to have an entire house of carpeting cleaned, or you can rent a carpet cleaner from Home Depot to do it yourself and save some money.
Clean, sparkling windows will better showcase the natural light flowing into your home, and reinforce that you’ve stayed on top of maintenance. For a streak-free shine, Pella Windows recommends going with a commercial cleaner that is not ammonia- or alcohol-based, or a vinegar-based solution.
A soft microfiber cloth or paper towel works best. (Don’t forget the screens and window tracks). You might consider tackling the lower windows yourself to save money, and hiring a pro for the upper level.
This room will get the most attention during a showing, so it should always be spic-and-span. Clear and wipe off the counters, clean the cabinets, and wipe down the fridge, oven, microwave and dishwasher.
In a hurry? Try these quick kitchen cleaning hacks:
- Instead of using a cloth to wipe crumbs out of the bottom of your cabinets, use your vacuum’s handheld attachment tool.
- For an easy way to clean your oven, BHG suggests spraying the inside with a mixture of ⅓ cup of water, ⅓ cup of white vinegar, and ⅓ cup of baking soda. Close the door and let it sit overnight; the next day, wipe it out with soapy water and dry with a cloth.
- For easy microwave cleaning, start by putting a few wet paper towels inside and turning it on high for three minutes. The steam will loosen any built-up residue so you can easily wipe it clean.
- Depending on what type of floor you have in your kitchen, use this handy guide to choose the appropriate cleaner and method.
Beyond the basics like scrubbing sinks, bathtubs and showers, gather up any toiletries that might be cluttering vanities and store them out of sight.
If necessary, use a tougher cleaning product to remove any mold, hard water deposits or soap scum from shower doors and other surfaces. Some of the most popular include Bio Clean: Eco Friendly Hard Water Stain Remover and RMR-86 Instant Mold Stain & Mildew Stain Remover.
Doors and walls
Use a cloth rag and mild cleaner, such as a mixture of warm water and dishwashing soap, to remove fingerprints, scuffs and stains, especially in high-traffic areas.
Hit these last, as dust will settle while cleaning the rest of the house. Remove dust with a handheld vacuum or small broom, then use a cloth or sponge with a mixture of warm water, vinegar and liquid dish soap to remove stains and soil. A toothbrush is good for removing trapped dirt from crevices.
Dust fixtures weekly with an extendable duster to prevent build-up. For deep cleanings of glass-encased fixtures, carefully remove the glass, dump out any debris and dead bugs, and soak the glass in a bucket or sink full of warm, soapy water.
Check all the lightbulbs
Natural light is always a good selling point, but a close second is attractive interior lighting. Go on a “lighting audit” to make sure all of the bulbs in the house are working, and that the bulbs match in each individual light fixture.
Also check the color temperature of your lightbulbs. On the Kelvin temperature scale, the lower measurements (2000K-3000K) are warm white, 3100K-4500K are cool white, and daylight bulbs range from 4600-6500K. Most home staging experts recommend using warmer shades of around 2500-2700 Kelvin.
If your budget allows, consider upgrading or modernizing any outdated light fixtures. “This is a super simple and very effective way to add value to a home and attract buyers,” notes Andrea Walker, a certified professional organizer in New Jersey. “Replacing a dated chandelier in a dining room with a more modern fixture will immediately improve the appearance of the space, even if the furnishings are dated.”
Try these versatile fixtures to appeal to most any buyer:
- Schoolhouse Floating 12″W Bronze Clear Glass Ceiling Light
- Wynne 4-Light Drum Chandelier
- Janette 5-Light Shaded Wagon Wheel Chandelier
Also, make sure the foyer entry light fixture is fresh and modern to set the tone for the rest of the house tour. Walker recommends visiting a big-box home improvement retailer or checking online for inexpensive but stylish light fixtures.
All of your favorite novels stacked on the bookshelves and the pile of mail on the kitchen counter will distract buyers from your home’s highlights. Go room by room and declutter to give your home a sleek, tidy feel.
“You want prospective buyers to see the space, not your stuff,” says Marty Basher, an organization expert with Modular Closets.
“The goal is to get rid of all the junk that prevents someone from truly seeing the spaces within the house. If there is clutter everywhere, it will be difficult for a buyer to visualize their own furniture and décor, and how they might use the spaces.”
Try these pro tips to make the clutter-conquering process more manageable.
Consider renting a storage unit
Get stuff out of the house and into storage if needed. Not only will your home be neater and more spacious for showings, but you’ll also get a jump-start on packing.
“I tell sellers that the best thing to do is to pre-pack as much as possible up-front, as this will make it less stressful when it’s time to move,” says Taylor. Depending on how much space you need, you can rent a small self-storage unit for less than $70 per month, or pay more for a larger, full-service unit.
Overhaul the pantry, fridge, and kitchen cabinets
Most buyers will take a peek inside these areas — and if they look overstuffed or disorganized, they could assume there’s not enough space. Sort items neatly (consider investing in some matching containers for the pantry or cabinets to keep essentials organized and tidy), pitch any expired foods and purge any items you haven’t used in the past year (yes, that includes the junk drawer).
