Preparing Your Home for Sale
By Steve Gillman - May 26, 2013
There is quite a bit involved in selling a home. We cover
the process in detail in the book Make
More Money Selling Your Home, which is now available
for free on the pages of this site. For this article we will
look at one part of that process; preparing your home for sale.
The steps below are in roughly the order you'll want to follow.
It will always impress buyers when they see a clean house,
so start with the routine cleaning and then do some serious deep
cleaning. You might be surprised at how dirty some parts of a
home can get without you noticing. When we live in it we start
to get sued to or to see past the imperfections. In fact, after
you have done the first cleaning you should have a friend come
over and tell you honestly what still needs some work. He or
she is sure to see things that you missed. Follow up on any suggestions.
Fix anything that is not working properly in the house. Every
electrical outlet should work, the plumbing shouldn't leak a
drop anywhere, and broken blinds should be replaced. If there
is something that you really can't afford to fix, like a garage
door or a broken-down deck, get an estimate for the repair work
in writing. When the time comes to show the home you can make
sure potential buyers see this. Nothing turns off buyers more
than unpredictable problems and expenses, so having the figure
on paper lets them feel comfortable buying and knowing what they
are getting into.
Once you have done the cleaning and repairs, start looking
for the easiest and most inexpensive improvements you can make.
Small things often will give you the best return on investment.
A new mailbox with flowers at the base and a trimmed front yard
will cost just $30 if you do the work yourself, and those improvements
can dramatically change the all-important first impression for
potential purchasers. Here is a short list of other small improvement
that together can make the house look much nicer:
New light switch covers.
Fresh stain for the deck.
Birdhouse in the front and/or back yard.
Better curtains or blinds.
Classier light fixtures.
You might spend a weekend or two and a few hundred dollars
to make a dozen minor improvements, but if you sell your house
for a couple thousand dollars more it will have been worth it.
As for major improvements, you have to be careful. More than
one person has spent $30,000 to remodel a kitchen only to see
the home sell for just $20,000 more than it would have. You have
to think in terms of return on investment. You also have to consider
the time you will spend. As a rule of thumb look for projects
that will double your money. In other words, if you (or your
real estate agent) think a remodeled bathroom will add $10,000
to the sales price, you should get it done for $5,000 or look
elsewhere for changes to make. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule,
but if you aim to make twice what you invest you get something
for your effort and you have a safety margin in case you estimated
the increase in value incorrectly.
Of course you won't always know what a given improvement will
do for the price when you finally sell your home. Even the professionals
who sell houses for a living are guessing, although with a bit
more experience. It is often best to plan a package of several
changes and ask a real estate agent how much the home will go
up in value if you make them all. Here is a short list of possible
home improvements you might consider:
Build a deck.
Repaint the home.
Resurface the drive.
Add a garage or carport.
Add a bedroom in the basement.
Tile the patio or entryway.
Install a new front door.
Install new appliances in the kitchen.
Build an additional bathroom.
Install new kitchen cupboards.
Add whatever you think is appropriate to your own list and
get estimates. Then talk to a real estate professional about
various combinations of changes to determine which are likely
to return the most in terms of a higher price for the money you
One last note about preparing your home for sale and making
improvements: look for things that are universally valued, or
at least appreciated by most potential buyers. In other words,
if you're painting the bedroom it doesn't matter if you love
the color purple if buyers don't. In fact, what your preferences
are have nothing to do with how to sell a house; it's all about
what the market wants, so ask around.
4. Clean It Again
Since real estate rarely sells immediately, preparing your
home for the sale is an ongoing process. Keep it neat and clean,
and when you know there is a showing coming, spruce it up and
be sure there are no bad odors. Walk outside and breath deeply,
trying to forget that it is your house. Then enter, smell the
house, and look at it with "fresh eyes" to see if there
is anything that smells or looks wrong.