Last year, I put my house for sale on the market and was able to sell it quickly and for more money than I had expected. It’s the seventh property I have sold, and over the years, I’ve learned some simple and easy things you can do to get your house ready for sale. A little effort to prepare your home for sale upfront will get it sold quicker and for more money. I’m not talking about any extensive remodeling, that’s a topic for a different post, I’m talking about smaller projects that can be done in a week or two.
Why would these preparation help? Because 1) you want the buyer to get impression that this is a well maintained home, 2) you want to make it as easy as possible for buyers imagine themselves living here. If you have read my other posts, you know I’m all about biggest bang for your time and buck, this is one area where a small effort can lead to a big payoff. Here are the steps I took to get my house ready for sale
1. Make a list of small things to be fixed
We all have a few “honey do” lists in our house, you know what I’m talking about, it’s the dead light bulbs, kids artwork on the wall, leaky faucet, half finished home improvement projects etc.
Get a pen, note pad and camera, walk around your house inside and outside, make a list of all the small things that need to be fixed. What do you use a camera for? You ask. Well, if there is a problem spot you don’t know how to fix or what you need. Take a picture, when you go to your local home improvement store, you won’t need to have a conversation like “there is this thingamajig that needs to go into that thingamajig”, you know what I’m talking about, most of us have done it once or twice. It’s simply easier to explain what your need and get their help.
Here’re some suggestions on places to look
- Missing or broken light bulbs?. Take a note of the wattage, type and size, write it down on your pad
- Missing of broken switch plates, outlet cover?. If you have one of those old style kind, they really date a home, spend some money to change it out. Take a note of type, color.
- Walls, trims, doors where touch up needed? Hopefully you have the extra paint in your garage somewhere or at least have paint colors handy. If not, I wouldn’t try to match it, get a magic eraser and hopefully it would do the trick.
- Leaky faucets? Tighten it
- Broken door bell? Replace it with the wireless doorbell
- Worn out door mats? Get a new one
- Is the front yard looking a bit sad? New mulch, some fresh flowers would instantly brighten up the entry.
- Leaning mail boxes? Straighten it up
- Half finished projects? Finish them up
- Dirty air filter in the heater? Get a new one and change them out
Take a note of supplies you may need, touch up paint, light bulbs, etc. These are all inexpensive projects.
Get supplies from local home improvement store
Take a list of supplies and your camera to your local home improvement store. Try to get everything in shot, but chances you will make multiple trips. We live close by a Home Depot so that was our go to spot. One helpful time saving service is that Home Depot offers is the order on line and pickup in the store without extra charge. I pass by a Home Depot on my way home from work, I usually placed the order the night before and pick up on my way home. This saved me so much time especially when we doing some remodel.
Fix the small things
If you are handy and have the time, tackle the list yourself. Give yourself a deadline, one or two days max, otherwise get professional help. We have a dual working parents household with two young children, so we outsourced it and hired a handyman for a few hours. It’ll cost about $100, and you will get way more back later. We negotiate with our realtor to have her cover the handyman service. In fact, I got my realtor to cover most of the services discussed in this post.
2. Spruce up the curb appeal
You don’t get a chance to make another first impression. Spend some time pretty up the front of your house. Here’re some low cost suggestions,
- Mow the lawn, trim the hedges if you have some
- Add some mulch to your planting beds. it’s only 3-4 dollars a bag, but really make a big difference. My personal recommendation is get a colored mulch to create more contrast with your plants, we had mostly greenaries, so I picked red mulch. We bought about 8-9 bags of mulch cost about $25, and it really brightened up the planting bed and make the yard looked updated and well maintained.
- Fix any broken tiles, pavers.
- If your driveway is dirty, clean it up with a pressure/power washer. My inlaws happened to have one, if you don’t have access to one, rent a pressure washer from Home depot to clean it up.
3. Declutter and remove personal items
If you can, move out completely, and then put your house on the market. But it would mean you have to pay for two mortgages in the mean time, we didn’t have the luxury and put our house on the market while we were still living there. If you are in the same situation, then this is a very key step to make your house appeal to as many buyers as possible. Most houses have way too much stuff.
Declutter, really less is more
Depends on how much stuff you have, this step could take a while. But it’s something you would have to do for the upcoming move anyhow, do it earlier and you will get a better off. We had lived in our previous house for six years, and had two kids in the intervening years, so we had a lot of crap. We spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend packing up all non-essential items. In all, we packed away 80+ boxes, made 5 trips to local Goodwill, gave away all the kids stuff to friends.And after discussing with realtor, moved all the non-essential furniture pieces out as well.
Remove personal items
Take down personal items like photos, kids artwork, and anything that may a little too unconventional. You want to appeal to majority of the buyers and make it easier to them to image themselves living there and put their personal into it. I once walked into an open house with several medieval armors and swords hanging on the wall, it was very distracting.
Put away valuables
When your house is on the market, you will have lots of strangers coming through your house. While 99,9% of the people will play by the rules, there is always a chance a few visitors who either accidentally or intentionally break or pilter your stuff. So anything valuable or sentimental, put it away.
While the work took a while, plus it’s mostly work we would have to do anyway for the imminent move, the end results was impressive. Our house has never looks better, it looked so much bigger than before. It actually made me wonder if we really needed to move to a bigger place, LOL, the I had to remind myself that there is a difference between living in MY home vs. living in a SHOW home.