How To Prepare To Sell Your House

By: Sara E. Teller

How To Prepare To Sell Your House

If you’re thinking of updating your home because you’re ready to put it on the market, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of work it seems like you have to do.  Fear not!  There are a few areas that are worth focusing on more than others, so you don’t have to tackle everything before the for-sale sign goes up.  Here’s how to prepare to sell your house by taking on projects that tend to have the biggest pay off.

Jim Shaffer and Associates

Interior Improvements

It’s all too easy to get in too deep when you’re preparing to sell, and that’s why a to-do list and budget is a must from the get-go.  Then, regardless of the budget you set, you’ll want to stick with projects that will give you the most bang for your buck, steering clear of upgrades that most buyers won’t appreciate anyway.  Take note of to-dos in the most sought-after spaces that buyers will want to see up-to-par: the kitchen, bathrooms, and master bedroom.  These rooms should make up the majority of your interior reno budget.  After that, cleaning and decluttering can go a long way.

Scheduling a home inspection with a professional can really pay off, too, especially if you haven’t had one for quite some time.  This will ensure there aren’t any major flaws that need fixing before listing.  If you have any concerns about outdated wiring, a failing foundation, or anything else that may need tackling before you place your home on the market, have an inspector do a once-over to give you the green light before moving forward.


Bathrooms are one of the most important rooms to buyers, but you don’t necessarily need to convert your half-baths to ‘full-sizers’ complete with a tub and shower.  While this is obviously preferred in the grand scheme of things, you won’t want to sink your whole budget into a single space.  A few cosmetic upgrades when preparing to sell can work wonders. 

You’ll want to make sure these rooms present as clean and functional.  If you’ve noticed something that’s broke, fix it.  If you really wish your bathroom had some sort of easy, problem-solving option, install it.  Swap out old hardware for newer options – this includes the faucet and showerhead – for an instant facelift.  However, if the hardware is in good shape, you may want to skip this step.  

Have a smaller space?  Hang a few mirrors on the walls adjacent to the vanity.  This will create an illusion of a larger room, making it appear open and airy.  You might also consider adding an accent wall and a fresh coat of light-colored paint on the remaining surfaces to make the room pop.  Or, you could try installing an inexpensive chair railing along the middle, adding two complimentary colors above and below.  

If, and only if, you’ve had ongoing plumbing issues, such as a running or leaking toilet or sink, you’ll want to correct this before the open house.  Yes, some buyers will flush the toilet and turn on the sink to make sure all is well, so you don’t want to raise any red flags. 

Countertops can also make or break a sale for some buyers, so this is one area that’s well-worth the splurge if you’ve got the funds.  Choosing the perfect slab of granite to complete your masterpiece will make it appear polished.  You can also opt for prefab slabs that cost significantly less. 

Of course, updated features are great, but if you plan to add them to just one room, don’t.  Stepping into a bathroom complete with all of the latest finishes and décor may seem like an oasis, but if the room next door is equipped with brass knobs and retro wallpaper, it’s just not enough.  Buyers will go from wow-ed to woe-d far too quickly. 


Kitchen improvements tend to generate a high return on investment.  Most homeowners spend a lot of time in their kitchens, and view this time as valuable.  Kitchens are also commonly perceived as gathering spaces for guests, so how they function and how welcoming they are can be equally important.  Buyers need to know this space has an ideal layout and includes appealing appliances and finishes.  

When it comes to the kitchen, it’s all about the floors, countertops, and hardware.  If you can’t afford to take it all on, or if you’ve already lucked out with an upgraded look in at least one of these three key areas, concentrate on what you can do with the rest. 

Replacing linoleum countertops and flooring with more updated options, creating storage where there is usable “dead” space, and rearranging appliances if necessary, can all add value.  Hardware-wise, switching out brass handles for wrought iron or nickel, or replacing the faucet, will create allure.  You can even change up your tablecloth and bring in an area rug to generate a welcoming ambiance. 

You’ll also simply want to declutter, and this effort includes the often-forgotten pantry.  If it’s overflowing, you might want to pick up an already assembled butcher’s pantry for more storage and place it in the dining area.  This way, you’ll keep your prep area and pantry neat and tidy, and the food will still be close by.  Another thing buyers tend to do?  Open cabinets.  So, you’ll want to make sure it appears you have enough space for kitchenware.  Also, make sure to throw away outdated food you’ve forgotten in the abyss while you’re giving these areas a deep clean.  (If you plan to leave your fridge, you’ll want to do the same.) 

Master Bedroom 

The number one things buyers will be looking for here (other than an attached bathroom) is closet space.  This is uber-important to just about everyone.  So, if there was ever a time for your clothing to get a spring cleaning, it’s now – regardless of the time of year.  

You’ll want to give your closets the best chance to impress.  Depending on how large they are inside, you may also want to invest in inexpensive, multi-tiered clothes hangers and place some of the items in dresser drawers.  A sneaky tip great for decluttering?  Purchase a couple of under-the-bed storage bins for any overflow. 

This room is also great for adding an accent wall of either wallpaper or a paint color that differs from the rest.  Rearranging furniture and adding an office nook is also a great way to switch things up a bit.  If you have outdated furniture you’ve been meaning to clear out, think about parting with it while you’re re-envisioning the space.


