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Preparing Your Home For Sale

By Lisa Buth Published 11/29/2007 | Real Estate

Its probably been years since you've played dress-up . . . your mom's fancy hat and shoes or your dad's old military gear. Fun at the time, but now you think you're way past the dress-up stage, right? Wrong! Just when you thought those days were long dead and buried, experts are encouraging you to resurrect them. Well, at least when it comes time to sell your home!

Although common sense (and that nasty smell coming from the pantry) tells most of us to clean our home thoroughly before we put it on the market, sometimes that just isn't enough. Sometimes you have to dress it up a bit. In fact, the way you present your home to prospective buyers can spell the difference between "that one home with the icky wallpaper" and a sale.

Let's start with curb appeal. That first impression when prospective buyers drive up is very, very important. If they don't find the outside appealing, they'll be jaded even before they walk through the door . . . if they do.

The Yard

Few things are cleaner or more defined than a planter area with fresh mulch. Mulch gives even the most neglected areas the look of professional landscaping. Mow your lawn, trim the shrubs, add a little color (if weather permits) with flowers. Flowers should be planted about a month in advance, if possible, to allow for a less eleventh-hour feel. Theres no real harm in allowing prospective buyers to think you were born with a green thumb!

The Exterior

If your home could use a paint job and you don't have the time or money, sometimes hosing it off and repainting trim and shutters will update the entire facade. Word of caution: if you're not inclined to use a neutral color, get the opinion of three trusted friends or family who are not afraid to "tell it like it is" before you even start searching for the paint brushes. Clean up oil spots on the driveway. Make sure the garage door opens easily. And yes, clean the windows inside and out. Broken glass should be repaired. A clean front porch with a fresh-looking front door (again, three corroborators!) that opens easily is a must.

The Interior

Without having ever stepped not even one pinky toe beyond the threshold of your home, the first instruction is going to be: Have a garage sale! Seriously! The unofficial rule of thumb is if you haven't used it in a month (excluding holiday fare) or didn't even know you owned it, time to say goodbye. Clutter is the silent killer of home sales. A busy room will cause even the most sedate buyer to twitch. Your collection of early Disney characters on the armoire or the shrine of family photos on your dresser should be packed and in storage. Clutter can collect on shelves, countertops, in drawers, closets, garages, attics and basements. You want as much open clear space as possible, so every extra little thing needs to be cleared away. If you want your kitchen to look bigger and/or more pristine, clear off the countertops. Even the toaster! The smaller the kitchen, the less on the counters. Ditto for bathrooms. A fresh coat of paint on walls will work wonders too. Remember, though, dark-colored paint makes a room feel smaller and . . . well, darker. Replace all burned-out light bulbs.


Make those repairs that you've put off and put off because it's so much easier to just duct-tape it into submission. If the light bulb is out, replace it. If you have to jiggle the toilet handle to flush it, fix it. Because if it doesn't come up when the buyers are looking at your home, it will certainly be revealed in the home inspections.

The Kids

Kids generally mean clutter, so pay special attention to this section if you have kids. Most buyers will walk into a child's room and almost instantly be able to guess an approximate gender and age for the occupant. We "ooh" at the baby's clothes and we "aah" at the teen's florescent green walls. We're like that. We're human. And because of that special affinity, we'll forgive a lot of things, even black paint with glow-in-the-dark ceiling decals. But honestly, we want to be able to walk through the room without stumbling over Tickle Me Elmo or worse, gulp, the family hamster.

Fido & Fluffy

Whether your beloved is an indoors or outdoors pet, there are three absolutes that need to be addressed. The first is smell. Ionizers can go a long way, whereas room fresheners tend to add floral or spice to the dominant pet odor. Pet odor will beat out room fresheners, hands down. Secondly, fur. A lint brush could work wonders on the furniture. And last, but certainly not least, please, please remove the doggy droppings from the backyard. Unsuspecting buyers might neglect to see Fido's gifts and track it throughout your entire home before awareness slaps them full in the face.

Finally, call a Realtor! Most Realtors don't charge a cent to come to your home and tell you exactly what you need to do to prepare your home for sale and why. That's what we're here for!

Now step back and look at your home from the prospective of a buyer. Odds are that after you dress up your home for sale, you'll wonder why you ever decided to move in the first place!