Clean and organize the closets
“Having your bedroom closets or linen closets jam-packed with clothes, toys and other junk will only make the area appear smaller and unattractive, turning off potential buyers,” warns Basher.
Some of her easy tricks for decluttering closets include:
- Display only a few articles of clothing on hooks
- Store seasonal and lesser-used items in plastic storage totes
- Use a shoe rack that hangs from the door
- Clear up floor space
- Use cute fabric storage cubes for smaller items like scarves or hair tools
Hide messy cords
A cluster of cords sticking out of an entertainment center or scattered charging cords strewn throughout your home can be very distracting to buyers. “Be sure to remove any stray chargers and devices from around your home before a showing,” suggests Basher. “You can also invest in some cord organizers for any cord clusters under a computer desk or television.”
Remove any traces of pets
They’re beloved members of your family — but to a potential buyer, your pets could represent a potential source of mess, odors, allergens and damage (both visible and hidden).
“It’s important for your viewers to see the potential they want — but this does not always include a family pet, and seeing pet hair and toys can hurt your chances of selling,” says Basher. “Keep your pet’s bowls, toys, litter boxes, leashes, hair and other telltale signs cleaned up and out of sight for all showings.”
In addition to keeping pets out of the way, take the extra step to repair any damages your little darlings might have inflicted. Paint over any damaged walls, replace scratched-up carpets, deep-clean any fabrics as needed and fix any chewed-up doors.
And in the case of dogs, be sure to pick up any “land mines” they may have left in the yard so buyers can tour the property without seeing or stepping in them.
Touch up your paint
While it might not be necessary to paint the entire interior of the house, which could cost anywhere from $962 – $2,752, Taylor recommends making any necessary touch-ups at a minimum. For certain types of home loans, appraisers will flag peeling paint for older properties due to the possibility that it could contain lead.
If you don’t have extra paint on hand, or if the paint cans you do have are past their prime, you can use a razor blade to shave off a 1” portion of paint and then take it to the hardware store to have it matched with the appropriate color. Then, use a Q-tip or a tiny brush to touch up small areas.
If it’s necessary to paint entire rooms, Taylor suggests choosing a neutral, timeless color that will appeal to a wide range of buyers. Sherwin Williams’ Agreeable Gray is her go-to shade right now.
Crank up the curb appeal
That split-second first impression when a buyer pulls up to your home sets the tone for the rest of the showing. According to 94% of agents, buyers will pay more for a house with great curb appeal. A few simple upkeeps or enhancements can make your home appear more welcoming and well-maintained.
Trim shrubs and trees
“Well-trimmed plants prevent your outdoor spaces from looking overgrown and also opens up walkways,” says Sara Bendrick, a licensed landscape contractor, author, TV personality and STIHL spokesperson. Either hire a landscaper or turn it into a DIY project.
Add accent lighting
Adding some warm, well-placed outdoor accent lights can help make your home feel more welcoming while highlighting its prime features. If your budget doesn’t allow for hard-wired lighting, solar lights offer an easy and affordable alternative.
Plant some flowers and blooms
Depending on the time of year and the climate, this is a great way to add a pop of color and visual interest. Got a green thumb? Grab a shovel and follow this step-by-step planting guide from Bendricks, a national landscaping company since 1995.
Spruce up the entry
A few small enhancements to the entryway can make a big difference in that first make-or-break impression. Hang new house numbers, put a fresh coat of paint on the front door and/or front porch and add some potted plants and flowers. Boxwood topiaries, petunias, geraniums and Boston ferns are some popular choices for entryway displays.
Hide outdoor eyesores
Just like you did inside the house, survey your lawn and driveway with a critical eye, removing any kids’ toys, knick-knacks, trash cans or other items that could be perceived as clutter. Sweep off the porch and walkway, clean out the gutters and power-wash the exterior as needed. If you have an outdoor seating or entertaining area, clean out the grill and freshen up the furniture cushions.
Fix what’s broken
All of those little annoyances you’ve grown accustomed to — like the leaky kitchen faucet, the squeaky door hinges or the broken refrigerator drawer — could lead buyers to assume that the rest of the house hasn’t been well-maintained. Take care of any repairs, big or small, before a home inspector or appraiser finds them.
“This will save you money, because you won’t have to pay the appraiser to come do a reinspection of your repairs,” points out Angela Miller, an appraiser with Miller Appraisals.
Below are some of the most common issues that come up during home inspections:
- Dirty air filters in HVAC systems
- Signs of pest infestations
- Plumbing clogs
- Cracked windows or broken screens
- Broken appliances
- Water stains on ceilings
- Leaky faucets
Even if you don’t have months to prepare, it is possible to make some quick (and inexpensive) improvements and adjustments to get your house ready for listing. By focusing on the areas with the highest impact and visibility, you can give your property an edge over the competition without breaking the bank.
Header Image Source: (Pixabay / Pexels)