Lighting is one of those things that homes either tend to be adequate in, or not.  If your home has a lot of natural lighting, showing it during a sunny day will be more beneficial than in dreary weather or at night.  Either way, if you have a room (or two) that needs some help, having a few extra lamps switched on can really liven things up. 

It’s also important to replace any light bulbs that have burned out and swap those that are too dim for brighter options.  Having enough lighting will make your home will draw buyers in and make it appear more welcoming. 

Sell your house

Simplify, Clean & Declutter Throughout 

Choose traditional paint and décor options that are timeless and appeal to a wide range of buyers.  If you’ve incorporated some modernization that’s easier to swap out, such as removable art and accent pieces, you’ll probably want to do so before you begin showing your home.  Adding vases, blankets, pillows, and the like is a simple way to help the room stand out without making the interior too personal. 

Neutral tones, clean lines and simple prints are much less likely to go out of style than drastic paint jobs and busy walls.  Having a clean, nondescript background accented with a few vibrant hues in sporadic items throughout allows each to complement the other. 

Again, declutter and rearrange for the best flow.  While staging, have a friend or family member give a more objective opinion of any updates.  This way, you’ll have an idea of what to expect when buyers come through and can make adjustments as needed. 

Finally, make sure your space is free of any unnecessary debris, and that the flooring and countertops are clean.  You may also want to give the entire space a once-over, scrubbing all of its nooks and crannies.

Jim Shaffer and Associates

Exterior Improvements

Wondering what to do with the exterior to sell your house quickly?  Focus on needed fixes, basic lawn maintenance and adding curb appeal.  You’ll also want to make your garage and any other outbuildings showable. 

Lawn Maintenance 

Maintaining your lawn while you’re showing your home is a must not only because it makes it look more appealing, but it can keep your home safe for buyers to explore.  This means, in the winter, you’ll want to keep the driveway and sidewalks shoveled and salted.  You’ll also want to fix any hardscaping flaws and take care of any lingering problems. 

Keep the grass cut, bushes trimmed and flower beds clean.  Also, clear out the often-forgotten gutters.  It’s important to ensure debris is removed to support proper drainage and avoid rain damage.  If you’re showing your house in the rain and a buyer notices what looks like improper flow, that’s usually a deal breaker.  So, grab a ladder, a yard bag, and a pair of gloves, and dig out any dirt, sticks, and leaves. 

Raking and bagging fallen leaves will protect grass underneath, ensuring your yard is not a muddy mess come spring while promoting new growth.  This is important if you’re planning to sell in the fall.  You may also have to cut back tree branches and add seed to spots in the lawn to make sure it stands out – in a good way. 

If you think it’ll help to add a few plants to your ‘scape, go for it!  However, be selective with what you put in.  You may want to opt for easy-to-maintain options for those who don’t have a green thumb. 

Wrap Up Your To-Dos 

If your front walkway is still chipping, an exterior light needs to be replaced, or the siding could use a power wash, now’s the time to do it.  Double-checking that the doorbell and alarm system still works, the garage door still opens, and you actually have a key to the front door are all items to check off.  Any doors that have seen better days, including the garage door, might get a fresh coat of paint.  You can also quickly and easily replace broken exterior light fixtures. 

Reorganize any messy areas in the garage and, if the walls are lined with peg board, hang a few hooks for bicycles, barbequing accessories, and gardening gear.  You can also place rakes, snow shovels, and other seasonal items along the parameter so long as they’re easy enough to grab and go.  If you plan to park your vehicle inside, create as much space as possible and consider tossing or donating items that are no longer needed. 

Add Some Curb Appeal 

In addition to picking up some plants and giving the trees and bushes a good trim, you can also add curb appeal by simply tending to your front porch, giving it a good sweep or reorganizing furniture.  Ensure all outdoor toys, sports items, or the like, scattered in the yard are tucked away in storage until you move into your new place.  If your mailbox paint is peeling, add a new coat and consider updating worn address lettering.

Jim Shaffer and Associates

Alternative Updates

If you still have some room in the budget to spare, you may want to consider some updates that come with the added benefits of a tax write-off.  Plus, buyers love unexpected perks.  There are a few key areas that can pad your return: adding accessibility, energy efficiency and capital improvements. 

Improving the energy output of your home, including installing a biomass stove, a newer model furnace, or an air source heat pump, adding insulation in walls that are lacking, and swapping for a solar powered water heater, all are able to be written off come tax time.  Making an entryway wheelchair accessible, installing railings and lifts, and adding handrails or grab bars to the tub area will all be eligible for tax deductions.  If it’s time to splurge on necessary structural improvements such as replacing your roof, windows, gutters, or doors, all of these items will offer additional ROI.  Save your receipts! 

If you have a problem with pests – spiders, ants, the ever-dreaded termites, or other bugs or critters – you will also want to call a pest control company before listing.  The last thing you want is for one to scurry across the floor! 

When you’re preparing to sell your house, you may be met with mixed emotions, and the overwhelm can be intense.  Not only is it difficult to part with a place you’ve called home, in general, but it can seem impossible to bring everything up to date enough to give it a go.  Knowing what to do and where to focus your efforts can help alleviate some undue worry, so you can get your place on the market in no time flat and start thinking about must-haves for your new digs! 

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