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How To Prepare Your House For Sale

Updated on June 8, 2012
by Christopher Reilly
by Christopher Reilly

Bottom line, sprucing up your home with a few minor and inexpensive improvements will help your house sell faster and even at a higher price. “Curb appeal” has never been more important, and the interior can be made to seem brighter and bigger with just a few minor changes. The psychological impact on potential buyers seeing a well-cared for home cannot be overstated. If what they can see has been maintained—starting with the view from the street—then they'll feel that the hidden things have been maintained as well.

As you prepare your house for sale, there are three questions you need to consider:

How much money should you spend?
What exterior improvements create “Curb Appeal?”
What interior improvements are beneficial and cost effective?

How much money should you spend?

The million dollar question? Let's hope not. You want to spend as little money as possible. Don't replace the entire roof when replacing a few broken shingles will do. That new roof is not likely to increase the sale price enough to pay for it, no matter how nice it looks. Always avoid major costly renovations. Instead of a newly remodeled kitchen, a fresh coat of paint, new window treatments and new knobs on the cabinets can work wonders. Of course, your kitchen may need to be completely remodeled, but that's a conversation for you and your real estate agent. The bottom line? The less money you spend, the more you make. Less is more.

Exterior improvements and “Curb Appeal”

The first look a potential buyer gets of your home is vitally important. They not only want to think you've taken pride and kept up the place, they also will want a home whose outward appearance is something to be proud of.

Yard work is first on the list. Cut and water the lawn regularly and keep it edged. Make sure all hedges are trimmed and the trees pruned. And while your weeding the lawn don't forget to weed the garden. But you need to reach a little deeper on fixing up the exterior. Here are some items that need to be considered:

  • Check all cement work for cracks and crumbling, including the foundation, sidewalks, steps, driveways and walls.
  • Check for peeling paint on doors and windows.
  • Clean and align the gutters.
  • Inspect and clean the chimney.
  • Inspect the siding and caulking. Repair and repaint if necessary.
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose roof shingles.
  • If there's snow on the ground, keep the walks clear.
  • During summer, add a few brightly colored annuals around the entrance and garden. Consider leaving them in clay plots.
  • Blacktop driveways should be re-sealed, and decks power washed and water sealed.
  • Keep the garage door closed.
  • Store any beaten up cars and RV's elsewhere.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint to the front door.

Interior improvements

It's obvious, but bears repeating anyway: Clean every room in the house thoroughly and remove all clutter. Right off the bat your house will look bigger and brighter. It's also a good idea to hire a once-a-week cleaning service, especially if you're very busy. Look around the house and see if there is any furniture or other items you can put in storage. Maybe it's time to have a garage sale? Rooms and closets should be uncrowded with few pieces of large furniture, which will give your interior a more spacious look. Removing the things that aren't used regularly, from closets, attics and especially the kitchen counters will make the areas much more appealing.

  • Soiled or dirty walls, and strongly colored walls, should be painted with a neutral color like off-white. Follow the neutral color scheme if you replace carpets or linoleum as well.
  • Check the attic and basement for signs of dampness and repair cracks.
  • Repair all damaged or broken plaster, wallpaper, wallboard and tiles.
  • Inspect windowpanes, moldings and other woodwork for cracks or damage.
  • Inspect heating, cooling, plumbing, and alarm systems. Repair or replace if necessary.
  • In the bathroom, repair dripping faucets and showerheads. Buy extra nice towels to display only when showing the house.
  • Remodel the kitchen simply by painting a neutral color, replacing window treatments, and updating the cabinet knobs.

Selling your house can be stressful, but by following this simple guide, you can prepare your house for sale for relatively little money. Always remember, less is more.


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